Rosalynn Brookins accidentally tasted her first drink at 14, when she thought her father’s gin was water. Once she felt the heat going down, she craved more. It numbed her and gave her unexplainable power. She went through high school and college as a functional alcoholic. She discovered cocaine at 18, which led to an $800-a-month drug habit.

In 1991, at 30, Brookins was working as a second-grade teacher at an elementary school in Virginia. In between classes and leading the Just Say No campaign, she would get high on cocaine in the bathroom.

After work one day, Brookins was confronted by a friend, who told her she needed help. Her friend also brought along the man Brookins was dating and would eventually marry, a well-known African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church bishop and civil rights leader named Hamel Hartford Brookins, commonly known as H. H.

H. H. knew about her struggles, but they chose not to go public at their church or elsewhere. “I was looking for Jesus to help me,” Brookins recalls. “And the church wasn’t the place for that. If I went to service in the Methodist church, they told me my dress was too short. When I went to church at Church of God in Christ, they said I had too much makeup on. So, church for me was not a place of healing or redemption.”

Tired of the gin and tonic and cocaine ruling her life for over 16 years, Brookins was ready to feel again and get her life back. She had never experienced a close relationship sober. So she checked into a rehabilitation center for 120 days.

Partway into her time there, something broke loose in Brookins during a morning group session on molestation. As a woman in the group shared about waking up next to someone who died of an overdose, ...

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