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  • Jun 24, 2023

Anne Whitman's Recovery Story

CHA Recovery Coach, Anne Whitman, reflects on her recovery journey and how peer support groups were a big part of who she is today.

“At the age of 33, I was running education programs at Harvard Business School (HBS), married, and mother of a new baby daughter. Shortly after I gave up nursing my daughter, I began to feel that my house and HBS were under electronic surveillance so I asked the Dean to bring in the police to investigate. I was fired from my job, became embroiled in a bitter divorce and lost custody of my daughter. I sat home with the phone never ringing filled with shame and guilt and having lost all hope I could rebuild my life.

I lost touch with reality on and off for the next five years. I was drinking fairly heavily in secret. I saw several psychiatrists and therapists over the years. The more effective doctors held conversations with me, asked what my hopes and concerns were and helped me to recognize my strengths. A new antipsychotic from Europe, arrived at by some trial and error, brought me some stability. Through real and genuine empathy, these professionals created lifelines that have sustained me through these difficult times and allowed me to take some risks to establish a new life purpose. I still struggled with isolation and intrusive thoughts and sought advice about a future career path at the Boston University (BU) Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. With the support of peers, therapists and doctors, I decided I would be better off at business school than a psychiatric hospital or outpatient program. I began attending an MBA program at the BU Business School while losing touch with reality on and off. I got a few C’s and it took me ten years to finish. However, I wrote a marketing plan for Bright Horizon’s Children’s Centers while in business school and went onto be a co-founder of this company which now has over 800 childcare centers nationwide. Of note, my daughter was the first child in the first center.

But something was missing, I was still isolating, deeply ashamed, and drinking. When I fell down the stairs in my home and ended up in the emergency room with a high blood alcohol level, at the suggestion of my psychiatrist and my brother, I began an inpatient seven week alcohol rehabilitation program. Upon returning home I gradually regained the ability to care for my daughter and I continued to attend AA meetings. The emotional authenticity of these meeting encouraged me to share the desperation, loneliness and shame I had been feeling, A fellow member of AA referred me to Evie Barkin and the peer support groups of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Over the next 25 years the DBSA peer support groups and members of the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community became my friends. They nurtured my soul, broke the isolation, helped with guilt and shame and most importantly gave me hope that I could continue to recover and build a totally different but satisfying life. DBSA gave me a small volunteer job, gave me feedback on my job performance as well as my strengths and talents and helped me to realize I was an excellent creator and innovator. I pursued my entrepreneurial talents and co-founded the Cole Center at Mclean Hospital and the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community together with Evie Barkin and Howard Trachtman. I am excited to be involved in selecting and leading the peer team for the CBHC at Cambridge Health Alliance. I have also been fortunate to be involved in a similar way with the Peer Consultants for the Center of Excellence at MGH. On a more personal note, as result of our individual recovery journeys, my daughter and I have a very respectful loving relationship that continues to grow. I have also been in a wonderful relationship for eighteen years with a caring man I met at the DBSA holiday party! Recovery is possible and ongoing!!”

Anne Whitman, PhD, CPS
Chair, Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community
Consultant, Southeast Recovery Learning Community
Senior Peer Consultant, MGH COE
Recovery Leader and Consultant, CHA

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