how did soberIRL get started?
The idea for soberIRL came to me after attending a sober retreat 8 months into my journey. An impromptu dance party at the group picnic challenged my belief that I didn’t need any support or sober friends to stay sober. But after laughing so hard my face hurt, feeling sore from dancing and cheers-ing La Croixs, it clicked why community is a critical component to maintaining long-term sobriety.
After the retreat, I was looking for opportunities to socialize and connect with other sober women in my local area outside of meeting rooms. Unable to find it, I decided to take a chance, push against my comfort zone and build it myself. In January 2020, soberIRL officially launched.
After celebrating a year since launching in San Francisco and seeing the friendships it has helped form, it’s time for soberIRL to expand to other towns and cities. The goal is help more women feel like they have a community where they belong.
While the focus of soberIRL is community, there is value in sharing our individual stories. Hearing what others were going through helped me recognize my own issues with alcohol.
I consider myself a high-bottom drinker since I didn’t suffer serious consequences as a result of my drinking — the typical ones being DUI, loss of a job, being cut off by family, etc. I also consider myself a high-functioning drinker because I was seen as a successful person — I was in a long-term relationship, could afford rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
I started drinking at the age of 19 when I was studying abroad in England. From the get-go, I was a binge and blackout drinker. I mimicked how my friend circle was drinking which was a very stereotypical college way. Even though the hangovers and loss of memories concerned me, the way everyone would laugh and recap the night made it normal.
The pattern of binge drinking continued almost every weekend until I got sober at the age of 32. I made several attempts to moderate and abstain but my only tool at the time was willpower. I attended substance abuse counseling but I hated being told to stop drinking by someone else. I also worked with a talk therapist for 3 years and her opinion was being sober was too drastic of a decision and moderation was a realistic goal.
Trying to moderate made my life hell! And it was compounded by the shame, anxiety, and guilt I felt on a daily basis for the mistakes I made while drunk. If I had a drink or 2, I wanted to rip my skin off because I wanted more. Having none felt like a punishment. The attempts to control alcohol led me to lying to my family and partner about my habits, hiding alcohol in the closet, and going on multi-day benders where I called out of work sick.
It took years of stops and starts, various levels of determination and an immense self-reflection but I was able to have a last drink and truly commit to an alcohol-free life. My last Day 1 was on December 31st, 2019. I now see sobriety as a badge of honor, something to be celebrated, and as the foundation of the life I always wanted but didn’t think I could have.