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These 9 TED Talks About Sobriety Will Change The Way You See Addiction

There’s an enormous stigma around addiction and sobriety in our culture, despite everything we know. It leads people to suffer in silence and delay getting help. We don’t want the label.

Alcoholic? Addict?

No thanks. We’ll figure it out on our own.

Or maybe we’ll reject the designation altogether and invent new words to talk about our problem. That’ll take the sting off, just a bit. It’s a horrible conundrum to find yourself in.

On the one hand, you don’t want to carry on as the person with the drinking problem, making a mess of everything you touch. But, on the other, you don’t want want to be defined as the so-called alcoholic who goes to AA and rehab.

That’s the kind of thing that follows you around forever. You don’t get to be normal after that.

We either continue living in denial, destroying ourselves in the process. Or we hide. We recover in secret and pray no one finds out.

Fortunately, all that is changing!

Changing How We View Addiction and Sobriety

Part of the reason I devote so much energy to this blog is because I’m on a mission to normalize sobriety.

Getting addicted to something that is inherently addictive shouldn’t be seen as a disqualifying trait. There are still folks out there who treat people in recovery like lepers – innately damaged souls who cannot be trusted no matter how many years of sobriety they amass.

“You don’t drink?!?!?!?!”

Well, no…

We know this, so we whisper about our struggles with alcohol because we don’t want it to impact us professionally or romantically. Nobody wants to be seen as a weirdo.

Fortunately, there are brave souls among us speaking out and writing about their experiences. More people are emerging from the shadows and saying, “yes, me too. I know what this is like.”

As a result, more people are openly embracing sobriety. And they’re doing it for a variety of reasons! The more we talk about sobriety and the more awareness we bring to the issue, the more we are able to make the case that it’s a perfectly reasonable way to live.

(That feels so weird to say… of course it’s reasonable, and yet…)

But I’m getting carried away! Right. To the TED Talks!

Here are 7 TED Talks about sobriety that will motivate you to stay the course as well as educate others about alcoholism and addiction.

I’ve included a brief synopsis with each video so you can decide if it’s worth the 10-15 minute investment to check out (which, of course it will be!).

9 Top TED Talks About Sobriety and Addiction

Here we go, in no particular order…

1. Gray Area Drinking by Jolene Park

Park defines “gray area drinking” as not having a rock bottom and wanting to be a social drinker, but always winding up overdoing it and regretting the amount of alcohol they end up consuming. This level of drinking does not rise to the level of abuse, but it’s close. 

People who do a lot of gray area drinking are functioning, but also feel that there is some aspect of their drinking that has gotten beyond their control.

She argues that it’s relatively easy for gray area drinkers to stop, but not necessarily to stay stopped. They have to find ways to replenish their neurotransmitters and nourish their nervous system in an effective, healthy way.

Park coined the acronym NOURISH to talk about how gray area drinkers can ditch the alcohol and stay sober. It’s a great tool for anyone who wants to maintain sobriety. Have a watch!

2. Recover Out Loud by Tara Conner

Tara Conner is a former Miss USA winner who struggled with addiction issues from the age of 14. In this talk, she lets us in on her tumultuous upbringing and how she became an addict.

I vaguely remember a Miss USA being scandalized by testing positive for cocaine, but that’s about it, so it was really interesting to hear her story and what it was like for her to go through such a public recovery. She is refreshingly honest and witty.

Conner has channeled her energy into advocacy for erasing the stigma of addiction and providing access to treatment and prevention programs nationwide.

 3. I’ve Been Duped By Alcohol by Paul Churchill 

In 2006, Paul moved to Granada, Spain, and bought a bar. Over the next three years, his drinking became so problematic that he was blacking out 6-7 times per week, drinking 20-25 drinks in an evening.

My head continues to spin thinking about that quantity.

He walked away from his bar in 2009, but unfortunately, not his drinking, which continued to spiral.

Paul talks about his journey to sobriety and how we are brought up hearing about the dangers of drugs, but rarely about the dangers of alcohol specifically. He ended up battling sobriety and relapse for ten years before getting sober for good.

He now runs a successful podcast called the Recovery Elevator which you can download on iTunes (or wherever you get your pods).

4. Drinking And How It Changed My Life by Anne Dowsett-Johnston

Anne is the author of Drink and an incredible woman.

She talks about the impact of publicly outing herself as “sober” on her life and professional career as well as the impact her drinking had on her life.

She’s incredibly knowledgeable about the way we consume alcohol and the effects it has on our opportunities, economies, health, and overall well being. It’s a fascinating talk that will really make you contemplate our usually cavalier attitude towards alcohol and how to reframe that narrative.

Her book inspired one of my earliest, more popular posts about alcohol culture. It’s definitely worth adding to your list. 

5. Addiction Is A Disease. We Should Treat It Like One by Michael Botticelli 

Michael Botticelli is a recovering alcoholic and former Director of Drug Policy for the Obama Administration.

This talk is a really great look at how we’ve historically treated people with addiction in the US and our flawed attempt to “arrest our way” out of the problem of drug and alcohol abuse.

He offers an alternative solution for how we can tackle the addiction problem plaguing our country that goes beyond criminalizing addiction and actually putting systems and policies in place to help treat people who are suffering.

6. Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong by Johann Hari 

I first watched this TED Talk when I had less than a week of sobriety under my belt. It pushed me to think about addiction in a completely new way.

Johann talks about his experiences growing up in a family that struggled with addiction and how different countries are approaching the problem. He discusses the implications of their findings on how we can change our own drug policies.

He offers a different perspective about what is truly at the root of the addiction. Whether you agree with his perspective or not, it provides interesting food for thought.

7. The Stigma Of Addiction by Tony Hoffman 

Tony is a former addict who experienced homelessness and prison before turning his life. After he was paroled, Tony become an Elite BMX Pro and founder of the Freewheel Project, a non-profit that mentors young people through sports like BMX and skateboarding.

He’s got a compelling story of how he managed to claw his way back into the world and turn his life around. It’s a great motivational talk for anyone who needs a little inspiration to keep going.

8. Disconnected Brains: How Isolation Fuels Opioid Addiction by Rachel Wurzman

In this Ted Talk, neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman asks us to rethink the idea of what is “sick” and what is “normal.” She discusses “un”voluntary behaviors and applies it to addiction, specifically the opioid epidemic, although these concepts can be applied more broadly.

She helps us better understand the brain and what happens to it when it is exposed to substances like opioids and alcohol. It’s a fascinating talk that will have you rethinking the way we talk about addiction and our approach to healing and long-term recovery.

9. Changing the Stigma of Mental Health & Addiction by Erika Ball

Erika Ball is a certified alcohol and drug counselor who is also in recovery. She and her husband founded the organization “We Are Those People” (WATP), a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the narrative around addiction recovery through storytelling and film.

In this Ted Talk, Ball talks about the importance of shifting the way we talk about mental health and addiction. She posits that normalizing discussions around mental health and access to care can play an important role in addiction treatment and prevention. It’s a great talk for anyone wrestling with shame over mental health, and for those who have self-medicated with alcohol and drugs because they didn’t or couldn’t get help.

Rethinking Sobriety and Addiction

I’m encouraged by recent sobriety trends and the number of people who are ditching alcohol for good. Not only is it good for the health of our respective societies and countries, but for the people who are still ashamed or scared to reach out for help.

And the science is catching up. More researchers and medical professionals are challenging the idea that a little alcohol every day is good for us. As we learn more, we continue to push back on the idea that alcohol is required to have fun or belong.

It isn’t and more people are catching on.

Access should not be a barrier to help.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist who has the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.

Interested in sobriety and looking for support?

Send me a request to join our wonderful, private Facebook group. We are a supportive bunch and various stages in the sobriety process. Feel free to say hello!

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