I sometimes feel like every second living breath I take (as in – half of my life) is devoted to telling anyone who will listen (or read, or view) that women can and do recover. Not just from addiction to drugs and alcohol but to a whole lot of other serious life challenges. We have this thing we say around here:
We are strong and courageous women and we do recover. We recover from drug addiction, alcoholism, codependency, workaholism, sex and love addiction, and eating disorders. We recover from depression and other mental illness, burnout, anxiety, stress, trauma, grief, abuse, self-harm, cancer and chronic illness. We recover from having our hearts broken, from losing our marriages, our homes, or our jobs.
All of the above is true. I offer my own life as evidence. I’ve battled and (nearly) overcome each and every thing on the list. I offer as evidence the lives of literally tens of dozens of my closest warrior women friends who have recovered. Heck, I offer my sister and daughter’s lives as evidence too (and my husband’s and brother-in-law’s as evidence that boys and men recover too). Above and beyond all of this personal in-real-life proof that recovery is a thing, we (my daughter Taryn and I) have created space for an online tribe (She Recovers on Facebook) that will probably – within the next day or so – click over to 250,000 members who identify in one way or another with recovery. The growth of our page is no accident. The message of hope that women do recover – from a whole lot of things in a whole lot of ways – resonates. We do. We really, really do recover.
I continue to receive reminders of horrifying reality that we don’t all make it.
This morning I woke up to a heart-smashing email from a woman who has been corresponding with me for the past eight months as she and her family celebrated the unfolding miracle of her beautiful young daughter`s recovery. The email to me is private but this one sentence from it replicates what I have read in other messages and emails that I have received via She Recovers over the past five years.
We got the most horrific and shocking news two days ago of my beloved daughter’s death. With her 8 month sobriety date being next week, she overdosed two nights ago.
This news of yet another young woman lost to addiction feels like the straw that has broken the proverbial fucking camel’s back. I haven’t met this mom or her daughter in person. But I know and love them both. This mom had purchased recovery Malas from us for herself, both of her daughters and her son. My heart breaks for the entire family. I enjoyed receiving this mom’s many emails and hearing the relief and the hope and the pride in her words when she talked about how well her youngest daughter was doing. She sent me pictures of the two of them together back in April. I loved knowing that her beloved baby girl was wearing Mala bracelets that I had made for her. I poured love and well wishes into each as I made them. I was looking forward to meeting both mom and daughter at a retreat one day in the future, something that this mom was contemplating – in part to celebrate how well her daughter was doing.
How many more girls and women have to die? How many more mamas have to bury their babies?
Women of all ages, from all socio-economic backgrounds, living all over the world, are overdosing or dying of other substance-related deaths. To be clear – I know that men are dying too, but my life’s focus happens to be on the women who are dying and the mothers and sisters and female friends who have to bury them. We read or hear about these ever-increasing and seemingly-multiplying deaths every bloody day. And every time we lose another, I utter a short prayer. It’s a simple, quiet utterance:
“God bless your sweet soul, [insert name].”
I’ve offered this prayer more times in recent years than I can remember. I’m not religious. I don’t know if such a small prayer even does any good. Maybe you can tell me. Regardless, acknowledging the loss of any woman to addiction feels important to me. I feel better whispering her name out loud. I hope she hears me.
Obviously a simple prayer is not enough.
This death has somehow tipped the scale for me, deepened my resolve to do more. Maybe it`s just the cumulative effect of so many deaths on my psyche. I ache for this young woman and for her family. I’ve been crying for hours. Maybe it’s because I am still haunted by the overdose death of a young woman in our own community just a few months ago. Her name was Bria. And she was incredibly special. Maybe it’s because I’m a mama whose daughter was once – ever so briefly but terrifyingly – caught in the grip of potentially deadly drug-related behaviour. Her name is Taryn, and she is alive and well and recovering today.
I don’t know why I’m feeling so shattered by this particular death, today.
All that I know is that it’s time to shift focus. Or maybe just to expand focus. Facebook pages and groups, blogs and websites, workshops and retreats and Malas and essential oils are great. But we need to do more. I need to do more. She Recovers needs to do more.
I don’t know what doing more means yet.
The idea of taking increased action in our own backyard has been on my heart for a long time. So much of what we do with She Recovers is “elsewhere-focused.” It’s incredibly cyber-focused. I’m proud of the work that we have done to plant the tender seeds of She Recovers locally. Taryn has been leading the way, teaching Yoga for Recovery (to men and women) for years. For a few years, we were able to provide retreat scholarships to our local retreats to women associated with a local non-profit organization called Umbrella Society for Addictions & Mental Health. Umbrella serves individuals and families in our area who struggle with mental health and addiction issues. This past spring, we hosted a She Recovers Gathering and Fundraiser to help create community and to raise money for a local organization called HerWayHome that provides non-judgmental support to pregnant or mothering women challenged by substance use issues. It was small and easy to organize, and it was magical.
So maybe taking more local action is what more will mean. It feels right.
But today is not the day to take action. Today, simply reflecting has taken five hours and all of my energy. It’s time to lay down my pen, my thoughts and my grief and do something to take gentle care of myself.
But before I go.
God bless your sweet soul, Rose. And bless your beautiful Mama’s soul too.
Love in recovery,