Taboo: Mental Health/Substance Abuse in the African American Community


Richelle E. Goodrich (87)

Isha K Taylor
Mental Health/Substance Abuse in the African American Community
 What happened? 
My grandmother suffered in abusive relationships, battled drug and alcohol addiction her whole life. Due to her dependency on these substances, they greatly impacted my mother’s like life. In retrospect, I understand that my grandmother suffered from severe mental health issues. She used drugs and alcohol to run away from the pain, up until her death in 2017. In the African Americans communities we are taught to just deal and to get over trauma. We aren’t taught how to cope and heal with intent and purpose.
 How did it affect your childhood or how has it affected you even as an adult?
 As a result of my grandmother’s mental health, my mother, aunt, and uncle were in and out of foster care. My mother fell victim to substance abuse, sexual abuse and lost custody of my siblings and I permanently. I suffered from abandonment issues, I hated myself and spent most of my childhood seeking validation. I wanted to belong. I attempted to commit suicide. I lost my virginity at 14. I didn’t believe in myself because I thought I was so worthless, that my mother choose drugs over my siblings and I. I didn’t know what I or the depth of my purpose, during those years.
As an adult, I am just entering into a space that I can and have healed from my childhood pain. I am aware of unhealthy relationships and how to identify individuals who have not healed from childhood trauma. I was playing a supporting role in my own life, due to my need to help others. I gravitated towards pain. I connected with people, places and things that were considered normal based on my family history. I was so angry. Angry at people who from the outside looking in had a better life than me. Those who had all of the things I thought I needed as a child. I had no idea how to build healthy relationships or how to set boundaries. I self medicated with alcohol, excessive shopping/spending, and empty relationships. My trauma ruled my life, but I had no idea I was in pain. I didn’t know that I was in survivor mode.
What steps have been needed in order for you to heal, forgive, grow, let go? 
Whew! If I have to narrow it down. At first, I acknowledged that I needed to change. I realized that I was allowing my past to control the outcome of my future. I began to evaluate, myself, the people around me, and my purpose. I begin questioning everything. I stopped going through the motions. I had to hit rock bottom, a lot! My greatest victories have been birthed out of rejection and failure. I learned from everything and everyone. I began to set boundaries for myself and others. I gained a sober mind. I had to forgive years before I was actually healed. I’m now entering into my healing phase. Now I can share my story from a place of victory and not a position of victim. My pain was a barrier to my growth and I had to surrender my old self, my old thoughts, my old belief systems, my fears. I had to deconstruct the foundation of my past.

Why do you think people don’t talk about

things that are Taboo?
 I believe that people don’t talk about things that are Taboo, because they haven’t been shown a better way. I also believe that people have become consumed with living a false reality. Consumed with being the world’s version of perfect. I also believe that after so many years, it is hard to face themselves and sometimes the pain is too great. My mother has just revealed things to me in her childhood, that she clearly hasn’t healed from. My grandmother died an early death, but she lived a hard life not acknowledging the pain from her past. I also believe that we are taught that we deserve less. We were misinformed when we consider religion. I grew up in the south and we were forced to go to church, we were forced to accept things that bought shame and to never speak of it again. If you stepped outside of the perception of what it meant to be perfect, than you were consider to be the black sheep.
 What words of encouragement do you have for someone who has endured the same
thing you went through or experienced as a child? 
Don’t spend your life as a victim! You made it through the trauma, so heal! I challenge you to heal yourself, don’t let anyone keep you from growing forward. As cliché as it sounds, you must take the necessary steps required to be the change that you want to see! Live life with intention! Stop surviving and thrive in your purpose! Not everyone makes it through, but if you are reading this, YOU MADE IT! You can’t change your past, but your present is a gift, and your future awaits! You owe it to yourself to be free from the pain of your past so that you can live a life of abundance!

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