Last week, Sober in the Suburbs founder Kimberly Kearns talked about her increased drinking — and the moment she realized she needed to get sober, both for herself and for her three kids. This week, she opens up about living without alcohol.
What did your husband say after you woke him up and told him you needed to stop drinking?
He looked like he was half asleep. He was like, “Yes, I’ll do anything you need at this point.” This massive weight was lifted for both of us. It was like he was waiting for a very long time for me to come to that point, and he didn’t even realize it.
I assume that part of getting sober during the pandemic means you’re not out socializing as much, so maybe that interpersonal sober-rawness doesn’t exist. But what was it like in the early days? Did you get medical help? Did you just go cold turkey?
I would suggest people get medical help, though I was fine. I didn’t need it. But I dove headfirst into my sobriety. I joined The Luckiest Club, and I found incredible therapists. And I do believe therapy is crucial to recovery — and I had to go through a couple different people to find the right fit. Fortunately, this was a recommendation from a friend. Just keep trying to find the right person.
And you have to be willing to open up, share, and listen to what they have to say. You have to be receptive to the advice they give. I remember the first session with [a therapist]. She told me, after listening to me talk for 30 minutes straight: “I think you have a lot of anger.” And I remember saying, “I’m not angry! I’m not an angry person!”
After working with her for several months, I was like, “Oh, my God — I have so much anger buried deep within me.” She helped me realize that drinking is all about numbing, avoiding, and escaping. A lot of what you do in early recovery in sobriety is figuring out not just why you want to stop drinking, but why you drink in the first place, which was huge for me.
Alcohol can serve as such an armor for people. What’s it like to socialize without that? I think this might be what keeps a lot of people from quitting.
I have to say: That has been probably one of the biggest struggles for me and my sobriety, which actually brings us back full circle to Sober in the Suburbs, which is why I felt the need to start this group. Because I think that it’s so important to find that community of sober people, to have a support system early on, to have people who understand you, to know what you’re going through, to walk that path beside you, in front of you, behind you.
Sadly, for me, some friendships really changed. I lost a lot of friendships, and people were not able to understand what I went through. For some people, my experience and maybe my being so public and out with everything was hard. I have a private family and friends who live a very, very private life. It’s a very difficult, taboo topic. And I kind of rocked the boat a little bit with my group of friends.
When you say you lost friendships, was it: “We drink, and you don’t?” Or was it more a gradual pulling away?
A gradual pulling away. People not including me in social events, because I think my not drinking held a mirror up to their drinking. Then, when my book came out, I wrote a lot about all my experiences — and some things were taken personally.
How did you find support?
In the beginning, I knew that I needed to stop drinking. I knew the reasons why I wanted to quit: I wanted to be there for my kids, be a better mom, a better wife. I wanted to stop feeling hungover in the mornings. I needed the self-loathing, alcohol-induced anxiety to end. I wanted to start feeling joy again in the thing I loved most — being a mom. But no one else knew how that felt because no one I knew was sober.
So I started writing about my experiences and feelings, blogging about it. It was a sort of healing. It felt cathartic to express what it seemed no one else around me understood. That allowed me to find support virtually. People from across the world began reaching out to me, saying that they understood what I was going through. I realized that I could start connecting with others by posting on Instagram. That opened up a whole new world of people I didn’t know existed. The sober Instagram world was invaluable to me in the early days, as was The Luckiest Club, an online support group. I was so concerned with how I was perceived by others at first, which was what kept me in that cycle of drinking for so long, because I cared too much about what people thought of me. By slowly writing about my story and posting on Instagram, I began to get comfortable with the journey, what I was going through, and understanding that overcoming alcohol addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. By vulnerably putting myself out there, I have started to find connections with people I never knew existed.
Do you have any tactics for those first few social outings without alcohol?
As for the first few social outings, having a plan with my husband helped. He knew, anytime I wanted to leave, he would go. The first party we went to was outside, during the pandemic at a neighbor’s, around the fire pits. I brought my own seltzers, and we only stayed for a little bit. If you are heading to a restaurant or bar, getting the bartender to make you a special mocktail is a fun way to ease into the night. If you’re going alone, texting a friend or your support system is a nice way to hold yourself accountable.
Does your husband still drink?
He supported me for nine months, and then he gradually started drinking again. And now he drinks maybe one beer a month. He loves non-alcoholic beer. He doesn’t feel the need to drink anymore. He says he realizes the benefits of having a clear head on a Sunday morning, and how much more present he is, not being hungover. He was never really hungover, but even two beers would make him feel kind of lethargic the next day. He feels like a better dad when he doesn’t drink.
Learn more at www.soberinthesuburbs.com.