Archive for the ‘process’ Tag

Gratitude – Memories of the Heart   1 comment

Posted November 21, 2011 by Hope in Recovery in Gratitude, Uncategorized

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“Baby Steps” – Self-Esteem (Re-Post)   5 comments

“Baby Steps” a Lesson in Self-Esteem

After some recent interactions I feel that this is a good time to revisit this concept. It is such a struggle for so many. I actually heard someone say “I don’t feel worthy of getting better.” How much clearer can this epidemic be expressed?

I Hope and pray that your are encouraged and inspired to fight the good fight and take those first challenging “Baby Steps” of reclaiming your self-esteem.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome and ENCOURAGED

One Breath, One Step, One Day at a Time!

_______________________________________________________________________

Self-Esteem is probably one of the most important yet difficult issues faced by any human being whether you are challenged with a mental illness or substance abuse or not. This is even truer for those that are traveling along this journey of Recovery battling these issues.

It has been my experience that Self-Esteem is so difficult for some of us that we avoid even talking about the issue completely, including ways to work to improve it. I believe that we do this because we are fully aware of the minimal amount of esteem that we have for ourselves. This low-self-esteem is a great obstacle in our recovery.

We will often sabotage our potential and possibility of success, by not fully investing ourselves and thus not giving our very best effort. Why? We do this because we are “Sure” that we are going to fail again. If we are honest with ourselves, then we often unconsciously and at times consciously choose to fail rather than succeed. I believe that we do so for a couple of different reasons.

1. Though it is painful, failure is actually comfortable and familiar. Though it hurts, we know where we are and what is going to happen next.

It is sad but true but, many of us, despite the pain and suffering we will often choose to remain in a state dysfunction out of comfort and familiarity.  On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to succeed, then there is a whole new world of unknowns that we must navigate. Once we start experiencing even the smallest of victories, then we are faced with all new expectations of success placed on us by ourselves and by others. Here again, we had rather fail now rather than fail later and let ourselves or more importantly (to us at the time) someone else.

2. Through our past and experiences, we have grown to believe, “I don’t deserve to be successful and happy”

For many of us we initially heard the negative messages from others, parents, teachers, others kids at school, etc. Messages like: “You’re good for nothing”, ”You’ll never amount to anything”, “I don’t even know why you try”, “ All you are is a screw-up”. These “tapes” have played in our heads for so long that we grow to believe that we really are “worthless” and do not deserve to have anything good happen in our lives. When something does happen to our benefit, we attribute it to “luck” or to the actions to someone else and refuse to accept any personal recognition or satisfaction for the effort which we put forth in order to reach that point of success, no matter how great or how small.

 3. We have developed a since of learned helplessness.

Similarly, we grow to accept and take on these same negative messages and thus believe that we truly are not capable of succeeding.  Therefore, when faced with an opportunity for success, we either consciously or unconsciously sabotage it, insuring that we fail. There by strengthening our belief in our helplessness. I believe that this is where the concept of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes in.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is at the beginning, a false belief about a situation which evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. Thus the individual will cite the actual course of events as proof that he/she was right from the very beginning

Much of what I have shared thus for is not new to any of you, in fact my guess is that as many of you have read, you have said to yourself, “Oh, that is why I do that”. Well now that we have a little bit of an idea, of how we got to where we are, and why we have stayed here, lets look at some ways to get moving in the right direction.

Most, if not all of us, have been hindered at least to some degree by before mentioned learned helplessness. There is one good thing about learned helplessness… it is LEARNED. If it is learned, then it can be unlearned and something new, different, better can be learned in its place.  We can learn “hopefulness”.  Hopefulness essentially is the opposite of helplessness.

Hopefulness is “Believing, despite what I see in my circumstances, I am capable and worthy of being successful.”

Of course, getting to that point is much easier said than done. Many of us have been hopeless and helpless for so long, we struggle with even the possibility of hope.

Self-Esteem has to be build from the ground up and learning to walking in it really is a step by step process. Let me borrow from a life experience and lesson that we have ALL learned from.

When a child learns to walk, he/she does not turn 10-months old and just start walking independently. There are MANY smaller steps that have occurred over the months leading up to day.  He/she rolled over, scooted, crawled, pulled up to stand, etc. He/she took one “baby step” after another until he/she got to the point of taking those first steps. Even then, once he/she starts walking, there are going to be falls, bumps, and bruises.  Does the child give up? NO. He/she cries for a bit, but then gets up and tries again. Slowly but surely, he/she gets better and better, more stable, and ultimately more and more confident.

We must translate these same “baby steps” into our recovery. As we start out, we slowly put one foot in front of the other, a little wobbly at first and reaching out and relying on our support systems to a degree. We begin with simple say day to day challenges: getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, going to support groups or meetings. If faced with more difficult decisions we seek counsel from among our peers and support. As we grow more confident and stable in making these simple day to day decisions and solving problems, we gradually start taking on more difficult ones. Again, we are becoming more and more confident in the process. Just as with the child learning to walk, we are learning that there is hope, we can be successful and it really is not as scary a place as we thought that it was. We have learned to be hopeful, seeing ourselves and our circumstances from a optimistic perspective, seeing the good that our lives can be and how we can be an asset to those around us.

I want to leave you with a few practical exercises to help as you begin “crawling” in your self-esteem:

  1.  List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  2.  List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  3. Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  4. Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be  “worse off” than you.

As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 “We have to walk before we can run!”

Old things are Passed Away   2 comments

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, allthings have become new.

When we come into faith in Christ we become a NEW person. Christ took ALL of our past, our sin, our pain on the cross and when he was in the grave he left it there. When we accept Him as our Savior and make Him LORD then he gives us His Spirit. There is no darkness in Him so he begins the work of shining the light if TRUTH into every closet and corner of our lives healing and setting us free from all of our hurts and hang-ups. This process is not a painless one. Sometimes we realize for what ever reason that we do not want to let go of a particular hurt or habit because it has comforted us for a long time. But I encourage to consider the alternative. When we choose to abandon these things, what does He do? He blesses us with His healing and the “Peace that passes ALL understanding”

Romans 12:1-2

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

My friends I pray that you surrender completely to him so he can heal you completely.
You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you FREE!
He who the SON sets free is free INDEED!

Two Gates – One Choice   2 comments

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)


Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it. (CEV)

This passage is set in the midst of Jesus great ‘Sermon on the Mount” and obviously gives us direction regarding the choices and direction of our lives. It is also a very clear picture of our journey in recovery. The only difference is that everyday we are faced with that same decision over and over and over again. I once said, Each step in recovery is one step further away from where/who you were and one closer to who you really are, and where you want to be!” Despite that truth, everyday and at times throughout the day, the “Wide Gate” continually offers itself for us to enter in. Thus AA has slogans like:“One day at a time” and “Do the next right thing”. They are all about recognition of this precise challenge.

That being said, I personally began using a new closing in my correspondence, “One Breath, one Step, one Day at a time.” Ever moment of everyday we are faced with situations and decisions, some so seemingly small that we react without giving them a second thought, others are far more difficult and require more processing. The scary part is, the “small” thoughtless decisions have just as much potential for changing our lives for the positive or negative as the “bigger” and more difficult ones.

Let me share with you a brief example: I was running late to work after lunch one day and focused on getting back as quickly as possible. Because I was in a hurry, I quick
ly decided to accelerate through a red light that had just turned from yellow. Because I was not paying attention, I did not see the one-ton Pick-up that had just exited the interstate and he “t-boned” my front end spinning me 270 degrees, and ultimately totaling my vehicle. Luckily I nor the other driver were seriously injured. That one thoughtless decision could have not only altered, but ended m
y life.

So as the author and poet, Robert Frost said,”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.“ From the Road Less Traveled”

So how do I go about making sure that I am taking the right path. One clear indicator is that if you are surrounded by others that all seem to be moving through life as fast or faster than you are, then you are probably not on the right path. Where as when you feel like you are alone and struggling just to take the next step, then you are probably in just the right place. The good news that we are not alone on this journey. We are not left to our own devices and wisdom alone as we travel. First and foremost we have our “Higher Power”. I refer to Him as God, the Heavenly Father; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He has provided us with His written and infallible Word and His Spirit He has placed within those that believe. His word on more than one occasion provides instructions for when we do not know “what the next right thing” is.

Matthew 7:7-11“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

When we find ourselves at a crossroads where it is difficult to determine, which path is not just the “right” one, but the “God’ one, all we have to do is ASK!

Even then, if you are still unsure there give you a few simple suggestions:

  1. Love God with EVERYTHING that you have. (Matthew 22:36-39)
  2. Love others and treat them how you would want to be treated.
  3. Examine your actions and thoughts and test them against the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:21-23)


I can guarantee one thing, at least at the beginning, the “narrow road” will NOT any easy one. But as we overcome one obstacle after another, we get stronger and more confident and the trials slowly do not seem as difficult to manage and overcome. Eventually, sooner than later, if we keep up doing the work, we find ourselves no longer “making mountains out of mole hills” rather we begin to make “molehills out of Mountains”

Rather than mumbling, grumbling and complaining about our situations, let us do as a before mentioned passage of scriptures recommend and

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Have you noticed that having a bad attitude does not help the situation get any better, however, when we keep a positive attitude, we things just seem to “be” better. This scripture and thought reminds me of a comment that I recently saw posted by several friends on Facebook, with some slight wording changes it is:

I am strong because I know my weaknesses, I am alive because I am a fighter, I am wise because I have been foolish, and I can laugh because I have known sadness. I am proud and strong. I made it through the storm and learned to dance in the rain!’

We grow grow stronger and wiser through the trials and hardships. Let me use an analogy: You can’t sharpen a knife by running the blade under water. You must have some kind of sharpening tool with a rough surface which the blade is rubbed against. Rubbing the surface of the blade against the rough surface smooths, straightens and polishes the edge of the blade, sharpening it.

Trials and “storms” are the tools that develop our character, smoothing out our weaknesses and polishing our strengths. When we take the Wide and easy road through life with out these trials we develop no character of our own and never truly define who we are as a person.

So let us be grateful for the potholes, treacherous cliffs (some of which we have fallen off of), and thorn patches because these are the very experiences that have molded us into the strong and capable people that we are today. I know many of you are look at yourself and you do not see strong and capable. I challenge yo to reconsider that perspective of yourself. If you were not strong and capable, where would you be today? One thing I am sure of, it is not where you are!

So, no matter how hard the path seems right now, I urge to wake up every morning and say the following affirmation out loud to yourself:

Today is a new day; I choose to be grateful for all that I have and to follow the narrow road that leads to peace and contentment. I know each step may be difficult, but I will approach each trial confidently, knowing that as I persevere I am become wiser, stronger and ultimately happier!” 

GUEST POST – Not. My Kid. Kelli’s Story:   2 comments

Not My Kid – Kelli’s Story:  

Advice for Desperate Parents about your Child’s Addiction, from a Former Homecoming Queen Turned Drug Addict

By: Kelli Athas / Personal Interventionist, Intercept Interventions

High school homecoming queen. Cheerleader. I was beautiful, bright-eyed, popular, and had every advantage. I came from a good, solid family who loved me; I had friends I loved being with, and a future that shined bright with opportunity. Then I made a choice that changed my life forever.

I am a recovering drug addict.

I have walked the streets with prostitutes. I have eaten table scraps. I lived the nightmare you fear for your child. I have done things to get high that I am deeply, deeply ashamed of…I understand desperation. I have been to hell, and by an unfathomable grace I am alive and healthy today.

Your child is a drug addict. You are in a desperate place right now; I understand. I have breathed inside your son or your daughter’s skin. I have been consumed, eaten alive, with a force that was a thousand times greater than me…a force that is right now consuming your child’s body, heart, mind, and soul. Inside every hour of every day I was addicted to drugs, my mother and my family tried to help me; they hoped, cried, prayed and lived a frantic existence of worry and fear. If you are the parent of an addict you likely feel just as out of control as the addict you so desperately want to help. You want to cure your baby. Unfortunately you cannot cure this person you love.

Perhaps accepting the fact that there is no cure, no quick fix that will make everything go back to your “normal” family life is the first step toward strength and clarity for you. There is an overabundance of well-intentioned (and many non-well-intentioned) people advertising quick methods that will change your loved one’s life, make them get off drugs and become whole again. The reality is there is no one that can cure drug addiction. An addict must first face up to their addiction and admit they need help. They will need to find a support group best fits their needs, and stick with it. Recovery is a journey not a destination. The insanity and chaos that is imbued in addiction toys with emotions, and feelings become erratic and unpredictable. This is one of the reasons it is vitally important to seek an objective point of view from someone who’s been in an addict’s shoes, in their skin, someone you trust to give you and your family hope and guidance.

I am still so saddened when I remember the pure exhaustion and desperation on my mother’s face when she would look at me during my struggle. She wanted so much for me to overcome this disease, but it would be a long road to recovery for me. I’ve been in treatment several times. I got out of my first rehab in 1996 and my mom thought the nightmare was over and life would go back to normal. No one explained this is a lifelong journey, a battle for me and for her. The greatest lesson I learned in my first stint in rehab was that I needed to hide my addiction better. I never thought of myself like the others in rehab; they were failures, they were low. Some whored their bodies to get money to buy drugs, others stole from their parents and kind-hearted friends. I was nothing like this. But after leaving the recovery program and getting back to my toxic patterns, I realized in the blink of an eye that I was lying to myself – I was exactly like them.

Addiction manifests itself in many ways. Manipulation and deception are huge indicators of trouble to come. Parents be vigilant – teens know how to manipulate. In my senior year of high school I was voted “Miss Smooth Talker”…and I considered this an accomplishment. The title should’ve been “Miss Manipulator” because that’s exactly what I had become. I thought “just one time for fun” would be just one time for fun – but instead it kick-started an all-consuming lust to chase that first high. It’s an indisputable fact that a high rate of teens begin their alcohol & drug use at this pivotal age in their life, as a parent it is an excruciatingly frightening scenario. No one can predict it and no one knows what they’ll do unless they’re in it themselves. It’s common to want to give your child the benefit of the doubt. Praying it’s only a phase, & for many it may be just that. But if your child has been experimenting and because of it they receive some adverse consequences, such as being suspended from school and they continue to use, that is when serious action should be to be taken. If you don’t seek help your taking the risk that they will fall into the vicious cycle of addiction.

Educating families & kids about addiction is not easy. My advice to you: get in their face. Ask them the uncomfortable questions, and if they try to blow you off, if they try to manipulate you, do not budge. If you’re not talking to your kids about drugs, someone will. Find out who their friends are. Find out where they hang out, what they do after-school. Protect them when they don’t know enough to protect themselves.

The social stigma of “not my child, they’re smarter than that” is not enough and will not help you help them. If your son or daughter has an addiction problem my advice to you is dig deep for strength, draw it from your love for them, and walk beside them through their journey toward recovery without expectation and without judgment. Be their parent, their cheerleader and the person they can trust most in the world. And no matter how dark it gets and how much they struggle to run away from you, never let them go!

Kelli Athas is a certified national drug and alcohol interventionist. She and her husband Nick Athas are the founders of Intercept Interventions, a program that helps families through the intervention process. Kelli is a highly sought after drug and alcohol recovery expert and works with courts, child protection services’ case managers and school administrators to mentor teens struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

http://www.interceptinterventions.com/


Man in the Mirror   1 comment

We all have someone or something that we want to change. We have tried EVERYTHING that we can think of: ignoring, nagging, yelling punishment, etc. However nothing changes!

We are guilty as charged. It may be a spouse, parent, child, friend, co-worker, but we have all done this at sometime or another.

I want us to spend a little bit of time thinking about this idea of “Changing others”.

I have a simple question, which I believe will actually set the tone for this piece:

“Can we change the behaviors of another person?”

 Ultimately, there is only one answer, and we are not going to like the answer.                 The answer is:“NO!”

That is not to say that our reactions and responses have no effect on the behaviors of others. We have seen that, all too many times. Let me share a brief example:

 An adolescent male is hanging out with a group of peers who  are partying, drinking and using other drugs. Mom and Dad have grounded him, taken away his car, his phone, and yelled, but nothing. In fact, the more that they hound him or tried to restrict him, the more intent he is to do exactly what they do not want him to do.

Are the mom and dad impacting the son’s behavior? Is it the kind of change that they are trying to achieve?

I want to challenge the very core of how we have tried to change the behaviors of others. We all remember “positive reinforcement” “rewards” “punishment”, “extinction”, etc.  I readily acknowledge that used appropriately these techniques do often work, but at what cost? More often than not, either we are the “problematic” individual, end up feeling like we want to pull our hair out. It can put a significant strain on our relationships.

What I recommend is a simple change in approach and perspective. We need to stop worrying so much about what “everyone else” is doing or not doing, exerting  a lot of energy and time in to thinking about what we do not have, and how “bad” our problems are.We need to focus on our strengths and recognize the good that we have in our lives. We need to start to concentrate on our own feelings, thoughts and behavior.  We start doing those things that help us to feel better and to maybe even feel “happy”.

Quoting a great philosopher of modern time:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change Michael Jackson from “Man in the Mirror

ANY change that we want to make in our world must start with changing the person that is within.

Another well known inspirational and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi said it this way:   “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  

NO, I am not one of those “New Age”, “Power of Positive Thinking”, “Law of Attraction” promoter, but I do believe that there is something to be said for simply being more optimistic and looking for the positives in the world, in one simple word, having “Hope”.

Most of us need to look no further than within our own homes, and some just have to look within  to see how little hope there is in our world today.

I may not know your story, but I have probably heard one similar, and understand why for many Hope is difficult concept to believe in, That being said, let me share another quote by another man whose wisdom I have grown to greatly respect.

“We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that some people act in certain ways. The only thing we can change is our attitude and response to our envirnoment. ”

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll

There are no “mulligans” or “do overs” in life. Whatever the past has dealt to us, it can’t be changed. However, as I have recently said in other articles, we can let go of it and move on. What I can change is how cope with the issues and trials in my current environment. Each time I choose to respond out of hope I am being changed from the inside out and hope is growing stronger within me. As we connect with that hope and start acting on it, we will be changed. When others start seeing the changes in us: in our attitude, in our response and reactions, and simply in our day to day behavior.They too will begin to ve more positive and hopeful. Hope is contagious!

I once said,“Hope is the flame of a candle flickering in the night, the only way to penetrate the darkness is to share its flame with another. In sharing it looses nothing, but gain clearer vision.”

So for all those colorful words, what does that mean?  In short, it means “sharing the hope that we have does not cost us anything, we loose nothing, but we make the world around us, our world a better place for others and for ourselves as well.”

As has been said, most people react to attempts to “change” them rather negatively. Each one of us is guilty of this very thing. How many times, when you were being “corrected”, did you think to yourself, “Who does he think that he is?”? It is probably more that we are willing to admit. However,when treated with love, dignity and respect, we are more likely to respond positively. One of my favorite quotes, which I have tried to live by is:

 People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. John Maxwell

We must show that we care about the person as an individual first. They must know that we love and support them despite their faults.

Here again we have all been there. When we are constantly berated and told that we are “good for nothing” or “never do anything right”  we begin to believe it, and eventulaly develop  poor self-esteem and accept hat we are “unloveable” and/or “unacceptable”. So eventually we give up and stop trying. However, if at some point there were someone, ANYone to show us that the cared despite our “issues” and poor choices, we would catch just a seed of hope.

Another VERY wise man discussed changing ourselves before others like this:

 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Jesus) Matthew 7:3-5

Basically what is He saying? Worry first about taking care of your own stuff and change the person wihtin before you start trying to fix others.

I believe that if and when we change the “Man in the Miirror” and thus change our perspective and atitude about our world, we will find a whole lot fewer things that still need changing. The situatiojns  that still need attention will respond more positively, if we approach it differently.

In closing I share one other passsage of scripture:

  22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.  James 1:22-25(NIV)

 Now I am not comparing my words to those in the Scriptures. I simply remind us all of where TRUE change comes from.  When we follow THE WORD and the teaching of the greatest of all Teachers then we find the joy, peace and life that we are ALL seeking.

So my friends, I challenge to take a deep look into the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I happy and content with the person looking back at me?”  If not, then “Make A Change”

Trauma   3 comments

PREFACE: Please be aware that some may find this article triggering. Read with caution and PLEASE stop reading and seek out support at any point that it becomes overwhelming. It WILL be emotion inducing and some what challenging. However, I believe that you will be glad that you did so.

                 This article is definitely more enlightening, but I do hope that by the end you are encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope and most importantly EMPOWERED to believe in yourself and the strength that resides within.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                     YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

There can be absolutely no denying the impact that trauma has on mental illness and substance abuse. In fact, I would guess that a significant number of readers of this very article, have been touched by some kind of trauma or another. In fact, I would be bold enough to day, that if you personally have not been touched by trauma, every one of us has some one close to us that has.

Well, let’s start with a simple definition of trauma:

  • A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  • An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  • An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
  • Extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

Trauma is also defined by DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as:

an event in which a person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to physical integrity of oneself or others

Trauma can be the result of experiences that are private in nature such as:

  • sexual assault
  • domestic violence
  • Rejection / Abandonment
  • child abuse/neglect
  • witnessing interpersonal violence
  • Victim of Crime (assault, robbery, etc)

Trauma can also be the result of experiences that are more public in nature such as:

  • War
  • Natural Disasters
  • Terrorism
  • Automobile or other Accident

That being said we have ALL experienced some kind of trauma or another. However, it is the personal/private trauma that we think of most and typically has the most psychological effect.

 A Few Facts about Trauma

In mental health and substance abuse service settings

  • As many as 80% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals have experienced physical or sexual abuse, most of them as children.
  • The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%)or Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were abused as children.
  • Up to two-thirds of both men and women in substance abuse treatment report childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 90% of alcoholic women were sexually abused as children or suffered severe violence at the hands of a parent.

In childhood and adolescence

  • 82% of young people in inpatient and residential treatment programs have histories of trauma.
  • Violence is a significant causal factor in 10-25% of all developmental disabilities.

In the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems

  • 80% of women in prison and jail have been victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  • In one study, 92% of incarcerated girls reported sexual, physical or severe emotional abuse.
  • Boys who experience or witness violence are 1,000 times more likely to commit violence than those who do not.

From The Damaging Consequences of Violence and Trauma, 2004, compiled by Ann Jennings, PhD.

Trauma, especially when left untreated can have a severe and negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Trauma has been linked to…

  • Hallucinations
  • Disassociation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • disturbances in mood/self-esteem,
  • Delusions
  • Self-Injury
  • Hostility
  • Flashbacks /Nightmares
  • Assaultiveness
  • Impaired interpersonal  Relationships
  • substance abuse

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OK, enough of the textbook info. What about where the rubber hits the road. In the lives of REAL people not numbers and statistics.  The truth is, traumatic experiences can literally be devastating! A single experience can be disturbing enough on the functioning of an adult, how more injurious is repeated or multiple traumas to the psyche of a child. This is my personal theory, not supported by any research that I know of:

“Trauma is the number one leading cause of poor self-esteem.”

 It reaches in to the deepest places of the individual psyche, pulls it out, rips it to pieces, stomps on it and then hands it back. All that is left is mess and the individually is usually unable to even recognize her/him-self after the fact.  All one is left with is pain, anger, fear, and self-doubt. At this point it feels like there is absolutely no hope at all.

My friends, look around, this sounds paradoxical, but if you are at the bottom, then that is a GOOD thing.

It is a good thing, because if you are at the bottom then there is only one direction to go and that is UP!

My personal “traumatic” experiences are rather minimal, but I have known and helped many through very intense and overwhelming experiences.  I do NOT claim to be a trauma expert, but want to offer some encouragement and insights for helping those that have these experiences to fully overcome them; even it is a “baby step” at a time.

So, where to begin? The first step and most important step is recognizing that you do not have to be a “victim” of the trauma in your past. Simply having survived and come out of it at least somewhat functional, you have proven the strength of your character. Despite how powerless you feel now, you are stronger than you believe at this point in time.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                      YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

I once heard it said something like this: “The mark of an individual is not what he/she has accomplished, who he/she was in the community, how much money he/she made, but what adversity had he/she overcame!

Let me say it a little differently:  “Your past has shaped your view of yourself and the world around, but it does not define who you are now, or your destiny.

The first and hardest part of coping with trauma is separating ourselves from it! We must find a way to start rebuilding our “self” from the inside out. Here are a few practical steps from my article on self-esteem. (Click the link to open the article – will not close this one).

  • List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  • List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  •  Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  •  Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be “worse off” than you.

 As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 Next and likely just as difficult and I know more painful…. We MUST get in touch with the depths of the emotions associated with our traumatic experiences.

 **WARNING**

Do NOT try this at home!

Do NOT attempt to do this ALONE!

As long as we continue to hide from, cover-up, stuff and self-medicate the feelings associated with our trauma, we will continue to suffer just like we were in the midst of the event over and over again. It is like a never ending flashback of pain and suffering. However, when we face them head and push our way through them, yes it is going to be VERY painful, and we want to quit and give-up. We say to ourselves and even to those around us, “It’s not worth it”. But hang in there. The pain is severe, but if you will endure, then you can break the power and control that those strong emotions have had on you leading to ongoing suffering. Now is the time to be totally honest with yourself and the PROFESSIONAL that is helping you. There is no such thing as wrong or inappropriate emotions. Every feeling that you feel related to your experiences is valid and need to be expressed, processed and released!

You will NEVER forget, but with time and work, those memories will not be painful and debilitating. You are on a long and treacherous journey, much like climbing a steep mountain with nothing but a cliff on one side and falling rocks on the other. But if you can hang on and keep pushing yourself, when you get to the top, the view is worth it. When you finally start feeling like you are getting “ahead” of your past, you will simply be amazed of how STRONG you will feel. The beauty and confidence that have been hidden by pain and fear.

Be patient with yourself, you did to get to this point in your life overnight and unfortunately overcoming it does not happen quickly nor easily either. But, celebrate and reward yourself for small victories and accomplishments along the way. Every obstacle that is overcome, makes you stronger and more prepared to overcome the next. Soon, instead of “making mountains out of mole hills”, you will be “making mole hills out of mountains!”

In closing let me close with one final recommendation

Each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

We have to LIVE in the present looking forward with hope for the future. I urge you my friends star LIVING and take your life and destiny back from the traumatic events and perpetrators that have haunted you for TOO LONG!

 YOU ARE WORHT IT!

Your past may have set you going down a certain path, but you are still the one in the driver’s seat!

 The scars of yesterday are the badge of honor and strength of today and the proof of potential for tomorrow.

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