She Recovers LA at The Beverly Hilton. How do I even write about this? Where do I even start? I’m tired. I just want to go to bed. In driving home the two-hours home from another epic and amazing 3 day weekend of love, light, courage, inspiration, recovery and togetherness, I wanted to bottle up those feelings and keep them in my heart for as long as possible. I came home and felt I needed to write this now while I’m still juiced up. Tomorrow life will go back to normal; Corporate day job. Walking my dog three times a day. Making dinner from a Meal Kit. Going to my Monday night Women’s meeting. Yes, my regular life, which I’m quite grateful for. This post won’t be long and it won’t be an award winning ditty, but it’ll give you a glimpse of the weekend, Nancy style.
Nothing can match a She Recovers weekend. The weekend that filled my soul with such love and grace and gave me such adoration for everyone and everything around me. I went with one of my bestie’s that I got sober with back in 2004. Terri, she was my wingman. Even though I knew some of my blogger writer friends would be in attendance as well, having Terri by my side grounded me. The sober ladies that I love and treasure who have been my light and support for the past few years via the amazing online recovery network. They teach me how to be a better person and how to walk through the pain of recovering out loud. I honor them. Lara Frazier, Olivia Pennelle, Laura Silverman, Beth Leipholtz, Pamela Devenport, Tammi Salas, Sondra Primeaux, Veronica Valli, Kristi Coulter, Natalie Fairbrook and I can’t forget the woman, whom I just adore, and who rocked it Saturday evening at the red carpet Gala, Amy Dresner. (More on her in a little bit.) Thank you all for being there this weekend. You held my hand and made me feel loved.
So, I won’t get into the traffic and how long it took me to drive to LA from Carlsbad, almost 4 hours. Nor will I complain that it took me almost an hour to get to the retreat event from Brentwood (where I was staying), because my Uber driver and I were talking too much and his GPS stopped working so we drove 25 minutes past the Hotel. Nor will I complain about the FOMO I experienced over the weekend – because I wanted to do it all and participate in every session and meet everyone, but it wasn’t humanly possible. What was possible was that I showed up and was a part of the healing movement that She Recovers is today.
Friday night, opening remarks from Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong, the co-founders of She Recovers. We would be nowhere without these two thankless and amazing women who have led the way and started the road of recovery for so many other women that have been able to come forward about their addictions. A heartfelt thank you to Dawn, Taryn and their team for putting on an event that I will never forget.
The highlight for the night was the Speaker Cheryl Strayed, famed Memoirist of “Wild”. She didn’t disappoint in sharing her story, insights and what she’s learned throughout her life. Hearing her made me want to go rent the movie, “Wild”, and watch it again.
Saturday morning found me listening to the famed meditation teacher, Sarah Blondin, who’s guided meditation had me, and many others, in silent tears of gratitude for honoring who we are. Then the effervescent Laurie Dhue took the stage and although I’ve seen Laurie before, she was on fire and was energized and real. She shared her funny and tragic story of being an alcoholic and cocaine addict while working on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News as anchors for years until she surrendered to her addiction and got clean and sober. I’m now following her on every social media outlet I can. She’s pretty effing awesome! Then the afternoon offered a delicious lunch offered in the Oasis Courtyard of the gorgeous Beverly Hilton, along with a panel of esteemed speakers sharing what their recovery stories were.
After lunch, while getting ready for the conversation with Janet Mock, I noticed all these gorgeous Hollywood types walking around. Some looked familiar from TV, and were glamorous and beautiful I just knew they were someone I should know. But since I don’t watch all the 36 cable and live streaming networks out there, I wasn’t in the know. But I knew enough that something was happening. The Emmy’s are on tonight and the Hotel hosted a couple of industry red carpet parties. My friend Terri and I started wandering around the hotel with Beth, who joined us in the star gawking. I felt guilty leaving the conference for a little bit, but the stalker in me had to find someone that I could scream and woo over. After a while and not seeing anyone over the age of 35 with a major 3 network, I returned back to the conference and heard Janet Mock share her honest struggle about growing up Trans and what that looked like for someone who didn’t see a lot of hope in her future. Her story was remarkable.
After leaving the ballroom, I found myself back in the lobby of the hotel talking with some other attendees. I was still looking around in hopes of seeing someone that I would recognize from TV. Seconds later sauntering towards us with a glow literally surrounding him, Justin Hartley, a/k/a The Manny from This is Us is coming towards us. Not even caring about what anyone thought of me, or wondering if I was making a fool of myself, I reacted. With no time to even think. My 12-year old self-starting jumping up and down and saying “Yes, Yes – Oh my God, Oh my God – it’s the Manny!” Looking back now, I’m a tad mortified. I’m 51 years old – who acts like that for a TV star? Needless to say, he was as gracious as he is gorgeous and took a group photo and selfie with each of us. It was the highlight of my day. So far.
A few hours later, the Gala commenced. Everyone was dressed like they were attending the Golden Globes. There was a red carpet rolled out with professional photographers and smart lighting. I felt like a star. We all did. And the thing is, we are! We are all women in recovery who earned our right to feel like a Celebrity. It was fucking badass is what it what it was. Yay Us!
The night honored Betty Ford, a true pioneer in the recovery of alcoholism. The first public figure, the First Lady of President, Gerald Ford no less, who’s public battle and story helped lead the way for millions of other women to come forward and get help for their addiction. She built a legacy that still forges on today. Her daughter, Susan Ford Bales accepted the award on her behalf. It was humbling. However, the marquee evening event was Amy Dresner. Amy who wrote her award-winning Memoir, “My Fair Junkie”, and who was a former stand up comic, brought the house down – to our knees with laughter. She was raw, real, and fed us humor for our dessert. With a standing ovation at her finish, she shared with us her true to life experience with severe drug and sex addiction. A true recovery warrior and the real celebrity highlight of my day!
Sunday morning came and I was so sad to know it would be the end of the event in a few hours. I knew I was going to miss the tail end of it as I wanted to get a jump on traffic and go home to my husband and doggie. I really missed them. I was excited that Mackenzie Phillips was going to speak to us as I’d read her book, “High on Arrival”. A very tortured story of her life and how she grew up with drug addiction, sexual abuse, and mental anguish. She made the sun shine that morning and was the ray of light that kept me wanting more from her. Her openness about her life, her struggles, and her recovery really kept me bolted to my seat. I found her so human and relatable; like I’d known her for years. She talked about her morning and how she was berating herself for eating Twizzlers and Pringles the night before and how she woke up feeling old and fat and that she had nothing to offer anyone. She talked about the negative BS we tell ourselves and how she manages that day to day and that its part of our addiction, the crazy lies our head tells us. She made me feel like I truly wasn’t alone, and reminded me that I am loved, valued and honored. We just can’t listen to our negative thoughts. She talked about her 12 step recovery and how she has a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of her spiritual condition. She spoke about how important our “text” is. Which for those of us folks in AA know is the Big Book. I appreciated that so much and to hear that she is part of the program made me feel proud to be a member of the anonymous group I got sober in 14.5 years ago. Mackenzie made me laugh, cry and remember what it’s like to be in that dismal place of shame, self-hatred and addiction. She made me realize how fortunate we are that we can get and stay sober and that every day is truly a gift. We hear that a lot in the rooms, but today it felt different. It felt clear and holy and earned. She made me feel good about being a woman in recovery and reminded me that I am a miracle, along with the other 499 women that I hung out with this weekend in Los Angeles, the city of Angels.