I recall the first two years of recovery as a whirlwind. The initial high of being sober wore off quickly, as I met reality square in the face. Those two years were hard. It was like re-learning to walk. First, I had to learn how to stop drinking; then I had to learn how to live without alcohol. It felt like I was trudging through treacle—one hard lesson after another. If I’m honest, I was slightly perturbed by the prospect of spending the rest of my life in meetings talking about the old Liv. So when I came across the online recovery community and the opportunity of something different—which I had no idea existed—my eyes lit up and I was eager to learn more.

While I am forever grateful to the stability, support, and structure that a 12 Step program provided in my first few years—which ultimately gave me the initial tools to get sober—I felt slightly uneasy about it. I felt like I outgrew that paradigm—I didn’t relate to the language and I didn’t want to focus on what was defective about me. I also no longer wanted to spend every night talking about problems and solutions that I felt didn’t fit for me. I wanted there to be more to life.

Conscious of how that perception could be labeled as a lack of gratitude, or humility, I buttoned my mouth and sat in my seat in the rooms for a long time. Of course, I was grateful—and that will never change. But, as my first sponsor said to me, humility means everything in their right size. I was shrinking myself, and my voice, by staying where I was.

It was only when I began to deal with my food addiction and shared that journey through my blog—Liv’s Recovery Kitchen—that I discovered that there were others out there who also had recovery-type blogs and were sharing their journeys. Intrigued, I kept clicking to find out more and absorbed as much information as I could. I suddenly realized my thirst for a different perspective, for new tools, and to find a new path that suited me.

I slowly began to see that there were others out there like me—that didn’t fit into the same paradigm of recovery. The problem I had was that it was ingrained within me—through the message I constantly heard in the rooms—that to leave meant one thing: relapse. And, of course, no guarantee of future recovery. That incited fear into me which stayed with me for a long time.

So I decided to do what I do best: I challenged the fear head on.

I started interviewing others that I came across in the online recovery community for my blog. I asked how they recovered. I asked questions about their recovery from a holistic perspective—the things I felt were missing in that traditional paradigm. I asked about how they look after their bodies and what they eat—and how that has evolved in recovery. Slowly, I began to see that there were many people out there that didn’t live in that paradigm that I felt trapped in.

That knowledge gave me the confidence to tiptoe out of the paradigm. I have now interviewed over 70 people with a vast range of recovery and have entirely stepped outside of 12 Step recovery—not closing the door, but trying other options. The one thing I have learned: there is no one way to recover—it has to be entirely individual—and your needs change as you grow. I have also gained a huge amount of confidence and self-esteem by taking my power back and directing my own recovery using tools that are suited to my needs.

Below I have listed my favorite sites that have inspired my recovery by showing me the full range of modalities of recovery that are available and how to formulate a holistic approach to my own recovery. It was incredibly difficult to condense this list to ten because I follow about 20! But I would say these have been the most influential.

  1. Laura McKowen. Because have you read her beautiful words? She arranges her heartfelt words in such a way that speak directly to my soul. They change me. And they change my perspective on life and recovery. But most of all, her words provide the empathy and understanding that I so desperately need in recovery—the me too—that make me feel part of something and remind me that I am not going through recovery alone.
  2. Hip Sobriety. Holly spoke loudly about the traditional paradigm not working for her, she designed one that did, and shared it with the world. That’s a woman that I respect and want to know. Also, the fact that she talks about the importance of a holistic recovery spoke my language.
  3. The Recovery Revolution. Chris is a genius and a pioneer in the recovery community. He’s quite funny too—recovery, after all, should not be without humor. I just love their progressive approach to recovery. Oh, and they have a podcast which is particularly insightful and, revolutionary.
  4. Transformation is Real. Dan showcases people’s incredible stories of transformation which are inspiring and give me perspective. That is something recovery needs, when it feels too much to handle.
  5. The Sober Senorita. Kelly’s voice is loud, proud, and she advocates for changing our perception of sobriety. By sharing her story, she has demonstrated the effects alcohol can take on a party girl, that alcohol can absolutely mess up your life, and sobriety is anything but dull.
  6. Mark Goodson’s The Miracle of The Mundane. Mark’s words are like the masculine version of Laura’s, and vice-versa. As a writer, I can only aspire to have the talent and ability to arrange words on a page like Mark can. He tugs on my heartstrings. He gives me hope that I too can have a wonderful family life in recovery. He shows that there is great joy in everyday life.
  7. Buzzkill POD. I just love Paul’s humor and no non-sense approach to life in recovery. It’s real. He is one of the most kind, genuine, and sincere humans out there.
  8. She Recovers. What Dawn and Taryn have achieved is quite incredible. They show that we are all recovering from something and that, through the practice of radical self-care, we can all recover. They also host incredible events that bring together all of the wonderful women across the globe that are in recovery.
  9. Veronica Valli. She is in long-term recovery and is someone I admire and respect. She is grounded, she’s been there, and she is professionally trained to guide, coach, and counsel on matters of life in sobriety (including getting sober).
  10. Tammi Salas & The Unruffled Podcast. Okay, that’s two, but Tammi and Sondra talk about the most wonderful aspect of recovery (to me)—discovering and unleashing the power of creativity. A power, they say, can help you thrive in recovery and fill the void that alcohol left.

Then of course there are the equally important and powerful sites that are challenging the stigma surrounding addiction, providing resources, and advocating for changing the conversation on the nation’s approach to addiction such as: Facing Addiction, Faces and Voices of Recovery, Addiction Unscripted, and I am Not Anonymous. They showed me that I didn’t need to feel shame about suffering with addiction. They created the path for me to recover out loud—by showing me that I didn’t need to be anonymous. I now know that there are millions of me out there and we can be proud of the fact we have overcome the biggest challenge of our lives.

The online recovery community is a movement and it is changing the way we view addiction and recovery. I hope these wonderful voices continue to speak out, because without them I may not be where I am today.

a woman in a blue shirt standing in front of trees.
By – Olivia Pennelle
Writer and wellness advocate, Olivia Pennelle (Liv), is in long-term recovery. She passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Read more
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