Brown Girl in Recovery finds the light at the end of the tunnel.
By Brown Girl in Recovery, Photo courtesy of Brown Girl in Recovery
Hello, readers. I am Brown Girl in Recovery, sharing with you my sixth column about my experiences with alcoholism, mental health and, ultimately, sobriety. At this point in my journey, I was in my first few years of sobriety.
I was “white-knuckling” it for the first several months. That’s a popular phrase from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and it is so true. Your hands are literally balled up in fists to the point where your knuckles are turning white from the grip. I slowly learned to breathe through it and that “this too shall pass” (another annoying and popular AA phrase).
I was 31, in the middle of a divorce, my dad was sick with a progressive brain disease and, frankly, I felt like a loser of a daughter and a person. No matter how much I wanted to drink to forget everything, I didn’t. I kept telling myself it would only be a temporary fix and that if I ever did drink again, it would be to end my life. For good this time. I took staying sober minute by minute, hour by hour. I couldn’t think too far into the future.
After a few months of attending AA meetings, I finally approached an older woman who had nearly 20 years of sobriety and asked her to be my sponsor. That sponsorship, and ultimate deep friendship, changed my life for the better. To this day, she is still a big part of my support system and a dear friend. She’s outgoing, an artist and is super funny even though she, too, deals with a lot. She taught me so much, and continues to do so.
This also is when yoga entered my life. Before sobriety, I hardly ever practiced, but at that time I began a daily practice. I started with restorative yoga. It forced me to be still. Something I wasn’t used to doing but that I knew I needed for my own sake. I had to stop running away and finding temporary fixes to my problems. Instead, I had to learn to sit in the uncomfortableness of it all and remain sober. After several months, yoga became a part of my daily life. Years later, I got my yoga teacher certification through Black Swan Yoga.
I sought out therapy and psychiatric help from the get-go, realizing, whether I wanted it or not, I needed the help. Couldn’t keep ending up in the ER and psychiatric unit from unsuccessful suicide attempts. I couldn’t keep putting my parents and sisters through that. Watching your mom wheel your sick dad in his wheelchair to pick you up from the detox unit really makes you think about what you’ve done to your life. It took a lot of effort and time to find a psychiatrist who didn’t have a waitlist and took my insurance. But I stuck with it and found a great one. I went through a few different counselors, and they all helped me in different ways. Medication played a significant role too. I was on two medications for over a year for my depression and anxiety before I started weaning off of them.
Side note: unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your perspective—I got back on an antidepressant this summer after many, many months of despair, tears, anger and not understanding why this was happening in my brain all over again. I thought I had “solved” depression. I am sober; I do all the “right” things. Why was this happening again? My sponsor, as well as my current psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and OB-GYN, gently kept explaining that it’s not my fault. That I didn’t do anything wrong, that depression is a life-long disease for some and there is help.
In that first year of sobriety, I leaned on my parents and sisters in a way I hadn’t ever before. I realized it was okay to not have it all figured out, that they would stick by my side no matter what. I learned how to share my feelings with them. My mom and dad played a crucial role in that first year, even though I felt so ashamed for turning into this mess of a daughter. But they helped me while simultaneously giving me space. I spent a lot of time with my dad during my early days of sobriety, until he passed away right before I reached the two-year mark. His death was a tough blow in all of our lives, yet I stayed sober through it all with the help of my then-boyfriend (who is now my husband) and my sisters.
It also helped that one of my sisters was training to become a psychiatrist at the time (and is now an in-demand psychiatrist helping so many people find peace and clarity) and that my other sister is so empathic, caring and just gets me. My sisters are not just my family; they’re my friends. Our relationship as adults is a beautiful thing for which I’m very grateful.
For my next column—my last one with Austin Woman—I will share the last few years and where I am now. Until then, I hope by sharing my journey and reflections thus far I am able to give other Brown women a space to reflect, perhaps nod along and feel less alone, and realize life is going to eventually be okay.