Needham woman gives up alcohol, creates group to take emphasis off social drinking in suburbs

NEEDHAM, Mass. — “Let’s get together for a drink!”

It’s considered a harmless invitation among friends, but it was the kind of thing that Kimberly Kearns of Needham found was taking over her life.

She ended up in a destructive cycle and knew she needed to break free from it.

“From the outside looking in, I appeared to have it all together. You know, the picket fend, the three kids, the dog, I presented that I was really happy, but I was crumbling inside. That’s when I started sneaking vodka.

Drinking became a crutch for Kearns, and it took over her seemingly perfect life.

One problem was that alcohol had become a central part of her social life in her suburb of Boston.

“I believed somebody who struggled with alcohol was a person sitting on the corner with alcohol in a brown paper bag. I would always look and compare myself and say, oh I’m not so bad.”

One day in 2020, after a night of drinking alone, Kearns realized it was in fact that bad.

“I had a bottle of wine by myself, just another night in the pandemic, but I didn’t remember putting my kids to bed,” recalled Kearns.

“I woke up with that debilitating self-loathing and this anxiety and I just knew that that voice was almost screaming in my head, and I was like, I can’t do this anymore.”

That’s when Kearns quit drinking and started looking for ways to refocus her life without alcohol.

She created “Sober in the Suburbs” which she describes “as a social group that could be for anybody, and you don’t have to identify as somebody who struggles with alcohol.”

The group sponsors a speaker series, and also walks and coffees.

Doctor Ximena Sanchez-Samper, a board-certified addiction psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Charles River Recovery in Weston, thinks an organization like Sober in the Suburbs can play an important role in helping people deal with drinking disorders.

“One of my favorite phrases is that the opposite of addiction is connection,” said Doctor Sanchez-Samper. “Where you can start to feel that you’re not alone, that you can talk about what it’s like to be a mom, a spouse, and all those things that you sometimes keep behind the white picket fence.”

She says drinking rates soared during the pandemic and that it can now be hard for some people to now remove alcohol from their lifestyles.

“There are other ways of being together, of celebrating togetherness. . . there are different ways of you relaxing at the end of the day, that it doesn’t all involve alcohol.”

That’s the exact message Kearns is trying to reinforce and she feels that it’s resonating with many women.

“I started to understand that there are so many people out there that were experiencing what I was experiencing because I was not the only one . . .I hope that it normalizes not drinking I hope it’s a safe space for people and that it eliminates the stigma of someone who doesn’t drink.”

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