Who Are We Without Our Labels?

Individualism and collectivism, sobriety and queerness

Dana Leigh Lyons
7 min readJun 16, 2024

Note: This is a lightly edited version of an essay that originally appeared in my Substack newsletter: Sober Soulful. Find me there for weekly posts, the Early Sobriety series, the Financial Sobriety series, and the Eating & Body series.

Sometimes I regret creating an online identity that revolves around sobriety. It’s not that I wish to hide or quit being sober. It’s just that the things I think, feel, and write about go beyond that. They’re about being sober and being human.

Seeing as the name of my newsletter is Sober Soulful, and seeing as I’m the host of SoberStack™ and actively engage in sober community, I think about sobriety often. But, really, this is a small part of something bigger. Even outside of “sober identity,” I’ve been feeling cognitive dissonance around “self-ing” more generally.

I feel resistance to the focus on self-as-brand, self-as-persona, and the expectation that we shove ourselves in neat little boxes. Here I am! This is me! Ready to put on display and parade. Ready for external consumption.

I’m still sorting through this resistance, but I feel confident that the internal tension I’m experiencing transcends how I identify in recovery. It encompasses all parts of me, and all the ways I’ve embraced, proclaimed, and celebrated those parts. My sobriety, my spirituality, and my queerness included.