I got sober at age 20, nearly four and a half years ago. For the most part, the people in my life were supportive of that decision, especially those close to me.
I was quiet about sobriety at first, as I learned the ropes. In the time since, I’ve become very public about my recovery. I often share about the journey on social media and a variety of blogs. So naturally, I’ve encountered some criticism. It’s come from people I know personally and from people I don’t know at all. The latter is easier to shake off, but when negative words come from people you know on a personal level, it is more difficult to move past them.
The past few months in particular have been difficult. I had someone write something unkind about me on social media, and have also been dealing with negative comments on my blog from a certain user. While I wish this wasn’t the case in sobriety, it is. Because it is, it’s necessary to build ways to move past the negativity and continue to share and enjoy your recovery with those who view it as a positive.
Here’s just a few tips I’ve found helpful.
1. Remind yourself that their problem is about them, not you.
This is much easier said than done, but it’s true. When people take the time out of their day to criticize someone who is trying to better themselves and their lifestyle, when it in no way affects them personally, they likely have something of their own going on. It would be simple enough for them to unfriend or unfollow you, or simply to not visit your blog. For whatever reason, whether it be their own addiction or simply a bad day, they feel the need to lash out. Just try to remember that that speaks to their character, not yours. How you react speaks to your character, and that reaction is completely in your control.
2. Ignore, delete and move on.
It’s much easier to move past something negative when it no longer exists. If possible, delete the negative comment, and don’t react. The person who posted it is likely looking for an impulsive reaction. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If you must address the situation, take a few hours (or even days) to formulate your response, and respond in a calm and logical manner. Obviously, this tip doesn’t work if someone says something to you in person, since that is impossible to delete. Still, you can control your reaction. Tell them it’s not the time or place, or that you have no interest in having this type of conversation. Then, simply walk away and let it be.
3. Focus on the positive and kind comments.
Trust me, I know the negative ones are much easier to obsess over. However, chances are that people’s positive words far outweigh the negative ones. Those are the words that matter. They carry more weight than any negative comments. If you need to, screenshot kind things people have said to you about your recovery, and keep them in a place to look at when you need to remember which comments matter more. Simply reading a few of the kind ones can make a world of difference in mindset and attitude. Soon enough, you won’t even recall exactly what the unkind ones said or why you were so upset.
4. Talk to someone who gets it.
In my case, I have quite a few friends who also share their recovery publicly. They’ve been met with negativity in a few situations, and they often have advice for how to move past it. Even if they don’t have solid advice, simply knowing they understand your hurt and frustration can make it feel more manageable. Knowing that you are not the sole target of people’s negativity is a relief. There is comfort in sharing with people in similar situations.
I realize these tips are all easier said than done. Sometimes unkind words simply weigh too heavily on us and no matter what, we can’t seem to shake them. As time passes, that hurt eases and the words begin to fade. As you wait for that to happen, keep these tips in mind. Even if they don’t resolve the problem immediately, they may make the situation seem just a little smaller in the grand scheme of your recovery.