How Social Media Can Build Real Community

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 84

Episode #84 | January 16, 2019

Featured Guest: Dawn Nickel

In spite of its superficial reputation, does social media have untapped potential for helping people build real connection, both online and off?

We’ll discuss this with founder of the world's largest online community for women in recovery, She Recovers, Dawn Nickel on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Podcast Transcript

Interviewer: Let’s start by having you to introduce us to your personal story and how you got started in this world of recovery. I know that might be a lot.

Dawn: I know. It’s a long story and of course, for anybody in recovery, we know that it takes many dips and kind of turns. What’s the Coles Notes version? I’m a woman in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. I’ve been traveling this journey for 31 years since 1987, when I first went to treatment on the West Coast in British Columbia, Canada.

I’ve been clean and sober for all but a couple of days of the last 29 years. I got out of treatment, I smoked a lot of pot for a couple years then I got clean. Then almost 11 years into my recovery my mom passed away and I decided to take about a day and a half away from recovery and started self-medicating with some drugs that she had left behind.
When I go to a 12-step meeting where the number of days you have is counted very carefully, then I would say that I have 18 years clean but I actually do consider that I’ve been traveling this journey for 31 years. It’s not very often a straight road from, “Now I use drugs and now I don’t.”

My husband did stop using drugs 31 years ago and never did again but he’s definitely in the minority as most of us are recovering now.

Interviewer: It’s a different journey for everyone and that’s okay. How did you get into making that more of your vocation, your mission professionally?

Dawn: It was totally by accident. In recovery, a couple of years and then I decided I needed to go back to university. I had started a degree when I was in my addiction and had only done one year, so I went back and I completed a degree in women’s studies. Then one in women’s history and then a PhD in health care policy.

I wasn’t actually focusing specifically on mental health and addiction although that’s been career since then, that’s actually what I have become. I’m a specialist and I do policy research, practice research, and support as a consultant in the areas of mental health and addictions and intimate partner violence. That’s in my professional life when I’m working. The interesting thing for me was that as a result of going to school for 13 years, I actually became quite addicted to being busy and to just really ramping up and feeling every nook and cranny of every minute of every day.

Interviewer: It’s filling that void in your life, yes.

Dawn: Yes. That kind of busyness and, and workaholism which doesn’t always have to relate to work. It could be school, it can be anything. Really took over my life. I finished my PhD in 2005, at the exact same moment that I contracted colon cancer. I have an interesting story about when I defended my PhD dissertation. It was in the Dean of medicines boardroom in the University of Alberta Hospital because I’d just had colon cancer surgery a week before.

Interviewer: Wait. I’m trying to picture this. You were in the hospital?

Dawn: I went into the hospital, I was ready to defend my dissertation and about two weeks before I started getting quite sick and nobody knew what was wrong with me. Finally, a week before I ended up in surgery within an hour of my death because I had a tumor that perforated my colon. I became septic and nearly died.

My defense was set for a week hence and I was, again under the influence of the drugs that I needed for the extreme pain when they take your colon out. I just insisted that we go ahead with the defense plans. Anybody who’s done any graduate work, it had taken so many months to line up the members in my committee who had to fly in from places like Duke University and so on.

I just went ahead and said like, “I’m going to do this anyway.” Played around with the medication that I had to take in order to be able to sit up and actually do this dissertation in the boardroom. I was hooked up to machines. We had a couple of days of just playing around with how much is too much painkiller and at what point am I actually really lucid.

Interviewer: You don’t know. You don’t go off the ramp there. You don’t know what kind of stuff you’re on.

Dawn: It was insane. In retrospect, I never would have suggested we go ahead if I wasn’t under the influence. Nonetheless, go ahead we did and it went very well. I know that one of the people on my committee said at the end of it, he said, “Obviously, Dawn, you have the sympathy factor coming in here.”

Interviewer: Yes. “I’m here in my hospital bed and will you listen to me?”


Dawn: Literally. I know, yes. My husband wheeled in. Yes, it was insane but I got it done. That was in Alberta, Canada. I am Canadian, and I moved to the beautiful West Coast Victoria, British Columbia. My husband had actually moved everything there a couple of weeks before so I had to heal and then move out to where we were starting a new life. When I went out there, rather than that slowing me down, I had to do chemotherapy for a year. I was teaching at the University of Victoria. I started consulting and within a few months, I was actually headhunted into a government position to lead a large research team.

Interviewer: Wow.

Dawn: My addiction to school– I do mean addiction. I was extremely addicted to being an excellent and perfectionist student. All that transferred to my three careers. From 2005 until 2011, I just really moved towards on wellness. I was so addicted to work.

Interviewer: In your consultant work, what kind of companies or organizations were you working with?

Dawn: Primarily, a lot of nonprofits and also mostly government. When I was in government, I wasn’t doing the consulting work for government, I would do it for the nonprofits because they couldn’t be in government and also have them as my client but I started doing a lot of work around early intervention and curriculum being developed for healthcare workers and social workers.

Primarily the biggest project that I worked on for the most years was called Safe Relationships, Safe Children. It was about helping service providers to identify parents who were experiencing mental health addiction or intimate partner violence issues. It was just creating all sorts of materials and collateral for them.

Nonetheless so from 2005 to 2011, I just started to lose my mind slowly and ended up in 2011 at the bottom. I hit a really, really hard bottom with workaholism. I compare it to the bottoms that I had with substances and it was just as bad. I was blacking out from stress.

Interviewer: Really?

Dawn: Absolutely. I’d lose full days.

Interviewer: I don’t hear that compared to somehow and you obviously know very well what the first-hand experience is there.

Dawn: Absolutely. It was a body experience. It was an embodied experience of addiction. I would have blackouts and serious panic attacks, just always on edge, kind of hyper-attentive and hyper-vigilant. I would either lose weight or gain weight, depending on what I was doing and I just got really sick.

My relationship started to suffer. My husband, he just talks about that period of time and is like, “I just stopped talking to her because she never listened or answered me anyway but we still got along.” We do get on quite well. My daughters who had moved to the West Coast because they thought their mother might die of cancer were starting to say things like, “Why did we move here. You don’t spend any time with us.”

There were some real indicators but it wasn’t until I started to really feel physically the effects of what was going on in my life. What happened for me was, I started breaking down in executive meetings with my superiors. Like, literally burst into tears at an executive meeting twice in one week.

My boss at the time took me aside and just said, “There’s something going on here, I’m not quite sure what it is. I really just only looked at you funny. Not sure that, that really necessitated a total breakdown.” I went to my doctor,. started to describe to her what was going on for me and she wrote. She said I needed some time off.

I said I would take a couple of days. She said, no, that I would need more time and I said, “I’ll start with a couple of days.” She wrote me a note for health insurance purposes that said that I had generalized anxiety disorder. I basically said to her, ” That’ll work. That’s an interesting way of putting it. Sure”

Interviewer: Sounds vague enough, yes.

Dawn: She said, “No. Actually, that’s what is going on here. You do have GAD.” I didn’t really even know that I had been an anxious person my entire life until that time when I started really looking back and went into therapy and did a whole history of my life and realized that I had probably begun to use drugs the way I did and when I did to deal with anxiety.

That was a really interesting moment for me. That was in February of 2011. I stayed off work for four months and I began to blog. This is a long story to get to why She Recovers existed.

Interviewer: Yes. No, it’s good.

Dawn: I started a blog called a Recovering Dawn and in that blog, I was really talking about recovering from workaholism, from the grief of losing my mother from cancer. I was talking about recovering from all of the things except substance use disorder. That seemed to be far back enough that it wasn’t really pertinent.

Although I was in recovery at the time. I was attending recovery meetings. It wasn’t something that I felt I wanted to be public about. I wasn’t. I don’t remember the exact timing, I could look back at the blog. I should do that because I always come to this point when I’m being interviewed and I should just look up when Charlie Sheen lost his mind.
It occurred to me that I knew what Charlie Sheen was on about and I remember writing a blog post saying, “I know what’s going on with Charlie because that went on for me too. That I had been a person who was extremely addicted to drugs that changed my entire personality and started blogging openly about being a woman in recovery also from substance use disorder. It was pretty amazing. The blog got even more popular and I started getting followers and I just really felt this connection in cyberspace with women. The message was simply that we’re all recovering from something and the process is the same regardless and it’s the truth for men as well. My husband’s also in recovery.

We either admit we have a problem or we want to do something about it. Are there indicators and we’re diagnosed or whatever it is, and then we make the decision whether we’re going to pursue wellness or not and then we get to figure out what that looks like and we do that. It was an interesting conversation.

I was really enjoying writing the blog but it took me many hours a day to write a blog post. Anybody who writes blog post knows, anybody who writes anything knows it takes time. When I went back to work after four months as a recovering workaholic, I knew that I couldn’t work eight hours a day which was what I had decided I would try and do.

Even seven and a half, I think it was. I had staff members all around me making sure that I took my lunch, took my breaks, went home at 4:30. I knew that I couldn’t go home and then spend the evening writing a blog post as that would probably just not work very well for my wellness. My daughter at the time also a young woman in recovery suggested that I just switch over to Facebook and create a Facebook fan page.

I did have a Facebook account, but I wasn’t using it a lot of the time. I don’t know why. I guess I was too busy being addicted to other things. We did start a Facebook page at that time and instead of calling it Recovering Dawn, I called it She Recovers. She started helping me with it fairly early.

Interviewer: Your daughter?

Dawn: My daughter Taryn Strong, yes. Now we had a Facebook page, this was in June 2011. I’m back at work, things are going remarkably well. I’m balanced. I’d given up my teaching. I wasn’t doing any consulting, I was just doing my government day job and because of the downturn in the economy by November, there were a great many changes made where I was working.

They dissolved my research unit and laid myself and all of my staff off. They gave me a lovely severance package for a year, said that I could return to government after that severance was done in a year if I wanted to. I actually took that year and I went away and decided I wanted to do something more meaningful, something more purposeful.

I knew it had something to do with She Recovers, but I didn’t know how to make a living off of a Facebook page. I still don’t, but I did decide that I would take a recovery coach training program. I took professional recovery coaching and my daughter who’s a trauma-informed yoga instructor. I decided along with a friend of ours who had just moved to the Mayan Riviera that we would try out yoga and recovery retreat, to offer one.

We did that in November 2012.

Interviewer: Was that linked to She Recovers at that time?

Dawn: It was. It was the very first She Recovers yoga and recovery retreat. What is it now? Are we in October? In July, we completed our 23rd Yoga and Recovery Retreat. We’ve done them in Bali. We do four a year in Mexico. We do three a year on the West Coast on a beautiful island called Salt Spring Island.

We’ve done one in California and we did three retreats in Bali last year. Now we actually are partnering with them. The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts. It’s the largest yoga recovery center in the world and we’re doing She Recovers at Kripalu retreats there now.

Interviewer: Wow.

Dawn: Retreats became a big thing over the years. Now we were a Facebook page and a retreat program. We didn’t ever have to pay to go to any of these beautiful things but it was certainly not a way to make a living and so we started branching out a little bit and trying some other things as well.

Three and half years ago, we decided we wanted to do something bigger than just a 20 or 30 women retreat. We planned an event called She Recovers in NYC and we held a weekend event last May 2017 for 500 women in recovery. It was three days of workshops and speakers and special guests and yoga. It was just really bringing together of the women who had already forged bonds with each other in our online community. Our Facebook page now today has over 273,000 people on it.

There were just women who had met at the retreats or online who just wanted to come together in a larger group. It was pretty fantastic. It was very successful and we had such a great time. Two weeks ago this past weekend we did She Recovers in LA and we did that at the Beverly Hilton.

We had another 500 women.Those are some things that we’re doing now. One of the reasons that I’m in Florida, maybe I don’t want to say this on a podcast. We may be looking at doing She Recovers in someplace in Florida. That’s going on.

Interviewer: To back up a little bit, once you started branching out with She Recovers and focusing on that more, how did you come up with what the mission was going to be like? How do you describe to someone what She Recovers is, what its mission is?

Dawn: At this point, we say that we’re an international movement of women seeking recovery from substance use disorders, other behavioral health issues, trauma loss, and there’s a long extensive list. I never give the same list twice, it seems. We create opportunities online and in person for women to connect, support and empower one another.

That’s our broad-based mission. Regardless of whether we’re just connecting online, or if we’re meeting together. We started some informal meetup groups. We have a number of cities where people are organizing just small get-togethers. They go for hikes, or for walks, or go for coffee. That’s our mission.

We have 10 guiding intentions and guiding principles. We’re led by this philosophy more than anything else and so anything we ever consider doing has to run through the test of, does it fit in with this framework of our philosophy? It’s very organic. She Recovers has always evolved very organically so we still don’t know what we want to be when we grow up, necessarily.

What I do know for sure is that everything that has come about, all the opportunities, all the gatherings, we also have a coach designation program where we offer a coach designation to people who are already trained as life coaches, and recovery coaches. Everything that we’ve done has been a co-creation with the women who are members of our community.

We don’t really have an organization, it’s my daughter, Taryn and I and we have to event producers who work with us. One of them does a lot more than just event producing. She’s also an operations person, she’s helping us set up an infrastructure for our business. We just started a foundation so we have people involved with that.
It’s very new. We’re just applying for a 501(c)(3). We’re still making up what we’re going to do but all we know is we just keep offering more and more opportunities for women to connect and support and empower each other. That’s all we really need and it’s very much a shared ownership of the movement.

Taryn and I are seen as the founders and the leaders of the movement but when we started talking about having these conferences, the women who are sharing on their own platforms were saying, ” Look what we’re doing. This is what we’re up to.” It’s pretty cool. It’s a remarkable community.

We see ourselves as an umbrella over a lot of the already really stellar work that’s going on out there in the area of women’s recovery. We’ve always supported each and every, I think, pretty well sober blogger out there, and all of the podcasts. I think our growth is really a testament to the fact that we see ourselves as an umbrella over all this already substantially beautiful work that’s going on.

Interviewer: Yes. Looking at your base, the women who you are dealing with, what are some of the specific barriers that you see women facing particularly related to mental health and accessing health and resources?

Dawn: That would just take you right into my presentation tomorrow, now wouldn’t it or at least social media has a response to that. Stigma is always the biggest. It’s just always the biggest. I think that one of the wonderful things about online recovery and social media, in particular, is that it offers women an opportunity to come in, they can do it anonymously, they can have a different name and different profile.

It’s a place where they can just test the waters, they can lurk. You can participate in, whether it’s a secret Facebook group because now we have a secret Facebook group too called She Recovers together and there’s 1,500 women in that group. You can join that group or be invited to it. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to ever write anything you can just watch. You can reach out privately to other people you meet in that group.

I think that just in terms of addressing this stigma issue, it’s not threatening. You don’t have to disclose anything, it’s all at your own time. I think that that certainly works really well. The other thing is, it’s an opportunity for you to witness women living lives that are incredibly beautiful. Nobody’s perfect, obviously. Stigma is one of the barriers. I think despair is another and so we get to counteract that with hope. When you go in there and if you see people posting about– and not just our events, but, “Wow. I woke up today, and I don’t have any regrets and I’m taking this child of mine to the park. I haven’t taken my child to the park for a year.” Those types of things.
Interviewer: Giving a glimpse of what life could be like, yes.

Dawn: Totally. As I always say that we all know what addiction looks like in our communities, in our families, in our own lives, but we don’t know as much about what recovery looks like. I see She Recovers as really being an opportunity to show women what recovery looks like. Obviously, there are barriers that would have to be addressed around accessibility, whether that’s because people don’t have the money to seek treatment or to go on a retreat or attend a workshop. We formed our foundation so that we can make sure that our offerings, in particular, are more accessible to women who may not otherwise be able to attend.

We had a scholarship program for She Recovers in LA. We had 40 of the 500 and something women who attended were on scholarship and we made sure those scholarships went to women who were historically under-served communities. We feel really good about that.

What are the other barriers? Denial is a big barrier right. I just think that it’s great to, as an online platform, we’re also starting our podcast in the new year, just to be able to provide information about what addiction is or what various behavior health challenges look like so that people can access that information. You can’t heal what you don’t know needs healing.

Interviewer: You can go on webMD and say, “Hey I’m having this such and such with my stomach, what might that be?” It’s hard to know, “Hey is what I’m feeling in my brain normal.” Because that’s how we experience the world, that’s all we know. Now She Recovers has turned into really the largest online platform for supporting women in recovery specifically, could you tell us a little bit about how you went about developing those resources, deciding what to offer and growing that community?

Dawn: No, everything has just been an organic evolution of what women have told us they want. Literary it was the blog, they liked the blog okay. Then the Facebook page they liked the Facebook page. Started talking about retreats and then women would come on and say like, “I can’t go this year but I want to go next year,” so I guess we’ll have another one next year.

As women attended the retreats– we have about a 50% return rate on each and every retreat, so we’ve had to go from like one retreat a year to like next year we have 11 because the demand is exponential because everybody wants to come back, which in the first few years, when we didn’t have the capacity to double or triple the number of retreats, it just meant that more and more women weren’t able to access our retreats. Even now they sell out a year in advance.

Once we were having these retreats, people, again, in our community on Facebook were saying like, “I can never.” Of course, they can they think they can’t ever but they can. They say, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to go to Mexico or to Bali or to even the west coast of British Columbia, but if you did a one-day thing somewhere, I could probably figure it out.” We started to do one-day workshops and we call them our yoga and connection workshops. It would be one day long Terin would lead a yoga class. I would talk about She Recovers. We would have some other speaker from the community come in and talk about something related to recovery in one life area or another and we’d have a lovely lunch. We’d seek from the community’s scholarship opportunities and support sponsorships.

We’ve done I think five of those one-day workshops and then when we leave them it’s like we strike up a community in that community.

Interviewer: Then they can keep going.

Dawn: We do a one-day workshop and then that keeps going. They’ve kept going in the form of meetups primarily so, again, that was just a direct result of women saying that’s what we wanted and then the coaching people. I was a recovery coach and I wasn’t working a lot as a recovery coach but I started promoting the idea of recovery coaching because I think it’s a really helpful modality for women. Women were like wow I would like to become a She Recovers coach and I was like, “What’s that?”

Interviewer: Not a drug yet but-

Dawn: I didn’t think of that and then I was actually speaking with Dr. Jane Licot from the international association of professional recovery coaches, which is here in Florida. She trains women and men to be recovery coaches and life coaches. I just happened to say, well one day maybe we would do She Recovers designation on top of your existing training and like within a few months that’s what we were doing. Again, very organic and then a few years ago, before it as like we wanted something smaller like a workshop and then people started saying, “We want to get together with all of these other great people that we’ve met and we need something bigger,” and it started out like joking around like we should start a commune and we could all live there and who would do what. Some other friends of mine and I had talked about, I was also involved at a grassroots level in my hometown of Victoria British Columbia, we started the first our city and Vancouver, sister city across the water from us, started the first recovery day back also in 2012. The first year that we did the June retreat and because I was part of that founder in that organization, we had been talking about doing something larger that was specific for women at around the same time that our community started saying that they wanted something larger. That’s when we started working on She Recovers in New York City.

Interviewer: Wow and it seems like you’re just responding to the demand. There’s just a huge need that’s untapped out there.

Dawn: I think it’s absolutely consumer driven. Like right now our focus is on the 501(c)(3) because we really do see, like in terms of accessibility I want women just to be able to connect and go for a walk. I don’t want them to have to pay for anything the other thing that came up my daughter Terin, she’s pretty magnificent, she can also be a real asshole obviously let’s be fair. She would say the same about me.

Interviewer: You’re her mother, you can say that.

Dawn: Yes I know people always say because we spent so much time traveling and together, “it must be so wonderful,” and we just look at each other and go like yes like 80% of the time it’s really great. She’s just a wonderful yoga teacher. She’s like a little guru in my eyes and so she now has like an online yoga membership. Women are signing up, it’s not even expensive. It’s like $20 a month and she does live classes and then they have like zoom meetings after the class where they’re actually able to connect with each other. It’s like being in a live class with each other. Again, completely because for many years women were they would leave the retreats to the workshops and say, “I want to be able to take your yoga wherever I am.” I think as long as we just continue, this is whether you’re a business or you’re a passion project, listen to your consumers, listen to your community. They know what they want and follow that and that’s really what we’ve been doing.

Interviewer: Social media is a big part of what you do, but it’s really become like such a massive beast and like it gets a bad rep in a lot of other ways. It could anything from just being a waste of time to being like bullying and all that kind of stuff. What do you say to people to explain how social media can still be a force of good in the world.

Dawn: I actually don’t have to do too much convincing. I can anecdotally tell people about that, but my presentation tomorrow, there’s a literature base. I mean there’s an evidence base that says this is the fact. We also one of the activities that we’re going to be focusing on with our 501(c)(3) as research. We’re working with the University of Pennsylvania, a group of people in the prominent center of medicine there, the addictions treatment.I’m sorry addiction center. I don’t remember the exact name of it. They’ve developed a cross-sectional survey to survey our community and find out more about what is this, why is social media so effective or why is this community She Recovers important or how do you recover or how important are these online communities? There’s this existing evidence phase already that says, I would say there’s three main ways that and I’ll focus mostly on women because that’s what I know use social media and that is for information. Again, they can just follow or lurk or do follow blogs and get information about that way. They do it as a way of actually then engaging and asking for information and just participating in it the way that is enhancing to their recovery. Thirdly, after they’ve done that for a while they often then take leadership roles. Now they are the women in the group or on the page who are providing support the passing and paying it forward and passing it on.

Interviewer: That builds yourself up then you really become invested indefinitely.

Dawn: Totally and it’s just the studies now that I’m really interested in are looking at investigating social media as one component of building social capital. Sorry building recovery capital. It’s pretty remarkable. The studies show what they show and I’ll be going over more of that tomorrow in my presentation, but from my position as a researcher you know with the PhD looking at healthcare policy, I have very very purposefully really observed and built and negotiated these last seven years without diving into the literature because I din’t want to understand it on that level. I wanted to experience it. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to see what it was. It’s fun for me now to be working with researchers and helping them just so they-

Interviewer: Because you have their background.

Dawn: -and looking now you know I did a literature review. I was so surprised there’s as much literature as there is around it. It talks about things like, I don’t even know what Reddit is R-E-D-D-I-T. We got to get ourselves some of that Reddit. It sounds like people are doing a lot of stuff on Reddit. It talks about the forums as being outdated or not. There’s an argument whether forums are outdated. Certainly, Facebook pages and Facebook groups, in particular, are being studied very closely and like again I just see it and I see on our Facebook page. I understand. We don’t have bullying. What we do is we really set the pace we set the tone. We do it where we try to be so inclusive and kind and we just don’t have a lot of trouble. We don’t have people freaking out on our Facebook page. What I will say in this last little while is, because we do have to be responsible for that space that we hold. We have to hold it safely as– we have to make sure that we’re sharing resources around trauma, sexual assault, especially this last little while, right? We’re aware that members of our community are hurting. There’s that responsibility towards it too. Again, like our community members say, they’ll come on there and say,” I’m feeling triggered by what’s going on in the world. What can I do?”

Then other people jump in and say, “Well, here’s what I’m doing. Turn off the television. Go to a yoga class, have a smoothie, just.” It’s all peer support. It’s like this great big huge digital peer support network. We love it and we have such loyal to each other our community. They just love each other. It’s incredible. The energy and in LA just a couple of weeks ago was, I don’t think it’s measurable. I don’t think you can measure what’s going on in the world. I don’t just mean for She Recovers.
There is a number of other wonderful communities out there that are focused on women and recovery. Many of them are smaller and so they come into our bigger events. There’s just that. There’s a lot of really great things going on out there. Great podcasts, here’s one of them obviously.

Interviewer: Well, yes. Thank you. It sounds like it’s just really good taking on a life of its own. Which I’m sure is awesome for you just to see this little idea that you had, didn’t know what it was going to be, didn’t know where it was going to go. Then to see it being meaningful for people.

Dawn: Yes, for sure. It took over my life. I had to make a decision about two years ago to stop saying yes to contracts. To work that paid. Excuse me. Just to see how this thing was going to go along. It’s taken over our lives in the very best possible way. We still have to figure out how to monetize and make a living at it. We’ve got some ideas. We’re working on some things. We are scraping by but it does feel meaningful.

The individuals, we know it’s meaningful. We hear the stories, we see them. I’ve seen women who got started hanging out on the Facebook page and maybe have never even been to a retreat or workshop or a conference, but they’re still on the Facebook page. They’re still clean or they’re still in recovery from whatever they’re recovering from. They share their story with other women who are new and it’s cool.

Interviewer: Yes, what do you see as the next step for both She Recovers and then the use of social media in recovery support in general?

Dawn: Yes, well, I think for us, I think we have a pretty good template. I think in terms of Right like a wide range of online and offline opportunities for women to connect, support and empower one another. I think it’s doing more of what we’re doing. The next phase is really just about making it all more accessible to more women hence the foundation. I think is going to be really important. There’s going to be a focus on research in there, there’s going to be a focus on building out this grassroots peer network, peer support network. Also, we really want to focus on doing more education and public awareness around women in recovery.

Interviewer: What might that look like?

Dawn: I think that’ll look like, it’s not sure. I think that we want to do some bold media camp like some media campaigns. We get a lot of support. Whenever we end up– we don’t have enough time to talk to all of the influencers and the people in the world that we need to speak with but when we do, they get it almost immediately. We’ve had conversations with the entertainment industry foundation in Los Angeles. They do stand up to cancer and all those campaigns. We’ve talked to them about helping us do something around addiction recovery, like substance use recovery. Get some stars on board.

Interviewer: Yes, just wrap up with this final question. if that’s all right. Everyone who works in recovery has their own personal reasons for wanting to get up, do it every day. Like you said, you’re still figuring out what, this is, how to do it. Could we end by having you wrap up why this mission is so important to you?

Dawn: Yes, well, it’s just definitely for the women that I love and I know in my life. I guess I would have to say it’s for my daughter. My daughter when she was– I was in long-term recovery when Taryn, who’s now my partner, co-founder of She Recovers lost her mind to drugs at 16, ran away with a drug dealer. I think in that moment I began to invest in the idea of how do we get young women to not go down the same pathway that I did? I’d say on a personal level, it’s very much about being there for her, being there for other members of my family, close friends. I’ve lost people, I do it for them. We’ve all lost people, right? I do it for them. Honestly, it’s fun. There’s just nothing more fun than hanging out with a bunch of women who are trying to live their best lives in all their vulnerabilities. You just perfect– we leave perfection at the door when we’re together. I guess my passion is just for wellness for women and the buck stops here. I want to be part of the solution. I was part of the problem in my addiction. I know what it’s like to feel like that and I know what it’s like to feel a part of the solution. We’re excited and proud to be a part of the solution with all of you, with everybody, right? We’re stronger together. I know that Hillary Clinton said,” Stronger together.” That was her tagline but we’ve been saying we’re stronger together for seven years.

Interviewer: Well, now we know where that came from.

Dawn: Well, no, I don’t think it did but it’s the truth.

Interviewer: Yes, well, absolutely. That is still true no matter what. All right. We are done. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you being with us.

Dawn: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

Episode #105 | January 8, 2020

In a culture that often encourages a toxic version of masculinity, how can treatment providers help men unlearn harmful stereotypes and uncover their own trauma?

We’ll answer this with SCRC clinical director Hedieh Azadmehr on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Cultivating an Environment of Innate Listening

Episode #104 | October 2, 2019

As the healthcare industry evolves, how can treatment professionals turn off the noise and really listen – to emerging trends, to their patients and to themselves?

We’ll dive into this with speaker, coach and founder of human connection company BluNovus James Hadlock on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

The Realities of Self-Harm and Suicide

Episode #103 | August 15, 2019

What can behavioral health providers do to better understand the realities of self-harm and to know how to respond when they spot the signs in their patients?

We’ll discuss this with non-suicide self-injury specialist, author and counselor Lori Vann on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Lori’s work, visit

Integrating Buddhism and the 12 Steps

Episode #102 | August 8, 2019

How can ancient principles from Zen and Tibetan Buddhism integrate with modern treatment programs to help more people build lasting recovery?

We’ll discuss this with author Darren Littlejohn on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Darren’s book, The 12 Step Buddhist, visit

Can LGBT-Affirmative Therapy Help Re-Write Internalized Messages?

Episode #101 | July 17, 2019

In a heteronormative culture, how can providers use affirmative therapy to help LGBT individuals re-write the false messages they’ve internalized?

We’ll answer this with psychologist, author and activist Dr. Lauren Costine on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Dr. Lauren’s work, visit