The craft beer scene was really starting to take off in our North Carolina city back in 2011, and men held the strongest presence in that environment at the time. Growing a little weary of hanging out with just the boys (no offense), I tried my hand at bringing more women into the fold through social and beer education events by starting a little group called Charlotte Beer Babes. We were a small, but swiftly growing bunch dedicated to supporting the local craft beer industry as well as each other. It wasn’t long before a hectic job and other events in my life meant that it became too much for me to take on. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that my anxiety was the one in control those days and while my intentions were in the right place, I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. When it came time to turn the reigns over, I was grateful for the enthusiasm and energy that my friend, Bethany Burr, brought to the table. With her leadership, that group is nearly 1500 strong today, with events occurring on the regular at more local breweries than I can keep track of in the Charlotte area.
So why is a sober woman still proud of the successes of a group centered around drinking culture? It’s not about the drinking, it’s about the people. These are my friends. Many of the people in these circles own, work in, write about or are involved in some other way in the local craft beer scene and industry. They are like my family and have been a part of my life since coming to Charlotte back in 2007. Of course, things are a bit different now as I’m living a sober life amidst a world of normies (this is the term that we sober people use to refer to others who can take it or leave it when it comes to alcohol), but that doesn’t mean those friendships and support just disappear. In fact, many of these friends have been the ones high-fiving me along my journey. Just last weekend, while attending my first wedding since getting sober, a wedding for a brewer being held in a brewery, mind you, a good friend made a point to tell me how proud she was of me. She added to that how difficult it must be to stop drinking when your entire group of friends has been based around the beer scene. The simple is truth is she is correct, it has certainly has presented a unique set of challenges, but it’s the support just like hers that has also given me strength. It isn’t the alcohol that defines these friendships, it’s the character and compassion for one another that binds us no matter the circumstances.
While I’ll forever stand behind my friends and their livelihood, I’m obviously no longer spending time in their breweries or attending events or festivals. I would be kidding myself if I thought I could go back to doing all the things I used to but just without the drinking. That’s a slippery slope that I don’t want to place myself on. Instead, I’m finding a new path on this sober journey of mine. Much like I wanted to bring women together in that scene seven years ago, I’m now working on bringing women of a different sort together. There is a little group I started up a few weeks ago called the Charlotte Sobriety Society. We are geared towards women in all types of recovery, as well as those who are sober-curious or who just want to enjoy an event without the wine. While we are not intended as a recovery support group, it’s true that many of us might be in recovery from any number of things: alcoholism, drugs, anxiety, eating disorders, workaholism, perfectionism, the list goes on and on. It’s possible that there will be open discussions at some of these events about our experiences, but we also just might enjoy a casual night of yoga together without running for the glass of wine afterwards. My goal is simply to create a safe, no-pressure environment where women can come together and possibly even make meaningful friendships filled with encouragement and support for one another.
I am proud of this tribe that we are building together with the Charlotte Sobriety Society and if you are even remotely interested in attending an event, I encourage you to give it a try. You can visit our Meetup page for details, which is set up so that the member list cannot be seen unless you actually join. It’s my intent to respect the privacy of our members as much as the site will allow. If you just want more information, or if you are interested in joining our secret Facebook group which has been set up as a way for members to stay connected between events, please feel free to reach out me directly either through my contact page or on my personal Facebook page. You don’t need to be in recovery to join, the only rules are that you are a woman and that you don’t partake in alcohol at an event or show up intoxicated out of respect for those of our who are in recovery.
If you had asked me all those years ago if I would have ever seen myself with such a focus on sobriety, the answer would have been a resounding no. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is constantly evolving and you can’t always predict the direction it might take. Change can bring hardships, but it can also bring adventure, and I embrace the evolution and all the opportunities that come with it. I will forever be grateful for my involvement in the local craft beer scene. If you see me sporting a NoDa Brewing Company t-shirt or drinking kombucha from an Olde Mecklenburg Brewery glass, don’t judge, I’m just showing some love. But, maybe one day it will be a Charlotte Sobriety Society t-shirt that I’m wearing, you never know where things might go and I am excited to find out.