Ten years ago, I lay in my bed, hungover and ready to quit life. With the covers up to my nose to keep out any smell that might turn my nausea into a trip to the toilet, I stared down the hallway through my open room door. At the other end of the hallway was my son’s room.
It was empty that morning. My son was with his dad (my now-husband but that’s a long story for a different day) and I was home alone, feeling defeated. I knew something needed to change. I knew that to be the mother my son needed, and to be the woman that I needed, I had to quit drinking. So I went to my mother. At the time, she’d been sober a few years. I told her what was happening, and she gave me some options on where to get help.
In those beginning months and years, a group of women encircled themselves around me, protecting me and teaching me how to navigate living sober. Without those women, I wouldn’t have celebrated 10 years drug and alcohol-free this past September.
That’s why I think — and hope — that as popularity in the sober-curious movement and sober living grows, more women will start telling their stories. Women need women on the journey toward sobriety, and here are four reasons why.
To break down the stigma.
I grew up in a home with substance use disorder. Both my parents struggled with drugs and alcohol, but no one knew it. To my extended family, these issues were demonized, which means I didn’t talk about it. In fact, I didn’t talk about it until I was around eight years sober. Then I realized I was contributing to stigma, so I started writing and talking about my struggles with alcohol and how I found a life of sobriety.
When women talk about how their drinking or drug use didn’t serve them, they give other women permission to explore the same.
To show other women sober living is possible.
Alcohol is everywhere. It’s in restaurants, at weddings, available during work events, during book club, and even during playdates. It can be overwhelming to figure out how to live a sober life. In fact, it might seem impossible or inaccessible. And not everyone has a sober mom they can turn to in a time of need.
When women start opening up about living sober, it shows other women that doing so is possible despite the obstacles.
So that women know where to go.
Because we live in a society that is centered around alcohol, figuring out where to go to learn about how to get and live sober can be hard. It’s not like all the options are listed out on a billboard. The good news is there are many ways to get sober. When women are open about how they got sober and the resources they use, it gives those who need those resources a starting place.
This is one of the reasons I started to write and talk about how I got sober. The resources are out there, but they aren’t always easy to find, and sometimes a Google search doesn’t pull up what a woman needs. A talk with a friend or an article found in a magazine or online might be the only resource someone has, and we need more of these resources out there.
So we can build community.
It was other sober women that held me up when I was wading through the muddy waters of learning how to live sober. A group of sober women showed me how to have fun without alcohol, how to manage my emotions without numbing them, and how to take care of my family without needing a substance to relax at the end of the day. A sober community showed me how to live without alcohol, and every day, I do what I can to give that back so that another sober woman has someone to lean on.
When more women are willing to talk openly about these hard and stigmatized topics — substance use disorder and living sober — the community expands and we can hold each other up a little better.
When we take the time to build up women, everyone benefits. This is an adage that we’ve heard time and again. It’s especially true when stigma is pervasive, as it is when it comes to substance use disorders. Women have the power to break down that stigma and build bridges to one another through communication. We have the power to hold each other up and show each other the way. We have the power to make sobriety accessible, and we owe it to one another, and to ourselves, to do so.