I have started a Sober Meet Up Group for women. The goal of the group is to gain support and create a community for people considering quitting drinking, people in recovery, or for people that are sober for any reason. During our Meet Ups we share stories, conversation, support, tears and laughter over a cup of coffee at the back table of a local cafe.
Gathering under the knowledge that we have struggled with our relationship with alcohol creates an immediate connection between strangers. We feel we already know each other and the conversation digs deep right from the start. Thank Goodness because social anxiety and a dislike for small talk are common characteristics of the group.
Many of the women who are brave enough to show up have been in abusive relationships with men. Abusive relationships are the problem, and alcohol has been the solution. Alcohol is the coping tool. Alcohol is the medication to cure the symptoms of dealing with a man who has emotionally and physically told them they weren’t good enough and beaten them down, literally and figuratively.
As you can imagine the pain for these women is great. The amount of alcohol needed to drown out this pain is plenty. The alcohol becomes the #1 problem, the abuse #2. These women have just helped their partners in their quest to blame, belittle and hurt by doing it to themselves also. These women have unintentionally added alcohol to weaken them in an already victimized situation.
All of the women I know have been referred to AA, typically after a hospitalization or during an alcohol treatment program. They have all come to my group because they are looking for something other than AA, almost whispering it, afraid to get caught saying such a thing.
Their AA circles are full of men. These women arrive powerless, defeated, and regretfully accepting of sobriety as their lifelong punishment. They see themselves as bad because they have a brain that responds to an addictive substance by getting hooked. Someone they loved has been telling them they aren’t good enough, and they have started to believe it.
One narrative of AA is that we need the defects of our character removed. These women are sober but suffering. They have to live sober now because they were bad. They cannot remove their badness but they can (sadly) stop drinking. They can white knuckle through everyday for the rest of their life in recovery. The focus of their life still being alcohol. Alcohol being the good thing they had too much of and now don’t get to have anymore. Alcohol, the beautiful elixir they abused, while they were being abused.
I offer a new perspective. Everything I ever want is on the other side of alcohol. I see sobriety as a beautiful opportunity for growth. Sobriety is not a repercussion for my bad behavior. I see alcohol as an experience, not a title. I see changed behavior as the best apology I can give. I have so much gratitude every single day because I don’t need a drink to be alive. I can be fully present for every day of my life without escaping, numbing, or masking myself. I can be me.
I do not live as an alcoholic. I live as a human who had an issue with alcohol. Alcohol, the addictive, mind altering substance that creates dependence and increases tolerance. There is nothing wrong with me. It's simple science. I am normal. Its normal to become addicted to an addictive substance. Its normal for my body to bloat and feel like garbage after I drink too much poison. I feel very appreciative for my body to communicate with me in this way. To tell me that drinking poison makes me feel terrible, giving me a warning to stop, before I got even more ill.
I don’t hate my body and my brain for my alcoholic gene, if you call it that. I see myself as one of the lucky ones. Studies show alcoholics are some of the smartest, creative, and most talented people. Yes, that’s me. You too.
I feel proud, not ashamed, to have gotten rid of an unhealthy habit.
I feel strong, not weak, for turning down a poisonous substance that used to be my number 1 coping tool. I feel brave, because I am scared, and do it anyway.
AA is one way. It's not the only way. If you have been a victim and you don’t want to sit in a circle of men and admit you are powerless, I understand that. There is more than one way and more than one path. If you want to welcome sobriety, and not feel punished for “not getting to drink anymore” I get that. If alcohol seemed like the one good relief you had in life, and you are now empty without it, I was there too. I welcome the chance to show you the way to freedom, not punishment, in ditching the drink.