A 1990 Whitman College graduate and mother of three is attracting national media interest with her new book about her journey to sobriety: “Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore: Getting Through the First Year of Sobriety.”
Rachael Brownell recently was interviewed on the Today Show, Good Morning America, National Public Radio and is featured on the center spread of the December/January Good Housekeeping magazine.
The magazine story spotlights an excerpt of the book, which chronicles her first year of sobriety and her life leading up to it.
Buzz continues for the book that reviewers have called insightful, deeply touching and brutally honest — a sugarcoat-less telling of the disintegration of Brownell’s life, her marriages and dodgy moments while parenting as she slips into alcoholism in her 30s. And as she finds her way out.
In a recent interview, Brownell said she thinks the book’s popularity is in part because there haven’t been many books written “by parents who are trying to get sober.” Also, the book happened to come out a week after a July accident in which a New York mother under the influence crashed into an SUV while driving the wrong way down a highway north of New York City, resulting in the death of herself, her daughter, three nieces and three people in the SUV.
Brownell didn’t drive drunk, but she does recall such incidents as missing her twins’ kindergarten open house because of her drinking, and remembers the time poolside when, glass of wine in hand, she was “so checked out” that she didn’t noticed for several seconds that one of her children was “struggling in the pool,” she writes. “I throw down the glass and leap up to grab her out. She’s sputtering and scared, but fine. I’m not. I’m gripped by the sure knowledge that any number of terrible catastrophes could befall my kids if I drink like this…”
Brownell said she didn’t intend to write a book about her alcoholism and sobriety. A publisher, Carnari Press, read Brownell’s blog about her experiences and approached her.
She recently came back to Whitman to give presentations to students and the public and later said she was extremely impressed with the intelligence, thoughtfulness of students and that they had “a reasonably good grasp of addiction and recovery.”
Brownell was age 10 when her parents divorced and she then lived primarily with her two brothers and mother in Washington State as her mom, an alcoholic, worked on becoming sober, which she has been for 25 years, now. Brownell said she grew up in a loving “hippie” household, and remembers getting encouragement to call herself what she wanted — so she was “Gloria,” for awhile. She describes herself as a “schoolie” who focused on doing well in school, asked teachers to give her their most difficult and favorite books, “read tons” and dreamed of being a writer.
And then she came to Whitman College because she wanted a small liberal arts education. “I savored the one-on-one time with professors,” and thrived in the small classes and seminar type settings in which they were “all around the table, matching wits against all the other smart people … fantastic.” A dream of hers is that her children are able to attend Whitman.
Brownell majored in politics at Whitman, wanting to “make a difference.” She went on to social work positions in Seattle and then got a master’s degree in public policy and managed various nonprofits.
She said her problem drinking started after motherhood and her second marriage. She says in the book: “The transition to parenthood — the letting go of self, the deep responsibility for another human being, the occasional despair when encountering the tectonic shifts parenting requires — amplifies the best and the worst in each of us. For those with potential drug or alcohol problems, these challenges are compounded by fuzzy thinking, addiction, and an obsession with obliterating reality…”
She wrote that she has “learned that the disease is latent in many of us, just waiting for any old excuse to rage across our lives.
“For me, that excuse is motherhood.”
She has been sober for two years. Brownell doesn’t have alcohol in the house, doesn’t go to bars and attends meetings regularly.
“I treasure my sobriety,” she said.
For more information on Brownell and her book, go to http://rachaelbrownell.com/books.
— Virginia Grantier