*Insert eye roll emoji here* You’re not doing anything wrong. Sure there’s some old theories about anonymity when it comes to your recovery. You’re not pushing sobriety or a spiritual lifestyle onto anyone. When you share your experience, strength, and hope online, you are carrying the critical, life-saving message of recovery to others: You can do it. From the mundane celebrations like making it through a trip to the grocery store without a panic attack to the recovery milestones like reaching a year sober, you want the world to know. It isn’t out of ego (most of the time) and it isn’t to brag (humblebragging?). Truly, authentically, you want people to know that anyone can overcome anything in their lives if you can overcome your addiction.
Unfortunately people…are people. People do what people do. When it comes to the internet and posting vulnerably online, that can, and often does mean, that people are going to troll. They’re going to criticize you, criticize your recovery, try to convince others you aren’t sober or that sobriety isn’t that cool (don’t worry, it is). Trolls are a unique breed of online users. Online trolls live to tear others down. In recovery you’re learning it’s all about building each other up and promoting one another’s personal growth and development. Why do trolls feel it so necessary to troll?
Trolls can’t empathize, a study by Federation University found. While they can find cognitive empathy, meaning they can know how someone feels or is going to feel, they can’t experience affective empathy, meaning they cannot actually feel what someone else is feeling. This is why trolls are expert at pushing all the right buttons of insecurity and shame. Trolls can predict how something they say is going to make you feel, then they just ignore the empathizing with those feelings part and say it. ABC reports that an online poll revealed over 25% of Americans admit that they have trolled others. The psychology of the troll and the acting of trolling is so interesting that it’s begged scientific studies. Research has found that people who troll tend to be males, with traits of psychopathy, who can’t feel guilt or responsibility for hurting others, and enjoy inflicting pain onto other people.
As recovering addicts and alcoholics we can actually identify and feel that effective empathy for the trollers. Addiction causes us to lose contact with our sense of guilt and responsibility by disconnecting our relationship with consequences. More importantly, our compulsive use of drugs and alcohol is one of the ways we cope with any feelings of guilt we experience- only causing more guilt, to cause more using, because we used again. Addiction is inherently self-inflicted pain. We knowingly shoot up, smoke, snort, and swallow drugs with little empathy for ourselves. We know how the drugs are going to make us feel. We don’t care about how the addiction makes us feel.
That’s why, when you catch a troller, trolling on your recovery, you can have empathy. You’ve been there. Everyday you’re fighting not to go back there, to that negative, angry, detached, unempathetic place of not caring about anyone, anything, or yourself. Keep spreading the message, spreading the love, and being a living example of recovery every single day. As the comedian Katt Williams once said, “Haters gonna hate. Let them. It’s their job! Tells you, you’re doing something right. So all you hates keep on hating and I’ll keep on being great.”
The one person you have to stop hating on is yourself. Relapse happens, sometimes more than once. If you find yourself struggling to get sober again, there is still hope for you. Sound Recovery Solutions offers a partial care treatment spectrum founded in personal development and leadership for men and women who need the critical life skills for learning to stay sober. Our programs are clinically driven, holistically healing, and empowering for addicts and alcoholics. Call us today for information: (561) 666-7427.