The Space We All Deserve – Sober Mommies
“There is strength in numbers.”
I’ve probably used that phrase a million times to explain the possibilities of WE. There is far more than just strength in numbers, I have learned, and although the exact number doesn’t matter much, 500 is pretty incredible.
Five hundred women, identifying with the word “recovery,” showed up at a fancy hotel in New York City on May 5th — unknowing. This was the first She Recovers conference of its kind, and there were so many variables. Some women arrived ready to give, others to take, and still more of us arrived unknowing.
The unknown has always been scary for me. I’m a self-admitted control freak, and some of the letting go aspects of recovery have been challenging. Trust has often times seemed a dirty word for me. Trauma will do that. It takes the beauty out of discovery, and makes you want to hide whatever’s left that’s good about you — so no one can take it away.
Trusting women in this process has meant having to step out of what has provided me a sense of self and safety my whole life. It has asked me to leave myself open in order to blossom and grow. That has not been easy, and I have never taken opportunities to show up for this terrifying journey for granted.
I showed up in New York City expecting one of those opportunities; having had, just a week before the conference, almost successfully talked myself out of going.
I am actively recovering from many things that have kept (and still keep) me from enjoying a great number of life experiences. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, even at bay, has a way of creeping into my thoughts and playing tricks. What if?s can and do drive a person insane, even if that person knows and lives in the truth. OCD and Logic are often no more than acquaintances, knowing only of each other. Even though they may run in the same circles, they do not always connect.
If you have never experienced OCD fueled Agoraphobia, you will not fully appreciate how incredible it felt for me to just be in New York City. This didn’t even actually occur to me until having dinner with women I had just met and telling them the story behind Sober Mommies. One of them said, “WOW! You have come so far both literally and figuratively!” It took me several moments to soak in all the things and realize she was right.
There had been so many hurtles to jump, just getting to the conference, that would have kept me away during that period in my life. Ten and then thirteen years sober, struggling and not knowing how to climb out. It was other women understanding and accepting those parts of me — even when I couldn’t — that laid the groundwork for the bridge to freedom.
It has always been that way.
So, sitting in a room with hundreds of women during yoga Saturday morning was a blessing. As Taryn Strong told us all to imagine we were blowing up a balloon with every deep exhale, with intentions of letting go of “that thing,” we all had, many of us began to cry. We were reminded that crying is a beautiful thing and encouraged to continue as we sent the balloon off into the space we felt – even for a very brief moment – we all deserved.
We all deserve that space; the space to be who we are and make peace with who we’ve been. The space to make mistakes and learn about who we no longer wish to be — what no longer serves us. It’s okay to demand that space and encourage other women to fight for theirs. It’s okay to forget sometimes that we need it, and it’s okay for us to remind each other. That’s what I took from this amazing weekend.
It was an incredible conference, and I could go on for days about all the great speakers, what a rock star I think Dawn Nickel, or all the strong and beautiful women I got to meet in person. I could supply you with inspiring quotes or tell you how many more pictures I wish I had taken. I wish I could easily take everything I experienced and wrap it into one coherent story that would even come close to encapsulating my experience. But sadly, I cannot.
I have been to many conferences, but never one like this. I did not leave NYC with a sense of wonder or glossy-eyed about how lucky I should feel because recovery is so wonderful all the time. I did not leave with a bucket of new friends I may or may not keep in contact with.
On Sunday evening, I boarded a plane back to Boston with much more than I brought to NYC. I left with the knowledge that no matter where I am in or on my journey, I am a brilliant and beautiful masterpiece — even if it’s messy. We all are. I left with the keen awareness of the power of WE tattooed on my heart, and the understanding that we are all one beautifully messed up, interdependent spirit with limitless possibilities and endless strength.
I was reminded of the freedom involved in letting go and allowing the spirit of all to guide my heart in love. I was reminded that I mustn’t do any of this perfectly in order to experience the miracles of recovery, and that living honestly will always be enough.
The She Recovers conference was, for me, about the importance of living in truth. Truth is not always going to be easy, and the good news is, none of us need live it alone. No matter who or where we are or what our struggle, we are all on this journey together. We’re all battling our own demons, living the best we know how; each of us trying to feel more worthy of and comfortable in the space we all deserve.
Julie Maida has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000. She is fiercely determined to advocate for and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.