I don’t feel quite recovered from a full weekend with women in recovery yet, but I’m writing anyway. Last weekend 500 women descended on New York City for one common cause: to unite in love and recovery. I had been waiting in anticipation for this event for a year and I even got to celebrate my 4-year sober anniversary while I was there. I’m happy to report and proud to say that it went above and beyond my expectations.
If you’ve somehow missed all my other posts about She Recovers NYC, here is a quick rundown of what it was. She Recovers NYC was a 3-day conference event with women from all over the world who are in recovery from something. Acclaimed speakers included Marianne Williamson, Glennon Doyle Melton, Gabby Bernstein, Elizabeth Vargas, Nikki Myers, Elena Brower, and Ann Dowsett Johnson attended. There were breakout workshops and a sober blogger team that did a meet and greet and a few live streams (I was lucky enough to be a part of that!)
I started off my She Recovers experience by reporting for the sober bloggers meet and greet event which was in its own room off to the side of the big ballroom inside the Conrad Hotel. I was only there a few moments saying hi to my wonderful blogger ladies, a few who I’ve never met in real life, Sober Julie and Sasha! I got to hug and chat with my mentor Veronica Valli. Then shit got real, fast. The room filled up with women anxious to meet us! I was sweating and I was nervous, but thoroughly enjoyed every second of this. It was wonderful to see the wide range of my followers who showed up. Some knew of “The Sober Señorita,” but didn’t know it was me until I said it. Others only knew me from my infamous viral article One Year Without Alcohol. Others told me they’ve read every article I’ve written. Many congratulated me on my recent wedding. A few hadn’t heard of me at all! And I was happy to tell them about my blog and give them a card. It was overwhelmingly awesome.
The best part of the weekend came on Friday night when all the water I was drinking caught up with me and I had to run out of the meet and greet to the bathroom. I didn’t want to miss much of the meet and greet so I left my belongings there and sprinted off to the bathroom. When I reached the lobby I saw them, Abby Wambach and Glennon. Two of my biggest heroes. My heart jumped into my throat. This is my only chance, I thought. I didn’t have my phone or purse. I grabbed my friend Dawn and asked her if she would take a photo for me, she happily and quickly obliged. I ran over to them. I introduced myself to them both and asked if I could take a photo, but they were walking somewhere. Dara Meyer, one of the event producers said, “not right now,” as she ushered them to the ballroom where Glennon would be speaking. I think Glennon saw the panic on my face because she told me to walk with them. We started walking and in another few seconds she said, “let’s take the picture now, it’s ok.” As we posed for the photo I tried to start formulating sentences and all I could say was, “sorry I can barely talk!” I’m sure they must have thought there was something wrong with me, haha. I said, “I’ve played soccer my whole life,” staring at Abby. She replied, “me too!” and chuckled. I said, “I’ve read both of your books and I love them. I love your work. Thank you for all you do!” And the moment was soon over. What many people don’t know is I had been planning this moment in my mind for months. I have so many things to say to Abby, how her book, her soccer career, her fight for women’s rights have changed who I am. And Glennon’s words, her openness about sobriety, and her work for social justice has also changed me. My nerves got the best of me because I couldn’t believe I had been dreaming about this moment for months and it actually happened – while I was going to the bathroom and no one was around. My friends say I manifested it. My husband said, “finally!” I ran to tell the other bloggers and whoever was around and I cried. The universe is spectacular.
Glennon went on to speak on Friday night and her lasting words were about “a free woman is a woman who is no longer afraid of pain.” We spend our whole lives avoiding the pain, running from it, numbing it. But pain = growth. Us women in recovery, we ARE the canaries in the coal mine.
After running on little sleep Friday and being emotionally hungover from meeting so many wonderful people including Abby and Glennon, Saturday I started fresh. I ran a little bit late Saturday morning and missed Elena Brower’s spoken word which I was bummed about, but I got there in time to see Nikki Myers, founder of Yoga for 12 step recovery, speak about co-dependency, the disease of looking elsewhere. I loved how Nikki explained that recovery must address all 5 bodies and that 12 step doesn’t address the physical body, only the mental and spiritual. That’s where yoga comes in. She also believes co-dependency is the root of all addiction. We need to be interdependent beings, not co-dependent. To heal from co-dependency, Nikki says we need a healthy sense of self-esteem and a healthy sense of boundaries. I agree.
Later in the day, I saw Elizabeth Vargas, reporter, and anchor of 20/20. She talked about anxiety and alcoholism being linked in women and how alcohol initially works for curbing anxiety, but in the end, it always makes it worse. My favorite thing Elizabeth said was “learning how to sit through the discomfort of meditation is a lesson for anxiety.” This is so true for me. I’ve really been working on my meditation practice lately and really sitting in the discomfort. I truly believe it helps my anxiety and stress levels.
The breakout sessions I attended were Writing for Recovery with Ann Dowsett Johnson and Coach or Be Coached with Dr. Jean LaCour. My favorite piece of advice from Ann was “write with your whole heart,” and I appreciated her insight into book writing as that’s what I’m doing right now. Dr. Jean spoke about being a coach, another one of my goals, and her words solidified my desire. She talked about making a greater contribution and explained how coaching is a trustworthy partnership. I love how she said, coaching is “making people aware of the context of their lives.”
Last up on Saturday night following a wonderful plated dinner was Gabby Bernstein. I have to be honest, I haven’t read any of Gabby’s books and I had contempt prior to investigation about her. I had assumed she was too religious and woo for me and never did much beyond following her on social media. I had never heard her speak before. I was blown away by her talk. She was powerful, articulate, and direct. She filled me up with hope and a few of her answers brought me to tears. I liked that she talked mostly about her own recovery, growth in recovery, and new rock bottoms that she hit even while 10 years sober. We are always growing. Best of all, she called us all her sober sisters.
The last day of She Recovers came way too quick! I woke up early and joined Elena Brower and Taryn Strong for a yoga session called Provoke Your Potential. The yoga movements were on the difficult side for me, but when I couldn’t do one I would just go back to child’s pose or sit crossed legged. Elena’s words were like poetry. I didn’t want the shavasana to end!
Following coffee and breakfast we entered the ballroom for our last speaker, a woman who I was extremely excited to hear talk in person, Marianne Williamson. I watch Marianne’s live streams every Tuesday night. She has provided me with great comfort and motivation following the 2016 election. True to form, Marianne’s truth and words blew me away. Everything she mentioned had the theme of using our pain to help others. She specifically addressed the collective pain of all women and how together we can heal the world. My favorite line she said was “once you know, you can’t not know.” Once we wake up as women in recovery, we are compelled to act and share what we learn with the world. She also said, “once we suffer and wake up, we have x-ray vision into the suffering of other people.” "Addiction and recovery was our Armageddon." At the end when Marianne took questions, Veronia Valli spoke about her son who has lead poisoning and as we wept with Veronica, we all bowed in prayer as Marianne wished for the healing of Luke. It was moving and powerful.
Besides the amazing speakers, I got to embrace, laugh with, and exchange love with many of my fellow recovery bloggers and other women in recovery who I’ve only known online. The power of the internet is amazing and I am so grateful for it.
She Recovers NYC filled me with hope, pride, and excitement for the future. Women who are in recovery, open about their pain and their beauty, and willing to share this message, willing to fight the stereotypes and the stigma, will change the future. We are the future and the future has begun.