by Julie C. (Munro 2000)
I attended the first Alumni Women’s Retreat 11 years ago in my first year of sobriety. I had so much to learn and going to a retreat was the perfect place for me to escape my busy life. I was so full of fear, still very shy and reserved. I had never spent a lot of time with just women – this was a first for me and it helped me to open my mind to new ideas.
Everyone who attended the retreat was there because they wanted to be. It felt like I was in the Renascent Centre again, but this time because I wanted to be there. I felt safe knowing that I was surrounded by women who would inspire me and teach me the road to happy destiny. I remember the anticipation of getting to the retreat, looking so forward to seeing my friends from Renascent as well as the counsellors and guests who facilitated these weekends.
When I arrived on the Friday to check in, I was assigned my room and roommate for the weekend. The first year I was privileged to share a room with a young lady I met in treatment. We had become good friends after treatment, and continued to develop our friendship. It was so nice to share a room with someone I knew a little, because again I was so full of fear.
The second year I attended the retreat, on the Friday night I hung out with the group of ladies and shared some of my past adventures. I was starting to really open up, participate and interact with others, which was a milestone for me, as I would often prefer to isolate. At times I could hear myself laugh – that was something I didn’t think would happen for me in sobriety, because I had felt so sad and thought that life would be so boring. But much to my surprise and thanks to the teachings of the others I started to feel safe. It was then that I wanted to learn more because I was starting to feel good in my own skin.
The retreat was a place I could go to and get away from all that was troubling me. Life after treatment was not easy, but it was up to me to put myself in help’s way – to learn, to give, to listen, and simply be a part of something so special. At the time I wasn’t even aware of the gifts I was receiving. But the retreats were a place for me re-invent myself and remind myself of the tools that I have learned over the years through the help of the facilitators.
One year, the facilitator appeared at one of the sessions dressed as a clown. Another year, there were two ladies with long-term sobriety and their wisdom and sense of humour were simply a joy. I remember asking one of them for their telephone number and could I call her for guidance. She later became someone I contacted now and again.
The retreats also provided healing for me. I would arrive on the Friday evening full of anxiety, emotional pain and, yes, resentments. I would leave on Sunday with less weight on my shoulders and less pain in my heart. Whether it was learning how to meditate, how to journal or how to let go, there was always something at the retreats that helped me to carry on trudging the road to happy destiny.
It was my fifth retreat and I was really struggling. It is amazing how something is put in your path just when you need it and the answers are right there in front of you. The facilitator commented on a book called “The Four Agreements.” This book has helped me so much and I have been privileged to pass it on to many friends. I walked away with so much information to guide me through the journey ahead.
I am so grateful to Renascent for putting on the Alumni Women’s Weekend Retreats. These retreats were truly a wonderful way to spend a few days outside my busy life and certainly helped me to focus on hope and to feel good again.
Thank you, Renascent, for introducing me to a wonderful life.