she recovers

Dawn Nickel is the founder of She Recovers, a community that focuses on women’s recovery from anything and everything, including drug addiction, alcoholism, codependency, love and sex addiction, eating disorders, workaholism and perfectionism.

In Dawn’s view, we are all recovering from something, and we’re stronger together. She’s a strong advocate for the view that each woman in or seeking recovery must be supported to find the tools and pathways that will work best for her as an individual.

Dawn has been in recovery since 1987. Alcohol free since that time, she struggled until 1989 with a marijuana addiction and was then both alcohol and drug free for nearly 11 years before relapsing on prescription drugs for several days in May 2000.

CLEAN DATE: May 11th, 2000

Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!

Dawn Nickel’s Story

Dawn lived in the chaos of addiction from the age of 16 up until she was 20 years old. Emotional turmoil reigned. She left home and was catapulted into a scene in the Yukon with people who used and dealt drugs.

Dawn stopped when she became pregnant with her first child, but after she gave birth, she started going on weekend binges. She’d drop her daughter off at her parents’ house on a Friday, tell them she’d be gone for an hour, and not return till Monday. Her drug of choice was cocaine, which she supplemented with alcohol, pills, and marijuana.

I don’t even know who that person is anymore, but I love her.

Her husband was a cocaine user who suffered from drug induced psychosis. Dawn used to see a counselor to try to figure out how to get him to stop using, failing to address her own issues. Finally, the counselor confronted her about her problem and, after failing to quit using on her own, Dawn went into treatment in 1997.

Dawn has not used alcohol or cocaine since then, but after treatment, she turned to marijuana. Luckily, she found the 12 Steps and she dove headfirst into meetings, service, and recovery work.

Still, Dawn Always had the sense that she wasn’t enough and that she didn’t have anything going for her. She decided to go back to school and her studies became her higher power. She worked on three degrees. In the meantime, her active participation in 12 Step Recovery dwindled.

Dawn’s Workaholism

By the time Dawn was about to reach her academic goals, she had been in school for 15 years. She was 45 years old and felt behind in life. Her student loans weighed on her and she felt compelled to take on huge amounts of work. She taught at the university, worked as a consultant for mental health and addictions, and was a headhunted by the government for a high-paying position.

Dawn was making lots of money and feeling very important. She sees now that the addiction to work was adrenaline seeking behavior. It was just like doing cocaine. She lied to her husband about how much she was working and hid in other parts of the house to work in the middle of the night. Dawn did this for 6 years. Her health began to deteriorate and she started to fall apart emotionally, bursting into tears at corporate meetings.

When Dawn took leave from work for 4 months, she realized how sick she was. She decided she wanted to do something more meaningful than work herself to death. She started writing about recovery, not just from alcohol and drugs, but from everything on her blog called Recovering Dawn. This eventually morphed into a Facebook page called She Recovers, which has expanded into the thriving community of women recovering together today.


Dawn used for two days in May after her mother passed away from leukemia. She took her mother’s pills to numb out. No one knew she used and she took them as prescribed, but she saw the amount in the bottle getting lower and lower and made the decision to throw them out.

She didn’t think of it as a relapse at the time, but 4 years later, her sister hit a bottom. When Dawn took her to a meeting, she felt weird. That was because in her heart, she knew she did relapse, and that if she was honest with herself, she had a different clean date.

What was keeping Dawn from getting clean?

Dawn puts it very simply.

I was using drugs.

She also says it was because she was in a relationship with someone who used.

That Aha Moment

Dawn remembers being at a 12 Step convention when she had 3 weeks clean. For the first time, she felt a part of the room of 300-400 people there. One of the speakers brought her to tears. She felt moved like never before. After that she was going to 7 meetings a week and doing service. She totally embraced what was being offered to her at the time.

Options for recovery were not as varied back then. Dawn’s grateful that 12 Steps worked for her.

If it hadn’t worked, I’d be dead right now.

Best Suggestion

Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Always.

Suggestion for Women

If you’re not sure you really want recovery – maybe because you’re not sure you can do recovery – try it. Even, say, for a month. Give it a period of time where you’re going to try this way of life. And if you use tomorrow, that doesn’t mean you failed. Just try again. You will get it. Keep trying and ask for help. Help with everything.

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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.