We meet Founder, Hannah as she shares her sober butterfly journey:
Ok so here’s the thing, this is supposed to be an introduction to my story and me but quite honestly I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve agonised over where to start and what to include… the fact is this story is no fairytale.
Thinking about it, it does seem to have some key similarities though I suppose:
- A damsel in distress (in her own head)
- A clearly defined evil character (we all know who that is in this story)
- A problem that needs to be solved
- A love story (of sorts)
- A lesson to be learnt
One thing it doesn’t include is any fantasy or make-believe elements, nope, everything unfortunately in my story is very much real. The happily ever after? Well I guess you’ll have to wait and find out.
Alongside each ‘chapter’ I have selected a song for you to listen to (if you wish). For the full effect though I would advise you play these songs on full blast and sing along so you can feel the words and understand the emotion I’m trying to portray with my words here. (Apologise to the neighbours later!)
So here goes…
This is a story of a girl’s metamorphosis – how she dissolved, transformed and learnt how to fly… sober.
“Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?“
Please listen to Reflection – Christina Aguilera (Mulan) Listen on YouTube
Once upon a time…
Only a year ago actually, the girl reflected in the mirror wasn’t who I wanted to be and her life was no longer the one I wanted to live. I had a happy personality and a sad soul sharing one body.
Summer 2019 was a boozy one to say the least, the highlight (for many reasons) being a holiday with my best friends. These were the girls I’d spent my whole drinking career with soaking up the binge drinking culture from sipping cider on parks to downing bottles of vodka at house parties to the glamorised bottomless brunches that turned from day to night with shots of tequila. This was our first hen do as a group – the ultimate booze filled trip abroad. Buzzing.
From the moment we stepped on to the minibus our old friend joined us too; the fun one, the entertaining one, the life and soul of any party, Alcohol. In all honesty it was thanks to my ‘good old friend’ that the whole weekend was a bit of a blur, however one moment in particular has and always will stand out. The night that I felt I no longer belonged.
This feeling had come and gone over the years. I’d always put it down to living away at uni, going travelling, working in hospitality and generally missing out but this time was different. I was completely floored with anxiety. I couldn’t breathe. I disappeared and hid in the bathroom whilst they all took photographs. For some reason I wanted to avoid them, but why? I’d never been particularly camera shy before, certainly not like this anyway. What was happening to me?
I glanced up into the mirror…
Who was the girl staring back at me?
I didn’t recognise her.
It hit me, I’d lost myself. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how and I certainly didn’t know where.
All I knew in that moment was that I’d concealed how I was truly feeling inside for too long, the mask I’d worn fooling the world had disappeared, revealing that hiding behind the smile all along was a hurricane of hurt, pain and heartache.
So what did I do next? Well, I did the only thing I knew how… I drank.
I drank for 3 days straight. I drank to drown out the thoughts. I drank to block out the voices. I drank to melt my self-consciousness away. It worked for a split second.
To be frank, my body had had enough by this point and my head was even more fed up with me but I had to push it one more time at the beginning of September. It was then that I realised I had become torn between a world of glorified binge drinking and escape drinking. One of which was acceptable and the other not. So after an awful episode of what I now recognise as hangxiety, I decided to break up with booze.
I was ready to go into the unknown.
Into the Unknown
“I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you, into the unknown.”
Please listen to Into the Unknown – Idina Menzel (Frozen) Listen on Youtube
So I’m sure you’re all familiar with voices such as the Wine Witch or the Booze Beast: whatever you call it, the ones that cause trouble and temptation. This devil on your shoulder, your inner addict that whispers sweet nothings in your ear when you’re vulnerable and promises alcohol will make everything better. I was all too familiar with this voice of mine, the one that gave in at the slightest bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). However, I’d gotten to a point in life where I was fearing for what I was going to miss out on in my future, like goals I wouldn’t reach and dreams I wouldn’t make come true. It was time to take action. To do this I bought a brand new notepad and pen and began writing list after list of everything I hoped for in my life, habits I wanted to kick or create, short term goals and long term aspirations. Half way down my health list I wrote:
‘Limit alcohol – Sober October’
As I reviewed all my lists it finally clicked. There it was. What was the one thing holding me back from ticking these things off my lists?
Alcohol was holding me back from fulfilling my potential.
Alcohol was holding me back from reaching my goals.
Ultimately… Alcohol was holding me back from my happiness.
This was when I decided I was ready to go head to head with the Wine Witch but what I wasn’t expecting was the new voice that appeared in this moment – the Sober Siren. She wanted me to follow her, ultimately she promised she was going to help me block out the ringing in my ears from the Wine Witch but I had to trust her and follow her into the unknown.
I had questions first though:
What was I risking if I followed the sober siren?
Would my social life change?
Would I lose friends?
Would my life become ‘boring’?
I asked myself, was I willing to risk everything I’d ever known? Was I ready to give up my party girl persona?
I sat with these thoughts, I knew deep down I wasn’t where I was meant to be in life. I had so much potential, I had so much more to give and that I wanted to achieve. All I had to do was give up alcohol.
Ok, I thought, I was ready to change, to adapt to this new sober lifestyle and give it a go but one thing for sure was I wasn’t willing to give up my social life.
If I was going to transform it was going to be from a social butterfly into a sober butterfly.
I was ready to enter a whole new world and start my metamorphosis.
A Whole New World
“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.
Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling, I’m like a shooting star,
I’ve come so far, I can’t go back to where I used to be.”
Please listen to A Whole New World – Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott (Aladdin) Listen on Youtube
In order for a real change to happen we must let go of our precious selves and dissolve as explained by life coach Martha Beck who describes the stages of human metamorphosis.
“Dissolving isn’t something you do, it happens to you. The closest you’ll come to controlling it is relaxing and trusting the process.”
“Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis.” – Martha Beck
To do this I literally had to start at the beginning of the cycle again. I became what I’d call a sober-curious caterpillar, digesting as much information on sobriety as possible. I’d never even considered a life without alcohol before. I knew people who had an occasional break from alcohol but no one who just DID NOT drink.
One day an article shared in a group chat amongst my friends caught my attention. It was on the topic of hangxiety and essentially what led me to an absolute revelation – finding Sober Girl Society.
Founder Millie Gooch had set up the Instagram page in the hope of creating something for ‘the millennial Brit party girl who still wanted to do all the same things (dancing, dating etc…) but just wanted to take alcohol out of the equation.’ This article by unilad quite literally changed my life! Millie was so relatable, I instantly felt inspired by her, I loved her ethos and wanted to know more.
I started listening to every podcast Millie was featured in which then led me to even more inspiring sober women, like Laurie McAllister who writes the blog ‘Girl and Tonic‘ and Janey Lee Grace who has an awesome podcast ‘The Alcohol Free Life’ and of course Catherine Gray author of the sober bible ’The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’. Following accounts like Not So Secretly Sober on Instagram too gave me the confidence to take the plunge and take sobriety more seriously. Having this whole community where people felt united in sobriety and were proving you could still live a fabulous and fun life sober was a game changer for me. It existed. You could be a sober butterfly.
When Sober Girl Society announced they were hosting a bottomless boozeless brunch in Manchester, that was it, that was when I knew I wanted to follow the Sober Siren, I was ready to dive head first into the unknown. Sitting at that table surrounded by 30+ sober women was empowering to say the least. Hearing them be so open and honest to people they had never met, with no judgement whatsoever was a breathe of fresh air. At that moment I knew I was ready to start the process of letting go of who I was and whatever I had done and fully embrace a sober lifestyle.
That night I setup an account on Instagram called ‘Another Mindful Millennial’ this provided me with my cocoon. It was then that I started to dissolve. Whilst in my cocoon – I tried anything and everything to keep me busy and distracted, whatever felt comforting. From running to yoga and journaling to trying every AF alternative on the shelf, I searched for whatever would get me through this stage. I threw myself in at the deep end from the beginning with socialising sober by going to Oktoberfest and dancing on tables followed by being game master at a houseparty which included doughnut limbo of course (had to relieve my sugar craving somehow). Every social event I completed I could feel myself growing stronger inside my cocoon.
During this process I also had to grieve my old self and truly experience and face my feelings. Trust me, what goes on in this cocoon of change isn’t always pretty, but I promise the results can be beautiful. (Remember this is where caterpillars go to grow their wings.) I became thirsty not for alcohol but for things that you can’t drink like self-love, self respect, self worth … the list goes on. I became addicted to growth, self-development and sharing the wonders of sobriety with others. It’s what drove me to search and connect with more sober sisters, to create an instagram group chat with other local lovely sober babes and ultimately helped me find my flutter.
Meeting Laura, Katy & Molly changed my whole outlook and perspective on life, making sober friends who just understood and got it made a world of difference. This was the best outcome of my sobriety without a doubt and I know I have made friends for life. The support network that I’d started on Instagram kept growing and evolving especially through lockdown and I became more eager to help others find comfort and confidence in their sobriety like I had. It was time to be brave and let a little idea I’d had FLY.
This is Me
“I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me“
Please listen to This is Me – Keala Settle (The Greatest Showman) Listen on Youtube
My first 6 months sober (pre-covid) consisted of nights out until 3am, Christmas parties, New Years Eve, a hen do (very different this time), a holiday to Thailand and my 28th birthday… all without a drop of alcohol. I found that throughout this period people seemed to really admire my joy of going out and socialising. My decision to not let sobriety change my social life in fact made me socialise even more.
Growing up I had always been a social butterfly. Always up for a drink, a laugh, a party and a blackout it seemed too. The phrase ‘social butterfly’ gives this glittering image of someone with a charismatic personality who is the life and soul of the party but as we established earlier this is just a mask worn to hide insecurities.
Scratch beneath the surface of mine a year ago and you would have found a girl who felt worthless, unloved and rejected. A girl who felt out of place, who didn’t know who she was anymore and who just wanted to escape. I was always trying to make other people smile but forgot the one person who mattered the most – me. Always condemning my reflection for the mistakes I made, unhappy with who I was and what I had become. I’d remember all the errors I’d made, not the highlights.
Once I’d found my flutter and I’d broken up with booze though I was ready to accept who I truly was – an imperfect human being, with flaws, scars and a broken heart – just like anyone else. I recognised the transformation I’d been through, how my past played a part in who I am today and that my identity was never fixed. I had the power to change my path and the strength to say no to alcohol and yes to happiness.
As humans we all experience change several times in our lives. For me, butterflies are a powerful representation of life and transformation. They are a great symbol for change, transition, adaptation and growth. Butterflies teach us that growth and change don’t have to be traumatic. Their lesson is on how to let go of old behaviour and evolve into our unique and individual selves.
This is why we are Sober Butterfly Collective.
We want to help you to FLY – first love yourself.
Spread your wings and fly into a sober social life.
So next time you catch yourself in the mirror, smile at the person looking back at you – don’t forget they are your best friend and deserve your love. Smile at yourself without judgement, without the need to be perfect.
Remember if nothing ever changed there would be no such thing as butterflies.
This is me…Hannah
A sober butterfly.
Founder of Sober Butterfly Collective.