• Recover out loud: What does it mean?
  • Hurdles help you live a meaningful life
  • I got to write for She Does The City! Here’s my story about some of my fave garbage finds

I was first introduced to Jen McNeely when I stumbled on a video. In it she shared her journey of getting and staying sober. Alcoholics are rarely portrayed as young women. Jen is breaking down stereotypes by including her voice. She’s also leading by example. How? By making it her mission to recover out loud.

Recover out loud: why it’s key

I love the out loud approach to reaching goals—whether you want to learn to ski, be a less critical person or lose weight.

Being open gives you a much better chance of success. Why?

1. Recovering out loud helps you stay on track.
Telling others what you’re working on builds in accountability. It’s easier to make good choices when the people who care about you are watching and rooting for you. Whereas secrecy and shame often lead to more destructive behaviour.

2. Recovering out loud makes you more productive.
Sharing what you’re going through is part of accepting yourself. Making peace with your whole self frees your attention. When you aren’t fixated on the past—things you can not change—you spend your energy making constructive choices you can feel good about right now. Additionally, when you accept yourself other people will too.
We don't have to be our past. But we definitely have the power to write our future.— Jully Black, singer
3. Recovering out loud helps you get better help.
Being upfront also opens a world of information to you. You’ll be surprised how many other people are going through something similar and have helpful experiences to share.

Obstacles are full of opportunity

All 3 of these positive results stem from the decision to recover out loud. And they lead to the ultimate awakening:

Our greatest challenges give us the chance to be more than we would have been without the struggle. Hard times help us understand ourselves and others, feel more deeply and appreciate more.

Don McLean, best known for singing American Pie wrote a song called Vincent about the artist Van Gogh. I love the lyrics:

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul…

Difficult experiences allow us to walk through each day and recognize real beauty. That ability makes for a truly enriching life.
We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.— Anne of Green Gables

What does progress look like?

When I Googled Jen (I’m confessing out loud) I found so many heartfelt articles about her recovery. She is a gifted writer who can capture so much in just a few words. (Now I’m gushing out loud.) It takes a strong person to tell an honest story. But once you put yourself out there and realize the sun will still rise tomorrow, you’re ready to do it again. It’s empowering to recover out loud.

When I read Jen’s work in Toronto Life, FASHION Magazine and other sources, I was struck by how many common threads there are between her recovery with alcoholism and my eating disorder recovery. Similarities span from initial regret and loneliness, to the desire to be free, to a sort of rebirth when you stop being preoccupied and become present.

The most promising parallel I’ve noticed is that people who recover out loud often overcome their hurdle, get beyond acceptance and then honour their past by sharing what they’ve learned. Talking to others about what has worked is progress. We need to have these conversations because the world is full of people fighting age-old problems.

Writing helped Jen recover out loud

Soon I discovered Jen is the founder of the website She Does The City: an imperfect guide for women. Her site covers events and culture in Toronto as well as universal experiences like:

  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Sex & Relationships
  • Life Stories
  • Health & Wellness
  • Careers

This year is She Does The City‘s 10th anniversary. Jen’s work has earned her accolades such as: “A pioneering website’s decade of disruption” from one of Canada’s National Newspapers, The Globe and Mail. Wooo Hooo!

The year 2009 was a pivotal turning point for McNeely, who gave up alcohol when her drinking evolved into full-blown alcoholism. With her personal life so tightly linked to the website and its fun-times image, McNeely debated calling it quits, but eventually came to the decision that She Does the City would grow with her, and her audience… Looking to her personal experience, McNeely shifted programming to encompass health and wellness content, as well as recovery-focused initiatives, continuing She Does the City’s tradition of female-focused storytelling but through a more holistic lens.
– Caitlin Agnew, Globe and Mail

Jen got healthy and her work evolved with her. Her website became a vehicle to recover out loud, accept her whole self and honour her experience while encouraging others to do the same.

Jen’s writing workshop

One day I read that Jen was running a writing workshop. I finally had the chance to meet her and learn some tips from a pro.

The class was a great experience. We did tons of brainstorming exercises and improved some pre-written passages. After, Jen invited us to submit our work to be included on She Does The City. Jen wanted people to take chances and not be afraid of their voice.

On the way home I realized everything I’d jotted down during Jen’s class was driven by anxiety. This revelation prompted the following email:

Hi Jen,

Your writing course was inspiring and it was great to meet you.

Half way home I realized all my answers to the worksheets were about things I’m worried about, rather than what I want to write about. Your course acted not only as a lesson in writing but therapy as well 🙂 The freestyle portion taught me that I need to change the channel; break a pattern of thinking (worrying) and pay attention to what I’m interested in.

A story I’d love to share dawned on me on the way home when my partner met me with our dog. I’d love to pitch a story about stuff I found on dog walks. We’ve rescued some incredible things that have improved our life in surprising ways. They all tie in with themes of lost potential, salvage vs. sabotage, and second chances …

Here’s a link to my story: Hidden Gems, the treasures we find while walking our dogs.

Other benefits from dog walks

While this story isn’t directly about weight-loss I wanted to include it here, at the10principles.com because dog walking has been an excellent way to get daily physical activity, clear my mind and scratch my rescue itch. After years of declaring a day ruined (after eating something I regretted) then restarting my diet tomorrow, I love to work with what I have or find, and try to fix it.

When I heard the song Vincent I finally understood how bad experiences deepen good experiences.

Thanks to Jen McNeely for the chance to write for She Does The City and most importantly, for her passion to recover out loud. She has inspired many people she knows and many people she’ll never meet. Jen is a true hero.



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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it

At some point, everyone has to recover from something, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, a health issue or something less severe. It’s important to recover out loud.