Self Discovery and Recovery with Rhyannon Styles

Episode 71 July 20, 2022 00:34:17
Self Discovery and Recovery with Rhyannon Styles
Alcohol Tipping Point
Self Discovery and Recovery with Rhyannon Styles

Jul 20 2022 | 00:34:17


Hosted By

Deb Masner

Show Notes

Rhyannon Styles is a writer, performer and sound meditation practitioner. She wrote the memoirs, The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It Like It Is and Help! I’m Addicted: A Trans Girl’s Self-Discovery & Recovery.  Rhyannon is alcohol free and here to share her story to help others. 

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Episode Transcript

Pod Rhyannon Styles Deb: Welcome back to the alcohol tipping point podcast. I am your host, Deb. Masner. I'm a registered nurse health coach and alcohol free badass. And today my special guest is Rhyannon Styles. She is a writer, performer and sound meditation practitioner. She wrote the memoirs, the new girl, a trans girl tells it like it is and help. I'm addicted a trans girl's self discovery and recovery. So welcome Marian. I'm honored to have you on the show. Rhyannon: Hi there. Thank you so much. It's pleasure to be here. Deb: So you have a bit of an accent and I know that we're, you are in some other location. So could you just share where you're from and where you're located right now? Rhyannon: Yes, I'm from England from a small town in the Midlands, which is in the middle of the country. and currently I'm in Berlin, in Germany where I live. Deb: Oh, wow. That's fantastic. And what are you doing in Germany? Rhyannon: I don't know. just, you just, just seems to be where I have ended up. So here I am. Deb: I love your honesty. Maybe you ask yourself that, like, what am I doing in Germany? Rhyannon: I asked myself that today, actually, because this morning I was in England and I flew back to Berlin this morning. So I arrived here and was like, whoa, what am I doing here? okay. So I'm just a little bit discombobulated. That's all. Deb: Okay. Well, we all are right now, I think in some way, shape or form . well, let's start with your story and, and maybe if you wanna share your story about drinking or BEC, you know, discovering your trans identity, or I'm sure they intertwine. So wherever you feel like is a good place to start. Rhyannon: Yeah, they definitely do intertwine. And that was the focus of my second book, how I'm addictive, because I wanted to explore that further. And also in that book, I invited. Eight other trans people. Who've also accessed recovery to give a kind of more of a background to see actually, if our stories were similar. But for me, I started my transition to becoming Rhiannon in 2012. And I also knew at that point that if I wanted to transition and transition successfully and have a very level, mind and great physical health, then I would need to. The destructive behavior that was happening when I was drinking. And I think a lot of that destructive behavior was a result of feeling very trapped and confused in my own self and my own identity. There was two things going on. There's the alcoholism, which was obviously present from when I was very young. And then there's also the trans let's say awakening that needed to happen. And both of those things were causing me to really act in ways which were very self destructive to myself and to those closest to me. So when I finally realized that actually, if I was going to live a happy and prosperous life, where I could present myself in the way, that was how I envisaged myself and I needed to stop drinking. And once I'd made that switch to be like, one of the reasons I'm really unhappy in my life and depressed and suicidal is because I'm not Rihanna. And when I made that switch and was ready to accept that within myself, that's when lots of things started to change. And that's when I put down drink. And really like the process of transitioning has really been about the process of discovering. And also that meant I had to address my alcoholism and I had to put down all the things which I was using in destructive ways to numb certain feelings. And that was, that's been the process of the past 10 years actually. . Deb: Yeah. Well, congratulations on your sobriety and, and living your true, authentic self. I think that is common regardless of why you're drinking, but just like drinking, not aligning with your values and removing alcohol just to help you live your more authentic life. So how did you quit drinking? Rhyannon: I think it was like shortly after my 30th birthday, and that was quite a big party in the sense that it was the first time I kind of revealed to all my friends and those closest to me that I was Hanon. So I dressed and presented myself in such a way as I could then. And then the party. Carried on for like two days, which was quite normal behavior for me at that point, I never wanted the party to end. I always wanted to be the last person standing and was desperate, always to find more drink and more drugs and more people to party with. Cuz I was still, I was still running away from myself. I couldn't be with myself. I couldn't sit with myself and. shortly after that birthday. When I realized I was back in the same position, as I always was very UN very unhappy, even though I'd made one huge step forward, which was embracing my identity as Rihanna, I was still again in a place of self-loathing withdrawal, isolation, fear, and just general kinds of like a knowledge of knowing that that lifestyle wasn't working for me anymore. So maybe about a week after my 30th birthday, I was like, that's it, I'm done. I'm just going to stop drinking for a month and see how that feels and let's, and see if I can do it. And I was very determined and I got to the end of one month and felt actually very incredible physically because I hadn't had a hangover. I hadn't had to come down from drugs. I hadn't put myself in dangerous situations, so I felt very on top. Kind of my thinking, but there was still obviously lots to uncover and to look at, but I wasn't clear enough to do that at that point. So I decided after a month to do two months and did that. And then after two months decided to do three months and was in that process and. I was posting about it on Facebook saying how heck I was to not be drinking and to be sober. And the joys, it was bringing to my life. And then people who I was kind of close with, maybe more acquaintances started messaging me about 12 step recovery groups that they thought I would benefit from attending. And I still didn't really identify myself as an alcoholic at that point or somebody who had. Alcoholism because I was kind of also like I've done three months by myself. Why do I need to have a support group to help me stay sober? And I think after kind of, after a few weeks of them badgering me, I decided actually that I should go and just see and try it out. And that's when I started attending 12 step meetings to look at kind of. The drinking and the other behaviors that were happening. Yeah. And that was really kind of just what's kept me moving in sobriety. Hmm. Deb: So you were able to do it on your own and then having that additional support and community just helped you sustain it. Rhyannon: Yeah. I didn't really want to go to 12 step groups because I had an idea of them and a perception of them, which was like, clearly not what they were. and I didn't just feel, I felt like it wasn't necessary. And this is one of my, let's say let's use a term, which people might be familiar with. Character defects is like, I'm very stubborn and I won't budge on some things. And so. I didn't want to prove these people, right. That I actually needed to go into 12 step groups. And I was very determined. Actually. It was only me that could keep me sober. So I was battling a little bit with that at the start. And I didn't go to 12 step groups regularly. I just kind of dipped in and out for the first six months. And yeah, then I relapsed and then I realized actually, And maybe, maybe these people were right. And maybe they had some solutions that I hadn't found myself and that felt like it was worth exploring. Deb: Yeah. And, and that was all back in 2012? Rhyannon: Yes. That was in 2012. Yeah. Okay. Deb: Yeah. And. At the time too, like that was really all there was, I mean, now we have more and more like modern recovery. But I'm glad you found it helpful and are sharing about it too. I know a lot of people don't care for AA. You know, I did wanna go to AA. I still don't like I do an alternative. way of things, but I, I think that some people find it so helpful. So it's, it's always an option it's always out Rhyannon: there. Yeah. I didn't explore other options so much back then. And also we didn't have like podcasts or really kind of YouTube on anything that we have today or Instagram. So it was it. Yeah, it kind of felt like the only way really. And I had all these people who were around me. Who? I didn't know. I knew they were sober, but I didn't really know the amount of work they were doing on their sobriety. So actually I was quite surprised when I went into the 12 step groups and saw so many people that I recognized from kind of cuz I was, I was in the media and I was working in nightclubs. And when you're in those kind of roles and jobs, you do meet a lot of people. So I, I recognized a lot of people in the groups and I was like, oh, okay. I was really surprised that so many people were there that I knew, but yeah, there, wasn't kind of, I wasn't aware of like any other alternative ways at that point. So I think that's probably why I've stuck with the 12 step groups. Deb: Mm-hmm yeah. Makes total. And then how did your transition or help me use the correct terminology, but like how did that unfold? Rhyannon: Yeah, so the transition was very slow and that was primarily just because the, the healthcare system in the UK is very overwhelmed and underfund. so there is kind of a political element involved with that, where there aren't people getting the care that they need. And lots of people are taking is taking people a lot of time to transition. And I was one of those people and thankfully I was, I started that transition at point now it's it's unfortunately, even. Because since 2015, there has really been kind of much more of a, an awareness around transit issues. And so lots more people are, are, are able to embrace their trans identity. So lots more people are transitioning. And when I started my transition 2012, it was very difficult because I had to wait a long time to access medications, which are required. That was difficult because also being sober, I was having to really feel feelings. There was nowhere, there was nowhere to run to anymore. I couldn't get drunk to kind of forget about the pain of having to wait two years on this waiting list. And so it was a very difficult first few years, but I'm actually very grateful that I did go through that experience because I think it made me very strong because I had to. The reality of life, really head on without numbing myself with alcohol. I mean, unfortunately I did pick up other behaviors as lots of people with alcohol isn't due to, to try and distract from the reality of life. But non were as kind of distracted as alcohol, thankfully for me. But during this whole process, it's really been about stripping away. And it's been interesting how stripping away the previous identity of being somebody who was so affiliated with alcohol and also that previous identity how I was born and how that's changing. So for me, getting sober and getting clearer within my myself has really enabled me to have this really I would say flourishing transition because. I know that if I had carried on drinking, I would just be a shell of the person that I ought to be. Deb: Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned your book, you, you tell the stories of other trans people. What similarities did you see or what, what was that like? What were their stories? Rhyannon: Hmm, it's interesting because the similarities are. mostly from a perspective are certain traumas that have happened in childhood and elements of those traumas being related to gender. So if people, for example, let's say PE, let's try, I'm trying to use terminology. That was, let's say people that are Know that they're trans at a very young age, but don't have the vocabulary to identify that. Particularly some of the people that I spoke to myself included who were born in the 1970s or eighties or early nineties, there wasn't a vocabulary around LGBTQ. I plus people like we have today. So in that sense, I personally. I grew up thinking that I was gay because there wasn't any, there was, there didn't seem like there was any other option. And due to that, I was mistreated and bullied and abused for my feminine gayness which was incorrect. But that's what we thought at the time. It was. And so lots of people I spoke to also had that element in their childhood where they were a victim of. Due to the, what they then thought was the nature of their sexuality. So it, I really, I really felt that actually, and it was really nice talking and interviewing these people because we all had this shared experience. And I know for a lot of other queer trans non-binary people around the world, that they probably have had that experience too, where they've been a victim of abuse because of who they are and where they are in the world. Lots of people that I spoke to, he grew up in smaller towns away from kind of cosmopolitan cities really felt isolated. And one of the things which we all turned to when we could was alcohol in our early teens, perhaps because it just numbed the feelings of being different, of being othered, of being isolated. And I think that's for, for a lot of people when and where it started. sadly queer people. And I dunno if it's the same today, but when we were all going through the school system and education, there wasn't the support in place to actively change how we were perceived the language around who we were. And also the way that we were being abused could not be talked about in a way that was gonna help anybody. And I think that that also impact. a lot of our lives because what happened was, and I'll just use my own example here. When I moved from the small village, what I grew up in to London at the age of 18, it was almost like I had a delayed delayed life experience. I certainly just went wild in my twenties because I found my tribe and I found the people who were like me. And therefore, like, it just gave me reason to really kind of explode and, and it was great, but it also did lead to it did lead to destructive behaviors because I just couldn't turn it off. I was like, so excited and happy to finally be able to, to live to some extent for the person that who I felt I was. And to find other people like me. So they were the SIM, they were the main similarities here in that book. Deb: Yeah. And what, you know, in the L G BT Q IA plus community, what is what's the rate of addiction. And can you speak to that? Like I know that it's higher than in the general population. Rhyannon: Yes. I'm. I don't know the. Figure off the top of my head, but it, it is in the book from the time of printing last year, but it, the, the statistics are much higher for LGBTQ people to abuse alcohol and drugs. And I think kind of part of the reason why I wanted to write that book was to really give people an insight into why that was and why that may be for certain queer individuals. I mean, we're not talking about every queer person. It really depend. on the intersection of, of who you are, whether that be gender or race or privilege in terms of wealth. So it's not every queer person that is necessarily affected by this, but yet is generally much, much higher than people who identify as heterosexual mm-hmm Deb: and you kind of touched on. Some of the reasons why do, would you elaborate on some of that or did we miss any of that? Rhyannon: So I mean, one of the criticisms I got from my first book, the new girl was that obviously it was a memoir based on my experience of transitioning at that point in my life, which was published in 2017. So I hadn't been transitioning that. And one of the criticisms from that book was that I, it was only, it was only an account of my life. So for the second book, that's why I deliberately chose to incorporate many different narratives. From the trans experience, I also, I spoke to some non-binary people. I spoke to people that I don't like this term, but I can't think of a better one right now, female to male and male to female. So kind of opposite directions of transitioning. And I also spoke to people who were people of color. And so it was interesting putting those all together because it was obvious that. It was obvious that the people of color had a different experience to the white people that I interviewed, but the, some of the white people also had different experiences depending on whether or not they were female at birth or male at birth, and now identified as non-binary. So I think it gives a really interesting insight into how all those intersections can relate to each other. And, and how that, that, that mark is a different experience in. . Deb: Yeah. Yeah. How have you seen, like society's response to the trans community change throughout the years? Rhyannon: I guess. I mean, I think that's I mean, that's a huge question depending on where, where you are in the world, I guess. Yeah. I mean, obviously we've seen recently lots of trends. Rolled back, particularly in America, also in great Britain. Recently they are lobbying to van conversion therapy for everyone except trans people. So it's kind of been it's on one hand. we've seen trans visibility rise and the acceptance of trans people within things like the media, which obviously is a very safe, can be a very safe place to exist. I, myself came through the media. So I understand that world, but it doesn't necessarily mean that just because you are given front covers of magazines as a trans person, that your daily life and walking down the street is safe, just because you are celebrated on one hand, doesn't mean it would be on the other. I do think though that since the 1970s, eighties, and nineties, the picture of trans people has changed because when I was young, there was certainly this sense that trans people were just freaks and weird and strange, and really should only be in kind of like the dark parts of life. And that's kind of the message that I certainly internalize. And I think a lot of other people did also. There's one woman in my book that says she, she was a gay man during the early eighties. And she knew how dark that was. So because of the aids crisis. But so then also transitioning to become a trans woman was also really dark because no one wanted to speak about being trans in the eighties. So I said, I do think that the picture has changed now. We have a lot more. Younger people who are outspoken of being trans. So I think it's, I think it is changing, although it does feel at times that legislation law and restrictions are pushing it back. Yeah. . Deb: Yeah, it's almost like the pendulum went one way and now it's like, oh, we're going back. Like in the response, especially here in America and some of our more conservative states which is it's really that cuz it it's almost like undoing some of the progress that we had made. Rhyannon: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Deb: Well, what would advice would you give to anyone listening and maybe they're struggling with their relationship with alcohol and they're struggling with their identity? Rhyannon: It's really tough to it's really tough to make these changes. And in my experience, there was a catalyst which needed to happen. and that catalyst was really being at a point of not knowing how to move forward unless I made these changes. And so I, I knew I had to make these changes. I think if you're struggling with alcohol specifically, I think it's really important to start talking to people about how you are feeling about the consequences, maybe of your drinking, and also. like how often you are drinking and the volume of the you are drinking. Like, I think it's really about reaching out to people. Not, not necessarily people who are, who, you know, are sober, but just those closest to you. So they actually really know what's going on. I wasn't the type of drinker which hid myself away in isolated rooms with 10 bottles of wine. That was not my drinking. My drinking happened very much in public. An. In nightclubs in parties at people's houses. And so in, in that sense, also it was very masked because people didn't understand that was problematic because it seemed so much fun and celebratory, but it, it was problematic for me. And so depending on your own drinking pattern, I still think it's important not to kind of think, oh, this is there's only one way. there's any one way that an alcoholic can be, or even if you don't want to use those terms, there's all, there's only one way of what problematic drinking looks like. And I think there actually is many, it's a very individual process. If you are thinking or struggling with your identity, again, I think it's about reaching out to the people and the places where, you know, you'll be able to get support. And one of the things, thankfully, which is happening. since I've transitioned is there's now lots more authors writing books about identity, me, myself being one of them. So I think there are almost, I think there are stories out there that you can identify with. If you don't identify with mine, there's also lots of other trans people writing about their journeys and their expressions. So I really feel like now there's the advice that people need much more as you know, we even have audio. Which is fantastic because you don't have to, you don't have to buy a book and be scared about somebody seeing you reading a book. You can listen to an audio book on your phone. And I think so there is a lot more options now in terms of being discreet and doing your own personal research. Deb: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing those. One of the things you do besides being a writer is a sound meditation practitioner. What, what is that? Rhyannon: oh, so people always ask me that yeah, so that really supports my recovery and my wellness. And so I facilitate meditation sessions and during those meditation sessions, I play instruments mostly gongs, but also sound bowls and other percussive percussion instrument. And what I try and do is facilitate a space where people can have a immersive sound journey and use that space to work through whatever they come with and, or maybe use that space just to relax and to unwind and de-stress from their lives. And so generally these sessions last anywhere from one hour to two hours, depending. I will lead a guided meditation at the beginning. Meditation is something which came to me during my recovery process and I use every day as a tool. And then I will go into a sound experience and then lead people at the end. So, yeah. And when I went to my first gone back, let's say in 2012, I was instantly hooked because I was just like, this is amazing. I never had experienced anything. That it affected me on that level before. And so when I moved to Berlin, it was just the perfect opportunity to explore that and to see actually if I could do that myself. And that's when I had my training and yeah. Started the business and started doing it here. Deb: oh, that sounds love. I've never experienced that. I've been, I have gotten more into like mindfulness and meditation. But is, is there something about the sound itself that's doing something to your brain? Rhyannon: Exactly. So because I, I mean, I'll say this in very SIM simple terms, but because our bodies are made up predominantly of fluid and sound travel, Much quicker and stronger through water and fluids. So actually when the, if the proximity to the instruments and the gong, for example, means that the frequencies will pass through your body and touches certain points that help you to unwind and relax and can release. Toxins and stress from the muscles, but also it affects your brain in a way which is similar to falling asleep, where it changes the state of the brain chemistry. This is what research has shown. So actually it allows you to access a very kind of interesting place, which some people describe as being between awake and asleep, where you can really let go and have an amazing journey is what people tell me. oh, Deb: wow. I love it. Can you get the same effect or close to just like listening on headphones? If you're not like in a room with the instruments? Rhyannon: I think it's very similar, but it's not exactly the same. Okay's not, it, it, it's a very great way to relax because of the certain frequencies, but you are not, you're not necessarily feeling it in your body and I think that's just difference. Deb: Yeah. Yeah. Do you, this is gonna sound. I know funny, but do you think that's why, like, some people like to listen to the base really loud in their cars or in their, like, I you're getting something additional from the Rhyannon: sound. Yeah, exactly. Whenever I go to a nightclub, I really like to be by the base speaker because I really like the, feel it in my body. Yes, totally. Deb: Yeah. And so this is taking some of it into a, like a quieter, meditative, purposeful place. Interesting. I'm gonna put that on my bucket list. Hmm. You said that yeah. Cool. Well, what are your plans for the future? Rhyannon: So right now I'm tentatively writing a new book. I want to start, I want to, the next book is gonna be fiction. and I have been doing some writing towards that, which I'm really enjoying. I wanted something which was slightly more separate from myself. I feel like with two memoirs now I've explored that territory and I wanted a new challenge. So yeah, I'm, I'm trying to write some fiction and that's, that's going quite well. And other than that, I'm in Berlin doing my sound meditation sessions. Deb: Oh, that's wonderful. Well, how can someone find you? Rhyannon: You can find me on Instagram. It's at Hanon underscore styles and you can go to my website, which is Deb: Oh, perfect. And then you can get the books there too, and, and just learn more about you. That's wonderful. Rhyannon: Yeah. The books are available online at various different places. Deb: Awesome. I love it. I love that you're writing fiction and doing something creative and tapping into that. And who knows if you'll be in Berlin still? Who knows where you'll end up? Right. Rhyannon: I think I'll be here for a while. Yes. Deb: Okay. Not a bad place to be, right? Rhyannon: No, it's great. I love it. I think it's just. England was very cold this morning and Berlin was very hot. And the contrast, the contrast was very, is very intense. Yeah. So I was kind of like, wow. , Deb: that's kind of like your life in a nutshell. okay. Well any closing remarks, anything else you want to say to our listeners? I just think Rhyannon: being part of a community has been so important for me in my life. And I didn't know that I needed a community so much. And so if you can find people that you can chat to openly and honestly about what you're experience in life, I think your, I think for me, it's just one of the most important things in my life and I'm really happy I have access to it. So I'm sure your community will. Thrilled to hear that. Deb: Yeah, I think, I mean, just so important to know you're not alone and that there are others out there and they can help you no matter what, finding your group, finding your people so important. Good. Well, I wanna thank you so much for your time. I've this was a really wonderful conversation and I, I really appreciate you sharing. Rhyannon: Yes. Thank you. It was really. I'm was happy to be here. Good, Deb: welcome. Enjoy your evening. Stay cool. Rhyannon: thank

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