Thoughts in Response to Addressing Racism: Where We Stand and What We’re Doing

By Gail Manley, Chair of The Magdalen House Inclusion Project

In light of recent events, I feel so many emotions as most of us are. As a mother of three young black men, my anger, my anguish, and my heartache run so deep. I never thought in my lifetime that our horrific history would repeat itself. I feel like we have gone back decades in racial progress and tolerance.

Their dad and I raised three sons to be respectful, understanding, and do what makes them happy. We didn’t have discussions on race, ever! It truly was never an issue until now. Lately, I have seen and experienced racism that I never imagined I would. Especially recently. It saddens me and hurts my heart. I have had many conversations with other black mothers about the lengths to which we feel we must go to protect our children. It is exhausting but necessary.

I saw a meme the other day that said, “I was born black and I am going to die black, but I don’t want to die because I’m black.” So powerful, it brought me to tears. That is our reality, every day, and it hurts. I pray for the day that I don’t have this pit in my gut, or panic when the phone rings and I see one of my boys’ names on my screen. When will I be able to breathe when they’re just at work? Will I ever be able to stop worrying about them being called terrible names, looked at with disgust, or worse, having to fight for their lives on a bad day? I know I can only pray and let God’s will be done.

In the midst of all that is going on, the pandemic, isolation, job loss, and everything else being thrown at us, there is an overwhelming amount of support from our non-black friends. Walking side by side with us. Expressing their outrage for the injustice and the blatant racism we experience. Crying with us, comforting us. I thank you. Finally, we’re being heard, and it is time. I am especially grateful for my sisters in sobriety – I see you! Social media is powerful and seeing the outpour of support makes my heart so happy. I thank Lisa and Ainsley for reaching out, checking on us, and letting us know that you are with us. Thank you so much.

It is an honor to be a Chairwoman of The Magdalen House Inclusion Project and I am encouraged by the work that The Magdalen House Executive Director and Board Chair have outlined in their recent letter addressing racism. Being an alcoholic woman of color has given me a unique experience to overcome, and I am passionate about sharing the solution I have found. All my life, I had this idea of what an alcoholic was. And it wasn’t me. Even my parents convinced me that it was a choice that I was making, and I had to pray for the willpower from God to take this from me. But no matter how much or hard I prayed it didn’t work.

While my times at The Magdalen House have definitely had their ups and downs, it is a place that has saved me in more ways than I can say. My first time at Maggie’s was in 2011. I was really ready to get sober, but I had no idea what was being said about a physical allergy and a mental obsession. I would go through the house three more times before finding freedom from alcohol. In my four visits there were rarely other women who looked like me – especially women who had found a solution. But finally, in my last visit, something clicked, and I realized that we were all going through the same thing, regardless of the color of our skin or where we came from. Today I can honestly say that I’ve made lifelong friends in recovery from all walks of life.

I want women of color to know, we are here for you, we love you, and we can help. It does make a difference if you feel like an outsider in recovery, and my hope is that other alcoholic women of color will have the opportunity to experience the gift of freedom that I have experienced while seeing women who look like them. The recent events have made me more dedicated and driven to make sure more women of color are aware of The Magdalen House to safely end their relationship with alcohol and have and a happy, productive life.

Gail