I’ve been in recovery from sex addiction, love addiction and codependency for over ten years. As many therapists like to say, recovery is like the peeling an onion, every step of the journey finding out what’s underneath the next layer.
I’ve had numerous “ah ha” moments in my recovery where I felt as if I finally “got it.” Then, for one reason or another, I’d regress in my behavior wondering if I was truly going to be able to heal. Unfortunately, much of my regression happened when my ex and I weren’t connecting, especially when she pulled away because I ended up pursuing her when we were getting along. There was always this hope that we could reconcile what we once had and when she had to hold the tough boundaries between us because I misunderstood our friendship, I’d fall back into the same state of despair I had been in before.
Towards the end of April 2020, I fell hard once again. The pandemic, stuck at home, being only 20 minutes from my ex and daughters yet not having any connection with them, and the uncertainty of my career, I ended up relapsing and stopped taking care of my health.
Negative self-thoughts kept surfacing and I shamed myself for once again not being able to stay in control. I had forgotten the key to Step 1: I was powerless over my addiction and my life had become unmanageable.
Actually, I prefer Tommy Rosen’s Recovery 2.0 1st Effort which has a bit of a twist on the 12 steps, especially for those who struggle with a Power Greater than themselves and character defects.
“We admitted that we had been stuck in patterns of belief and behavior that no longer served us, and that we were cut off from the power of Consciousness.”
My unconscious patterns and behaviors always surfaced when I was emotionally off.
This is what got me started with the #75Hard Challenge. I always do better when I’m competing, even if it’s against myself. For those of you who follow me, I’m not sure I posted that I completed the challenge. YAY! In a Grateful Sunday post back in May, I stated I was on day 13. Those first two weeks that were the hardest.
One part of this challenge was to read 10 pages of a self-help book (no audio book and no digital book) each day. The Body Keeps the Score was top of my reading list. It had been recommended by many of my peers in program and my therapist.
The thing is, I had already learned that trauma becomes embedded deep within in the cells of your body. It affects us on a cellular level. And I had done numerous trauma workshops and a multitude of EMDR sessions. I started this book with the intention to once again try to understand the trauma I had placed upon my ex so I could ultimately bring peace for the walls she kept putting up between us.
My thought process was if I could understand “her” trauma, then it would help me let go of her, not internalizing our divorce and the severance of our friendship as rejection.
What I found was something deeper.
This book gave me the key I needed to heal my own trauma. I didn’t realize that the way I responded to my ex was because my childhood wounding was still getting triggered. On a physical and emotional level, I wasn’t able to truly heal because my body did “keep the score”. My body would react, causing emotions and feelings to come up, which I then placed thoughts and stories to. This only intensified the cycle.
The first part of this book goes into Dr. Van Der Kolk’s years of learning about trauma starting with his treatment of Vietnam vets and eventually what he learned treating childhood trauma. He explains the neuroscience of the brain and how it’s designed to protect you and help you survive. He goes into the parts of the brain that literally shut down when triggered and the chemistry of the body that releases certain hormones when the brain goes into survival mode and how those hormones also affect your body and mind.
The first part is very scientific and technical. Some people may shy away from this. I was intrigued. I enjoy reading how the brain works and how much we’ve learned about neuroscience in the last ten years. Fastinating!
The next part focuses on the minds of children. As my therapist taught in his trauma workshops, childhood trauma is anything that’s less than nurturing. Which pretty much means everyone has some level of childhood trauma because we aren’t nurtured 100% of the time. Life and the various issues parents struggle with get in the way. This is not something that those of us who are parents need to shame ourselves for or be defensive about. It just is. We need to be aware of it so we can help our children heal from the areas we fell short.
Dr. Van Der Kolk discusses attachment theory and how abuse and neglect affect children. He talks about how painful childhood memories become repressed, an automatic protective response of the brain, and how these memories can either surface at a later date or cause us to react to situations in which we have no idea why we respond the way we do. And, with attachment theory, he explains how we recreate our childhood trauma as an attempt to heal what is broken inside of us by attaching to people who have similar traits as our caregivers.
The result of how we react to our triggers is what ends up getting labeled by doctors and therapists. Such as depression, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorder, and learning disorder, just to name a few. We end up using drugs to treat these ailments which only treats the symptom, not the underlying condition. The key to healing is to identify and treat the trauma.
The second half of the book discusses various ways we can treat childhood trauma. And this led me to learning about the power of yoga. With gyms closed, needing to do two 45 minutes of exercise a day due to the #75 Hard Challenge I had agreed to do, and cutting out my sugar cravings and alcohol, I finally decided an hour of yoga would be beneficial (I had resisted yoga for years because I didn’t feel it burned enough calories and I really wanted to keep drinking my Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappaccinos). This lead me to Tommy Rosen’s 8 Week Awakening, becoming a scientist in my own body and experiencing the benefits of this art form that has been around for over 5,000 years.
Ok, I feel like a broken record, a salesman of some new and improved product. I have no clue if this will work for all my Fledglings. I know it worked for me. And the only reason why I let go and accepted that maybe, just maybe, this would help, was because Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk had the scientific evidence to back it up. In fact, he has a blog post December 2020 explaining briefly why it’s important to do yoga during quarantine.
I won’t go into depth about the different kinds of yoga I prefer to use. That’s for another time. Let’s just say that Kundalini Yoga, using different breathing techniques and postures, moved an incredible amount of energy out of my body. The first month, most of my practices ended with me crying as I released pain, guilt, shame, and anger. I felt like I was walking on air throughout the day. I’ve now added Power Yoga to increase strength, balance, flexibility, and more challenge. These challenges cause me to really focus on my breathing and takes me out of the chatter in my mind. I’ve also added Yin Yoga to help with deep stretching to stretch not only the muscles, but all the connective tissues as well. This has become a form of meditation for me helping me calm my mind.
What I’ve learned is how to become aware of my body. I’ve learned to listen to it. I know the physical characteristic traits that points to a trauma trigger reaction and I can automatically go to my breath to help me through. If I have the time available, I can flow through a few yoga poses to release that energy from my body. Once that energy is released, my brain is no longer hijacked, trying desperately to fight or flee. I’m calm and can rationally and logically manage the situation I’m in. Once grounded, I have the full functionality of my brain, I’m less reactive, and not in as much physical pain.
Do I always get this right? Of course not.
I have a tool that’s available to me to help me process the physical sensations in my body.
Now yoga may not work for you. That’s why we try something and experiment. Be a scientist. There are many other techniques described in this book to help one heal from trauma.
I recommend this book for anyone who shames themselves, “Why did I do that? Why did I say that? How come I keep doing that? I know better!”
If you struggle with trauma triggers, I recommend reading this book. Or anyone who wants to understand why a close friend or loved one becomes reactive, this book will give you some answers.
The Body Keeps the Score was a critical turning point in helping me understand the “why” of what was going on within me and the “how” I could heal and nurture my inner child.
For it is when we integrate our adult and our inner child, when we nurture and love the young soul within us, is when Together We Can Heal.