I went to a women’s only Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting this morning with a sober gal pal of mine. It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve been to an AA or Al-Anon meeting and to be honest, I wasn’t necessarily super excited about going. That said, I was open to going because I think there’s value in checking in on things periodically, even if you previously felt it wasn’t for you. As a woman and as a sober woman, I have evolved significantly since I last attended a meeting and I think with evolution comes the opportunity to hear old information with new ears. So I went.
And I’m glad that I did! I love that I got to occupy space with other women in recovery. The women in the room were diverse in age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic location, duration in recovery but what brought us together was our individual and collective commitment to sobriety, which is incredibly special. What I also found special is that despite our vast differences, we were able to come together and find common ground, which is sacred. I also LOVED that it was a women’s only space. I also can see the value in co-ed spaces but I’m grateful that this one was not and that women’s only spaces within recovery exist because they are necessary. I wholeheartedly believe that women’s experiences with alcohol are fundamentally different than men’s (of course there are similarities but also considerable differences - more on that in another post); as such, creating women’s only spaces in recovery is essential.
After the meeting, my friend and I de-briefed on what we took from it, what we liked and didn’t like and so on. During this debrief, she said something really interesting which was (and I’m paraphrasing) that in trying different approaches to recovery (she is relatively new in her journey), she’s able to stand back, take what she needs from them and also recognize their limitations. I thought this was so poignant and so accurate and I really appreciated hearing her perspective from newer recovery eyes (next month, I celebrate 3 years of consistent sobriety).
I think it’s incredibly powerful to be able to recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Once upon a time (not that long ago!), the only option for folks seeking sobriety was AA. And if AA didn’t work for or jive with you, you either had to suck it up or go it alone. Thankfully, so many different options exist for recovery including AA, SMART Recovery, rehab, online communities, coaching, She Recovers, counseling, blogs, podcasts, books, and so on.
I have always felt that a multi-method approach to recovery made a lot of sense, especially given that each approach does have its inherent limitations. For example, as a Holistic Health Coach, I provide 1-on-1 coaching to women who struggle with their drinking, supporting them to enter and sustain sobriety, while also designing lives they don’t want to escape from. I love this approach and have found great success with my clients. It allows for a high level of support and accountability, an in-depth connection, deep and lasting transformation and the creation of sustainable healthy habits. That said, it’s also a paid service which means it may not be accessible for everyone and because the work is 1-on-1, it does not offer any community elements. Conversely, AA meetings provide tons of community support and are free and frequent, making them much more accessible but don’t necessarily offer the same level of transformation or habit change that’s possible through coaching. Neither AA nor coaching is a better or worse approach to recovery; they are simply different avenues to reach the same destination.
For those considering entering sobriety or recovery, I would strongly encourage you to approach recovery like a buffet. Try different methods out and see what fits. If AA is your jam, incredible! If you find that a combination of online support groups, blogs, meditation, movement and therapy work best for you, amazing! The idea here is there is no “right” way to recover and our approaches to recovery are just as unique as we are. Fortunately, we live in a world where there are more options than ever and we have the luxury of really taking what works for us and ditching the rest. If you haven’t yet found the right combination for you, keep trying! And if you find you keep trying the same thing and it’s not working for you (aka you’re relapsing on the regs), for goodness sake, try something new! The right combination of resources, tools and support is out there for you, it’s just a matter of discovering it.
For all the reasons listed above, I created the Lose the Booze 100 Day Challenge. I wanted to provide another option to support women in their recovery journeys, that landed somewhere between 1-on-1 coaching and online community groups. Yes, there are other 100 day alcohol-free challenges but none like the one I created. Because I know how important accountability is, especially in the early stages of sobriety, I built in daily email check-ins to keep the challenge and not drinking at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I intentionally kept the group small because I believe so strongly in the power of connection and community-building, which is really hard to authentically create when you’re one of thousands in an online group.
*program starts August 1st! sign up today ^^*
Amy C. Willis is a certified holistic Health Coach, soon to be certified Life Coach and the founder of HOL + WELL, a brand that focuses on all things holistic wellness. Amy is in recovery from alcohol use disorder and has been sober for almost 3 years. Through her own journey in recovery, she's been inspired to support other women in their path to sobriety and does so through her coaching practice. Amy is an avid reader, loves writing, travel, community-building and moving her body. When she's not coaching, hanging out with friends or spending time outside, she's teaching indoor cycling. Amy lives in Toronto and works with clients globally.