SHE RECOVERS: Women Recovering Together
International Women’s Day is about to command the media’s attention on March 8, and the co-founder of the largest women’s recovery foundation in the world is asked for her thoughts on the big day.
“Well, every day is women’s day here, right?” says Dawn Nickel with a shrug and a smile.
Judging by the more than 325,000 female followers on her online platforms, she’s right. It is safe to say Nickel knows a thing or two about her gender. She knows an awful lot about the world of recovery, too.
Nickel is the driving force behind SHE RECOVERS, a global community of women committed to the search for tools and pathways necessary to overcome, or at least live at peace with, a myriad of physical and mental behavioral issues. Recovery from substance use problems come to mind first, of course. But her recovery tent also includes eating issues, love and sex addictions, work addictions, gambling, and countless others. If you’re a woman, SHE RECOVERS likely has a path for you to follow.
The SHE RECOVERS organization intentionally operates on a set of beliefs that everyone is in recovery from something, there are many pathways to recovery and, most importantly, women don’t have to recover alone. It is all about connection, a concept which most people in recovery, especially women, seem to crave as a solution to their struggles.
“I am an evidence-based researcher and I’m always really interested in what works,” says Nickel, who has a BA in Women’s Studies, a Master in Women’s History and a PhD in Health Care Policy. She also has over 30 years in recovery herself, a foundation built on countless 12 Step meetings and step work with her sponsors, sponsees and other women looking to grow their recoveries.
SHE RECOVERS is definitely a labour of love.
It all began in 2011 in Victoria, B.C. as Recovering Dawn, a personal blog where Nickel shared her personal findings regarding her own struggles with work addiction while on a much-needed break from her three jobs. When the time came to go back to her one of her careers, at the urging of her daughter and fellow cofounder, Taryn Strong, who is also in recovery, they created a Facebook page as a way of lessening the load and pressure of blog writing.
It was an astute move.
On Facebook, SHE RECOVERS hit a nerve in recovery communities. Thumbs ups and engagements quickly grew from tens to hundreds to thousands, springboarding into an international movement. Today, SHE RECOVERS is a highly respected non-profit foundation, one with over 130 facilitators and coaches in over a dozen countries, supporting women through online programs, seminars, community gatherings/meetings, recovery coaching, trauma-informed yoga and dance.
It all seems pretty simple when you talk to Nickel about it.
“By having conversations with other people who are on the same journey as we are, we will hear a lot of things that work that we may want to try, that we think will work for us, and we will hear a lot of things that we’ll know that that won’t work for [us], and that’s okay,” she says.
“One of the important messages that we have at SHE RECOVERS is that we have to be supported to find and follow individualized pathways and patchworks of recovery. I think how we develop that patchwork is by not doing it alone.”
The sherecovers.org website explains it succinctly.
“This lifeline organization connects women through its virtual platforms and in-person community networks, provides resources and supports women to develop their own holistic recovery patchworks, and empowers them to thrive and share their successes. All efforts are designed to end the stigma and shame often associated with recovery so that more women may heal and grow.”
The many pathways idea to recovery is obvious in the wide palate of services SHE RECOVERS offers, most of it free of charge.
Daily online Zoom meetings, called Gatherings, are facilitated by trained SHE RECOVERS coaches. These Gatherings offer real-time support to women not just with substance use issues, but also with disordered eating issues, mood and anxiety disorders, and sex and/or love addiction. An average of 100 women attend the twice-daily calls to share, support and teach one another how to recover. The organization is also starting to roll out meetings for specialty populations. Currently, there are weekly meetings for black, indigenous and women of colour, and for healthcare and allied professionals, with additional online gatherings being planned for women over 50, women veterans and first responders, women with high-needs children, the LGBTQIA+ community, legal professionals and more.
Mental Health Mondays offer hour-long, recovery-focused educational sessions with leaders in women’s wellness, mental health and addiction recovery.
“Inclusive, collaborative dialogues focused on topics crucial to women’s healing are necessary if we want to continue moving forward in recovery—together,” the SHE RECOVERS website states.
Through its Critical Conversation series of free online sessions, YouTube and podcast offerings, SHE RECOVERS provides information and hope to hundreds of thousands of women in, or seeking, recovery. Clinicians, treatment professionals, academics and policy makers are encouraged to join in talks on such varied topics as body shaming, grief, diet culture, understanding intergenerational trauma, and process addictions.
The resource-rich, online nature of SHE RECOVERS’ programming is critical during the pandemic. Once restrictions around the world are lifted, groups of women will again gather in small community centres or halls, retreats, and posh conference centres for the large SHE RECOVERS events, previously held in Los Angeles and New York City and, next up, Miami in 2022.
From sharing circles to book clubs, workshops to outdoor get-togethers and volunteer fundraising opportunities, there is something for everyone at SHE RECOVERS. A long list of well-known recovery leaders, such as Hazelden, Betty Ford and dozens of others, are throwing their sponsorship and support behind the movement and its events.
Add Aurora Recovery Centre to SHE RECOVERS’ list of fans.
“Over my three decades in the business, I have sat around many a clinical table discussing resources for patients transitioning out of residential treatment and searching for resources to assist with ongoing recovery management. There have always plenty of resources for men, but it’s always been tough to find resources for women,” says Aurora President, Steve Low. “SHE RECOVERS is an answer to that.”
SHE RECOVERS information is now readily available to ARC members.
“The fact that we can introduce women new on the journey to such a large, global group of women in recovery, whatever that may mean to someone, is absolutely amazing and a game changer,” says Low. “They are an amazing organization with some incredible women involved.”
One of those incredible women is Dawn Nickel.
The success of SHE RECOVERS is not lost on her.
“Every once in a while, I’ve had a few moments where I go, ‘Wow, this is really cool. My daughter and I started this!’ So, of course, I’m very proud of her. Proud of myself. Proud of the women that have co-created this movement with us – it has been a total co-creation.”
The connection of SHE RECOVERS is a clearly a bright spot for women in the challenging times in which we live.
By Jeff Vircoe