Kirstin Walker Talks About Addiction in Communities of Color
American Addiction Centers (AAC) recently aired the second episode of its Facebook Live show Addiction Talk. This episode featured an interview with Kirstin Walker, the founder of Sober Brown Girls. Walker’s organization helps women of color learn more about and maintain sobriety. In the interview, Walker talked to AAC’s Joy Sutton about her experience with substance abuse, the role alcohol plays as a coping mechanism in communities of color, and how education is the best way to combat alcohol abuse.
Kirstin Walker’s Struggle with Addiction
Kirstin Walker has experienced substance abuse firsthand and is living in recovery. She talked about her early experiences with substance abuse. “I turned for comfort. I turned for just something to take my mind off the situation. I turned to alcohol,” Walker said in the Addiction Talk interview, “I turned to wine specifically.”
Walker’s drinking escalated until she had a wake-up call. After drinking the night before an important family event, Walker realized she had a problem with substance abuse. “I needed basically to be a caretaker for my mother…I knew that I’d be off the next day and I would just have to take her to her procedure in the morning. So I proceeded to drink the night before… She needed me and I barely can make it out the bed,” Walker said, recounting the incident that led her to seek sobriety.
Kirstin Walker on Addiction in Communities of Color
As Black History Month continues, it’s important to examine the effects of addiction in communities of color. While statistics seem to indicate that black individuals experience substance abuse at similar rates to other demographics, communities of color often face various socio-economic inequalities that exacerbate the effects of substance abuse. For example, while African Americans make up only 5% of illicit drug users, African Americans accounted for 29% of those arrested and 33% of that incarcerated for drug use. Additionally, studies show that Black and Hispanic individuals were less likely to complete addiction treatment due to socio-economic factors like unemployment and housing instability.
Walker reflected on the role that substance abuse had in her community as a coping mechanism. “For me growing up, it was just the norm,” Walker said, “You know, when you were stressed out… all I saw was adults go to alcohol…a cigarette or something else.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues – and evidence suggests the pandemic is having a disparate effect on communities of color – Walker reflected on the importance of having healthy coping mechanisms during tough times.
“If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be here, I would never have believed you because I didn’t know of what else to do to cope,” Walker said.
Fighting Addiction with Education
Walker’s organization, Sober Brown Girls, helps create a safe space for women who struggle with addiction and are trying to become or already are sober. While Sober Brown Girls is open to all women, it has a focus on helping women of color learn about alcohol abuse and sobriety. “I do a lot of education around alcohol,” Walker said, “It (alcohol) affects so much of my mental health.” Walker’s website also helps women find healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve alcohol.
“We all get to choose what we do.” Walker said, “I, in no means, am I going to tell everybody to not drink. But all I ask is that people just get educated about alcohol.”
All quotes used in this article were taken from Addiction Talk episode 2. To watch the full interview, click here.