The 33-year-old Girls creator, who celebrated being 365 days sober in April, spoke to PEOPLE about her passion for recovery at the Friendly House treatment center’s 30th Annual Awards Luncheon on Saturday.
“I’m here because getting sober changed my life and I’m really, really passionate about recovery and sober living being available for everyone no matter their income bracket, especially for women who are so often put in danger when they are new to sobriety,” Dunham said.
She continued: “So I think that for me, Friendly House is just representative of what America can do if we make the choice to support recovery, and I love Friendly House because they are trans and non-binary inclusive, because they don’t turn women away because of income bracket, because they bring women together who are from really different paths of life and allow them to connect through the miracle of recovery.”
“That’s something I’ve benefited from, and I don’t want recovery to only be available to people and women who have my level of privilege,” the actress added.
“When I was dropped at rehab, I thought it was the end of my life,” she said. “Seemingly overnight I had lost almost all of what I held dear. My relationships, my body and my career were in relative shambles from decisions I had made and things that had happened. Well, I was under the influence of pills that I thought dulled my pain, but actually created it. I kept repeating the phrase I just don’t see a place for myself in the world anymore. And that wasn’t suicidal ideation. Exactly. I had simply edged myself out of the picture. Like I was a Polaroid. That wouldn’t develop.”
“At the threshold of the treatment center as my parents dropped me off like it was camp I took off my boots,” she continued. “There was a no shoes rule and walked into a room of people whose pain radiated off of them, like some terrible superpower. I was such an open nerve that on my first day of group therapy when I was asked to share a little bit about why I was there, I told my seemingly endless tale of whoa. You know, the one, just the one that justified and necessitated being numbed by medication. The patients. And the therapist simply looked at me and said, ‘shit.’ “
The actress explained that her healing “began because I allowed myself to be loved by a group of people in recovery who showed me that I was worth saving and worth loving no matter what metaphorical and like sometimes literal alleys I had wandered down.”
She also admitted that she felt “shame” when she eventually left rehab.
“Not just the shame of facing decisions I didn’t like in my recent past, but the shame of this new title drug addict, couldn’t you call me something cooler? Like, like I dunno like Oxycontin expert? That’s close to being a doctor. But even as a chronic oversharer I lived in fear of anyone finding out this fact of my life. I went everywhere under a false name. I registered everywhere, not as myself. Were people still going to work with me, kiss me, hang out with me after midnight just shooting the shit and sometimes smoking a cigarette? Would everything I’ve ever done you’ve viewed through the lens of addiction?”
Now a year and a half sober, the actress said that her recovery “doesn’t cancel out” who she was.
“It just makes it easier and healthier to continue to be her,” she said of herself.”And so after much contemplation moving further through my journey of recovery and talking to other sober women, I realized being me has hurt and sometimes it’s hurt so much that I couldn’t bear it. But being me is also a super power. And it’s the same for all of you.”