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She Does Indeed Recover

I am sitting at JFK airport waiting to board my plane home, having come here for a mind-blowing event. I arrived in New York full of wonder, anticipation, and excitement, to see 499 of my sober sisters at She Recovers NYC – ‘an innovative three-day event for women to gather and explore a diverse range of recovery approaches’ focusing on holistic recovery.

I hope to be able to do justice to the event – one of the most magical experiences in my recovery – as I tell you all about it.

The Possibility of Recovery

I have followed She Recovers for a couple of years. In fact, my writing career took off when I began following them and their community of women – it was like my eyes suddenly opened to the vastness of possibility in recovery. When I heard about this event, and the incredible speakers they had lined up – Glennon Doyle Melton, Elena Brower, Elizabeth Vargas, Gabby Bernstein, and Marianne Williamson – I knew that I had to attend. I had come to a point in my recovery, at five years sober, where I had fallen out of love with the steps, and craved something more. I knew that holistic recovery formed the basis of my recovery, so this event was very appealing to me, and many others like me.

It was for women with alcohol or drug addiction; or food, work, and gambling addictions; or other life and mental health challenges such as abuse, disordered eating, anxiety and depression, codependency, trauma, illness, and grief.

Prior to the event, I asked fellow attendee, Jean McCarthy of UnPickled Blog, why she booked and what she hoped to achieve: “The speakers are going to be amazing, but what I’m especially excited about is seeing 500(!) women in recovery all in one place. That’s a whole lotta positive energy and understanding. And it’s New York, so who could resist? I hope to leave feeling more empowered and excited to be part of a larger tribe, to remember that I’m part of something big. I’ve made a lot of online connections and I’m looking forward to meeting these people in real life.”

The Philosophy Behind the Event

It is She Recovers founders – mother and daughter team, Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong – view that we are all recovering from something.

I spoke to them about the philosophy behind designing the event: We have a few different goals. The first is really about bringing what we have been calling the “cyber-sober movement” to real life. We have four of the most amazing inspirational speakers on the planet joining us – plus ten presenters and ten of the most popular female sober bloggers. Many of us have known each other only in cyberspace – so hugging will be a bit part of the weekend. We also want to explore and showcase –through our sponsorships, exhibitors and presenters – a wide array of innovative recovery strategies, resources, products and services. And finally, we really want to show the world (okay we will start with NYC) what recovery looks like. Because with this crowd of 500 women – it looks spectacular.”

The innovation behind the event clearly speaks to the recent trends in the evolving recovery community. Dawn says: “I’ve been in recovery for 28 years and the greatest trend that I see – and the one that is long overdue – is the trend towards individualized pathways and patchworks of recovery. We are finally moving away from the one size fits all prescriptive mentality of recovery – thou shalt do 12 step recovery or thou shalt die. It’s not true. I have nothing but love and respect for the 12 step program that saved my life – but there are other ways to recover.”

It was also designed as an invitation to join the She Recovers Tribe: “We consider ourselves part of a movement of women choosing recovery – and everyone is welcome. Maybe because of my age (lol) I think She Recovers is sometimes viewed as kind of a motherly umbrella of other things going in the cyber recovery community – but as my daughter Taryn has gotten increasingly involved in the co-creation of our passion project – we are starting to attract more younger women too. Our tribe is diverse and far spread. And everyone is welcome.”

That tribe – and their needs – are vast: “We know that women already active in the cyber-sober community (recovering online) generally crave real life connection with one another. We know this from our retreats and smaller events. So in large measure we wanted to reach out to the hundreds of women who we knew online. But we are really interested in also reaching women who are recovering in isolation but have been drawn to our community for months or years. We want them to experience connection with other women in real life and then they can continue those connections online. Kind of the opposite of the first target group. We also hope that we are attracting women from NYC itself – we want to start She Recovers chapters all over the U.S., Canada and beyond – and we will do that in large part through events – although not all will be as massive an undertaking as the NYC event. That would kill us, lol.”

The Mission of This Event

In attendance were celebrated women in recovery as well as prominent leaders in inspired wellness fields. The speakers are ground breaking entrepreneurial women – who are inspirational speakers, journalists, coaches, NY Times Best Selling Authors, and described as ‘New Thought Leaders’. They spoke about modern recovery, their unique experiences, wisdom and passion. I asked them what their motivation behind choosing these women, and what they hoped would be conveyed: “These women are THE women who those of us in recovery love and follow. They all write about things that matter to us – and they are all fairly open about their own recovery from addiction and other life challenges.”

Some may ask why the event was exclusive to women: “We wanted to create a safe, nurturing space – and we think we nailed it. We might consider allowing men in the future but for this inaugural event – we wanted and deserved our own space.”

I was keen to ask their mission, or take away, from this event: “We always say the recovery journey is a continuum from hope – through to faith – through to gratitude. Anyone in, new or seeking recovery should be able to connect to one or more of those three things after attending this event. Women just starting out in recovery might go home with more hope that they too, can recover. Others might strengthen their faith in where they are at in their journey and others of us are going home knowing – with every ounce of our being – that gratitude is as much an action as a feeling. And that we will show our gratitude by showing up and showing NYC, and each other, what recovery looks like”

Not only were there incredible speakers, there were workshops designed to teach, inspire and provoke with: Ann Dowsett-Johnson, Jennifer Matesa, Sarah Roberts, Dr Jean Lacour, and Robin McIntosh. There were also yoga classes, a running event, and 5 Rythms Dance.  I attended Ann’s workshop and came away thoroughly inspired to write my own memoir, with the tools to do it.

Here are my favorite speaker quotes:

  • “We are changing from a generation of escape artists; flipping the script and turning the ship.” ~ Elena Brower
  • “A free woman is a woman who is no longer afraid of pain.” ~ Glennon Doyle Melton
  • “Addiction is the disease of the lost self. Anything I use to escape a perceived reality is something that can turn into an addiction.” ~ Nikki Myers
  • “Be brave enough to wonder why you used; what is underneath that pain?” ~ Gabby Bernstein
  • “Anxiety was the background music to my life.” ~ Elizabeth Vargas
  • “The person to the left and the person to the right have been in as much pain as you. That is the glory of suffering.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Strength and Courage Inspires

I have to say that they were right; this event was everything they hoped to achieve and more. The weekend has been like the most satisfying meal I’ve ever eaten and I didn’t even know I was hungry. I was lost in my recovery: I was on a quest for something, but I wasn’t sure what. This was it.

I had never quite realized – until I was surrounded by 499 versions of me – just what a woman I am. I had it the wrong way around: I’m not broken, I am strong, courageous, and brave because of my pain and story. It is that strength and courage that inspires me to tell my story and carry a message that together, we can recover.

I am not alone in those beliefs – fellow attendees tell me their take-away from the event:

  • “Embrace the pain, that is where the growth is.” ~ Veronica Valli
  • “Once you know, you can’t un-know. (Applicable to just about everything in our lives).” ~ Laura Silverman
  • “The recovery world is about to see a revolution like no other.” ~ Michelle Winder
  • An abundance of love and light like no other.’’ ~ Nancy Carr
  • “Community in recovery is valuable.” ~ Julie Elsdon-Height
  • “We are on the verge of a new era of recovery; it’s never been done like this before.” ~ Jean McCarthy
  • I got over myself and my fear of meeting people I didn’t know. I used the acronym G.O.D. (Grace Over Drama) all weekend long as a mantra. I chose to embrace the women who were just like me, instead of being fearful and hiding. I told anxiety to take a backseat, so that I could fully be present this weekend.’’ ~ Tammi Salas
  • “I was blown away by She Recovers NYC. I laughed, I cried, I celebrated 4 years in recovery the best way. It gives me hope to see such a large and powerful group of women being public about their recovery.” ~ Kelly Fitzgerald

A Look to the Future

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I asked Dawn and Taryn of their future plans: “Scaling! Growing! We will be launching more retreats – including our inaugural Bali retreats later this year. We just opened registration for our She Recovers Coach Designation and will be scaling our efforts and growing our community via this new coach program. Coaches who train with us will be able pursue further eligibility criteria and apply to start local She Recovers Chapters in their home community. Taryn will also be developing a She Recovers Yoga Instructor Designation in 2018. And She Recovers – the book – will be published in 2018 as well. We are also pretty sure that She Recovers in LA will be next up!”




Images Courtesy of iStock

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