Sober Butterfly Co-Founder Laura shares her sobriety story.
As I write this piece, I am approaching my 36th birthday (Wait, what is that?!) The words alone just don’t make sense to me. For many years I have always felt 19, as if I somehow got stuck there metaphorically and reflecting back now, I can see that it was an important year for me as I finally felt free. I left my sleepy village that I had been desperate to escape at 18 and ventured north to University in Edinburgh. There I was living on my own terms and making my own choices. Choices that involved a lot of alcohol. Funnily enough, I was the sober teenager in High School who was eager to care for my friends as they threw up on kitchen tables after drinking too much vodka. But that changed whilst visiting family in Scotland after I left school and was encouraged to drink a Bacardi Breezer because “I should be drinking by now” and at that local pub I suddenly believed drinking alcohol didn’t seem so shocking or traumatic so of course it then became part of my being and make up of the young woman that I became for the next 17 or so years.
During my time at university, I developed a completely dysfunctional relationship with drinking. It may have been the standard behaviour and probably still is the ‘norm’ for lots of young women, but we would pre-drink cheap wine to get smashed so that we could go out and not spend more than £10. Not forgetting the minimal intake of food because we wanted to look skinny. This unhealthy and toxic pattern continued even up until 2019 and as such, the Universe finally woke me up with a very sharp shock. (To be clear, I’d had countless opportunities previously to see how destructive my behaviour had become but the culmination of heartbreak and my life simmering to embers was the final bonfire. I was finally ready to wake up.)
And wake up I did, both emotionally and spiritually. I’m now over a year sober and aware that I’m in my baby, caterpillar stage. This year alone has been a year of dark, heavy emotions lightened gradually with the gift of new friendships, therapy, spirituality and just finally being bloody happy. During my therapy sessions, (which I was incredibly reluctant to even look into) I’ve really started to delve into the relationship I have with myself. Delving into who I am vs who I was masquerading as whilst being socially addicted to alcohol and also the relationships that I have with other people both romantic and platonic. Spirituality has played a big part in my sobriety and both were planted as seeds whilst I lived in Australia four years before I stuck to my guns. There were quite a few failed attempts before I could finally commit to myself.
“I am not an angel and I will not be one til I die: I will be myself… You must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me-for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.
As young women, we have spent centuries wrestling with our expectations of self and others, conditioned to look out of ourselves to prove our worth and love yet missing the true, simple fact that we only need to love and accept ourselves.
No longer am I expecting myself to keep up with the lads at the bar, or matching the cocktails with the girls. No longer being the wild, funny, dramatic one on the night out that wakes up the next day with the dread of fear that I drunk drove or did something shameful. The reasons and effects of binge drinking for women can be discussed and argued at great length. I know that for me I drank to impress others, to mask anxiety, to assimilate with peers, to numb sorrow, to cerebrate as well as punish myself. That right there is something to be so mindful of. Women take on so much judgement and shame in general, so it breaks my heart that I used to actually punish myself.
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.
Its the fear that we’re not good enough.” – Brene Brown.
Brown is such a genius who has massively influenced me over the years and I have only just recently discovered that she is also sober. I know I’m not the only woman who has occasionally felt like she’s not good enough, because let’s be honest, there are countless reasons why women feel like this and that’s to be discussed another day…
Often the reason why people feel shame comes from a place of comparison. Personally I know that I would constantly compare myself to others or try to emulate many things and people, but when it came to alcohol in my younger years, I tried to impress my Dad. Over 6 foot tall compared to my 5 foot 3 inches, you can kind of already see how I was bizarrely lost in my quest. The UK Chief Medical Officer’s advice is for men and women to drink no more than 14 units per week. However, due to alcohol being held in body water (women have higher levels of body fat so less body water), alcohol tends to concentrate more in women than men. Ladies, it pickles us! I know as a young woman, I wrongly saw my femininity as a flaw, something that wasn’t as good as being masculine and I used alcohol to prove to myself and to others that I could match men in some way, I could be just as good, if not better. In realty, I just got really drunk and lost control.
The point I’m trying to make is that on a base level, women need to know that they are not in competition with men, nor each other, and if I’d had this knowledge as a 19 year old, I probably wouldn’t have hurt so many people over the years. I know now that I can’t physically drink the same as my Dad or many other men. I also know that ancestrally there are links within my family to alcoholism so I’m spiritually wiser and more mindful now that it was never a good route for me.
As I start to approach my forties, I’m also aware that I want to really love myself and care for my body and soul without the damaging effects of a drug that we have been brainwashed to believe has to fundamentally be part of our culture.
We are collectively here to say that things can be better than they are or were. That you can be stronger than you know and you will have a life you never considered. It can be a scary process to disconnect from what you’ve always known or been programmed to believe. Once you recognise that you will always have yourself, that is the only self you can truly rely on, you will become more accepting of the real you minus the nasty additions/addictions. And when you find your true self, know that you will always be welcome here because, sis, you’re home. You are where you belong and you’re always welcome to FLY with us.
Cheers to the future!
Co-Founder of Sober Butterfly Collective