About one-half of adults in the United States will experience one traumatic event in their lives. While for some, it might not lead to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), for many, it does. Tiffany Lee Gaston, mental health advocate, mom of three, and fitness expert, has not only experienced PTSD (and has come out on the other side), but has spent years dealing with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. A relationship that needed to come to an end.
A fitness icon, Gaston has graced 11 fitness magazine covers, competed in a handful of fitness competitions, and helped others get in the best shape of their lives. However, as traumatic events occurred in her life, the fitness influencer, thanks to her therapist, soon began realizing her unhealthy relationship with alcohol was making her PTSD worse and slowing down any progress she was making to heal.
Thankfully, Gaston entered into the ring and fought both PTSD and alcoholism fiercely, and is now helping others with their mental health and sobriety. Sure, she’s ripped from head to toe and super strong, but here’s how she’s gaining strength on the inside.
Diagnosed with PTSD with Alcohol Fueling the Fire
Gaston was diagnosed with PTSD during the summer of 2020 after feeling depressed and struggling to comprehend her emotions following a traumatic experience.
She had longtime fought anxiety that she admitted was debilitating at times, but this time it felt different. “I spent about two weeks in denial of the diagnosis my therapist provided, before deciding to attack it head-on,” says Gaston. She wanted relief and was willing to put in the work in order to heal.
Gaston and her therapist devised a plan and Gaston made it her full-time job to understand and overcome it while attempting multiple modalities in search of setting herself free; all while her alcohol consumption escalated to new heights.
“I was running from myself,” recalls Gaston. “I had to locate the bullet hole, so I could get to work on the repair, no longer needing to douse with fire.”
Initially, she struggled to release her grip on alcohol, eventually learning it was keeping the work she had done from integrating. “I had to observe I was standing in my own way,” says Gaston. Something many of us can do when we know a change needs to be made.
Scared Sober: The Moment Everything Changed
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears, and it certainly did, leading me to a snap decision to omit alcohol altogether,” says Gaston. Just two days into a 10-day family vacation, after what felt like the most catastrophic event in her world, Gaston was desperate for help. Having no support in her own home, she then realized she had to face this head-on.
“I had to choose me or there would be no more me,” she recalls. “I was alone with myself during the hardest time of my life and I am now grateful for that pain, as I remind myself of this: I needed that pain to bring about evolution.
Gaston explains the pain she had continued to numb. She struggled to let go of what she deemed her security blanket until she was literally scared sober. This was rock bottom.
“Rock bottom looks different on us all, but I had just identified mine,” she says. “I observed the ultimate demise of my world, and as a last-ditch effort to save myself, I knew I needed the clarity that only comes from omitting it altogether.”
Gaston saw what was necessary at all costs and went hard in that direction to save herself. “Pain was my greatest teacher,” says Gaston, helping her make the change she desperately needed.
Taking Control of Her Life: Staying Sober for One More Day
While it isn’t recommended, Gaston went stone-cold sober on her own. “I truly didn’t know I could, but it was clear something drastic needed to happen, so I finally took control,” she says.
Gaston realized early on she needed support and explored a few groups finding the most value in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in the early months. “It felt good to have a community of support and to observe that no matter our differences, we are far more alike than we differ,” she says.
While Gaston no longer attends meetings live or virtual, she continues her walk best by not overwhelming herself with more than simply staying sober for just one more day and has identified her support systems for times of need.
“I am grateful that the omission of alcohol and all that has come with it has also been a method of sobriety for me,” says Gaston. “I sure feel better on every level without it and that will never be lost on me.”
The ”One more day” mindset has led her well for over seven months now alcohol-free.
Is Alcohol Holding You Back?
“When you stop to realize you’re pouring jet fuel on a fire as is alcohol, a depressant on depression and mental health challenges and simply taking yourself deeper, you may finally get the message,” explains Gaston.
Gaston’s therapist had longtime suggested the work she was doing breaking through PTSD and healing mental trauma be further supported by sobriety, but she struggled to remove it until this behavior was overwhelming her system.
“I could finally observe the very thing I was using to escape the internal struggles was only serving to worsen them all.”
Gaston learned that PTSD, anxiety, and depression are not made better by drinking them away. “Now, the cognitive challenges I was battling no longer control and consume me and I rarely feel anxious any longer,” recalls Gaston.
Sadly, she was standing in her own way during all that time she was doing deep self-work, only to self-sabotage with alcohol. “The clarity, memory, focus, and all I struggled with are in the distant past,” she says. “It’s wild how we continually lie to ourselves to justify our behavior until we finally call ourselves out on it.” Says Gaston.
Once Tiffany Lee Gaston decided to remove alcohol, she went through extensive trauma-release work. That work, coupled with her sobriety has allowed for radical healing of both old and newer trauma she is navigating.
Gaston says she has most benefited from IFS therapy but it only truly locked in once the alcohol was gone. “My therapist was right,” says Gaston.
Looking to get sober and heal your mental health? Here’s what you can start doing today! So far it’s worked for Tiffany Lee Gaston.
Tiffany Lee Gaston Shares Tips for Boosting Mental Health and Getting Closer to Sobriety
“We all know what we should do, but we don’t all show up for it.” Encourages Gaston, and feels to get sober it’s really getting back to the basics- lots of trial and error. Having a healthy morning routine has always assisted in setting Gaston up for success.Her workouts prove that.
Here are some success principles and practices Gaston follows to assist in maintaining better mental health are:
- Proper sleep/recovery
- Exercise – walks in nature during my treatment sped up my healing exponentially.
- Community/support groups
- Meditation – practice gratitude and presence
- Breath work
- Psychedelic Psychotherapy – ketamine infusions assisted my PTSD
Words From Tiffany Lee Gaston to Those Struggling
- You are not alone: “I harmed myself the most as I backed away from family and friends and retreated in shame.” Until she shared more openly, she had no idea how many struggles she had.
- Not everyone can do it alone: You must not be afraid to ask for help. “Lots of programs and resources exist, so find your fit, and that added layer of support can feel like training wheels early on.”
- Learn your triggers : Some people may need to be ejected from your experience if they are not supportive. “My online community has shifted a bit to further support my new position and I’ve seen so many become sober curious.”
- Community is Key: “It is eye-opening to feel the love all around when you are feeling your most helpless.” Says Gaston. This is where her greatest strength was born. That is where her greatest strength was born. “I walk forward with clear eyes and the knowingness that everything in my world has improved in the absence of alcohol.”
Just as Gaston’s whole life improved due to removing alcohol, yours can too. Social media has a plethora of supportive and encouraging pages. If you need immediate help, you can contact this hotline.