The primary principle of magic is connection.”
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess

What is recovery? How do we define recovery?

For me, it is connecting to my life force after dis-ease stripped it of me. It means reclaiming my rightful place and space as a woman in this species that works to erase all that which is not male. For my whole life, and for the first part of my recovery, I have been pulled between being the good girl and doing what I’m told…and being me.

I’ve spent my recovery examining—and deeply grieving—how I spent my first 25 years of life numbing and starving the woman in me. When I got sober, I did the things people suggested, the things people said were the best. I did treatment, and I joined the 12 Step world. I did what I was told. I was a good girl. It helped, it saved me.

Then, after two years, a new mental health diagnosis, and the first nightmares of resurfacing trauma, I started to feel much less at home in recovery life I’d built, certainly not the way other people seemed to. I was following all the directions; was it me? I reached out to professionals and—this is crucial—to women. Women who treasure their femininity, who honor pleasure, who value rest and refuse to do work that does not inspire them. I was really lucky to have a sponsor who totally supported me exploring these worlds, in fact she introduced us.

For two more years I felt pulled between two worlds again. I heard things like, It works if you work it. Which sounds a whole lot like American capitalism to me, but more importantly it made me feel terrible and shamed. I worked and crashed, worked and crashed. But because of the other things I was doing, I started to make connection with enormous wounds AND fierce creative talents inside me (hint: those two things are related) and I found safety and support for those things in my spaces and tools outside mainstream recovery.

I also started to get a lot more uncomfortable looks, from mainstream people in and out of recovery. The praise I received when I worked my program perfectly was replaced with fear and criticism. It was the same sort of reaction I used to get when I did things like go to Africa, or challenge the traditional disciplinary tactics in the school I taught in, or start using a Diva Cup. I’ll never forgot the looks I got when I shaved my head: terror from women, and disgust from men.

Except those were the times I felt the strongest, the most inspired, the most myself. I carried those lessons into recovery with me, and they, combined with my new experiences from my first four years, I’ve now defined what is possibly the most important concept in my recovery.

I don’t have to let other people’s definitions of anything control who I am. I get to define myself, and I get to define my recovery. Women have been robbed of freedom and choice, of our power and our very lives, and we—addicts or not—must recover all of that. Reclaim. Reconnect. Recover

We get to decide what we wear. We get to decide what we put in own homes. We get to decide what color makes us the happiest and which music we want to listen to the most. We get to decide which types of exercise feel the best in our bodies. We get to decide what work feels the most meaningful.

You get to decide which EVERYTHING feels the the most meaningful to you. Feels the best to you. Feels the most YOU to you. Connected to whatever you define as important to you. Talking about choosing clothes or home decor or music might sound trivial, but how much do people choose even those based trends or traditions, not the subtle yearnings of their own hearts? That, to me, is not how I define of freedom of choice. And I must follow my heart in all my choices, even if I stray from what is normal or suggested by the majority.

As I begin my fifth year of recovery, I am taking stock of what is working—what not only keeps me sober, but also keeps me progressing in my recovery. I’m editing out what makes me feel small and hopeless and redirecting my energy toward the things that truly drive me forward, and inward. I’ve learned the things that connect me to myself are the same things that keep me sober. And they are the SAME things that connect me beyond, to others, to the world, to my higher power, to the universe, to divinity.

I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all program for recovery. In fact, I believe it is oppressive to tell anyone there is. I argue that allowing people the freedom and power to choose what recovery tools work for them might be as important as the tools themselves. I also think this is especially important for women and non-male genders.

I have spent most of this post musing on just that, and have only a little room left to talk about what tools and programs I find most helpful in my own recovery. I plan to dig into them and how I integrate them—and smashing the recovery patriarchy—in later writing, but for now, these are a few of my favorite recovery things:

 

  • Talking with other humans
    • Most importantly people I trust and who deeply know me, but also ranging to the random passerby or still-suffering-anyone
    • Also includes meetings and gatherings: 12 step, recovery-related, the sacred recovery collective, other recovery groups, non-recovery-related communities such as women’s circles, and more
  • Magic practices
    • Including prayer, meditation, manifesting, exploring reclaiming and earth based spirituality, Tarot, and Oracle cards
  •  12 step programs
    • At the moment mostly the principles, literature, and a few tools such as meetings
  • The Desire Map
    • Using feelings and desires as guiding principles
  • Creative outlets
    • For me writing is the biggest, and currently my other favourites are drawing and decorating my house
  • Nurturing activities
    • Gardening, grocery shopping, cooking, emotionally supporting my loved ones, learning new things, listening to inspirational people
  • Natural medicines
    • Herbal supplements, crystals, incense, essential oils, breathing fresh air, feeling the sun on my face, dirt on my hands, the ocean at my feet

As a disclaimer, I am not saying these things are replacements for treatment, institutional or support-group-based. These are the practices that compose my current—with multiple years and treatments under my belt—recovery program and way of life. They are what have worked and still work for me. I have fallen in love with them all in unique and personal ways, and I reap the love I sow in each. They are essential to me. They are sacred to me. They are magic to me, because magic is connection, and so is recovery.

That’s how I define my recovery. How do you define yours?

Regan SpencerRegan is a writer, filmmaker, and person in long-term recovery who believes wholeheartedly in the healing powers of storytelling. She is dedicated to fostering connection and community, holding space for people to be exactly who they are, and teaching healthy ways to nourish oneself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Making life sacred, satisfying, and soulful is Regan’s mission, and some of her favourite ways to go about that are music, yoga, Tarot, hugs, and salt water (ocean and tears can help anything!) Read more about Regan at reganspencer.com