I Haven’t Written a Post In 2019, Here’s an Update

At the end of 2018 I was thinking of combining this blog with an older one and renaming it. I was considering the change because I wasn’t sure that the idea of a sober blog, a sober persona online, was serving me. I’ve long struggled with the idea of identity. And so I’d shut down one twitter handle and renamed my primary handle.

Then life happened.

In January one of my high school friends died, potentially as a result of his substance use. I really don’t know but it hit me pretty hard because I’d been talking to him about my sobriety and his for months. It seemed like he was doing great. And then he was dead.

February came and went, as it does. Nothing exciting. Cold and grey.

March was a shit show. I can’t get into the details but my sobriety was tested by events in my life that no parent should ever have to go through. I struggled with cravings in a way that I haven’t in years. The desire to numb and escape was stronger than it has been since my early rays in sobriety. But I did the right things. I went to meetings and I talked with lots of people both in and out of the program. I should note that everyone is safe and healthy but it was one of the most traumatic events of my life.

I also was interviewing for a job in March. I couldn’t give the interview process my complete attention and as a result I would learn that I didn’t get the job in April. This is probably a good thing.

As a result of the events of March I started seeing a trauma therapist. This is long over due and it’s been helpful. I am learning more about myself that I learned through the steps. This experience has reenforced my belief that outside help is more important than the 12 step community generally acknowledges.

April was better. The weather started getting warmer. I started running again, We went in a trip to Grand Cayman.

But April was not 100% peaches and cream. I learned that I didn’t get the promotion and I also got my first ever call from HR. It turns out that even though I was ready to consolidate my online personas, my employer was not happy with one of my politically charged tweets. To be fair, I said some rather unprofessional things to our Tweeter in Chief.

The call from HR was really a non-issue because I was happy to remove the tweet and didn’t fight their objection, but it opened my eyes a bit and made me recognize that some separation between my personal life, my personal online presence, and my professional self and online presence is probably warranted.

And suddenly, it’s the middle of May and I haven’t posted in 5 months.

I have a few ideas about some topics to post in the near future but for now, I’ll just say that I’m doing okay.

I’m still sober and I keep moving forward.

Why I Changed My Twitter Handle, Again

A few weeks ago I changed my username on Twitter. It had been a long time coming. When I got sober and started interacting with people on Twitter I felt that I needed an anonymous handle and in the fog of the time I simply changed my handle from @ddeville to @soberboots to go along with the name of this blog. Shortly thereafter I felt that I needed to separate my other interests into a second handle and thus began the struggle of trying to maintain two handles on Twitter. Invariably, I neglected one of them. I spent time trying to get the followers that I’d had on @ddeville to migrate to my non sobriety handle, that didn’t work so well. I spent tome trying to only post certain things on one of the two handles and invariably ended up posting something about sobriety on the wrong handle.

I told myself that I needed to maintain the other handle for professional reasons. But if you’re never posting on a handle, or if your not posting with authenticity on that handle (I.e. only posting tweets related to your job) it’s not that interesting. Still, I felt like keeping them separate made sense, because I thought that I needed anonymity.

But a lot has changed in the past few years. I’ve grown comfortable in my own skin. I’ve learned that nobody gives a shit what’s in my glass at a party or a work happy hour. They just want me to be there. And more importantly, I’ve learned not to give a shit about it. I’ve gotten comfortable with my status as a person in long term recovery. Most of my professional contacts know that I no longer drink, and the ones who don’t will find out eventually and not care. I’ve learned that I don’t have to hide. And so, the need to have a separate “business” handle seemed to be fading.

At the same time, I began to feel constrained by my @soberboots handle. I felt like I couldn’t tweet about anything that wasn’t “on message.” I felt like I might lose followers if I did. I also felt like the word “sober” was attracting more and more rehabs and mental health providers. And there’s nothing wrong with that but my life is more than my recovery.

I’ve always strived to make my recovery the center of my life while being careful not to make my life my recovery. There’s more to life than recovery. Certainly in the early days it was very important for it to take priority — and it still is a priority, but it’s not all consuming.

So, I decided that there was no good reason to maintain the separation and I changed my handle to @onetruedamien.

I’ve felt much more at ease with this. I’m not sure that it makes any sense but I feel less burdened. I feel freer to be myself on Twitter. I followed all the people I was following on my “professional” account and some of them have followed me back, others haven’t. And that’s cool. I am not concerned about who is following and who is not.

This probably sounds insane to most people, but it doesn’t to me. It’s all part of the journey.

Current Status: In Need of Self-Care

The past 45–60 days have been insanely busy for me. Since October 10th, I’ve been on a plane every week except for one week, when I was sick as a dog and couldn’t even stay awake for more than a few hours. I’ve been to Massachusetts, Maine, Paris, London, California, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Many of these trips have been for nearly a week of travel. I don’t have the number of miles I’ve traveled at hand, and it probably wouldn’t be healthy to tally it up, but it sure feels like I’ve been around the world. This does not count my driving to local appointments or the activities that I’m involved in with my son.

The autumn always feels compressed. There always seems to be too much to do and not enough time. This is probably due to the fact that we lose daylight rapidly in the fall. Our days get cut short and the angle of the sun is low. Everything feels constricted in the fall. With the addition of the travel schedule I’ve been maintaining, I’ve had a perfect storm for anxiety. And then there is the whole election, which has stirred up even more anxiety and venom. I’ve finally done what I said I’d do last Saturday and deactivated my Facebook account after what can only be described as a relapse of bad behavior. Continue reading

There’s Only One Way to Silence the Echo Chamber

Much has been written about how social media, and Facebook in particular has contributed to the echo chamber effect. I’m not going to write about that. I’ve experienced it, and you probably have as well.

What hasn’t gotten as much attention is how this echo chamber is affecting our mental health — at least, I haven’t seen much about it — perhaps because my particular echo chamber is uniquely curated by an algorithm to me.

All I have to do is look at how my Timeline has changed since I got sober to see that. My timeline was once filled with posts and images from my oldest and dearest friends in my life. But once I started liking pages about sobriety, and making friends online with some really great people, my feed stated to become overwhelmingly slanted toward my latest likes and connections. My oldest friends started to show up less and less.

I also know this because my timeline has become increasingly overwhelmed with political news, because well, I post a lot of news articles that are related to politics. Facebook has correctly identified me as a Liberal and has fed me other articles posted by other liberals, while hiding articles posted by my more conservative friends. To be fair, I trained Facebook to do this, by hiding things that made me angry or uncomfortable over time from my timeline.

Under the covers, Facebook has a massive AI (artificial intelligence) infrastructure. If you’re not familiar with what AI actually is or if you think AI is a humanoid robot butler, you might want to have a look at this article which does a decent job of explaining the basic concepts. Basically, Facebook’s computer algorithm learns about us based on what we post, what we like, who we interact with, etc – and then feeds us similar information in an effort to keep us on the site by lighting up our neural pathways.

It’s basically the same as an addiction.

In recent days, my Facebook feed has become increasingly angry and fearful. I have many friends who are genuinely afraid of what the outcome of the US election means for them personally. These are friends who have listened to bellicose rhetoric for two years that has targeted them personally. It is understandable that they would be afraid. I am afraid and I’m a straight white male who happens to occasionally attend a Christian church.

Now, I’ve fed this algorithm. I’ve posted about my outrage. I’ve liked things. I’ve used the little sad indicator, and the little angry indicator. I’ve argued with people. I’ve called people out for their insensitivity. I’ve done all this in the name of my beliefs. But you know what, I’m not changing anything. I’m just pissing off my friends and making myself sink further and further into fear and anxiety.

And guess what?

Fear and anxiety were the primary triggers in my drinking days.

The past few days have been hard. I’ve tweeted about how hard its been:



Both of these tweets were in direct response to things that happened in my personal echo chamber on Facebook. The second one came after I got into it with a friend who posted about a harrowing experience on a plane. He contrasted his experience with the fear that people are expressing about the next four years saying that his fear was real — and implying that theirs was not.

Now, I slept like shit last night because of this. I went to bed angry and I paid the price. I woke up on my 44th birthday feeling frustrated, angry, and hurt. This is not how I want to spend my birthday. This is not how I want to spend my life.

I’ve written before about my struggles with social media. I’ve experimented with deleting apps from my phone. I always get pulled back. One reason is that I’ve kept my Facebook account active to keep this blog active on Facebook. Another reason was that I couldn’t deactivate the account without also deactivating Facebook Messenger.

I’ve decided that for today, I will not check Facebook. This morning I announced that I was stepping away from the echo chamber. I’ve deleted the apps from my phone and my tablet. After a few days, I plan to disable my Facebook account.

Facebook has made it so that you can disable your Facebook account without disabling Messenger. I’m kind of happy about that. Since I don’t get a lot of noise in Messenger, I plan to keep it active, that way I can stay in touch with some people who I would otherwise not be in touch with. I’ve set up a second account to manage the Facebook page of this blog.

See, I can’t make the echo chamber quiet down. I accept my responsibility in it, but by simply stopping my posting about these things, I can’t fix the AI in the Facebook Hive Mind that keeps feeding me fear and anxiety.

It’s a digital room full of noise that I can’t bear anymore. In real life when I can’t bear the cacophony in a room, I leave.

Why wouldn’t I do that in the digital world?

Hell Yeah, I’m Celebrating — Settle Down, Ego

For all the talk in the rooms about smashing the ego, recovery really is all about the self.  I mean, really, it’s all about becoming the best self that you can be.  Recovery encompasses so much more than just not using intoxicants, it’s about learning to love yourself and to accept yourself as you are and helping others to do the same.

With that in mind, I think it’s important to celebrate the good things that happen in our lives in recovery.  I’ve had two really awesome things happen this week that I want to share.  I know I’m tooting my own horn, but I’m trying to do so mindfully.  I don’t mean to brag, just to share some good things that have happened this week.

Sunday night, a post that I have been meaning to write for a long time was published over at Transformation is Real.  I shared part of my experience, certainly some of my strength, and hopefully some hope.  Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that my addiction to alcohol manifest itself after I became a father.  I’ve come to accept that a big part of that has to do with what happened early in my life and how I view the man who became my father.

Here are some excepts of part of the post, I hope they’ll wet your whistle enough to give TIR a view.  There are many wonderful stories written by an amazing group of writers on Dan’s site.

In 2007, my son was born and I thought that my dreams were about to be fulfilled. He was the spitting image of me when I was a baby. He was perfection as far as I was concerned. He was an amazing little package of joy and I was ecstatic to have him in my life. I was on top of the world

All the pressure of being a father, and all the fears that came with it, triggered something in me that I’d never expected. Within eight months of my son’s birth, I’d begun to go off the rails. I began to drink every day.

It was unplanned but especially touching for me that the post went live on 9/11.  Don was a firefighter and he lost many good friends from FDNY on that day.  The attacks hit him very hard and I’m glad that I was able to honor my father on the anniversary of that tragic day.

The response to this post was overwhelming from my friends both in and out of the rooms.  I had the good fortune of seeing my sponsor last night and being able to talk about the post for while with him.

If that wasn’t enough, this very site was listed by my cyber friend Regina Walker as one of her to 12 recovery blogs for the site The Fix.  Now, I knew that she was writing the article, but I didn’t now when it would be published.  It is truly an honor and humbling to be included among the folks listed on her site.  Many of these folks have been in recovery and writing about their experience a lot longer than I have.  All of them are inspirations to me.

There is something really awesome about this online recovery community that I’ve found myself in over the past year.  Even though many of us have never met in real life, there is a deep sense of camaraderie  among the #recoveryposse.  We support each other.  We laugh and we cry (yes, real physical tears at times) for each with each other.  Neither of these two things would have happened if I’d not put my honest truth out there and joined in the discussion on Twitter back in October of 2015.

I’m blessed to receive the support and help that I do from these fine people.


A Simple Strategy for Disengaging from Social Media

On July 28th, I had one of those big blow out fights with a Facebook friend over politics.  It got ugly.  I got angry, really angry and ultimately removed that friend from my friends list. I also made an announcement that I’d be leaving Facebook for a while and that the best way to reach me would be by phone or Facebook Messenger — since like a lot of people there are “friends” on my list that I don’t actually have any contact information for and who don’t have my phone number.

I stewed over this event throughout the weekend.  The committee in my head told me all sorts of things about this person and all sorts of things about myself.  I was stressed out and not handling myself well.  I’d lost my serenity.  And I was still posting on Facebook. A friend in my 12-step group noticed and mentioned that he’d noticed — in a kind and loving way.

I don’t recall exactly when the conversation happened, but my wife suggested that perhaps, just maybe, I didn’t need to engage in Facebook.  Or on Instagram, or on twitter, or read the New York Times daily.  Her logic was that these things weren’t really adding value to my life.  In fact they were stressing me out and I was not that great to be around.

I committed to reducing my interactions with Facebook. Continue reading

Twitter in Recovery

You may be expecting this to be a treatise on anonymity and social media or an argument for recovering out loud.  It isn’t.  Sorry to disappoint you.

I’m writing to share my experience, so that you might avoid it if you’re newly sober.  See, when I got sober, I didn’t give my social media much thought.  I just started following people in recovery and tweeting from my original account.  Same thing with Instagram.

And then, I got scared.

I thought about the stigma associated with being a recovering alcoholic.  I thought about future employers, my child’s friend’s parents, the AA doctrine on the internet.  I wrote about all this in a post shortly after I changed my username on twitter.

I went through the process of anonymizing my details on the net as best I could and decided that I would be “good” with just one account on various services.  I also consolidated this blog with another blog that I’d been writing for 10 years.  And I went on my merry way.

Problem solved.  Or so I thought.

As my tweets began to focus more on recovery, I lost a few followers on twitter.  No worry, I don’t get wrapped up in how may followers I have.  And they were mostly people that I didn’t really interact with any way.

But those unfollows did make me pause.

Maybe the people who had followed me before I was a sober guy weren’t really that interested in my struggles with the steps.  Maybe they didn’t want to read my blog posts about sobriety.   Maybe they wanted to see more of what I tweeted about before I got sober — Riding my bike, cooking, fatherhood, technology.  Maybe I was disappointing people.

But that really didn’t bother me too much.  Twitter is a two way street, but it doesn’t have to be bidirectional.   I post content that I find interesting – people follow me – sometimes I follow them, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I follow people who post interesting content who don’t follow me, because <gasp> I’m not that interesting.

However, as I got more and more involved with the recovery community on Twitter, I began to find that I was missing a lot of what I liked to read on twitter.  Not that I don’t enjoy the recovery tweets — I absolutely do — but they were starting to overwhelm my feed.  I was having a hard time finding the good tweets on my other interests in the mix.

And so, I created another twitter account and started a process that I don’t advise.  See, apparently I’m still not thinking clearly.  I really liked my sober handle @soberboots and didn’t want to lose it.  So I created a non-sober handle and then began trying to convince all my non-recovery folks to follow it.

That hasn’t worked out so well.   I’ve had many, but not nearly all of the people who followed me (roughly 1/3) of the followers take note and make the switch – even after sending multiple tweets and even DMs to people.

If I’d thought that through a bit more, I might have changed @soberboots to another handle and asked all the recovery folks to follow a new handle (which very well might have been @soberboots…)

So, I leave you with these thoughts:

  1. It’s probably best to start with a dedicated handle for recovery from the start. This gives you the following:
    • Complete separation of your recovery vs non-recovery interests
    • Zero stress about who knows that you’re sober or not
    • Zero stress related to trying to sanitize all your previously integrated services
    • A safe handle that you can make private if you want
  2. If you don’t do that and you want to make a change, give it some thought and think hard about which group you want to ask to follow you on the new handle.  I’d advise asking whichever group (recovering folks vs normies) is smaller to make the change.

I’m certainly not losing sleep of any of this, but I do feel like I probably could have managed all this better.  As I tweeted this AM:


If you want to know where to follow me for my other interests, read my tweets, you’ll find the handle mentioned several times.  Or tweet to me and I’ll respond in a DM.