Tomorrow, Brené Brown—research professor, NY times bestselling author, and celebrity in her own right—will be 25 years sober.
When Brown was in graduate school, one of her last assignments was to develop a genogram, a visual map of your family history. After speaking with her mom for the project, she realized that a lot of what she’d built up as “folkloric struggles” were really trauma, addiction and mental health issues.
Two weeks later she graduated from school, and the next day went to her first AA meeting. She hasn’t used alcohol or drugs since. At first, Brown struggled to feel like she belonged in AA or had enough of a problem to be there. “Not many people ride into those meetings on a scary genogram,” she said. But her sponsor referred to her as having a “pupu platter of addictions.”
Brown realized that she was using anything—alcohol, drugs, food—to get out of having to be vulnerable. She’s written about feeling at points in her sobriety like she was a turtle living without a protective shell. When asked about how she became so successful, she realized everything came back to sobriety—and the courage it’s given her to do away with all protective barriers she’d built.
“I’m not sure Steve [Brown’s husband] and I would have made it long enough to have Ellen and Charlie had I not been sober and trying to live an authentic, honest life rather than trying to outrun, outsmart, and numb vulnerability,” she said.
Brown has spent decades studying some of the ideas she’s grappled with in her own life and recovery—vulnerability, courage, shame, empathy. Her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is in the top five most popular talks.
Brown sees society’s drinking culture as a “great cover for pain.” Through both her work and her own experience, she’s learned the irony of this method; not facing pain amplifies it, but learning to sit with it can bring so much joy into your life. As Brown put it, “I can’t separate anything powerful or good in my life from sobriety.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn to face the world sober and build joy in long-term recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.