Navigating Sobriety As A Black Woman

By Maya Richard-Craven, Journalist
person journaling

It was the spring of 2019 when I experienced my first real break up. I started to drink every day to cope with the feeling of loss and the fear that I may never find another partner. What started as a bad habit turned into a cycle of addiction. I had a way with people that became ruined by my need for alcohol. I became unreliable, and started canceling or showing up late to events. I would rather spend time alone, surfing the internet and drinking by myself. It wasn’t until I became dangerous that my friends started to give up on me. My erratic behavior started to put everyone around me at risk. I started blacking out several times a week, and gained a reputation for my behavior. I felt itchy when I wasn’t drinking, but didn’t realize why. I went to a bar and behaved so childishly that every customer left, and no one returned the next day. I became the kind of drinker no one wanted to be around, but I was too intoxicated to realize that I had a problem.

After seeking out treatment, I reached 7 months of sobriety. But when LA Mayor Eric Garcetti mandated a two week stay at home order, I immediately fell back into my old ways. I started to drink several bottles of wine a day. A pile of empty bottles began to pile up in my closet, behind chairs, and in the back of my car. My drinking got even worse over the summer as the country erupted in protests. It seemed as if another Black life was taken at the hands of law enforcement every week. When a 46-year-old Black man was choked to death by the police I drank an entire bottle of vodka to ease the pain.

woman in field

I didn’t quit drinking until I saw footage of a 27-year-old Black man getting shot in a Wendy’s parking lot for refusing to take a sobriety test. Watching Rayshard Brooks lose his life at the hands of police scared me back into sobriety. Still, I desperately craved alcohol when I turned on my phone and read about the shooting of Jacob Blake. When the officers involved in the Breonna Taylor case were not charged for murder, I wanted to take solace in the comfort of a drink. I chose to sit with my feelings of discomfort and pain. I decided to face my emotions head on rather than numb them with alcohol. 

It became increasingly difficult to stay sober after witnessing the insurrection. I couldn’t go on Instagram without being bombarded with photographs of people climbing walls and marching around with stolen American flags. As a Black person, watching coverage of the insurrection was infuriating. Where was the sea of tear gas? Where was the line of shields? Why weren’t the domestic terrorists being treated with the same force as peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters? I couldn’t help but think about having a drink. I knew a drink would ease my anxiety, but it would only serve as a temporary solution. 

women looking out

Being Black in the current political climate can feel excruciating at times. Black people have been hit with a tidal wave of trauma with the recent coverage of police shootings and disproportionate rates of coronavirus. Without the several facets of recovery for people of color, I would not be able to remain sober. Head onto Instagram and take comfort in Served Up Sober and Sans Bar. Attend weekly meetings and get matched with a mentor through Sober Black Girls Club. Visit the Monument site and sign up to attend Navigating sobriety or moderation as a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color. 

Navigating sobriety or moderation as a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC)

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face a unique set of challenges in navigating sobriety and moderation. Join an honest discussion about how minority stress and oppression can impact drinking behaviors, and how we can work through it together.
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Every day people of color across the world uplift each othereven if it is through Zoom, FaceTime, and Instagram. We keep each other sober day by day, and at times, hour by hour. We take on the complexities of what it means to be a person of color in a political climate defined by chaos. We share our experiences about race in relation to drinking. We discuss feeling pressure to assimilate to the majority, and drinking in response. We remember how the history and treatment of our people influences our desire to drink. We acknowledge the pain and shame that comes with being the only brown person in a room. Sobriety is a collective effort, and we need each other now more than ever. Like our ancestors who came before us, we refuse to let our pain define us.  

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Maya Richard-CravenMaya Richard-Craven is a Los Angeles based journalist whose work has been featured in British Vogue, ELLE, Teen Vogue, PopSugar, Grazia UK, The Huffington Post, Pasadena Magazine, New York Daily News, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Previously Maya was selected as the first ever college columnist for The Daily Beast and interned for The Hollywood Reporter. In 2014, she received the Jeff Zaslow award for best college column from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Her work focuses on race, gender, substance abuse, and diversity and inclusion in entertainment. Outside of writing, Maya enjoys thrillers, baking, and international travel.