Home » Sobriety » 10 of the Best TED Talks About Alcoholism and Addiction

10 of the Best TED Talks About Alcoholism and Addiction

Despite everything we know, there’s an enormous stigma around addiction and sobriety in our culture. 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 idea altogether.

On the one hand, you don’t want to carry on as the person with a drinking problem, making a mess of everything you touch. But, on the other, you don’t 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 that I’m on a mission to normalize sobriety.

Getting addicted to something 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 can 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 some of my favorite TED Talks about sobriety that will motivate you to stay the course and 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.

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 some aspect of their drinking 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 effectively and healthily.

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!

More>> Does Alcohol Cause Brain Fog? What Alcohol Does To Your Brain.

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. That said, 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 to erase the stigma of addiction and provide 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 Ann Dowsett-Johnston

Ann is the author of “Drink” and an incredible advocate for women in sobriety.

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 how we consume alcohol and its effects on our opportunities, economies, health, and overall well-being. It’s a fascinating talk that will make you contemplate our usually cavalier attitude towards alcohol and how to reframe that narrative.

Her book inspired one of my earliest 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 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 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 became 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 them to addiction, specifically the opioid epidemic, although these concepts can be applied more broadly.

She helps us better understand the brain and what happens when it is exposed to substances like opioids and alcohol. It’s a fascinating talk that will have you rethink how 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 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 how 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.

10. Misunderstanding Dopamine: Why the Language of Addiction Matters by Cyrus McCandless

In this informative Ted Talk, neurobiologist Cyrus McCandless helps the audience understand the connection between dopamine and addiction and how dopamine truly works to motivate our behaviors.

He wants us to stop thinking about dopamine as the “feel good” chemical (something I’ve been guilty of calling it) but rather as something that teaches us how to get the things we need or like.

McCandless then explains how exactly dopamine achieves that and how addictive substances like alcohol and drugs artificially boost dopamine levels in ways that make it hard to focus on anything but their continued consumption.

It’s extremely different from how we crave our iPhones or compulsively check Instagram. If you’re interested in the neurobiology of addiction, this one’s for you.

Rethinking Sobriety and Addiction

I’m encouraged by recent sobriety trends and the number of people ditching alcohol for good. It is good for the health of our respective societies and countries and for the people who are still ashamed or scared to reach out for help.

And science is catching up.

More researchers and medical professionals are challenging the idea that a little alcohol daily 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.

BetterHelp Ad

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!

Questioning your drinking? Take this short AUDIT quiz to see if you are at risk for alcohol dependence.

This is for informational purposes only and is not a medical diagnosis. If you’re concerned about your drinking, please speak to your doctor. They’re here to help.

Welcome to your Alcohol Use (AUDIT) quiz

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

How many units of alcohol do you drink on a typical day when you are drinking?

A unit of alcohol is one standard drink. Examples of one standard drink include:

  • 12 oz can of beer with about 5% alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of wine (roughly 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz shot of spirits like vodka, rum, or whiskey (about 40% alcohol)

How often have you had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year?

How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who has personally struggled with addiction, I know how isolating and stigmatizing it can feel. It’s incredible to see TED Talks tackling this complex and important issue with such courage and vulnerability. The more we can raise awareness and normalize the conversation around addiction, the better equipped we’ll be to support those struggling and create a society that truly cares.

  2. This is an interesting topic that I would like to learn more about. Can you recommend any specific TED talks on alcoholism and addiction that you think are particularly insightful or thought-provoking?