This was originally published in the Echo Press
A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to New York City with some of my favorite women in the world.
But here’s the funny thing: This was the first time I had met most of them in person. Up until this point, our friendship had existed on the internet only, as we are all scattered around the globe.
Still, something we have in common — recovery — has brought us all together and is the reason 500 of us traveled to New York. The conference we attended, She Recovers, was the first event of its kind. Women in recovery from anything — alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, etc. — were encouraged to attend.
As I’ve mentioned in past columns, I am sober, and have been for four years. Embracing recovery is what brought me to this group via Facebook. Over the past four years, I have gotten to know these women. We’ve shared our triumphs and failures and joys and sadnesses. So when I heard about this conference and realized many of these women would be in attendance, I knew I had to go.
Upon arriving in NYC, I met up with my friend, Kelly, who shares the same sobriety date as me. We met online when we were both one year sober and became fast friends. I’ve visited Kelly in Florida in the past and attended her wedding this past February, so we already knew we got along in person, hence deciding to room together for the weekend.
I think we were both a little on edge about meeting so many “new” people at once. Not to mention that neither of us are crazy about constant socializing. We headed to the hotel where the conference was and split up, as Kelly was appearing on a panel.
So, left on my own, I began wandering around the vendors. I was worried that having only seen people online, I wouldn’t recognize them in person. But soon I saw a familiar face. I walked over and as we wrapped each other in a big hug, my worries melted away.
As Friday night passed, I met one friend after another. So many hugs were exchanged and the conversation came fluidly, easily. Any passerby would never have guessed most of us were meeting for the first time. Based on the level of comfort, it looked like a bunch of best friends coming together for a long-awaited reunion.
The conference featured some incredible speakers, such as author Glennon Doyle Melton and ABC news anchor Elizabeth Vargas (my stalking paid off and I was able to get a photo with her, fangirling only a little). The conversations that were sparked as a result of the speakers were emotional and thought-provoking. No topic was off limits.
I came away from that weekend with a few big takeaways:
• We are never, ever alone. There was something so powerful about being surrounded by 499 other women who had hit rock bottom and clawed their way out. Regardless of what each of us was in recovery from, we found common ground and connection.
• It’s OK to not be OK. So often we focus on appearing as if we have our life together and under control, but the reality is that barely any of us do. And truly, the most growth happens in the times of struggle and confusion. Embracing that chaos is difficult, but it pays off.
• Friendship isn’t about people you’ve known the longest. The truth is that I felt more comfortable around some of these women than I do around some people I’ve known forever. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that we have all been through hard things and understand what it entails to come out the other side. All I know is that I found a sense of peace and comfort with these women. They’re my people.
• Having faith of some sort is vital. Even when we feel that our life is at a good, comfortable point, there will surely be struggles in the future. And in these times, it’s so important to have something to put faith in. That faith can look different for everyone, and that’s perfectly OK. All that matters is that you have it.
The She Recovers event is a memory I’ll covet forever. I was nervous to attend it, but something told me I needed to. And that something was right. I’m already counting down the days until next year’s conference and when I get to hug my people again.