In the early years of Instagram, members were posting a steady stream of nature, food and travel photos. As the social media platform grew, it became known for carefully curated lifestyle accounts, duckface selfies and fitspo (or fitness inspiration).
Now with one billion accounts worldwide, Instagram has transcended its origins as a gallery of pretty pictures to emerge as an effective tool for networking, education and support.
Two years ago, I was looking for motivation to quit drinking and was surprised to discover a vibrant sober community on Instagram. Since then, accounts centered around recovery have multiplied dramatically.
The four Instagrammers below are known for sharing their own stories and extending a welcoming hand to those who are sober-curious, newly sober or looking to strengthen their ongoing recovery efforts.
Alison Evans (@TeetotallyFit)
When Alison Evans, who recently celebrated two years of sobriety, started using Instagram soon after the birth of her first child, her content initially focused on family and fitness. During her first period of sobriety, however, she began shifting her focus as she felt increasingly comfortable sharing her experiences.
“To me, Instagram serves as an open diary,” she says. “By sharing sober content, I feel like I’ve been able to hold myself more accountable, and I’m not hiding a dirty little secret. I’ve also been able to impact and inspire others, which in turn keeps me going.”
When she relapsed after eight months, however, she deleted much of what she’d shared about sobriety. As she explains, “I felt ashamed, plus I thought I was going to be a ‘normal drinker,’ so why keep the sober stuff on my feed?”
After a “final wake-up call” in January of 2017, Evans jumped back into both sobriety and posting about it because “I knew I’d be greeted with virtually-opened arms.”
“I don’t have the luxury of attending regular recovery meetings or meetups,” says Evans, who’s a military wife and the mother of three young children. “Instagram has served as a safe space to connect with like-minded, sober individuals from the comfort of anywhere.”
“Knowing that there is most likely another mother just like myself across the country, or even the world, cushions the idea that we are not alone in this walk,” she adds. “We may at times feel isolated, but then you just open up Instagram and quickly see that we are far from being ‘the only one.'”
Jocellyn Harvey (@SeltzerSobriety)
Three years sober this month and not quite 28 years old, Jocellyn Harvey has been on Instagram since she was 21. “My first account was all about things I bought, places I ate at, and how much I drank,” she says. “About six months after I got sober, I made that account private and stopped posting, though I did start talking about my sobriety within the first month.”
After almost a year away from Instagram, she started her @SeltzerSobriety account and has been writing about recovery and mental health ever since.
Harvey chose Instagram as her primary platform because of its simplicity and the ability to easily connect with people around the globe. “Instagram is a place where you can really create this life that isn’t you,” she says. “I think we’ve all done it. But now people are ready to be more ‘real’ on Instagram, and for some that means getting real about their drinking.”
Instagram hasn’t just offered Harvey a way to share her journey with the world but also introduced her to different recovery modalities. “If I wasn’t online, I’d really only know about recovery from my own program, and I think recovery needs to be well-rounded,” she explains.
While Harvey thinks “being open about your recovery is one of the best things you can do,” she also understands that shouting about recovery from the rooftops isn’t for everyone.
“If you’re more private, you can keep your account locked and follow along on other people’s journeys,” she notes.
Tracy Murphy (@MurphTheJerk)
Tracy Murphy, who’s three years sober and has been sharing about it on Instagram almost the entire time, had a very specific reason for wanting to be out and proud on IG. “It was important to me because, as a queer person, I wasn’t seeing many (or any) other queer people being visible about their sobriety in the recovery communities I was part of,” Murphy says. “It’s easier for people to do things if they see other people who are like them doing it too.”
“Being queer and sober means we’re a subculture within a subculture, so finding other folks with experiences that are similar to yours can prove challenging” Murphy notes. Murphy’s best recommendations? Use hashtags to find other like-minded folks. (Popular sober queer hashtags, according to Murphy, are #soberqueer, #sobergay and #soberlesbian.)
While Murphy thrives off of being open on Instagram, they also know that “people need to assess to make sure it’s safe for them to do so. Some careers or family situations can become vulnerable or unsafe when folks are open about substance abuse, especially early in the recovery process.”
Still, Murphy knows the benefits of being open first-hand. “If it is safe for you to share your sobriety on Instagram, do it!” Murphy says. “The more people there are talking about it, the more people can see that sobriety comes in all different shapes and sizes and genders and sexualities and races.”
Alyson Premo (@Alys_WickedSober)
When soccer mom Alyson Premo quit drinking in November 2016, she immediately switched her Instagram handle to a recovery based one and started posting about sobriety. “I wanted to give hope to others who couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel—to show them that if I could do it, so could they,” she says.
Premo passes along motivation and hard truths, including the fact that addiction doesn’t discriminate. “I graduated from college, had a successful job and lived in middle-class suburbia, and here I was struggling with alcoholism,” she explains.
As her handle suggests, Premo’s posts show her sense of humor, and she wants people to know that “once you get sober it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are some hard days and emotions that we have to work through, but the blessings outweigh your hardest day.”
Now a recovery coach, Premo is a champion of the power of Instagram: “We’re all rooting for each other,” she says. “When someone has a bad day, we’re there to provide encouraging words and ways to get through the rough patch. Someone is guaranteed to get inspiration and hope from what is posted, and that’s what is needed in this world, considering the epidemic that we are currently witnessing.”
While Premo admits that while sometimes sober-grammers do get negative feedback, “being brave and owning our story is one of the greatest things we will ever do in our life.”
It’s no wonder Premo feels so strongly. While many rail against the negative impact social media has on our society, Premo notes, “From my struggle with alcoholism I finally found my purpose in life. Something that was lacking for a really long time. Without Instagram all of this wouldn’t have been made possible.”