If you’ve ever heard Le’Andria Johnson sing anything, then you know her talent is undeniable. Yet, for the past few years it had been overshadowed by what we now know to be alcohol-influenced, profanity ladden rants about the gospel industry and the Black church. In order to address those issues, Johnson sat down with Iyanla Vanzant for her show “Iyanla Fix My Life,” this past March. We interviewed her recently to see what she took from the process of the show, rehab and what she’s enjoying about sobriety.
MadameNoire: The last time we saw you was on “Iyanla Fix My Life” and I just wanted to know what made you reach out to be on the show?
Le’Andria Johnson: Well I, personally didn’t reach out. Donald Lawrence reached out to Iyanla and my record label followed through with that. I didn’t have a clue that that was going on but I kind of respected the fact that they did that. I was like alright.
How did you feel the process went, with everything that happened?
I felt like the process, in the beginning, I didn’t know where she would be coming from, I didn’t know what kind of energy she would have. But I found out, she didn’t need any thing from me. She was just there to offer support. It kept me interested to see what’s next.
There were a lot of people in the gospel community who came through to show support for you, Erica Campbell, Kirk Franklin and you just mentioned Donald Lawrence. What did that feel like having those names and those friends lend you support in that way?
It was a great feeling. And that’s something that we don’t see a lot of or enough of in the church community. It’s very rare. Having the church community reach out and be a support system to those that are in need or going through. That was quite amazing to see that. It felt good.
At one point, I know you were thinking about walking away from the process. What was going through your mind at that time?
Well, you know she had me face my truth. And it’s one thing for you to know your truth and it’s another thing for someone to tell you your truth in front of your face with no shame, no fear. And that’s exactly what she did. She made me realize we call ourselves a lot of things everyday—who we think we are and this is what we stand for. But do you really hold up to that. She made me think about a lot things, being a woman. She said some things I didn’t like. So I was like—you know the word. I’m out. But she came back. She didn’t give up. She came back and said basically, trust the process. You cannot keep doing what you’ve been doing. You can’t get mad and leave. You’re going to have to face it this time. I listened to her. And something on the inside of me was like, ‘You know what, you’re going to have to trust this process.’ And I kept moving along.
Do you feel like alcohol impeded on your relationship with God?
I feel like alcohol impeded on my life other than just God, my family, my children, my career. Alcohol was first and I was second. So you can imagine what else that was a part of my life that was third, fourth, fifth and sixth. It was first priority.
I know you went to rehab afterward. Are you still in rehab and how was that for you?
I went to a 30-day rehab treatment and I completed those thirty days. And it’s amazing because it’s not only dealing with my drug of choice, it’s dealing with other triggers I’m aware of. It was very needed. And a lot of people in our community, unfortunately, don’t seek getting help a lot. It allowed me to see my condition from a different perspective and everybody else’s condition from a different perspective as well.
Was there anything you were shocked to learn in rehab? Did you have any revelations?
The revelation was that I was heavily, heavily, heavily dependent on a bottle. And what I thought was filling a void was not even filling a void, it was just making the situation worse. The blind leading the blind. I was losing myself very, very fast. I was going down a dark road. I was going down the wrong path health wise and I can’t believe. Now, I can’t believe I was in that state of mind. It might be hard for people to understand that but I sit here and I’m in amazement when I go back and I look at different home videos and I’m like, ‘Wow, how did I get here?’ But that was my reality. That was my wake up call. That was you.
Iyanla said that you made some valid points about your thoughts on the church. And I think anybody who has been in the church community and is awake and paying attention can realize that you did make some valid points about the Black church community. So I’m wondering how you feel about the gospel industry and church at this point in your life?
I have to realize that a lot of what’s going on is taught from our forefathers. It really takes a strong person to be able to get out of a in some churches a demanding situation. It takes a really, really strong person. With Jesus, we learned from him because he was just like us. And I grew up in the church and I dealt with this all of my life. And I just got fed up. A lot of people say the same things I said but they don’t have a platform to be able to speak to a larger audience. I happen to have a name. Even though I was not trying to purposely do it—but I guess when you put something on a live— but I’m very cautious now about where I go, certain gigs I take. I’m very cautious to say yes. Because I know that there are some things that I still have to deal with. But in all fairness, I try to smile more than really give my opinion. I’m learning that there is a way. I was drinking. I was angry about the death of my brother. So I discombobulated. So that particular time was not the best time to vent. But now, I’ll be able to speak from a clear head, a clear mind. So that it can be relatable. I still feel the same way but in this particular case, it would be a little less harsh—as Iyanla said, ‘Less venom.’ And they’ll be able to hear me now and hear the message as opposed to the other side.
You spoke about being selective about the gigs you take. And when people talk about alcoholism or addiction, you have to be more mindful about the places that you go or the people that you hang around because they can be triggers that send you back into that spiral. So I’m wondering if there are any life changes that you’ve made to ensure that you don’t resort back to drinking or going back to other unhealthy coping mechanisms?
Well, I have to understand that—I have to tell myself this. This is just the truth. I cannot live my life based on what’s going to cause me to drink or not. At this point in my life, I’m going to have to say no to the bottle, period. Whether I’m angry, whether I’m happy, whether I’m sad, it’s just a choice, a choice for me not to drink at this moment. So if I have any temptation or if I get angry or there’s a death, I have to ask myself ‘What is this going to benefit? What am I going to gain from picking this bottle up?’ And that’s what the AA classes are for, that’s what the treatment is for. Even if I did pick the bottle up and now I’m able to manage it, it still doesn’t negate the fact that trials and tribulations are going to come. So my focus is, trying to become one with myself and realize not only how can I do this without drinking but how can I do this, period. How can I continue in a positive aspect, period.
What’s coming up next?
Well I’ve been thinking about stripping. I’m just playing. I’m thinking about writing some books and working on another album, probably another tv show and touring. You know the tour with Iyanla is very interesting and amazing. I would love to work with Fantasia. We’ve been talking a little bit about working together. So that would be amazing. So just staying busy and enjoying my sobriety. It’s been pretty interesting but it’s good.
Well, talk to me about that what are some things you’re able to enjoy now that you’re sober?
Oh wow! Time with myself. I’m able to say no now without any hesitation. For the life of me, I’m still trying to figure out how did I let certain things happen? How did I let that be a part of my life? My kids. My kids they have a joke now, “They say Mommy, we like this you. Yes we do but it’s like we can’t get away with anything anymore. When you was drinking and you went to sleep, we could ask you for anything and you’d say yeah. But now, you wake up and you say, ‘No, what do you want? What do you want that for? Where are you getting ready to go? Get back in there.’ You’re on point. And I’m like, ‘Uhh got dog what was I doing?’ But that is so funny to me. It’s really so funny. And then watching my kids’ reactions to a lot of things. They know it’s been seven months for mommy but every now and then, they’ll look out the corner of their eyes to see what I’m going to order, see what kind of drink I’m going to get. It be funny to me though. I told y’all I’m seven months, that’s not enough? And they’re like, ‘You know mom, you know it is. But we don’t want you to you know…” That’s so interesting for me to see. And it also lets me know how much of an effect I had on them when I was drinking.