The Voice of Women in Recovery
March is Women’s History Month, and it’s the perfect time to spotlight women in recovery. Women face unique challenges when it comes to substance use and sobriety. Alongside specific health concerns, such as high susceptibility to conditions like liver disease, women cope with different mental health struggles and social situations. The female experience of sobriety and recovery can be a source of motivation, regardless of gender identity. From historical advocates to modern influencers, let’s explore the voice of women in recovery.
Early Women of Sobriety
Documentation of women in the sobriety movement is hard to come by. Luckily, we do have information on standout women that shaped recovery as we know it today.
Mercedes McCambridge—Actress and Advocate
Mercedes McCambridge was an American actress that made her mark in radio, stage, and film. Recipient of a Golden Globe and an Academy award, McCambridge utilized her platform to bring awareness to issues of substance use. By the 1960s, McCambridge realized that she had developed a dependence on alcohol. After experiencing her own sobriety journey, McCambridge contributed almost a decade of work to the non-profit organization, the Livengrin Foundation, a residential treatment center for those struggling with alcohol use. She championed substance use disorder as a disease and heralded the benefits of sober treatment options.
Betty Ford–First Lady of America
In early April 1978, one year after the end of her husband’s presidential term, First Lady Betty Ford was admitted to an alcohol and drug abuse center. Ford realized that she had become dependent on medication for her arthritis. Shortly after her treatment at the center, she released a statement that her substance use disorder included alcohol. At a time when drug addiction and recovery was considered highly taboo, Ford became an advocate for sobriety and a champion for others in recovery. She founded the Betty Ford Center in 1982, a provider for the treatment of substance use that remains active today.
Lillene Fifield—Founder of Alcoholism Center for Women
A social worker, psychotherapist, and lesbian activist, Lillene Fifield dedicated her life to raising awareness and creating resources for those in addiction recovery. In 1973, alongside Brenda Weathers, she wrote a grant to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for a treatment program targeted towards gay women. The three-year program was awarded over a million dollars. Fifield’s research, work, and commitment to uplifting women alcoholics drastically informed the sobriety conversation for the lesbian community.
Chaney Allen–Author of I’m Black and I’m Sober
Chaney Allen was a counselor and figurehead for sobriety in the black community. As the daughter of a minister in Alabama, Allen felt that black Americans desperately needed a voice for sobriety. In 1978, she published I’m Black & I’m Sober, a memoir that speaks to her experience with alcohol and recovery. As she describes in her author’s note, “Since there are so many alcoholics who still suffer (especially my Black Sisters and Brothers), I had to tell it like it was.” Allen prioritized creating a forum for recovery support in the black community, and her effect on readers then and today is profound. She continued on to found the California Book Commission on Alcoholism and the California Women’s Commission on Alcoholism.
Modern Female Figures
Today, many female figures continue to inspire and engage in the sober conversation.
Ruby Warrington—Author of Sober Curious
Ruby Warrington is best known today as the creator of the term sober curious. As an author, podcaster, and advocate, Warrington is all about exploring personal well-being, self-love, and the importance of sobriety. Between her books and podcasts, Warrington is generating a conversation about the individual nature of recovery. With personal lived experience, Warrington is dedicated to broadcasting sober living in a world that has normalized substance abuse.
Holly Whitaker—Author of Quit Like A Woman
As a modern advocate for sobriety and self-esteem, Holly Whitaker is committed to vocalizing sobriety. “I don’t know you, but I care about you,” Whitaker writes on her website. “It is my sincerest hope that my work is of benefit.” Indeed, Whitaker’s works have had a resounding impact on the recovery community. Her most well-known work, Quit Like A Woman, famously inspired actress Chrissy Teigen to seek sobriety. Developed in 2014, her individualized recovery program still works today to make substance use disorder treatment accessible to everyone.
Glennon Doyle—Author of Carry On, Warrior
Glennon Doyle, an influential self-help and spiritual growth author, encourages women to find their voice. Speaking to women from the perspective of a woman, Doyle’s books inspire women to seize control of their life. From daily exercises to inspirational affirmations, Doyle provides a road map towards self-motivation. Along the way, Doyle specifically addresses her sobriety experience. In one of her New York Times bestselling works, Carry On, Warrior, Doyle writes about facing your first sober morning. She remains one of the most influential voices in sobriety and recovery.
Cupcake Brown—Author of A Piece of Cake
In her New York Times bestselling memoir, A Piece of Cake, Cupcake Brown tells the harrowing story of her recovery. As a foster child, Brown’s unstable home life and abusive circumstances led her to substance use at a young age. She went on to realize her dreams as an attorney, and now runs her own law practice. Her memoir testifies to the cycle of substance use, the challenges of recovery, and the rewards of sobriety. Today, Brown remains an advocate for those in recovery.
Recovery Stories and Sobriety Support
No matter your background, understanding others’ experiences, connecting with their stories, and surrounding yourself with positive influences can boost you during recovery. Testimonies of sobriety are an essential source of inspiration and motivation—one reason that support groups and community are integral on the road to recovery. Learn more about the Phoenix and connect with our sober community.