My name is Joanna (she/her/hers). I am based in Orlando, Florida. Since I entered into recovery from substance use, I continue to evolve, becoming my best self. I do so with the support of others who honor the female spirit. Empowering women in recovery is something that I was destined to do. My mission is to bring support and resources to oppressed genders that are residing in early substance use residential centers and other social service organizations that can support while discovering and claiming their power. Though the development of Horticulture for Healing I will support trans women and girls, cis women, girls, and non binary individuals while they begin to achieve a sense of well being, gain self confidence, value, and lay a foundation for self love and acceptance.
I share my deeply personal struggle with hopes that others can relate and become empowered to change too.
I got sober at a young age. I come from a family of alcoholics. I grew up in a home that was not able to offer me the support, love, and safety to help me grow into confident woman. As a young girl, as early as I can remember I felt confused, lost, afraid of my self and disliked everything about my body and my mind. Like many younger women who enter recovery, I stared drinking alcohol and using marijuana at the age of 13. I remember it immediately relieving some of the pain and suffering and discomfort of being in my body. I did’t like the taste and smells but I deep down knew it was something that would help me. I wound up in a sexual, emotional and at times physically abusive relationship by the age of 14. This lasted close to four years. The immense trauma entailed, piling onto the trauma of growing up in an alcoholic home. At the age of 16 I began using hard drugs to again seek escape from feeling the pain and fear of being me. I became numb. Before too long my drug use was daily and already at this point, a daily drinker. I had left home at 17 diving farther into that abusive relationship I didn’t know I could get out of, and by the age of 23, I was using any substance I could get my hands on, cut my self off from family and anyone that wanted to help me. I ended up homeless with more than two DUIs, extensive misdemeanor and possession convictions, and one felony charge. I went through a brief but intense 2 year stint in and out of jail in a state and and city that was far away from where I had grown up. By the power of some higher force, when I was due to enter into the prison system for what was supposed to be a 4 year sentence, or perhaps longer, I ended up in a residential substance use treatment center. I got sober and stayed sober.
The following are only a few of the many disadvantages, challenges, and barriers due to the stigma of addiction and recovery. These seem to be deeply embedded within our social structure. I have personally experienced the following:
Having to explain personal history because of a past criminal record and substance use when I began applying for jobs. Only to share my truth and then be turned down time and time again. I have faced times of extensive unemployment due to the social stigma of addiction and what it means to have a ‘criminal background record’. Only the passage of time since my convictions has helped me get to where I am now. Having to wait 7-10 years before something from my past can be overlooked, isn’t sufficient for people to thrive and own their life and their past in today’s world . Being able to openly write on an application that one is in recovery needs to become something that is OKAY. By working to eliminate stigma of mental health, substance use and recovery, this can eventually become an empowering check mark to make on all applications.
Explaining my using history and past criminal record when applying for higher education, having to meet with the dean and a board of five other strangers, sharing my deeply personal past so that there may be a chance I can attend their university, twice.
Not being able to rent an apartment after becoming financially stable.
Lack of or no reliable references for potential employment, because I can not confidently write down that now, I am a woman in recovery .
Obtaining positive financial means such as a credit card.
Many mental health struggles as a sober person including lack of self confidence, depression , lack of self encouragement, self stigmatizing, in part due to the societal stigmatized view of addiction.
Loosing a drivers license, and having to become entirely self sufficient while living in a state and country where public transportation is inadequate.
These are some of the seemingly endless disadvantages created by the ongoing barrier that is societal stigmatization of women, addiction, and recovery .
I learned how to turn the challenges I faced due to the social stigma of addiction into experiences that I grow, learn, and benefit from. I have only been able to do this by learning that women are not my rivals and that by uniting with women and other supportive individuals, I am able to grow into my own power, as painful as it may be at times. Overcoming adversity made me stronger and has shaped me into the woman I am becoming today. I am now a college graduate who claimed my education and I am a self sustaining woman in recovery. I am proud.
In my final semester of my degree I became even more passionate and dedicated to supporting women. Now I know that women have the power to change the course of their own lives when there is the support of other women around them. With this support they can change the course of their lives and communities – for the better.
I have found connecting to nature, and honoring my feminine spirit and energy, contributes to my self discovery and awareness, conjures inspiration, gives me a sense of accomplishment and belonging, and brightens a day of confusion and negative thinking which for me, happens often as a recovering sober individual. Nurturing plants and working with others moves me towards decisive substantial thinking while connecting to the outside world. This is when I find I am able to touch and connect to the power within. I want to bring individuals who are continuously marginalized and oppressed by society support and resources that will help them find their own power and unleash it.
The main goals I have for this organization are uniting recovering individuals who are marginalized by society through connecting to nature and feminism, empowering people to claim their beauty, value, strength, and space. We will contribute to the elimination of oppressed gender rivalry, and the de-stigmatization of substance use and recovery.