When I got sober I felt like everything was a transformative experience. Swimming in the pool, watching flowers bloom in the summer rain, spending time with my loved ones, running outside, my first wedding sober, my first sober travel experience, my first sober everything. It all felt new and raw and real, and pretty amazing.
But then life happened and I grew up. I got sober when I was 27, I had no bills or a mortgage and I didn’t care much about what my career was because as long as I was making money doing something I liked, that was enough for me. Life happened, aka I experienced trauma, went to therapy, and got in-depth with the trauma talk, left AA, and set out about making my recovery my own just when I needed it most.
It hasn’t been easy, over the last two years I have been broken open, exposed, and frankly, I’ve felt like a newbie on this recovery journey, recovering from the deep shit like trauma and sexual assault. Unfortunately, it’s not like eliminating harmful substances from your life - not that that’s easy - but it’s different. Trauma is something you carry with you. It’s something ingrained in your brain and on your heart.
All of this is to say, it’s been a rough ride and I’m dealing with shit I never anticipated, but apparently that’s how recovery goes! Last Christmas my mom asked me what I wanted as a gift and I said I want to go to a She Recovers Retreat. I’d been wanting to go to one since I got sober and found their Facebook page and found out they hosted retreats just down the road from where I was living in Cancun at that time. It just wasn’t in the cards for me in past years, but this year was my year to finally get a retreat experience. She Recovers offers retreats in Riviera Maya, Mexico and on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. When I was deciding which one to pick, I picked the farm on Salt Spring Island because I lived in Riviera Maya area of Mexico for 5 years and I currently live in a tropical climate that is hell in the summer, so going north and getting a farm experience sounded delightful to me. Plus I had heard great things about Stowel Lake Farm and the photos looked amazing.
Besides the fact that there would be yoga, relaxing, and sharing circles, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had no idea that the farm would break me open, steal a piece of my soul, and put me back together, but that’s basically what happened. Traveling to Salt Spring Island at the end of July felt like a dream. Just getting there was incredible, I hopped 3 different planes and then a ferry to a gulf island in the Pacific Northwest, a part of the Earth I’ve never been to before, and very far from my home in Florida. I saw gorgeous snow-capped mountains, breathed in the sweet, cool air, and took in the lush greenery around me. When I got off the ferry, Mama Dawn picked me up and we rode down some winding dirt roads to Stowel Lake Farm. When we went through the gates I instantly knew I was somewhere special.
I got a quick tour of the farm, all the different buildings and areas where people can stay, and made my way to my home for the retreat - a small room inside the yoga building that I would be sharing with a roommate I hadn’t met yet. My first adventure was to the local goat cheese farm, walking distance from Stowel Lake Farm. You can see the goats grazing, the small factory operation they have to create the goat milk and goat milk products, and they sell delicious jams, jellies, and even goat milk gelato! It was heaven. I ate all the jellies, goat cheese, and gelato.
Meeting all the other women on the first night of the retreat was nerve racking. Thirty-plus women, most of whom I didn’t know, gathering together all looking for different components of recovery. We shared who we are and what brought us to the retreat. There were some tears and some hugs. A lot of the women connected right away and became friendly with each other, while carrying on conversations felt like a chore to me. Dawn and Taryn (founders of She Recovers) set the tone of the retreat by asking us to set an intention and telling us that the retreat was for us - meaning if we needed to sleep, we should sleep, or if we need to connect and make new friends, we should do that - if we need to lay in the grass and cry, we should do that, if we want to skip yoga class and nap, do it, or if we want to go to yoga and just lay on our mat and absorb the energy of the room, we should do that. I really appreciated this framework for the retreat.
The retreat included two yoga sessions a day led by Taryn Strong and three fresh farm-to-table meals a day made with love by farm Chef Haidee Hart and her all-women farm team. The meals were just as heavenly and delicious as they sound. One of my favorite parts of being there was taking in the scenery of the land. Waking up to the chilly morning air, drinking fresh coffee on my swing overlooking the farm crops, laying on the couches in the barn common room, and walking the several different secret garden areas located throughout the property.
The part of the retreat that affected me the most was the yoga. They said it was trauma-informed, but I didn’t know or appreciate what that actually meant until I experienced it. Taryn has a unique skill of holding space for us, fostering an environment where it’s not only possible to reconnect your spirit with your physical body, it is inevitable. Day 1, session 1 - I cried my eyes out, and the emotions continued for the length of my retreat. The music that Taryn curated hit me down in my bones. The movements opened me. Her voice and her readings shifted something inside.
In the end, these healing yoga sessions changed me. This retreat changed me. I went to Salt Spring Island with an incredibly heavy heart, a reluctance to be seen because of what I’ve been through and what I’m healing from. I was harboring shame, grief, and low self-esteem, and what I found there was relief, reconnection, and peace. I was told the land on Stowel Lake Farm is holy, with its own deep rich history and healing properties built into the soil. The magic I felt when arriving made sense because that’s exactly the experience I had. And when it came time to leave, I felt sad that I had to leave this incredible place behind.
Luckily She Recovers give tips on “reentry” after leaving a retreat and I was able to sign up for She Recovers Yoga, and get those incredible healing sessions in my home on demand. I bought all the books Taryn read from on our retreat and I leaned more into facilitating and growing my own She Recovers Sharing Circle here in Cape Coral, because I understand how powerful this connection can be.
My retreat on the farm was a retreat back to self. A reconnection and recalibration. A reopening of my heart and a washing out of my wounds. The land, the structures of the farm, and my yoga mat held my tears, comforted me, and helped put me back together. I cannot express how grateful I am for the farm, and for She Recovers for hosting this experience for me.
We all deserve to recover and heal from all of life’s hardships. May you find the way to heal that works for you.
“For each of us as women, there is a deep place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises. Within these deep places, each one holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.” --Audre Lorde