SHE RECOVERS Together Portland


A little over a year ago I was invited by my good friend Jen McNeely to go to Toronto and speak at her Recovering Out Loud Panel. Jen explains:

In partnership with SHE RECOVERS, an international community for women in or seeking recovery that is 270,000+ members strong, we invited self-identifying women to join us and listen to recovery stories from five mentors; author Jowita Bydlowska (Drunk Mom), author Ann Dowsett Johnston (Drink), activist + founder of Feeding Canada Nanook Fareal, journalist Olivia Pennelle, and SHE RECOVERS co-founder Taryn Strong. Following the panel, women were invited to hang back for a sharing circle.


It was indeed a magical evening — we shared inspirational stories of adversities we’ve faced and how we’ve used those challenges to transform into incredible people.

What really struck me was how intimate the evening felt. I’d never experienced a meeting like this before, and I had been to years of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. There were no ancient texts to read or details of a man’s journey through alcohol use disorder to plow through. Instead, we heard unscripted, authentic stories that we all deeply related to.

What I love most about SHE RECOVERS is the group’s tagline: “We’re all recovering from something.” Many of us in recovery from substance use disorders have also dealt with a range of other issues: eating disorders, grief, the end of relationships, cancer, codependency, mental illness.

Just a few days ago, I was at a Thanksgiving dinner with my neighbors and I spoke about a meetup group I formed with my good friend Tiffany. I explained that a range of women in all types of recovery were coming together to meet socially in a sober space. One of the guests asked what people suffering with grief have in common with those recovering from substance use disorder. I explained that what makes us relatable is that underneath whatever pain or disorder we’re suffering from, our feelings are the same — we all experience grief, sadness, resentment, joy, and isolation. What makes that experience easier to deal with is our community, which gives us the beautiful gift of collective empathy.

With my fellow recovering people, I know that I can share my deepest wounds without judgment. I can share without interruption and someone wanting to fix me. I’m heard and I am held by those who deeply understand me. Without empathy, I’m not so sure I’d have made it so far in my recovery.

When I moved to Portland, I took a leap of faith and left AA. It was the hardest and most courageous thing I’ve done after getting sober. And while it has been liberating and strengthening for my recovery, I have lacked the collective empathy and community that helped me so much throughout my recovery. This is why I formed my new group.

The first two meetups have been well-attended. We’ve met in a loft space in Portland and shared food, stories, and laughs. It has been wonderful. I finally feel like I’ve gathered with my community again — people who all identify with various patchworks of recovery, don’t conform to one particular pathway, and have open minds and hearts.

Images courtesy of The Fifty.

Just after the first meetup, I had a conversation with SHE RECOVERS in which they asked me to host meetups in the Portland area, under the umbrella of their nonprofit foundation. The group agreed it was a great idea. Tiffany and I are excited about this development for a few big reasons: it provides the opportunity to align with an organization that shares the heart of our values as women and people in recovery, we get to reach many more women-identified people in recovery seeking support, and we can foster a greater social community.

We would love for you to be part of our community. To join, please reach request membership to our Facebook group , or email me ( while we get the group added to the Meetup platform. On our Facebook page, you can find a detailed group description, event details, and ways to contact our community.

Our next event is Thursday, November 29 at 5.30-8.30. We will have local artist Keely lead an art journaling class, and we’ll munch on treats and drink tons of flavored water. I hope you can make it!

SHE RECOVERS Together Portland

*Please note that this space honors individuals whose identities are across and apart from the gender spectrum, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. This excludes cisgender males.

Also, this group is not intended as an alternative to 12-step groups. It is a supportive community of like-minded individuals who meet socially. We respect everyones individual pathway of recovery.

Olivia Pennelle