In December, I was involved in the Tropicana campaign. They launched advertisement that joked about parents sneaking away from their kids to drink. It was harmful to those recovering from Alcoholism. it also hurt for those who watched loved ones suffer with Alcohol. Due to pressure Tropicana took it down, but it got me thinking.
Our relationship with Alcohol is complicated. Our lives are saturated with it. It is a part of most social events. Yet when someone develops alcohol dependency, no one wants to talk about it anymore. There is so much judgment, for both the Alcoholic and their families. The blame tends to fall squarely on the shoulders of those who fall into Alcoholism. That mindset is not fair or accurate. Alcoholism is a combination of choices, genetics and our environmental conditions. It is much more complicated than society makes it.
After Tropicana pulled the ad, many people were angry. They said we were too sensitive or couldn’t take a joke. Unfortunately, there was a lot of nasty comments, but those two bothered me the most. It felt like people were discounting our experiences as survivors. Our pain made them uncomfortable, so it was easier to ignore us.
Trying to talk with people in the comment got me nowhere. The response needed to be bigger. It needed to rise about that division. The struggle was, what should that look like?
What drove me to action was what I saw. I kept stumbling across ads making jokes about Alcohol. Making light of hangovers or talking about Mommy wine culture. I have personally seen where that can go, and to joke about it is dangerous. I could not say quiet anymore. I realized that in order to make change, they needed to see us.
I came up with the campaign on a Tuesday. I had a piece of notebook paper and a pen. I was disappointed because I did not have a marker. I worried it wouldn’t look professional, but I felt a drive to move forward. I made my sign, wrote the post and put it up. I hope for the best but had low expectations.
The response exceeded my wildest dreams. It was incredible watching the chain reaction of people telling their stories. So many people stepped forward, and into their truth. They revealed the secrets that they had been hiding for year. To watch people, step out of that darkness and isolation, was incredible.
I watched people connect with one another. Share stories and support one another. Alcohol is stigmatized, creating an environment where people stay silent. This campaigned allowed people to break free of that and create meaningful connections. It was amazing to watch people who had been touched by alcohol come together and speak out. The campaign continues. Each day more stories are added, and the community grows. It amazes me that my post helped create that.
It taught me important lessons too. To listen to my inner voice and believe in myself. I am strong, well-spoken and capable of creating meaningful change. I also learned that something does not need to be perfect to create meaningful change.
There is so much more work to do. Yet I believe that beginning is the hardest part. When we create community, we start to break that stigma. That is the first step in changing things.
Together we heal.