Episode 280: LaDawn Did It For Real

Are you ready to meet a secular force of nature? Then you won’t want to miss this episode. Our guest, LaDawn, shares with us the harrowing passage she made from hardened alcoholic to master of a YouTube channel that regularly delights, inspires and informs viewers on a range of mental health, lifestyle and sobriety-related topics. A woman unafraid to be 100% herself, LaDawn gets real in a way that will resonate with anyone who has ever had no choice but to make Alcoholics Anonymous their own. She has come back from childhood trauma and processed through tremendous loss in her own very personal way, with smarts, laughter and warmth. No standing on ceremony for this original thinker. Nor is this powerhouse woman capable of accepting traditions that do not serve her – as a mother, nurse, community member, ravenous researcher and online personality.

LaDawn’s subscribers know much of the story she shares here, including the sexual, emotional and physical abuse she experienced as a child; her undiagnosed mental health issues; and the roots of her heavy drinking habit, which started in early childhood and exploded as life heaped ever more stress upon her in adolescence. “I wanted to drink to get away from (bad) feelings and I just couldn’t,” she says. “I wanted to check out because I was so overwhelmed.” She told herself she was a woman and women aren’t alcoholics. She tried to stop by white knuckling, but the bottle always called her back. Battling back from suicidal ideation, the loss of her mother and a boatload of self-limiting beliefs, LaDawn shows us that there is a way through and tools out there to be had. She brings to life in vivid detail the unique path she carved out for herself – and inspires us with a simple truth: We can all find the recovery that is unmistakably our own. Enjoy this uplifting conversation with a YouTube personality who is as authentic as it gets, both to her lived experience and independent beliefs. 

Key Takeaways

  • You can hit the block button! LaDawn and John share thoughts about how to manage internet “trolls” who try to derail livestreams.
  • LaDawn shares her recovery story, which starts in August 2020 after decades of alcohol use that trace back to an unstable home with a single mom and three older brothers who exposed her to a lot of partying at a very young age.
  • Emotional, physical and sexual abuse set the stage for LaDawn’s descent into blackout drinking when she was still a pre-teen – a situation that her mother, who suffered from mental illness, was unable to manage.
  • By the time she was 14, LaDawn’s drinking had escalated and her own mental health deteriorated (to the point where she attempted suicide) under the strain of caring for herself, paying the bills and going to school.
  • In and out of school, at one point stopping drinking altogether, LaDawn did manage to earn her GED and started college to get a nursing degree that was interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy.
  • It was a free-for-all. Her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, included many friends, neighbors and relatives (including her biological father) who were alcoholic or drug-addicted and very little in the way of education or exposure to recovery programs of any kind.
  • In her early 20s a rehab doctor suggested bipolar might be a root issue, but LaDawn’s nonstop drinking made a diagnosis impossible. And because she had a job, was in nursing school and managing her kids without government support, she was sure she wasn’t like anyone she met in her recovery meetings. She now sees the layers of denial.
  • Work, school, trying to be there for her mom, her kids, her husband … Rinse and repeat. LaDawn used large amounts of alcohol to manage an endless, exhausting cycle.
  • By 2016, blackouts were becoming a regular occurrence and people around her were weary of dealing with a “tyrant.” She was increasingly checked out, partying all night and leaving the care of her children to their step-father.
  • The dawn of 2020 saw LaDawn, by now a travel nurse, unable to report for work and completely alone. Alcohol wasn’t providing any relief and a best friend confronted her, which only prompted belligerence on her part.
  • Suicidal depression loomed over LaDawn for two years before she finally spontaneously quit drinking, one day at a time in the midst of Covid19. It was touch and go, until she stumbled upon AA women’s groups through Facebook and launched a seven-hour marathon meeting that ultimately connected her with a sponsor.
  • LaDawn used the Serenity Prayer like a mantra to calm and center herself through the stress of her mother’s battle and subsequent death from Covid19, a car accident and parting ways with her sponsor.
  • About LaDawn’s spiritual journey, exploration of Buddhism and increasing engagement with secular AA meetings.
  • How LaDawn decided to start her YouTube channel as an outlet for the thoughts she was journaling and safe space for herself and others who struggle with bipolar, ADHD, trauma, depression, anxiety and other life challenges (and joys).
  • The main goal for LaDawnDidItForReal: Bringing honesty, community and acceptance to others navigating recovery.
  • A huge part of LaDawn’s mission is providing not just support and solidarity but also delivering important education and resources.
  • Grief is ongoing for LaDawn, who is angry and saddened by the fact that her mother died before she was able to share all the beauty she has found in recovery. But she glimpsed enough to know that her daughter was moving towards light and freedom.

Key Quotes

“I wanted to drink to get away from (bad) feelings and I just couldn’t … I wanted to check out because I was so overwhelmed with all of these things.” (LaDawn)

“We (in my community) didn’t know anything about AA or sobriety or different programs like that. It was all about going to church and my mother didn’t believe in religion.” (LaDawn)

“I used to say that I didn’t have a drinking problem because I’m a female and all the alcoholics in my family were men.” (LaDawn)

“I knew (the drinking) was wrong, but I just couldn’t stop, no matter how much I tried. I could manage. I could go maybe a month or so, but it was calling me.” (LaDawn)

“My journey is not going to be similar to other people and it’s not just the agnostic thing. It’s because I’ve always wanted to know what the deal is, I wanted to know who God was … and a lot of these things are not by the book.” (LaDawn)

“(YouTube) is how I journal, but it’s interactive and how I get to talk to people, touch people’s lives or just have fun and laugh.” (LaDawn)

“My channel helps me because there are times when I’m feeling crazy and I just get on and start talking. That’s an important part of my channel. But I also make sure to give information.” (LaDawn)

“I use YouTube as a huge tool for self-help. When nobody else was around and I couldn’t get answers, YouTube was right there.” (LaDawn)

Further Resources