Sasha: Addressing Mental Health Issues and Leading an Abstinence-Based Life

A woman with a history of panic disorders shares her story of recovery from alcohol use.

Sasha McLean
Archway Academy, Executive Director
Houston, TX

My journey with addiction started at a pretty young age and has plagued my family for generations. I can look back and see uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents who struggled with substance use and mental health issues. When I was in elementary school, I was diagnosed with panic disorder. It’s something that I spent a lot of my childhood and young adulthood attempting to overcome without formal treatment.

I remember the first time I took a drink was in middle school, and it was a very intense feeling for me. I spent so much of my life living with untreated panic disorder and struggling to make sense of my world, where I was, and the people in my life. Alcohol helped fill a void—it allowed me to feel more settled in my own body, which is something that panic disorder doesn’t allow.

I made a mess of things during my adolescence, and in my early twenties I made the decision to stop the madness and finally receive treatment for my substance use and mental health issues. I’ll never forget the last time I decided to drink—it was December 28, 2001—the day that I decided this was just enough. I sought treatment for my panic disorder, and the first thing I was asked to do was take a look at my unhealthy behavior with alcohol. It was the first time in a long time that I felt the hope connected to recovery. I decided to really address the mental health issues that led to my drinking and made the choice to lead an abstinence-based lifestyle. That’s when things started shifting for me.

I’ve been married for 14 years and I have a beautiful seven-year-old son. I’m the Executive Director of a Recovery High School in Houston, Texas. It was those first glimmers of hope back in 2001 that led me to the beautiful path that I’m on now.

Last Updated: 12/18/2015