In honor of Black History Month, Khadi A. Oluwatoyin and J. Nicole Jones from the Sober Black Girls Club joined American Addiction Centers’ Addiction Talk on February 8 to open up about their sobriety journeys and why they are creating space for other Black women to be vulnerable about their struggles with substance abuse.
Addiction Talk is an award-winning online talk show dedicated to sharing the personal stories of celebrities, influencers, and everyday people impacted by addiction.
Sober Black Girls founder Khadi A. Oluwatoyin created the non-profit organization and community in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. The goal was to help other Black women seeking help and support from alcohol abuse, or considering sobriety, in a time when isolation was at its peak. It came at the right time, as many people turned to alcohol to cope and limit the stress of the new normal.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2020, sales of alcohol went up by 2.9%, the most significant annual increase in over 50 years. For people who participated in excessive drinking, research suggests that stress, anxiety, and previous alcohol misuse are contributing factors to alcohol-related deaths.
Oluwatoyin and Jones understand just how difficult trying to establish sobriety amid pressure, isolation, anxiety, and depression can be. During the Addiction Talk, Oluwatoyin revealed that she was in denial about being addicted to alcohol but quickly came to terms with what she was going through. “Black women hold a lot of responsibilities for themselves and our households. It comes with a lot of stress. I didn’t know I was experiencing depression before my addiction. I just thought I had the blues; I was still going to work, just upset and miserable, and I was drinking, right? And a year after, my drinking turned from a drinking problem to an addiction. I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
She continued, “I thought, I am an attorney. I’m still going to work. I have my apartment, I have my car, I’m not houseless. What I’m experiencing cannot be an addiction. Then I realized I was physically addicted.”
During the talk, Oluwatoyin was candid about not thinking that addiction affected Black women before embarking on her own sobriety journey. “The images, people, and concepts that come to mind when I think about addiction are not Black women. They’re usually white men. So I had to learn what does addiction look like for Black people? What does it look like for me? What were the signs? How did I miss them?” she said.
Oluwatoyin experienced depression since childhood, and she later discovered alcohol in college, which helped to alleviate her sadness. It wasn’t until after graduating from law school that she began drinking excessively. In 2018, she sought out help for alcohol abuse but noted the lack of culturally adequate support for Black women struggling with the disease.
Jones’s experience and relationship with alcohol was a bit different. Now sober for 14 years, she remembered drinking at a young age, influenced by her environment. One DUI and a few bad decisions later, she intentionally decided to become sober at age 23. “I woke up, had my last drink, and said, ‘You know what? I want to be the best version of myself, and I cannot do this with alcohol,’” she said. “I don’t know why it’s such a problem, but it differs for me from others. I was jealous. I wanted to be able to do it. I like drinking, like it’s enjoyable. But I didn’t know my limits and got tired of the fights and arguments.”
She also believes it’s harder to notice someone suffering from alcohol abuse because, usually, alcohol is socially acceptable compared to other substances. “Drinking is more subtle. So, it makes it harder for you to identify and recognize that difference,” Jones said.
As far as the duo is concerned, there’s still a lot of work to be done to identify, heal, and support Black women who are suffering from alcohol abuse. Still, the Sober Black Girls Club is positively making waves by bringing awareness to this issue and shining a light on solutions through community work.
“Until recently, we’ve been a support group. Now we have our members who are undergoing smart recovery. Education is critical to rehabilitation,” Oluwatoyin said. “We need to talk about the issues impacting us, but also, you need tools to stay sober. People always tell me Sober Black Girls Club saved their life.”
If you believe you or someone you love may be struggling with addiction, please reach out to American Addiction Centers at (888) 461-0872.