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When Recovery Feels Like Freedom: Mandy Manners’ Story

by Carmen McCrackin |  ❘ 

The Last Drink

Mandy Manners possesses many accomplishments; she is an author, public speaker, mental health activist, and sober life coach. Her dedication to raising awareness and destigmatizing experiences of trauma, mental illness, and substance use disorders (SUD) led her to co-found Love Sober, an online sober coaching platform, with Kate Baily. She is additionally a trusted advisor and designated coach for the She Recovers Foundation, a mental health and recovery resource for all women, including historically underserved populations like women of color, Indigenous women, LGBTQI+, women veterans, differently-abled women, and incarcerated women.

Her last “day 1” of sobriety was over 2,000 days ago. However, it wasn’t a rock bottom that prompted Manners’ sobriety but an accident that nearly ended in tragedy.

“I’ve been on this [sobriety] journey now for nearly 10 years, even though today is 2,000 days or 5 and half years. So, there were many moments where I was questioning my drinking, questioning my mental health…but my last “day 1″ was on holiday in Spain.”

- Mandy Manners

During vacations, Manners usually indulged in periods of heavy social drinking (i.e., drinking with friends, drinking at parties, etc.) However, she and her husband had established a set of rules for drinking on holidays, especially around their children. Drinking was off-limits while the kids were in the pool or before they were ready for bed.

One evening in Spain, while their children were swimming, Manners and her husband broke their pre-set rules and decided to have some wine as they relaxed by the pool. Just as the two sat down to enjoy a glass, their 8-year-old son jumped into the pool and cut his eyebrow on the cover. The scene was gory, with the blood from the gash mixing with the pool water, making the small cut appear like a significant head wound.

As Manners’ husband plunged into the pool and rescued their son, relief washed over her that they were sober. Their son needed only a few stitches, but the incident left Manners tormented by the “what-ifs.” The mere thought of holding a glass of wine during such a close call was unbearable, prompting her to seek a change.

“How many more risks am I going to take,” Manners wondered, “How many more barriers am I going to just start to edge away the rules that I set for myself?”

Throughout her life, she changed and shifted her evolving drinking rules many times, but this would be the last time. This incident was a turning point for Manners, and she resolved to give up drinking for good.

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Addressing The Root Cause Through Therapy And Support

When Mandy Manners decided to seek therapy, it was not to address her drinking habits but rather her mental health. While adjusting to a recent move to France with her husband, juggling a high-pressure job at one of France’s top private business schools, and raising young children, Manners struggled to keep all the pieces of her life together. Even though she was drinking “too much” at this time, her drinking habits were “not on the table yet.” The resulting stress and burnout from balancing multiple responsibilities left her emotionally drained, and she eventually experienced a breakdown.

Manners decided to visit her doctor, who also happened to be a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) therapist and addiction counselor. Twice a week, Manners met with her doctor for her anxiety, depression, burnout, and additional concerns. At the time of her sessions, her French was “not great,” so many of her sessions were filled with writing and drawing out her feelings. Her doctor eventually prescribed her antidepressants, and once she felt emotionally regulated, she realized that she would need to address her drinking habits.

“It was only when I started to feel a bit better that I realized that alcohol is not helping. And then, when I tried to stop [drinking], I couldn’t stop. So that’s when I started using mostly support groups online,” Manners said, “That’s when I found Soberistas.”

Soberistas, a confidential sober forum, allowed Manners to share her experiences with other women in a welcoming environment. Manners never knew where she sat on the “drinking spectrum;” she had an image of what “alcoholism looked like,” but she didn’t feel that she fit the mold. Through online support groups, Manners found a strong sense of community amongst other “gray area drinkers,” and she no longer felt alone in her day-to-day struggles with life and alcohol. Manners felt “lucky” that she wasn’t at the point where she would need inpatient treatment, but she still struggled with unresolved adolescent trauma.

Unpacking The Link Between Trauma And Addiction

Mandy Manners learned through sobriety and her involvement with the She Recovers Foundation that not only was she in recovery from trauma rather than solely from alcohol, but there was no shame in it. Drinking was merely a coping mechanism she had picked up to ease the pain she had experienced throughout her life. When she was only 18 years old, Manners experienced sexual trauma, and it took many years for her to gain access to the resources, support, and tools necessary to begin addressing and healing her trauma.

“I was diagnosed with complex PTSD in my late 30s,” Manners said, “So I had a lot of time before that where I was struggling with symptoms of trauma that I had no relation to, no label for, or no understanding of really.”

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, sometimes abbreviated as c-PTSD or CPTSD, often develops when someone experiences repeated trauma over time, often during adolescence. There is a lengthy connection between traumatic childhood experiences and addictive behaviors in adulthood. For Manners, she had been managing her symptoms alone for over 20 years before her c-PTSD diagnosis. Her decision to share her experiences about alcohol and trauma not only allows Manners to help others, but it also allows her to heal too.

“There is a power in sharing our stories, so why not make the most painful thing in my life the thing that gives me power?”

- Mandy Manners

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Breaking Drinking Status Quo For The Next Generation

Growing up in England during the 90s, Mandy Manners couldn’t recall anyone who didn’t drink. In the UK, the drinking culture is deeply ingrained, so when Manners and her friends started drinking around the age of 14, they considered it a “normal” activity. In the UK, the legal drinking age is 18, but 16 and 17-year-olds are allowed to consume beer, wine, or cider with adult supervision during a meal. However, they are not permitted to purchase alcohol themselves.

With 2 young children, Manners felt significant pressure throughout her motherhood to set an example for them of what responsible drinking looked like, even though it was something she struggled with. She thought she had to keep alcohol in her life to an extent.  

“For a long time I thought that I had to moderate my alcohol intake to show them a good example of drinking because I thought there wasn’t any other way. I felt that I had a responsibility to my kids to drink moderately, which I was never good at, to show them how to live with alcohol. Now they have a parent who doesn’t drink and a parent that does drink. They have a conversation around addiction; they have a conversation around mental health.”

- Mandy Manners

Manners’ decision to quit drinking not only improved her mental health but also allowed her to set a realistic standard for her children. Thanks to her sobriety, Manners now has the language to discuss addiction and mental health and can have open conversations with her children. 

“I’m really pleased. That’s one of those unexpected things that I didn’t realize that actually the kids have a language around this now. Which feels really powerful,” Manners said. 

Leading The Way For Others

As a certified professional life and recovery coach, Manners takes great pride in connecting with and guiding women in their journey to sobriety. While being a sobriety coach and mental health advocate can have challenges, Manners finds the entire process therapeutic, and it helps strengthen her resolve to stay sober.

“We are not alone in our journeys, and I believe that if sharing my story helps only one person, then I think it’s worth it,” Manners said.

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Author

Carmen McCrackin

Photo of Carmen McCrackin
  • Carmen McCrackin earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Auburn and has over 4 years of professional writing experience. Her passion for writing and educating others led her to a career in journalism with a focus on mental health and social justice topics. Her main mission is to be a platform for all voices and stories, and to provide tangible resources to those seeking recovery for themselves or loved ones.

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