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In a Year: What Began As a Support Circle for Women Will Now Become an Official SHE RECOVERS Together Toronto Meet-Up

This time last year, Shedoesthecity hosted our Recovering Out Loud panel on a cold and rainy Friday night in the Knix headquarters. It was part of a series of events in honour of our ten-year anniversary, and certainly the one that meant the most to me. 

In partnership with SHE RECOVERS, an international community for women in or seeking recovery that is 270,000+ members strong, we invited self-identifying women to join us and listen to recovery stories from five mentors; author Jowita Bydlowska (Drunk Mom), author Ann Dowsett Johnston (Drink), activist + founder of Feeding Canada, Nanook Fareal, journalist Olivia Pennelle, and SHE RECOVERS co-founder Taryn Strong. Following the panel, women were invited to hang back for a sharing circle.

Despite the continuous thump of a basketball from an art installation one floor up (which nearly caused me a panic attack), it was a magical evening. We huddled together, most of us sporting toques and draped in scarves, sipped Pluck Tea and Reunion Island Coffee, ate gigantic chocolate chip cookies from the Drake Hotel, and shared openly and honestly with one another. 

At the end of the night, I passed around a clipboard, and those in the room who wanted to stay in touch and possibly continue meeting up added their name and contact details. This began the beginning of something truly special.

For a year now, a collective of women have been meeting monthly, in the gorgeous MuseMovement, located in Artscape Youngplace, generously provided by founder Keri O’Meara, to connect, share, lie on the ground and meditate, cry, laugh, and just be—without pretense. It’s a space open to any self-identifying woman, and no one is required to qualify why they are there, or identify with any particular struggle.

Some of us have had difficulties with alcohol, some with eating disorders, others with PTSD…the list goes on. But we all know that by coming together, we feel less alone, and we are able to support one another through life—the ups and downs, the difficult chapters, the transitions, the everyday struggles.

It has been a year of experimentation, of figuring out organically what our group is all about. Aside from one small, elusive post on Instagram, we’ve kept things pretty quiet, growing only through word of mouth. I suppose what we were doing felt slightly rebellious—a form of recovery that challenged the status quo and made us wonder, Where is this going? What are we building?

After much thought, we are excited to announce that moving forward, this group will be officially transforming into a SHE RECOVERS Together Toronto Meet-Up, and during the next few months, I will be working to complete a professional recovery coach certification so that I can feel more confident and equipped as a facilitator. 

This week, I celebrated eight years of sobriety. My recovery toolbox—the resources, professionals, creative outlets, and everything that I have used to help me maintain strong footing and sound mind—has looked different at various stages of my journey. The SHE RECOVERS movement has been instrumental and life-changing ever since I was introduced in the fall of 2016, when I was invited to join the blogger panel at SHE RECOVERS NYC. This powerful sisterhood has been invaluable since that time. It is a support network that I lean into every time I am feeling anxious or unstable, while also being a space to celebrate wins. 

To be clear, SHE RECOVERS is not positioned as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous, as many women within the community are proud 12-steppers and depend on AA or NA as part of their toolbox; it is an offering that one can include within their patchwork of recovery, a journey that I believe is a personal one, made up of whatever you require as an individual to feel empowered and strong.

I’m incredibly excited about the next phase of this journey. You are welcome to join us to see what we’re building, but as we have limited space, email jenmcneely@shedoesthecity.com to reserve a spot (please include “SHE RECOVERS TORONTO” in subject line). I’m grateful to SHE RECOVERS founders Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong for creating a positive space for women in recovery, and for entrusting me to help grow what they’ve built on the ground here in Toronto.

Here are the SHE RECOVERS guiding principles if you’re curious to know more. Our next meet-up is November 16 at MuseMovement, and our final one for 2018 will be December 7. Both kick off at 7:00 p.m., and there is no cost. 

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