rachel brady: a journey through alcoholism, depression, & health

Real life Wonder Woman, Rachel Brady, is a “South Californian who has conquered mental illness and alcohol struggles,” according to her website. She is now a team Beach Body coach, social media darling, and a strong, dynamic advocate for three things: sobriety, exercise, and mental health.

first, what she wants others to know
I started my personal Instagram to create a narrative about what my journey is all about. When it comes to sobriety, I try to tell people that I don’t preach about it- if you drink it’s not like I will never talk to you again. Instead, my platform is to show people that you’re not alone. When people think of alcoholism and alcoholics, they think of a drunk old man on the side of the road, but that’s not always the case. It’s important for people to see that alcoholism can happen to anybody.

the beginning
In high school, volleyball was a huge part of my life. I was on two teams, so I never really had a chance to go party because it took up so much of my life. I was also a huge academic, so I was both a nerd and a jock at the same time, so I never had that chance to have a social part to my life. So when I got to college, you’ve heard of the stereotypical sheltered girl that goes crazy in college, that was definitely me. I was sheltered but at the same time I had enough “coolness” to get by. On paper, it looked like I had my life together. But at the same time I didn’t realize the social consequences of drinking too much. It was tough for me because I was used to having all of the answers, but now I was at a standstill. To overcome this, I decided to just drink more. It wasn’t until sophomore year when I had my first wakeup call. But even then it wasn’t until after I graduated that I told myself, “Ok it’s time to give sobriety a shot.”

I stuck to drinking mostly on the weekends, but I couldn’t moderate my drinks for the life of me. I would completely lose track, so I would easily have 8 shots in a night. When I got older, I didn’t even bother tracking it anymore because at that point I had just kind of checked out. I would justify my actions by only drinking on the weekends, and that was tough because I didn’t really see a way out of it. I went to a small school and I was in a sorority, so I didn’t see any other way to be social. Obviously my friends knew I had trouble with my drinking, but it was so hard to find another way to socialize without it. There was definitely a lot of warning flags, but it kind of crept up on me.

The defining moment for me came from recognizing my habits. I would go to dinner with my parents and have a glass of wine, and it was very easy to justify having “just another drink.” Since I wasn’t very good at moderating my intake, some nights I would feel fine and others I would black out and not remember the night. Once I realized I couldn’t control “just one more drink,” I knew that I had to make a change.

On January 17, 2016 I was going out with some of my best friends from college. I didn’t realize that I had lost a lot of weight prior to going out, so my tolerance wasn’t what it used to be. Thankfully my friends were there for me and I was safe with them, but for half that night I was blacked out; I couldn’t remember a thing. But the next morning I woke up having that feeling of dread again. At age 23, I couldn’t believe that I was still feeling this way, and I knew that I had to start making a change. I just couldn’t do this anymore, and this was the exact day that I decided to stop.

on how she stays sober
When I moved to the city after college, my time was completely consumed with my new job. This ended up helping me stay sober, but having close friends holding me accountable to being sober helped me too. I knew that as long as I didn’t have a sip that I would be ok, but once I had that “one drink” I knew that I couldn’t stop. My mom also helped me stay sober with her tough love. She knows that I need that sometimes, and this helped me stay on top of it. I’m also incredibly thankful for social media and for the community that I’ve built on Instagram. Once I opened up about my struggles, I was able to use it as a platform to help others.

on making that big change, no matter what it is
Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, or staying sober, and for those stuck in the state of “I can’t,” please know that it’s easy to get stuck in that rut. I have anxiety and depression too, so I know firsthand what this is like. Honestly, I feel like the more vulnerable you are, the more people will take notice and reach out. When I started my transformation, I was fortunate enough to have people I know rallying behind me to help me achieve my goals. When it comes to making a big change, it’s important to just tell people about it. To put it out there. This helps make sure you’re held accountable to it, and so you need to show up for it.

on her journey with mental health
My journey with mental health began in middle school and high school. I was always told that I was exceptional and that I was gifted, which set standards really high for me. I was definitely a perfectionist. When I got to college, I started to doubt myself because I was surrounded by so many other high achievers and perfectionists. This is when I started my journey with depression, which tied into my alcohol use as well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I graduated that I started to explore my mental health more. I had attended therapy for my drinking and for surface level things previously, but never for my overall mental health and wellbeing. At that point, I felt like I was checking things off of a list: once I graduated I got an amazing, high-paying job, got an apartment, and bought a car. Even still, I felt so much anxiety and depression. I thought these feelings would leave me after graduation, but because of my job, they only got worse. I used to work in PR, which is already a super stressful job, and I started getting anxiety attacks at work. It wasn’t until I talked to my uncle, who is a clinical psychologist, that he diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. This is when I was able to put the pieces together instead of asking “why is this happening to me?” all of the time.

on the stigma with mental health
There are so many people who struggle with anxiety and depression, but a lot of people still see this as a weakness. Society really needs to find a way to change that paradigm. When someone has the flu, they eventually get over it, but depression and anxiety can’t be treated in the same way. It’s important to find others that can talk this through with you, whether it’s with a community, group therapy, or individual therapy. It’s important to find what works for you. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to breaking the stigma, but I’m very optimistic that there have been improvements to change the conversation.

The more that we share our stories about what anxiety and depression looks like on a daily basis, the less we will think that we’re weird for feeling a certain way. It is not a weakness. When it comes to helping my clients with their mental wellness, before I get started with them I send them a questionnaire about their goals and to find out why they want to get fit or to lose weight. A lot of the questions revolve around reaching a specific size, but it breaks my heart. Once they start the program and it starts to get a little hard, they get discouraged. Instead of making a goal, I ask them to find “the why” that goes beyond body image. I’ve been lifting weights for over 5 years, but if I based my happiness on my appearance I would go crazy. When they come up with their “why,” it gives them something more than just fitting into a dress to motivate them. When they think long term and focus on a set of beliefs, it further helps them to achieve their goals.

on being a 20-something
Some of the biggest obstacles that I think women face during this decade, and speaking from personal experience, is having a sense of worth in terms of what you do. It’s crucial to find what success means to you because it’s different for everyone else. It might not be that super high paying job that makes you happy, or finding that perfect internship. You have to define success for yourself. It’s all about you doing you, but helping others in the process.

In terms of being healthy at this age: keep it simple. There are a ton of fad diets out there, but you should keep tabs on what makes you feel good and what works for you. There’s obviously some basic staples like drinking lots of water and eating vegetables, and that will never go out of style. In terms of exercise, I’m all for trying out fun new workouts. But at the same time, don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself: don’t expect yourself to be the next CrossFit queen. A lot of people consider themselves a failure if they don’t have a six pack immediately, so just focus on what works for you and what you enjoy.

her favorite mantra
This too shall pass is what I always heard from my grandma as I was growing up. There’s been so many moments where I’ve said it, and to this day I can remember the situation that I was in while I said it. It’s always on my mind. I also like to change my phone’s wallpaper based on certain mantras that I identify with, and the one I have right now says ask, believe, receive. I’m also a Christian, and I love Biblical quotes about persistence. The one that has definitely helped me through my childhood is this too shall pass, though.

on her future
Wherever I’m living, in terms of my business, I want to see it continuously growing. On Instagram I want to reach 10k followers. As a beach body coach I want to have a team of like 500 women working with me so that we can go through our fitness journeys together as a community! I almost want to call it a “fitness sorority.”

to other 20-somethings
For the girls in their 20s, early or late, you can relax! I know a lot of people know what they want, so they work at it a million miles a minute, but you have to keep at it consistently. Don’t strive for instant gratification.

Instant gratification will lead you astray.

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