img_1099I got my new shirt from AIR Wear the other day. I was excited to get it and put it on right away to see how it fit. I was staring at myself in the mirror checking out the way I looked, and a thought came over me, I don’t want to wear this in public. People will think badly of me; they will think I am a drug addict or alcoholic. There it is. I said it. I am not afraid to say what many addicts and alcoholics think about wearing recovery gear.

I put the shirt in my drawer thinking, I am glad to support the company that was one of the first to follow me on twitter, and I will wear this someday. I just don’t know when.

Deep inside I knew this was not right. I like the sobriety shirts; many are intelligent, artistic, and profound. So, why do I care what people are going to think about me? I honestly don’t know. Every person I know has full knowledge of my past. When I date online, I tell people on the first meeting or even before we meet. So, why is it hard for me to wear something that would associate me as an addict/alcoholic in public?

The next day I was headed to the gym, and I opened my drawer to get a T-shirt. I saw my new shirt,  picked it up, and looked at it. I was feeling guilty about not wearing it, and said to myself, Fuck it! I will wear it this one time to prove I am not afraid of what people think.

Ok, Chicken Little, what happened?

Well, what do you think happens when a 64-year-old man walks into a crowded gym wearing a black T-shirt with the words “Sobriety Rocks” in bold white? I got looked at, that’s what happened! Normally, I am just the old dude working out like a madman in a gray or black T-shirt. Nobody pays attention to me at the gym. I just workout and leave. On this day, however, everyone took a look at what was on my shirt. When I would catch them looking, they would quickly turn away. Was I uncomfortable? Yeah, I was. I was uncomfortable the second I walked in, and the cute greeter girl said “ have a nice workout,” then paused to read my shirt.

See! You didn’t die, and nobody cares

True. I didn’t die, but somebody did care. There was a man there that day who kept glancing at my shirt. I see this man almost every time I go to the gym. I didn’t pay much attention to him and went about my business of getting my workout done and getting the hell out of there.

  I got the last rep in, and I opened my eyes to see this same man standing in front of me. I didn’t know what to think; he was just looking at me. I looked around me, and there was nobody else, just him. “How ya doing,” I said. He replied, “good sir, can I talk to you.” Ok, I get it, he is in the program and want’s to tell AA. I said, “sure what’s up?” He asked me if I was a drug counselor or something like that. I said, “no but if you are referring to my shirt, I am a recovering alcoholic/addict.” He politely said, “Oh, I am sorry, I thought you might be a counselor, I didn’t mean to bother you, go on with your workout.” I told him, “no problem,” and he started to walk away. I asked him if there was anything I could do to help him. He turned back to me and said, “ I have two kids in trouble with drugs, and I don’t know what to do.” After hearing this, I, of course, invited him to have a conversation.

We talked for about twenty minutes as he told me about the problems his two daughters were having with drugs and alcohol. Neither him nor his ex-wife, have ever had drug and alcohol problems, so they didn’t know how to help. I gave him some advice and told him about some things he should be looking out for regarding his daughters. He thanked me, and we agreed to chat some more when we run into each other at the gym.

So, did I learn something?

Of course, I did. I learned to face my fears, again! I learned that I still need to work on how I feel about myself. I also learned that being an addict or alcoholic isn’t that scary to other people.

The most important thing I found out about wearing sober gear out in public was that I am an ambassador for sobriety. Despite what we may think about our sobriety and anonymity, we are ambassadors for the community of sobriety.

We are supposed to be carrying the message to other addicts and alcoholics. Wearing sober gear out in public can be a great way to do that. Had I let my fears get the best of me and not worn my shirt, I would have never been able to talk to a father in need of some advice. I pledged to myself I would help others, and I could have missed this opportunity. Many times before I’ve talked about how important it is to establish a safe community for addicts and the loved ones of addicts seeking help, and this is a part of it. Becoming visible and sharing our knowledge as recovering addicts can truly be a beacon of hope for those in need. Also, me openly wearing my sober gear in public may encourage other recovering addicts to do the same with pride and help even more people.

Last night I ordered a shirt from New Lyfe Clothing. There are other companies out there as well like Sober Mode, and I intend to buy a shirt from as many as I can find. I want to support the community of people selling sober gear because what they’re doing is important to my sober community and communities around the country.

I will continue to wear my gear at appropriate places where someone in need may approach me again for some help or advice. As recovering addicts/alcoholics, we go to meetings and share our stories, but what about sharing our stories elsewhere? Having someone come up to me because I am wearing my gear gives me an opportunity to share my story as well.

Or, maybe I will just meet another recovering addict/alcoholic and make a new friend. Connecting with others would expand my community of friends in recovery.

Get some gear and wear it proudly. Who knows, you just might meet someone who could use your help. Now, isn’t helping others what it’s all about? Of course, it is.

Robert Apple

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