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Women Giving Back

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Women Giving Back

hands interlacedThere are many people in the recovery community (and others who just want to help) who give back as a way to give thanks for finding their way back to health and sanity, and January is a good time to highlight them. Here are several women among many who deserve to be mentioned, and if you look on the MBRC site this month, I’ll also be highlighting several men for their selfless efforts.

Giving back doesn’t have to be a huge effort. It can be volunteering whatever small amount of time you have, or even just lending an ear when a person early in recovery wants to talk.

Pernilla Nelson-Burke

Pernilla Nelson-Burke, from Sweden, is so thankful for her recovery that she volunteers for the Partnership at office in NYC. She monitors Q&As on its website and coaches parents of addicts. Here’s more about her, from the press release announcing her role:

In another link she talks about how she started drinking as an escape from her parents’ fighting.   She reminds people that, like anything worth having, “recovery is not easy. [It] takes a lot of work. When the drink or drug is taken away from someone, there is still much to work to do to understand the underlying issues that triggered the impulse to drink or use in the first place.”

Shelley Richanbach

Shelley Richanbach, from Burlingame, CA, is also in long-term recovery. She’s a peer facilitator who runs a “studio”  that helps women work on inspiration, self-esteem, creativity, and other things that women in recovery know all about. Richanbach groups these items in three groups: wellness, recovery, and expressive arts, and she offers a number of classes.

You may be thinking: “But this is a for-profit organization. How is that giving back?” This Californian may not have 501c3 status, but she very generously gives of her time and services. Two of her women’s circles require only a donation. She opens her space to Women for Sobriety and does not charge rent “because it is so needed as an alternative, secular doorway to recovery,” she says. Over the past few years, she’s offered lunch hour open meeting and meditation time for free three times per week.

Here’s more about Richanbach, directly from her: “I’ve volunteered for four years to San Mateo County’s non-profit organization, Voices of Recovery, teaching Wellness Recovery Action Planning AND teaching folks how to advocate and speak to “recovery” and not to labels that the general public doesn’t understand. (i.e., she’s an alcoholic = often is perceived as a woman who is active in her disease.) So changing the public’s perception about addiction is my biggest passion beyond offering alternative paths to recovery, i.e., Next Steps.”

Glennon Melton

Like the two men I mention on the MBRC blog who started the website In the Rooms, Glennon Melton just wants to help others in recovery. If you have never heard her (I happened to see her on TV), she’s outstanding. She writes a blog called Momastery, in which she says:

I’m a recovering bulimic and alcoholic. For twenty years I was lost to food and booze and bad love and drugs. I suffered. My family suffered.

Melton was also a drug user and has a riveting story. She says addiction “kept her safe and hidden.” She’s sober now, and she’s learned a lot and is sharing it. This is a blog directed at mothers, but I didn’t read it as a mother. I just found it enjoyable. Glennon’s sincerity and her brutal honesty is gripping. She’s been on the Today show and on The View and has spoken at a TEDx Talk (TED-type talks).

Pennie Feiner of Kula for Karma

Here’s an article in a NJ health magazine about two women, one who’s a “normie” and Pennie Feiner, 61, who is in recovery. Feiner discovered yoga when she entered treatment for her addiction. She saw the benefit, and now runs the non-profit Kula for Karma which help others who might benefit from yoga, including alcoholics and other addicts. (By the way, a “normie” is a person who has not had a problem with alcohol or other drugs. I learned that thanks to one of Joan’s posts.)

Vivian Verdayes of Friends Against Drunk Driving

What a great idea—an offshoot of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The Miami Herald noted that Vivian Verdayes started FADD last July when one of her friends was killed by a drunk driver. The group works with and raises funds for MADD, but allows people to remember friends who have died and do something in their honor. It’s directed at young people who party and then get behind the wheel. When the article appeared, the group already had 2,000 followers.

Susan Klimusko

In December, Joan wrote a blog post in memoryof Marissa Collett, who overdosed and died after leaving treatment and in it, she mentioned the selfless efforts of the mother of the only other MBRC alumni who has died.  Susan took a small local organization called Not One More ( and turned it into a major force in fighting addiction in CA, after her son Austin died in 2012, two years after treatment at MBRC.

Susan left Not One More in December, and now she’s working on other projects with other mothers that have lost loved ones to drugs.

“I’ve currently organized a small group of mothers who are still fighting the battle to save their children, or who have lost their battles, to brainstorm a “May Day, May Day” event to form a human chain along the Mexican/American border to raise awareness to our government, that we as mothers have had enough. Would it not also be awesome if we could get mothers on the Mexican side to stand with us? Our goal would be to have at least 1,984 people to stand together to represent one person per mile of the border in all the border towns. This is the new vision I have for myself in education and awareness,” Susan said.

“I am also assisting another mother who has taken on the Dope Project to educate users and families in Narcan opiate antagonist. It is my hope to have all first responders trained and equipped with Narcan within the county if Ventura. I am also pushing for a kit to be included in all AED (defibrillator) units within stores and other venues,” she added.




  • Cathy | Treatment Talk

    Hi Pat,

    Thank you so much for putting this post together. This is an amazing group of women and It is wonderful to read about their accomplishments. I personally know and have worked with Shelley and Pernilla and they are both amazing women who contribute from their heart. I will definitely be sharing this post!!

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