Please help us welcome Erin W. who will be writing for and managing our She Recovers blog. She is amazing. Read on and see for yourself. ~Dawn~
It started with Baby #1.
I like a routine; a schedule. And I read that babies do, too. So every night at 6:30 p.m. I bathed him in Johnson & Johnson’s lavender foaming soap, toweled him off, placed him in footed pajamas and headed down to the kitchen.
I prepared our nightcaps while holding him, carefully balancing his body and my bottle of Chardonnay. By 7 p.m. we settled onto the couch with reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Baby with his bottle, me with my glass, Buffy with her Big Bad.
You know how this goes. You know what happened next.
Routine became habit. Habit became dependency. Dependency became addiction.
It took a decade, but it definitely took.
The baby became a teenager. Buffy became The Crown. And still I sat on my couch, glass in hand. I shocked myself with my inability to get a handle on it.
I started reading the sober blogs. I started my own sober blog. I found the Bubble Hour and Unpickled and, eventually, She Recovers.
I must have looked at the retreat page on the She Recovers website dozens of times. Reasons not to go: time away, money, fear of people, fear of looking too closely at myself. Reasons to go: I can’t stop wanting sobriety. I can’t stop needing clarity. I can’t stop drinking.
Last spring, after yet another night of broken promises to myself, I booked a spot at the Salt Spring Island retreat. I did this and did not overthink it. I did this and surprised myself. I did this and went back to the couch.
The first thing that happens after you book a She Recovers retreat is you get a very warm email welcome from Dawn Nickel, founder of She Recovers and the mother/aunt/sister/friend you’ve been looking for. The second thing that happens is, if you have a Facebook account, you receive an invite to the secret She Recovers retreat group. The community you find there will finally make Facebook worth your time.
A few weeks before the retreat, She Recovers sent me a “What to Expect” informational packet. Along with the daily schedule and a list of what to bring/not to bring was the Retreat Intention Questionnaire. I had seen this type of thing before and had always quickly discounted the importance of “setting my intentions.” But not this time. I filled that bitch out. The entire thing. Every single question in Calibri red bold.
I was not fucking around.
Canadians really are as nice as you’ve heard. Victoria, British Columbia, is gorgeous. Salt Spring Island is magical.
The farm where the retreat was held reminded me of a Napa Valley vineyard I visited years ago. (Apologies for this limited frame of reference.) Lush and green with flowers everywhere, the farm is run as a cooperative, primarily by women who are raising their families there. You want to meet them. I want to be them.
Liz is a kayak-tour-guide-turned-farmer whose love for her land is contagious. Haidee is the genius behind the retreat menu, which is almost entirely local, wholly delicious and beautifully accommodating to various diets.
We arrived at the farm in various states of awkwardness. (Many of us later admitted to last minute doubts and thoughts of “what was I thinking?”) We were each different and we were each exactly the same.
We wore tee-shirts and jeans, faded khakis and loose blouses, yoga pants and workout tops. We were all sizes. We had chipped nails and perfect pedicures. We had no children and we had grandchildren. We were young and middle aged and graying.
Our shared commonalities were honesty and openness. Over the course of the next four days, I was continually stunned by how those two ingredients created instant connection and friendship. We expressed our struggles to one another without shame: addiction, grief, trauma, loss, loneliness. Throw in some of Haidee’s gluten-free dark chocolate chip and lavender cookies, and my entire world cracked open.
Each day was loosely structured around two yoga classes, which took place in a large, light-filled studio. Taryn Strong, Dawn’s She Recovers partner and daughter, wrapped her long red hair in a loose bun and gently led us back to ourselves. Her classes were unlike anything I had ever encountered, inside or outside of a yoga studio. It was yoga mixed with music and poetry and essays and visualizations – all infused with the feminine.
I came to love my yoga mat like I love my bed at home. I stared up at the high, high studio ceiling made of clean wooden slats and thought of … nothing. I was wide open. I don’t know what day it was or if it was the morning or afternoon session, but somewhere right in the middle of one of Taryn’s classes I received what I had come for. The other women did, too. Our arms were up. Our arms were out. We threw down our struggles and let them go. Again and again and again and again.
We moved to child’s pose and I heard tears hitting yoga mats all around me. “Raise your fingers if you need a tissue,” Taryn said. I raised my hand.
The vulnerability was palpable, a little unnerving and a physical relief. Something had shifted. I felt very raw and tender after that class and it left me wanting to speak in soft tones to the other women, who now seemed like dear, heart friends.
Dear, heart friends. I thought back to my retreat intention questionnaire where I had written: “Cement my sobriety through relationships. Make a sober friend or two to help keep me accountable.”
This was my stated intention and this was the gift She Recovers gave to me. I would not have to do this alone. In the months to come these women – these new, dear, heart friends – would save me. They would call me and message me and meet me. They were not going to let me go back to my couch. The shifting I had felt was a new/old/fragile space opening within me. These heart friends had helped me find that opening and now they are helping me find the courage to widen and grow into it.
There is uncertainty and fear and hope and dreams in this new space. And the couch is always there; a Big Bad that is never quite dead. But for me, the She Recovers retreat was a gateway. A gateway to recovery. A gateway to all the things I’ve been waiting for.
A gateway back to myself.
Erin W. lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017.
Erin is the new managing editor and primary contributor for the She Recovers blog.
I love your story-honest, open, and witty! Congratulations on your recovery and joining the fab She Recovers team! Hoping our paths may cross some day. Patricia
She Recovers, Mexico 2013(sh)
Thanks, Patricia! I hope so too.
I cried reading this. You’ve managed to capture, exactly, my experience with Dawn, Taryn, She Recovers and the amazing women that I met at my retreat and those that I’ve connected with, online, since.
When I went to my retreat I knew I was in a bad place in my life. What I didn’t realize was just how broken and lost I was. With the love and support that I received, She Recovers put me on the path to rediscover the woman I want and was meant to be.
The retreats really are amazing. I was lost and broken, too. So grateful for all the women – you, Dawn, Taryn – who face personal fears and break through to better places. I hope to meet you soon.
That is such a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you.
And now I know how Taryn teaches and one day I will bring my precious sister to one of your retreats.
All love ??? xx
Taryn’s classes BLOW YOUR MIND. Hope I am at that class with you!
Beautiful, uplifting , vivid and real.
Thank you for your gift of clear and heartfelt description .?
I could feel all of your words.
Beautiful, and Dawn was right……this is my story, too…..exactly! Thank you for sharing, and if you ever get to Northeastern NC, look me up! Love to make new she recovers friends!
We need to connect! I will ask Dawn to connect us. (That is one of her many Super Powers.) Looking forward to it.
That was amazing …WOW …can I relate. I went to my very first retreat on another one of the golf islands this past summer. I was so reluctant to go and even tearful the day I ventured out. It turned out to be a very positive growing experience and I do applaud myself for having the courage to follow through. I intend to attend the retreat on Salt Spring Island next summer and I do hope to meet Erin.
I applaud you and me and all of us looking at Hard Things and not backing down. Hope to see you this summer!
This. Is. Beautiful. And makes me love She Recovers a million times more then I already did.
Thanks, Kelley. She Recovers is worth all our love. So glad to be here with you.
Thank you for this article. Addiction is definitely an overwhelming epidemic in the USA Today. It is a problem that needs to be addressed. I am now clean and sober, after many attempts at various types of rehabs and sober livings.
Thank you for speaking from the heart. Many people don’t understand this epidemic and addicts (recovering addicts) like me are misunderstood. Thank you because it helps me understand that there will be a rainbow after the rain!
I love you and your amazing spirit. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel. xxxooo
Trish! My SSI sister. Your spirit is a gift to me.
are there any upcoming retreats for the East coast of Canada?
Hi Kelly – not a retreat – no – but we think we will be coming for a one-day event to Toronto in June! Are you signed up for our newsletter?
The first thing what I would like to say is thanks for publishing such an wonderful article. I wish you to write more articles like this.
The Need For Counseling In Addiction Recovery
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