A few weeks ago I shared my experience about going sober without ever having a drinking problem with Mamamia.
In a nutshell, I made the decision to do so as a New Year's resolution, which I’ve not only been able to stick to, but have absolutely relished in to the point where I don’t think I’d ever go back to drinking.
But without regurgitating the entire story, one thing that struck me was the way people reacted to my news.
Rather than being supportive like I expected, many seemed outraged that I would make such a choice.
Some have assumed I had a drinking problem. When I've told that was never the case, I've been met with comments like, "Why would you do that then?", "That’s so un-Australian" and "This is a phase, you’ll come right".
It’s one thing to be met with this kind of cynicism and disapproval in real life but quite another to be met with it on social media. Truly, nothing could have prepared me from the onslaught of DMs.
Watch: Your body after one year without alcohol. Post continues after video.
Essentially, after sharing the story of my sobriety journey online, I was trolled over my decision to quit drinking.
While there was some support, I was absolutely blindsided by the amount of negativity around my decision, which came from a combination of people I'd never met in my life to messages from some clearly fake accounts..
It was brutal.
I was called an "almond mum" (a mother who pushes disordered eating and fitness habits on to their children), an "idiot", and far harsher names I won't repeat here.
People commenting on my ability to parent was what hurt the most.
Why can’t we make healthy choices and demonstrate these to our children without being lumped in the 'extremist' or 'woke' category? Is not drinking alcohol really that radical? Is it really 'un-Australian'?
And how ingrained is drinking culture in our society, that choosing not to do it can evoke so much anger? It really made me stop and think hard about where these attitudes have come from and how deeply rooted they are in the Australian way of life.
It’s a personal choice that has zero impact on anyone else. If anything, the only impacts it has on those close to us are positive ones: more quality time and more presence with friends and family. So, then how can something so positive ignite so much anger in people?
I decided the only way to get some clarity on this was to do a deep-dive into the psychology behind it. So I spoke to Sydney-based clinical psychologist, Dr Aileen Alegado.
Alegado says that people who troll someone choosing to be sober without having had a drinking problem are clearly being triggered and likely projecting.
"There are a lot of people out there who know their drinking is not good for them but deny this fact because it would confront them with the issues their own use of alcohol may be covering up. Alcohol is also a quick band-aid for managing stress so it's an easy solution and we can project jealousy, trigger inadequacy and shame in our inability to have the discipline to do what's right for us even if we wanted to," says Dr Alegado.
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She also says it’s a projection problem. That people may wish to cut back but either due to lack of discipline, stress, lack of understanding or dependency they find it difficult and that can trigger a sense of inadequacy which, in turn, comes out as anger.
So something we consider a "social stigma" often at its core comes down to an issue of self.
This really made me think about how even more important it is to talk about self-awareness and have these discussions with our children so we can break down what’s really going on here. But also to teach them that not conforming is okay. It doesn't make you a less worthwhile person or someone who is unrelatable. It just makes you who you are, and that's enough.
And now I realise, when it comes to the trolls in my DMs, it's not at all about me - it's about them.
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