Once you quit drinking, it’s so easy to get stuck in the discomfort of new sobriety, new humility, new what the hell do I do now panic mixed with fresh grief and loneliness. My experience is that sharing openly about where you are has the potential to attract others who are feeling the same way.

Imagine this: You take the risk of being vulnerable and tell the truth on social media, to the people in your life, and to the local barista who always asks how you’re doing today. You say, “I’m not drinking anymore and I need to meet other like-minded women.” The Best Case Scenario is that your vulnerability is like a siren call and those women appear in your life. The Worst Case Scenario is that you tell the truth and are still lonely but at least you tried, and isn’t that all we can do in the end?

Once a month, a group of us gather together in my friend’s tiny kitchen and assemble avocado toast. Then, we sit down and talk about what’s going on in our lives. We skip over the surface conversation of how cold the weather has been lately and the most recent news headline.

My one friend sets down her fork and looks at us. She says, “I’ve been struggling hard with some shame that I’d like to share with you both.” We lean in, we listen, we relate, we share our own experiences. We never judge and we don’t criticize. This is what it’s like today with the female friends that I’ve met in sobriety: A constant source of deep vulnerability, endless support, and shared experiences.

We lean in, we listen, we relate, we share our own experience. We never judge and we don’t criticize.

While I was in active addiction, I was unable to form meaningful relationships. The few female friendships that I had left at the end of my drinking could not sustain me in sobriety. They were drinking acquaintances at best and my drug dealers at worst. Now, nearly ten years into sobriety, I have a network of strong women in my corner who cheer me on and call me out on my bullshit as needed.

So, where does one find a similar group of women? Twelve-step programs aren’t for everyone but they’re a space filled with people attempting to lead a similar lifestyle. Of course, there other recovery meetings to meet women who are seeking a life of sobriety. Here is a list of A.A. alternatives:

A couple of years into my sobriety, I began to really deepen my spiritual practice. I started doing yoga regularly, spent time at ashrams, and traveled to various retreats around the world. I found other women in these spaces who were also looking to deepen their spiritual practice. We met on yoga mats, walking back to our bunks after kirtan, and sipping tea in small cafes. While they weren’t all necessarily sober, they weren’t heavy drinkers. Alcohol was never a priority for them like it had been for me.

What I’ve learned through the process of searching for friends in sobriety is that swearing off alcohol is not a qualifier for friendship.

What I’ve learned through the process of searching for friends in sobriety is that swearing off alcohol is not a qualifier for friendship. I let go of the idea that the strong women in my life can’t also have a glass of wine while we are out to a nice dinner. Sobriety isn’t a dealbreaker anymore. It was in the beginning stages, when not picking up a drink was a challenge for me and I still sought out people who would enable my destructive behavior, but not today.  The crucial thing is to find connections with women who are also interested in personal growth and with whom I have shared interests (like spiritual development). Sobriety can be part of the equation, sure, but the most important thing is that we have meaningful things in common.

I’ve lost friends in sobriety as well… to addiction, to distance, and to the natural evolution of life. Much like friendships outside of sobriety, the ones I’ve formed while living an alternative lifestyle continue to shift and change. The axiom is that you often attract what you put out there. My first few friendships with other recovering women were like lifelines to sobriety. As my sobriety evolves, so do my relationships with women; they deepen, widen, and some fade away for one reason or another. They all leave me changed for the better.