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My sons are 12 and 14, and they are fully and completely their ages. This means they are constantly engaged in testing both their limits and mine. A few weeks ago, report cards came home. Things escalated quickly and I could feel my 12-year-old digging his heels into his position of what mattered/what was acceptable. And I could feel myself doing the same. And then I dropped what we call the mom bomb.  

Mom bombs are powerful weapons. They abruptly end any and all exchanges of thoughts or ideas with a very definitive FULL STOP. “Son,” I said, “you know what you need to do. And if it doesn’t happen, the electronics are mine.”

Boom. Nuances dismissed. No need for further explanations. Conversation over.

Over identifying – and missing the point

The past few weeks I have been “louder” about recovery, sharing more of my story with family and friends, as well people (mostly strangers) on social media. It’s been terrifying and wonderful and disappointing and necessary. It’s also been educational. In both in-person conversations and online, I quickly discovered two things: the word “recovery” is a mom bomb; and if I want more meaningful connections, I am going to have to do better at creating them.

People hear the word “recovery” and move quickly through nuance and right into preconceived notions. The wall of disconnect comes flying up. “I do not see myself in this story,” they seem to be thinking, and they either stop listening entirely or start asking for details that are not relevant. In this unraveling, both of us over identify with certain aspects of the story and miss out on the connections we need.

So much of my struggle was internal. There was no DUI or job loss or in-patient treatment. And even if those things had occurred, it would not have changed the outcome. What happened to me was a slow awakening that – once it took hold of me – grew quickly into an urgent awareness that I have work to do. Women have work to do. And in order to get started on that work– whatever our higher calling is, the greater purpose that has us here on this Earth – we first need to stop doing the things that keep us disconnected and numb. We need to start sharing our stories, without dropping mom bombs on ourselves or others, and move towards embracing the messy and beautiful fullness of our truth.

Openness, rather than “otherness”

In her Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah, Janet Mock talks quite a bit about the power of stories and the need to share our truth in a way that drives connection, not separation. Janet is a transgender rights activist and author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. She is also a speaker at She Recovers in LA later this year.

“I grew up poor. I grew up as a black child,” Janet said. “The only resource I had was my truth – that was the only thing I could control in the world.”

Janet’s truth – everyone’s truth – is that we need people and we need people to see us fully and for who we really are. This means we must move past the “salacious parts” of our stories and see the full spectrum of our experiences.

What we need, Janet says, is to come up with a different blueprint for how we tell our stories. A blueprint that allows for openness, rather than “otherness.” We need different words, new approaches, that allow us to broaden perceptions rather than narrow them.

Janet’s story is a story of remembering love and truth. It is a story of awakening. Like Janet, I am creating a blueprint for myself and it starts with my refusal to be “othered.” I am not allowing the world to tell me what I am, because that is the very last thing the world needs. We do not need more compliance and obedience. Instead, we need more love and truth.

Loudly or softly, we are each drawing our own lines and telling our own stories. The only thing that truly matters is that we do these things with love and truth. And we can only give these things to the world if we first have them for ourselves.

Finding our love and our truth – that is our work. That is what the world needs us to do.

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post Defining Our Stories with Truth and Love appeared first on She Recovers.

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“To succeed, most people need a community of support.” – Cheryl Strayed

Many of us are working on our recovery alone or piecing it together from various programs, therapies and online resources. These tools are powerful, but they do not replace the need for actual people. Nothing equals the relief of sharing our burdens with the right audience. Saying aloud our painful truths softens the sharpest edges of our pain, fuels our desire and reinforces our attitude.

This need for other people can seem like a terrible truth. We are exhausted by people. We are disappointed by people. We are scared of and scared by people. Yes, we know they are capable of comfort, but they are also capable of inflicting terrible hurt. We are convinced we will pay a price for reaching out and we are intent, rightly so, on protecting ourselves in these most vulnerable of circumstances.

Isolation is the root of our troubles. It cannot be the answer to it.

“Women especially are social beings, who are not content with just husband and family but must have a community, a group, an exchange with others. The only answer to this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community.” –Dorothy Day

I had worked on sobriety for quite some time before I understood that I was missing the magic ingredient of other people. I did not want to trouble anyone. I did not want to be different than anyone. And I felt no personal connection to women in recovery.

I wanted to quietly change one tiny part of my life and then get on with the rest of it. So I took the isolated approach. I troubled no one; was no different than anyone; and developed no personal connections.

To my surprise, this approach just kept looping me back to the same lonely, familiar place on the couch, where nothing ever happened and nothing ever changed. And then one fateful Saturday morning I had an epiphany: Isolation was the root of my problem. It could never be a solution to it.

And so I troubled someone. I called a friend who was different and told her I might be different, too. I made a personal connection. And it changed my life.

Certitude vs. Understanding

“There are commonly two kinds of human beings: there are people who want certitude and there are people who want understanding; and these two often cannot understand one another.” – Richard Rohr

In our most fragile moments, when we finally decide to reach out and make a call for connection, we must be clear on who gets to be on the other end of our line. The key here is to avoid those who live in and insist on certitude, and find those who value understanding.

Certitude means labels, boxes and preconceived notions. Certitude gets us nowhere. It is a rabbit hole of judgment and perfection-seeking that lands us back on our couches, siloed and silent. Certitude is a woman killer.

We need understanding. We need grace. We need true companionship that is grounded in the twin pillars of big-hearted accountability and non-judgmental standards. These things are harder to find than they should be in our culture that insists on easy answers to black and white questions. Meanwhile, we are all living – and dying – in complex shades of gray.

We become the women we need

“Time makes you bolder. Even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.” – Stevie Nicks

To truly change, we must find and stay with those who see the entire spectrum. We must find and stay with people who see that we are, and that they are, messy and wonderful and terrible and brilliant. We must find and stay with people who value authenticity over “winning.”

And then we must become these people. We must become the women we need for each other, for our children and for our futures.

True change requires you to make a call for connection. Trust your instincts. It may surprise you who ends up being on the other end of the line. I called a friend, but other women call their parents, a neighbor, a divorce lawyer. These women had thought about that call for so long that, when the moment came to actually make it, it was crystal clear who they needed to dial. It was just a matter of picking up the phone.

We cannot stay silent and apart any longer. We need one another. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” Momastery tells us. We start by acknowledging who we are now.

Reach out. Make your call. We are waiting for you.

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post The Third Thing You Need: Other People appeared first on She Recovers.

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When we decide to make hard changes in our lives, we find ourselves facing down our own personal demons. These demons – or Big Bads – come in all different shapes and sizes.

My demon was alcohol. (Or at least that is how it first presented itself.) Your demon may be another type of addiction. Or a hard truth about your marriage or partnership. You may have suffered a trauma or endured a life-changing loss. Your job may be slowly killing you.

Regardless of what our individual demons are, there is one tool we all need to slay our Big Bads and change our life: ATTITUDE.

Telling your story

“Her confidence is tragic, but her intuition magic.” –Train

When I first got sober, I told very few people the why behind this change. But without exception, those few people were shocked and questioned my decision.

“Really? You don’t seem like you have a problem.”

“You’re never going to drink again?”

Their shock shocked me. And, even though I knew my choice was the right thing for me, I quickly joined them in questioning my decision.

While their reactions were disappointing, the most surprising and hurtful response I received was no response. A dear friend, upon my sharing with her vague details of why I quit drinking, offered me a slow blink and a quick change of topic.

In that uncomfortable moment, I knew just what to do. When others do not acknowledge our pain, we quickly move to start stuffing it back down. We need the uncomfortable moment to end. I downplayed my struggles and stayed small so as not to upset others.

The truth about these reactions is this: People do not want you to change because they are terrified it might mean they have to change. They may love you, but they also love the way things used to be. They love what you do for them and what you don’t do for them, namely make them uncomfortable. Even if the status quo is exquisitely painful and you are losing your soul, they might rather you live in a familiarity of dysfunction than force them to suffer the unknown.

This is where your attitude comes in.

The secret ingredient

“Fine. I’ll be my own best friend.” – Me, age 5, to my older sister after she declined to play with me

Without any “in real life” support, I turned to the sober blogs and eventually started my own. I found three or four bloggers whose voice and stories resonated with me. All of them were written by women who were slogging it out alone with their demons. No 12 Step Programs, no tried and true path – but they were winning.

A few months ago, after years of following them online, I decided I would bring these women to life. I contacted two of them and asked if they would meet me. Talk about a trust fall. It is one thing to share your truth in the anonymity of the Internet. It is another thing entirely to meet a stranger whose read your virtual diary and share coffee and sandwiches with her. And yet, they both graciously agreed.

One is Canadian; the other, American. I met with them separately, but in the course of the conversations I asked them both about their secret ingredient. Beyond blogging and having a desire to change, what had worked for them?

They live 3,000 miles from each other and I met them three months apart, but they both told me the same thing: Attitude.

“At first I treated myself like a house plant,” Emily, the Canadian, said of early sobriety. “I gave myself some food, water and a bit of light.” Eventually though, this petite soft-spoken librarian who sews her own clothes added one more ingredient: “I developed a punk rock attitude,” she said in a strong voice, her eyes dancing.

The American, Sharon, is a grandmother and dog lover. She was even more blunt in her assessment of what worked for her: “A Fuck You attitude,” she said, in between bites of her strawberry and pecan salad.

Accommodating others

“If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.” – Mary Karr

Women accommodate. We work around and in between our partner’s bad moods, our coworkers’ inabilities, our children’s whims and wishes. Accommodating others is how we get shit done, every day. But this tool of productivity slowly becomes our undoing, as we never quite get around to accommodating our own needs. Often, when we do make the motions to accommodate ourselves, we can be meet with the uncomfortable reactions: You want to stop drinking with me? You want to leave me? You want to change?!

And the yearning to accommodate, a Force of Nature with its own gravitational pull, begins to tug on us again. You can make others happy and comfortable, this yearning says, just stuff your needs down. Stay small. Stay the same.

Over and over and over again we must resist that gravitational pull – with attitude. Punk Rock. Fuck You. Grit. Determination. Resolve. Call it what you want, but dig deep within yourself and find some. Bottle that magic up and keep it close.

Resist with attitude. And then rinse and repeat.

And for those of you out there who think you do not have a Punk Rock attitude in you, I say this: Fake it till you make it. That’s right. JUST PRETEND. Fool yourself into action. Fake the part. It may feel silted and unnatural, but if you do it long enough and it becomes the real thing.

And then you – and the world – will finally meet the rock star hiding inside you. I can’t wait.

The post The Second Thing You Need: Attitude appeared first on She Recovers.

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It’s Day Six of 2018. Is your resolve shaky? Are you rethinking your decision to change? To stay sober, stay sane, stay steady on your new course?

Are you starting to give into the voice that says: “Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I can stay the same.”

I get it. I hate change. Saming is my favorite.

Too bad for us.

Two truths

I have a girlfriend who is in the Navy. A few years ago she received orders to Afghanistan. She is a sailor without combat experience, so you might think that she started asking a lot of questions. What lies ahead for me? What should I expect in my new world? What kind of work will be asked of me?

But she did not. She did not want the perceptions of others who had gone before her to cloud her own experiences. She wanted a blank slate.

This is not my way.

In order to function in times of change, I gather as much information as possible. I read books and interview experts and make notes. These notes then become my tools to function in my new circumstance. In that spirit, here are two truths my recovery coach told me years ago that continue to help me in times of change:

  1. Change is a motherfucker.
  2. Everybody white knuckles it sometimes.
Why change is so hard

“Motion and shapeshifting are great nourishers of the soul.” – poet Coleman Barks

We have spent years creating an environment that sustained our old, younger desires. That environment is filled with tools and skills and relationships that once served us, but no longer do. It takes work to extract ourselves from that space and understand how best to proceed (or not) with people who want us to remain the same. Those people may love us – truly, they may. But we are going to test that love by changing. We are going to develop new tools and skills and relationships. Our souls demand it.

What does this “real work” look like? For me, this work is monitoring my constant internal dialogue. Separating the wheat from the chaff. Are my thoughts true? Or are they self-defeating, ridiculous, spinning thoughts? Did I say the right thing to my friend? Could I have done that work project better? Am I parenting my boys right? Each of these thoughts can open up into a rabbit hole of quiet self-destruction.

For a long time, I used cocktails to stop the spinning thoughts. This worked like a charm. Until it didn’t. Today, I have chosen to be present in my life and not numb out/disengage. This means instead of shutting my thoughts down, I have to work to sort them out. I place a distinct pause in the stream of my inner dialogue; I recognize the fear that is most often driving the thought; I trust that I really am doing the best I can do and that this effort is enough; and then I continue my forward momentum.

THAT IS WORK. And to keep up the work, we need desire – visualizations of the good things that lie ahead and a deep belief that we can attain them if we just keep moving. Keep placing one foot in front of the other.

White knuckles

“The secret to walking in the South Pole is to put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times. On a purely technical scale this is quite simple. The challenge lies in the desire.” – Arctic explorer Erling Kagge

Say these words aloud: “Life isn’t fair. Thank god.”

If life was fair, my life – and yours – might actually reflect the harsh realities of some of our poorest choices. Think about all the near misses, the sliding doors and holy shit moments that we survived by the skin of our teeth. I do not think we walked away from those moments entirely unscathed. Instead, I believe they brought us here – to this moment – where we can understand our true desires.

Desire is the fuel that propels us forward into a new landscape. We have resisted change with all of our strength (btw: this is also an answer to the question “Am I strong enough?”). We may have even lost a decade or two in the process.

But our experts, our teachers, have taught us that nothing is wasted.

We are wiser. We know ourselves and we recognize our own bullshit. Our desires are now comprised of a very short list of non-negotiables, the things we know we can no longer live without: Peace. Healthy relationships. Joy. Self-love. Clarity. Trust.

Feed the fire of your desires. Do not give into the voices of despair and doubt. Know that there is hard work ahead. Wrap your mind around the truth that change is a motherfucker. Let your knuckles get white, so your soul can get stronger.

Get up, travelers. Get up and keep going.

From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night. 

These are the words we dimly hear: 

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in. 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know by its seriousness.

 Give me your hand.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post The First Thing You Need: Desire appeared first on She Recovers.

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Keeping track of it all 

Last weekend I was at a Christmas party at the home of a couple who have two children with special needs. Lila, age 7, was born with only one hand. Christopher, age 5, has Down Syndrome.

The parents warmly greeted their guests. You could see exhaustion in their eyes, and yet here they were hosting a party with homemade soup and a bounce house. Their home was beautifully decorated for the holidays. Set off in one corner of the dining room was a ceramic manger scene, with a tiny shepherd’s arm and the head of a wise man carefully placed just on the perimeter.

We all know – in our own way – how hard it is to keep track of one tiny arm and an even-smaller head. And yet, this couple had done it. But not without a cost.

The father was stressed about work. The mother was even more stressed at home. A few days before the party, thinking she was having a heart attack, she had asked Lila to call 911. The paramedics said she was suffering a full-blown panic attack. “It was the holidays,” she said. “Trying to do Christmas has sent me over the edge.”

Sitting in traffic last night, I thought about this couple. I am a holiday procrastinator and I had spent hours in stores, trying to “do Christmas” in one fell swoop. Crowds and last-minute sales and holiday music and hundreds of dollars later, I was in my car exhausted and spent – literally and figuratively. I now had bags of new stuff and a growing certainty that it was not the right stuff.

I thought about the tiny arm and head and the couple who are trying to keep track of them. I thought of the many friends and family I have whose lives feel just-this-side of out of control. We all seem to have our collective breath held, waiting for the other shoe to drop. For many of us, the holidays can feel like that long-awaited shoe.

“We have to find a wiser way to live,” says Jack Kornfield, the Buddhist monk.

Tending our lines 

This pace we keep – not just at the holidays, but every day – is not sustainable. We are operating on the expectation that we can deliver joy and completeness to others, and in doing so we rob ourselves of those very things. As someone shared in a meeting recently, “We cannot give to others what we do not have to give.”

What I need in my life – what my family needs – is not going to be found under a Christmas tree or inside a gift box. And teaching my children to look in those places for anything of importance is the worst kind of lesson. A few months ago, I drew a very deep line between myself and a multi-generational legacy of family addiction. “It stops with me,” I said. “No more.” Since that day, I have done my best to constantly tend to that line, making it deeper and stronger, defending myself and my family against the Addiction of More in all of its incarnations.

I don’t know what your life looks like. I don’t know what tiny arms and heads you are trying to keep track of. But I do know that in order to do that, we must first tend to our lines – practice “radical self-care” – no matter what. Maybe that means we leave the New Year’s party early or we don’t go at all. Maybe it means we go for a walk alone or take a nap while visiting the in laws, despite how that is interpreted by others. Maybe we return all that stuff we got from Target and start cleaning out our closets. Or perhaps it means we finally surrender to hard truths about our drinking or our relationships. Whatever it is, you will know it for yourself. Trust your voice. Follow it through to the next right thing. And be the bringer of peace to you and yours.

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post Self-Care and the Holidays appeared first on She Recovers.

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Braving the Wilderness

In the history of me, there is before 2017 and after 2017.

With every passing day of this year, I have taken my words and intentions and used them as a weapon – first against other people and then, in a much better use of my energies, against my own demons and character flaws.

She Recovers is not a political space, thank god. But in the story of me, in 2017, politics seeped into my sheets, my coffees, my dog walks. It was simply everywhere. It was ruining my intimate relationships and I couldn’t get ahold of it.

Sound familiar? Remind you of anything else?

Becoming woke and becoming sober – they happened simultaneously for me. How to tease out one from the other? Why did I finally get off the couch and into recovery? Was it the headlines or the hangovers? Either way, in the early days of wokeness and soberness, I experienced a special kind of detox hell. It was a raw awareness that made for some spectacularly ungraceful moments. Did that friendship fall apart because we no longer shared time at the neighborhood brewery? Or did it fall apart because the last time we talked, we found ourselves screaming at each other about a topic that neither of us has first-hand experience of (and most likely never will) but somehow seemed of greater importance than our decades-old relationship?

I was getting sober to finally be more connected, so why was I losing my members of my tribe? What the hell was happening?

The company you keep

In our She Recovers community, where women are actively embracing vulnerability and letting go of shame, Brené Brown’s work in these areas serves almost as a foundational pillar. And because of that, her direction and instruction can feel singularly personal.

In her pervious book Rising Strong, Brené writes: “There’s nothing better than the warm embrace of belonging – that feeling you get when you’re a part of something you love or believe in.”

I am totally onboard with this. In both my family and my friendships, one of my defining tenets is: “It’s the company you keep.” As the mother of two adolescent boys, I am hyperaware of the power in the people and messages we surround ourselves with. In a world where cultural norms are shifting and so many of us no longer attend traditional church services, we find directions not from pulpits and bible studies, but from the friends, music, books, pundits and leaders we read and listen to. Whatever we put ourselves in front of, and allow to wash over us, comes to serve as life guidelines and instruction. The company we keep defines what we do and don’t experience in life – for good and for bad.

So what happens when the company you’ve kept for years becomes distant and begins to feel uncomfortable? Do you push those feelings away and get back in line? Or do you develop a “fuck you” attitude and try to convince yourself that you’re fine being a lone wolf?

“When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection,” Brené writes. “But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. The solution is getting totally clear on the people whose opinions actually matter.”

In Rising Strong, Brené suggests taking a one-by-one-inch square of paper and writing down the names of the people who really matter. “This is a sacred little space. … These should be the people who love you not despite your imperfections and vulnerabilities but because of them. … You should also include the people who are brave enough to say “I disagree” or “I think you’re wrong” and who will question you when they see you acting outside of your values.”

Fox holes

In her new book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené lays out 2017 in all its beauty and dysfunction. “I didn’t intend to write a book about belonging set against a backdrop of political and ideological chaos,” she says. “But that’s not my call to make. My job is to be true to the data.”

Brené writes that “our world is in a collective spiritual crisis. … The choices we’re making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid and lonely.”

Braving the Wilderness is about the consequences that come when we are true to ourselves – when the list of names dwindles and we find ourselves separated from our tribe and alone in the wilderness.

In the years leading up to 2017, the list of names on my little one-inch square were etched in stone. Those names were my go-tos for both big and little life decisions. But this year, as I found myself sobering up, speaking out and eventually helping to start an activist organization, the list grew smaller and smaller until there was only one name on it – my husband’s. As wonderful as my husband is, I know I need more than him. And I had lost my women friends, my sisters. I have rarely felt so alone.

The friend who I found myself fighting with – 15 years ago she saved my life. And she did not do this by lifting me up or offering me help. In the bleak days of postpartum depression and colicky babies and sleep deprivation, just when I was getting acquainted with my darkest parts, she joined me in the fox hole of motherhood. Together we braved that new and overwhelming landscape and we saved each other by sharing our struggles and vulnerabilities.

But somehow, over time, our fox hole became a dark box that was more about keeping us in, rather than keeping things out.

“We have to step out from behind the barricades of self-preservation,” Brené writes, “and brave the world.”

Sandpits and spirituality

When we lose our tribe and are adrift, it’s easy to panic and grasp on to untruthful narratives about ourselves and our situation. This is where we can find ourselves saying “No thank you” to sincere offers of help (lone wolf). Or we can find ourselves trying to fit into new crowds who have no true love for us at all.

As I navigated through these sandpits, I needed guides. In 2017, I had not one, but two therapists. And I had my books. I read so much this year that books started stacking up around my bed like a precariously drawn border, helping me define myself again. This was the company I kept. The authors were as varied as their stories. But over and over again the message was the same: Trust yourself. Love yourself. You are enough.

Brené defines true belonging in this way:

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

Many of the books I read emphasized the need for spiritual practice and meditation. One author described it as “simple in concept, complicated in practice.” She is overly optimistic.

Meditation. It is a shit show every time, but still I try. I breath and wait for the God voice. She is very patient, because she has to wait for all the other voices to tire themselves out. But eventually, if I stay with it and keep pushing away the little ones, she comes and smiles at me. And I try very hard to stay quiet and listen.

Here is what she has told me about 2017: There was always another name on my list. Call it what you will – God, Source, Universe, Higher Power, Erin – it is the one voice that never wavers, is steadfast in its tenderness and insists on forward momentum. It is the true connection we seek.

You could not find a woman who believes more deeply in the power of community than me. I am writing this blog – here in this space and with a sober mind – through the power of belonging and community I found through She Recovers. But 2017 has given me both a love of tribe and a healthy understanding of its limitations. It also gave me the exquisitely painful and beautiful lesson that when we let go of our tribe and allow ourselves to follow new paths, we make room for new people and places in our lives.

Yes, we are hardwired for connection and in our lives we need safe spaces – fox holes – to recover and rediscover ourselves. We need them when we are becoming woke to whatever our personal truth is, whether that is facing the reality of new motherhood, our need to quit drinking, or a desire to become more active in the world. But eventually, ideally, we will feel strong enough to venture away, back out again into our wilderness. Trusting that we are never really alone and good things await us.

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post The Power and Limitations of “Tribe” appeared first on She Recovers.

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The truth pattern of recovery: Clarity. Rock Bottom. Acceptance. Gratitude.

Lately I have developed a healthy fear of answers. Answers seem to have too much rigidity around them. Black and White. You’re Wrong, I’m Right. Answers tend to turn ugly, quickly. I much prefer truth patterns – overlapping similarities – in the stories of my friends and in the lessons I find in books, blogs and podcasts. Truth patterns allow me to make sense of my life and be more comfortable living in it, even though it is quickly becoming devoid of hard and fast answers.

As I listen to and read stories of women recovering from addiction, adultery, divorce, or trauma, I have noticed an overriding truth pattern to all of our stories. It goes like this: First we have a Moment of Clarity. Then we have our Rock Bottom Years. Then we enter the Acceptance Phase. And finally Gratitude finds us.

***

Moments of Clarity are often mistaken for a rock bottom. Moments of Clarity are dramatic bursts of hard truth. They are an epic hangover, a terrible fight, a hospital visit, a police car. It is that time when he called you a name. It is that night when you fell down the stairs. It was that day you got pulled over. It was that phone call when you learned he was cheating.

Yours are different than mine, but Moments of Clarity come to us all. And when they do, we turn and run like hell.

***

In the Rock Bottoms Years, we desperately shut out the Moments of Clarity. We convince ourselves that it is fine, or it didn’t happen, or it was/wasn’t our fault. Whatever we need to sell ourselves in order not to change, we buy it fast and we buy it furiously. Lock, stock and barrel.

If we are lucky, during these years we start to see a therapist, get a real best friend, read some smart books or pick up a creative outlet. We experience flashes of truth. A conversation turns in an unexpected way. A story we’ve read won’t leave us alone. We feel a softness inside of our hearts, an unyielding certainty, and we know that if we continue to ignore it we will be lost forever.

Who knows how long Rock Bottom lasts or why it ends?

As my friend Mary told me, as she was accepting that she needed to leave her husband, “I don’t know why this is happening now, because the truth is I was done three times ago.”

I get it. As women, we really like to run things to ground. We want to be able to say to ourselves: “I did everything I could.” We are compelled to turn over every single rock, try all possible solutions, before we allow ourselves to call time of death. And so often we believe it is better for our children if we stay in rock bottom – hands clenched, breath held, heart still – hoping it will get better.

In recovery rooms there is a saying: “It takes what it takes.” But we can’t let it take us.

***

Acceptance happens when sameness becomes too painful. When “I did everything I could” becomes part of a plan to change, rather than a plan to stay the same. When we are finally ready to bury notions of fairness and grand plans of control.

Acceptance looks like walking into your first meeting. It’s calling your parents and telling them what’s been going on in your marriage. It’s looking at your finances and seeing the price tag of lock, stock and barrel. It is sitting your husband down and saying: “I’ve been drunk the past 10 years. I need you to see me.”

I think acceptance is a place we stay for a very long time. It’s a spectrum and depending on the day or month or year, we can feel stronger here or less inclined to stay or even apathetic about it. We can go in and out of acceptance – back to rock bottom, another moment of clarity. But it is hard to stay away forever because there are people here that we learn to trust and like. We lean on them. They lean on us. We put our burdens down and sit with one another. Together, we learn to trust and like ourselves again.

At first there are tears. But eventually there is laughter. And that laughter – the laughter of shared truth mixed with the dizzying freedom of acceptance – is the most intoxicating cocktail I have ever experienced. It is potent treatment for all our wounds. And as the laughter starts to die down, silently and totally unexpectedly, Gratitude slips in, takes a seat next to us and becomes our new best friend.

Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post It Takes What It Takes appeared first on She Recovers.

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“Relationships change.”

My father-in-law’s new wife gifted me with this life truth a few months after she married into our family. I had just honestly and gently shared with her that my husband, her new son-in-law, and his brothers were feeling abandoned by their father since his marriage. This was a conversation I had thought quite a bit about before initiating and one that I hoped would bring about a so-far-unseen interest on her part to engage with us.

I have been thinking about this conversation quite a bit lately. With a few years of perspective, I can see now that I did not want to acknowledge that my father-in-law had outgrown his previous role in our lives. And that – right or wrong – his new wife was not open to taking on a greater role in the lives of others.

Both of us were insisting that nothing would change in our lives. And so we found ourselves staring at each other in awkward silence, nobody moving, growing or accommodating.

***

It is 100 days today. This stretch of sobriety, This Time, is different than Last Time.

Last time I told no one. I hid my sobriety like I had hidden my drinking. I was ashamed of it. Sobriety made me feel different and weak and changed. And I did not want to be changed. I wanted everything (but my drinking) to stay the same – especially my relationships. Not one of my friends or family really knew why I had quit. Not one. Last time I was proud of that – proud at how good I was at hiding things.

For 18 months I said to my family and to my friends: “No worries! There’s nothing to see here! Just making a teeny tiny adjustment that will not – in anyway – affect our relationships.”

I told myself I did not want to burden them. But really I was terrified that I might have to. It will not surprise you to learn that one day, for no particular reason, last time ended. And I was exactly the same, again.

***

This time I have to do things differently. I simply do not have it in me anymore to hide my struggle, my strength or my voice.

As I let myself change, I am seeing amazing new women come into my life. But I am also seeing long-time friendships shift. These are not drinking buddies. They are wickedly funny, smart women, and we have spent much of the past 15 years supporting and loving each other through babies, postpartum depression, marriage crises, parental illnesses and the everyday minutia that make up our lives.

I am trying not to panic. I know that my friends – my people – are also seeing their own relationships shift. The babies are driving away to school. Marriages and parents are better or gone. The everyday minutia of our lives does not overlap as easily as it once did. I know this intellectually, but I am hurt and feel alone and somedays wonder if I had just stayed the same, maybe I could have kept us all together.

***

The new wife told me it would be this way. She showed me what happens when we insist on nothing changing. She showed me that when we bring “honesty” as weaponized expectations into our relationships we set ourselves up for a life of disappointment. And she showed me that when we choose not to allow ourselves or others to grow into new roles, we ensure our lives are very small and limited.

Living in these extremes wreaks havoc on my heart and drives my need to disengage, numb and check out. The space between these extremes is where I can allow for – and even encourage – the legitimate needs and beautiful quirks of others. This space is hard to find and even harder to stay in. Despite this difficulty and despite the losses, I do not want to go back into what once felt like safer ground.

So I find myself tiptoeing through a new landscape, sharing my truth, controlling my breath, and learning to accept what happens next.

Erin W. is the managing editor and primary contributor for the She Recovers blog. She 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.

The post Relationships change when you do. It’s scary. And worthwhile. (I think.) appeared first on She Recovers.

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The post below, originally published at The Fix, was written by Rebecca Rush who attended a She Recovers retreat in Bali earlier this year. (This fantastic picture is a favorite from that trip!)

“I knew something needed to change in my life and originally signed up for the Bali retreat to take a break from weed,” Rebecca told me. “She Recovers has given me a tribe of women with who I can feel genuinely care about me. I feel loved, I feel part of something greater myself, in a real way, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. After a life of feeling misunderstood, Dawn and Taryn and the women I met – they really got me. Staying in touch with them post retreat is a huge part of my recovery. We can’t do it alone.” 

Legal Marijuana: Enough Dope to Hang Yourself With

When they handed me my medical marijuana license, I thought, “This is what my wedding was supposed to feel like.“ I smoked weed for 23 years – and planned to smoke it for at least 50 more, if not for legalization.

The first time I was getting admitted to rehab the technician handling my intake asked me what my drug of choice was.

“Everything.”

“If I laid out all the drugs on the table and you had to choose one, what one would you pick?” She tried again.

“I would distract you and then I would grab everything.”

I was too ashamed to admit that marijuana–little, ineffectual, not-a-drug marijuana–was my drug of choice. My favorite quality of any drug was how it intensified weed.

In fact, a large part of my motivation for quitting cocaine was that it made smoking pot not work. Cocaine: the dirty mistress that distracted me from my one true love. After all, my ring finger hadn’t been broken at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning because I wouldn’t let go of the last bag of marijuana.

A few cocaine relapses, a divorce, and a holy-shit-I’m-almost-30-and-live-with-my-insane-mother later, I began attending 12-step meetings and seeking out the people in the program who still smoked pot. They aren’t too hard to sniff out. Marijuana was definitely not a problem. It wasn’t what led me to pee my pants while I was getting booked for a DUI and then spend hours slamming my body against the door in the drunk tank.

I continued to lurch from crisis to crisis and began doing stand up comedy. I felt so uncomfortable around other comedians, but I felt that if I shared my weed, my presence was of value. And how else would I trap people into conversations about myself?

More than once a program friend pointed out the obvious – that my maintenance program didn’t actually work. I binge drank about every six months, most notably spending Christmas in the psych ward last year after attempting to fly to LA. on a significant amount of everything except sleep. It was no big deal, I maintained after I was released, I’m Jewish. I also took hallucinogens in the summer and various pills whenever offered. Once the door is open to drugs, it’s simply open. There is nobody at the door with a guest list that only has pot on it.

Weed felt like an integral part of my identity. I swore I never wanted to quit – but underneath that I was scared that I couldn’t. I procured Adderall prescriptions to balance out the tiredness and hunger, and then rushed from room to room in my apartment feeling productive and anxious and forgetting why.

However, this was all somewhat kept in check by the simple fact that there is only SO much traditional weed one can smoke, and that, even though I had no problem openly sparking bowls in Times Square (what a revolutionary!) or even a bar bathroom more than once (why!?) you really can’t do it everywhere. My maintenance periods were a lot less destructive than my drinking binges.

As medical and then recreational marijuana became a thing in the Wild West, new products began to trickle across the country and into the hands of dealers where I live now, NYC.

I was introduced to electronic pens full of concentrated oils and candies made with wax instead of traditional butter. I finally had an easy way to smuggle weed internationally! I left my new eyeglasses in a yoga studio in Costa Rica, which was fine; I thought I had left my drugs. Weed carries severe legal penalties in Thailand? Then it must be hard to find; better to bring my own to fill in the gaps.

Standup comedy soon brought me to LA. I went mostly to get my medical license so I would know that my mood alterers were prescribed by a doctor when I shared in meetings.

The appointment was over too soon. I was shown a list of problems to choose from, shuffled into another room to fill out some forms, and that was it. I was trying to explain how much weed helped me to the Doc who understands, but he cut me off and shooed me out of the room.

Soon I was standing in a dispensary that looked like a Sublime album cover had exploded, waiting for a ‘budtender.’

“How is this not a drug?” a voice inside me whispered.

I spent over $1,000 and marched out of the dispensary into a week of gulping THC laced lemonade while smoking pre-rolled blunts dipped in hash oil and smoking chunks of moon rocks – buds dipped in oil rolled in kief, while adding more hash on top. I put on sunglasses so I wouldn’t singe my eyelash extensions when the copious mix blew fireballs back at me like crack.

The next week I was in San Francisco–to do comedy but mostly to continue my dispensary tour–and they were pushing microdosing. It’s a way to get people who otherwise would wait until they were done with work to get high to consume product all day long. One by one, regulars stopped by after their day to sit on a long bench and vape from devices they could sign out from the front desk.

“It’s legal if there’s no combustion,” an employee explained.

“How is this different than bar culture?” I pondered as I signed my name.

I told myself that driving and smoking weed was safe, but I got lost in my Zipcar all over California, missing turns, swerving to hit a bowl, and spacing out at lights. It was stressful, but not as stressful as trying to get by with only edibles and the cannabis oil pen inside of Harry Potter World, where I had taken a program newcomer, the car stinking like the blunt I had ripped before I picked her up.

Through the fog it was becoming clear, but how could I quit now? I had just won a golden ticket to the chocolate factory.

I flew back to NYC, bags full of products: flower inside of socks, a dozen oil cartridges in my makeup bag that I swore looked like anti-aging serum along with containers of hash, kief, and wax that looked like loose eyeshadow. I cruised through security while a Hasidic woman’s breast milk got examined behind me, wearing my white girl privilege like an invisibility cloak.

I celebrated 60 days “sober” later that week with a bowl packed with all of the above mentioned things, and then went into a meeting directly after hitting a special creativity concentrate I had picked up in SF.

“Do you smell weed?” One guy asked.

The next week I found out my dealer was now selling wax. I bought the proper handheld device, and every time I hit it I pissed myself, failing to make the connection between pissing my pants and unmanageability. Instead, I altered my shower routine to accommodate it. I would shower, then before putting on underpants, sit down on the toilet, hit the wax, or ‘dab’, and piss in a more acceptable setting, unless my square roommates were home. I didn’t really need that pink IKEA desk chair anyway.

I had always smoked too much weed, and by too much I mean more than I wanted to or could afford. At the height of it I spent around $250/week while rotating two $20 hoodies to wear to comedy shows. For decades I made plans with myself to only smoke at night (except on weekends) but it would only last a few days until the list of “exceptions” would grow and grow until I got over trying to control it. Anytime anything I didn’t like happened I took to my bed with enough edibles to knock out just like I had with booze.

The insanity became too obvious to deny. I threw out the Adderall after trying a few days off of it and coming back with a vengeance to snort the entire three days worth in a single shot. Days after that I threw out all of my pot paraphernalia, only to dig through the trash for some of it 12 hours later.

Still, it wasn’t nearly enough, and so I drank, one final howl of pain that lasted for weeks.

Detoxing with pot one last time I whispered to the pipe, “this isn’t even working, this doesn’t even work.”

It was never going to be enough. But maybe I could be.

I went to a meeting, grabbed someone after, and for the first time, I dropped the story of “I smoke weed and it’s nonnegotiable,” and said, “I smoke weed and I know I need to quit.” Within 48 hours, with the help of two people, I put it down for good.

Suddenly I was present, and it wasn’t terrible. The insulation of weed protected me from certain things as a young adult, and I’m grateful to it for that. But those things aren’t happening anymore. Now truly sober, I was able to make connections in meetings, instead of sitting in the back wondering why I couldn’t.

There’s a whole world outside that cloud of smoke. And thanks to legalized marijuana and the many people who are making their fortunes figuring out ways to get people to use as much of it as possible, I finally flipped it all the way to the other side. I’m free.

In the end it turned out that my medical license was less like my wedding and more like my marriage actually was – just because the government says it’s okay doesn’t make it healthy. And against all odds, one day I found the strength to walk away.

This post originally was published at The Fix.

The post Finding a Whole World Outside of the Cloud of Smoke appeared first on She Recovers.

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You do not have to spend too much time in recovery before the Good Things come. Refugees from a foreign land, they arrive slowly. Just one tiny, quiet Good Thing at first. Then, because word gets out that you are accepting Good Things, others follow. Faster. Bigger.

Good Things are visible – new relationships, new jobs, new opportunities.

Good Things are invisible – established relationships reveal new rooms and spaces; our faith in ourselves returns; our thoughts and internal dialogue shift toward compassion and softness.

Still. It can get a little overwhelming. It can get to be a bit much. There is work to be done.

The Good Things are fragile. There is an intake process. First you must acknowledge them – that is meant for me. Then you must accept them – I am good enough. Finally, you must provide permanent lodging to them – I am allowing you total immersion into my life.

Good Things require an outtake process, too. They cannot co-exist with crippling self-doubt, humorless perfection or heartless judgement. Those things must now be exiled – a daily process that requires patience and rest and faith.

Good Things are a dangerous gamble. There is a reason we shied away from them before.

You ask yourself:

What if these new things require too much of me?

What if I require too much of them?

What if I fail at them – publicly, privately, shatter-my-heart fail. Again.

There is no doubt that it is easier to throw up the gates. Put up a wall. Keep out the Good Things. Who needs another gamble in life? Somedays, just lifting your head up off the pillow is enough of a risk. It is much better, we could say to ourselves, that we keep to what we know. Yes, it is shitty, but it is our shit. Safe, understood, comfortable.

But, no. Not anymore.

Patience, Rest, Faith. Good Things are worth the risk. They lead to Great Things.

“I used to hate myself,” a fellow recovery warrior recently told me. “Now I’m one of the greatest things I know.”

I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle to take in the Good Things? How important are Patience, Rest, Faith. in your recovery? What other tools are you using to embrace Good Things?

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.

The post Letting Good Things Happen appeared first on She Recovers.

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