After tackling her own demons, a northern Illinois musician transitioned to helping others heal through her music and more.
Tricia Alexander calls herself three things: a musician, a minister, and a mentor -- but music is the core of who she is. She said she started singing before she could put sentences together.
“My earliest memories," she explained, "are of sitting on the floor, in front of that gigantic furniture stereo piece with my ear on the speakers, and singing along singing, along with Doris Day,”
But along with her love for music, Alexander also picked up another habit. She shared that she started drinking alcohol when she was 13 years old and continued to do so for 30 years.
Alexander said her mother struggled with alcoholism and she didn’t want to end up like her or even worse.
“A fear that I had, "Alexander expressed, "was that I wouldn't be lucky enough to die young, that I would end up living out the whole thing,”
Alexander saw her alcoholism getting worse as time went on. She said things had gotten so bad that she confined drinking to her home.
Her behavior shifted the day before her 33rd birthday. She realized she needed to get help. She worked with Free Street Theater and they did an extended project with Chicago-Read Mental Health Center. Alexander recalled seeing cloudy stains on the windows in the geriatric area. The nurse told her the stains were from people drooling because of wet brain.
“And that information was such a tremendous gift for me," she shared, "because it like, gave a three-dimensional reality to my worst fears. And I just, you know, I prayed and I asked God for help. And little by little I was led to people that were recovering.”
Alexander never stopped touring and sharing her music but she wanted to help people on a personal level.
She lived in Chicago’s Roger’s Park, which she said was filled with culture. This is where she learned about Reiki, through a young man who occasionally came to town to teach it. She said she knew this was an art that she wanted in her toolkit.
She visited a retreat center in South Carolina in 1981 and met another Reiki master.
“And then later in that trip," Alexander said, "she came up to me and she said, 'spirit told me that I'm supposed to give you Reiki, I'm supposed to give you the first initiation.'"
Initially she used this practice for herself and never thought about teaching others. Three of her elders asked her to teach them and that’s when, she said, she started helping the masses.
Alexander found out that she could practice this under pastoral counseling if she was a minister. She came across the Universal Life Church and became ordained through an online program.
That’s when she became an independent minister in the Performing and Healing Arts. She explained that her goal is to help people gather their own tools that will help them create a daily wellness practice.
Another way she says she heals is through her poetry. Her favorite form is the sonnet.
“Until I can show clearly resonate, loves sweet song, then blissfully intoxicate those who choose to sing along.” -- (excerpt from a sonnet by Tricia Alexander)
She started doing workshops where everyone shared their work. She said she wanted to create safe spaces for other artists.
“Whether I'm doing an individual counseling session with someone or a Reiki treatment or a concert or leading a church service -- that's my format,” she explained.
Like many others, Alexander had to stop her hands-on approach with clients and her musical audience when the pandemic hit. She remembers finding herself trying to heal again. She said she questioned whether she was smart enough to understand this new thing that was so foreign to her. She wasn’t technically-inclined and yet had to figure out how to connect with everyone through the internet. She relied on friends to help guide her through this technical maze.
Alexander shared that her first online concert lacked an intimate connection.
For the next concert, she used a breathing technique that was similar to what she did with her clients.
“And across the distances through the internet, our hearts opened, we connected. And I did the concert with full feeling that we were all in the same space together," she said. "So, it's been a remarkable, remarkable process.”
Alexander will be 70 years old and 36 years sober in May. She is celebrating with a live concert with friends that will be recorded for people to watch. She is also working on what she is calling her last poetry book. Right now, she has 65 sonnets written. Her goal is 70.
Alexander wants everyone to learn how to reduce stress especially in the days of COVID-19. She said people should allow themselves to receive the breath from all that is and then give that breath back instead of always thinking of just taking a breath.
She said when one is grounded, they are immediately connected with the universe.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.