The Meadows Blog

Friday, 16 September 2016 00:00

Recovery Requires Shining a Light on Trauma

By Peter Charad

It's one of those memories that feels like it happened yesterday.

Tuesday evening, October 5, 1976, I had checked into the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong. As I arrived at my room I heard the phone ringing.

I was excited as I assumed it was my Hong Kong pals phoning to tell me what the arrangements were for the evening.

I have never been able to describe the feeling when, as I picked up the telephone, my ex-brother-in-law told me that my brother had taken his own life.

Colin was the family hero; my personal hero. My belief was that when all else failed he would be there to catch me⎯and he was gone!

I couldn't breathe, I felt nauseous, and then an enormous, scary howl screeched out of me. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so alone and in dire stress; completely out of control.

A colleague had been phoned before I was phoned and very shortly arrived at my door with a bottle of XO Brandy. He poured out a very large glass for me. Those powerful feelings began to subside.

Early the next morning I bought the first 10mg Valium tablets, of many to come, and booked my journey to Johannesburg for the Friday funeral. There was no direct flight so I was booked to leave in the evening via Australia, a 37-hour journey that I survived on alcohol and Valium!

I made it to the funeral and returned back to Hong Kong two days later to continue on as if nothing had happened. The reality was that it hadn't happened on a “feeling level.” I had gone way up into that space where I couldn't feel hurt anymore and I continued to live up there for another 12 years surviving on alcohol and drugs.

I entered a treatment facility in November 1988 to help me stop using these substances. It worked; I was there for five weeks and thankfully haven't found it necessary to use alcohol or any other substance since.

However, little did I know that all the feelings I had numbed before, over and over again for those 12 years were waiting to be felt and processed. It was overwhelming at times; I did not think I would get through it. But, little by little, those enormous feelings began to ease and slowly, after three and a half years of sobbing and screaming I began to surface feeling calm⎯not high, just calm.

It allowed me to emotionally bury my late brother with love and then start healing from all the pain and find the real person under all of that trauma. I am so grateful that I stayed and found mentors who shone lights for me when everything looked so dark.

Share Your Story

In honor of National Recovery Month, we want to hear your story and share it with others. What does being #fearless mean to you, and to your recovery? Tell us in a short essay (500 words) or short video (2 minutes), and we may feature you on our blog or Facebook page! Email your submissions to asauceda@themeadows.org, or share them on Twitter and mention @AndreaSauceda in your tweet.

Published in Treatment & Recovery
Thursday, 15 September 2016 00:00

Being Fearless in Recovery Means Being Vulnerable

By: Rachel Margolis

My immediate thought about the word "fearless" is of one being without fear. For years, I have been literally frozen by fear and pain from childhood trauma that rolled into adulthood. As a child, displaying any feelings at all prompted being shamed by my caregivers, who I was afraid of most of all. I dived into addiction in order not to feel that fear and pain. Eventually, I was unable to feel anything without feeding my addiction - and that soon ceased to work. The result? I found myself not even able to get out of bed. I wasn't afraid of dying - I was afraid of living. I couldn't feel anything and didn't want to.

During my stay at The Meadows this year, I learned to identify my feelings and "sit with them" opposed to minimizing, denying, and avoiding them. I was full of fear as I faced the darkest parts of my life and I did something so painfully difficult for me - I asked for help each step of the way. I took the risk to be vulnerable and trust people - my peers, my therapists, and my Higher Power. When I reached out for help, I found the "fear" became "less"!

Being fearless in recovery to me is taking the risk to be vulnerable - willing to be seen and to see and accept others where they are. Being fearless is putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward with openness, honesty and willingness, even when it's painful. It's being perfectly imperfect and accepting the humanity of myself and others - while striving to be the best me I can be, which will always be enough. I have discovered that my addiction and trauma are stronger than ME, but not stronger than WE! With that WE strength I know I can walk through the most challenging times that I might face.

Share Your Story

In honor of National Recovery Month, we want to hear and share your story. What does being #fearless mean to you, and to your recovery? Tell us in a short essay (500 words) or short video (2 minutes), and we may feature you on our blog or Facebook page! Email your submissions to asauceda@themeadows.org, or share them on Twitter and mention @AndreaSauceda in your tweet.

Published in Treatment & Recovery
Monday, 12 September 2016 00:00

What It Means to Be Fearless in Recovery

By Tommy S., former client of The Meadows

Fearless:

  • Seeing a new beginning in each day  
  • Putting the day before behind me
  • Accepting each new challenge
  • Using failed challenges as a inspiration and direction to conquer the new ones,
  • Meeting and accepting new people for who they are, and letting them see me for who I am inside and out
  • Extending my hand to those who want it, and to those who do not,
  • Looking at the good in people while also not fearing the bad in people
  • Looking at the bad in me and making it good no matter how long it may be,
  • Doing the right thing even when its difficult,
  • Not criticizing others while being able to criticize myself,
  • Speaking the truth no matter how hard the truth may be,
  • Being able to listen to the truth about me while being ok with it
  • Looking ahead with goals, while letting failed goals help me achieve the new ones

Accepting fear while being fearless, is what fearless is to me.

Share Your Story

In honor of National Recovery Month, we want to hear and share your story. What does being #fearless mean to you, and to your recovery? Tell us in a short essay (500 words) or short video (2 minutes), and we may feature you on our blog or Facebook page! Email your submissions to asauceda@themeadows.org, or share them on Twitter and mention @AndreaSauceda in your tweet.

Published in Treatment & Recovery
Thursday, 08 September 2016 00:00

Are you #fearless in Your Recovery?

Being #fearless doesn’t mean that you are never afraid.

Being #fearless means that…

  • You aren’t afraid to confront your fears.
  • You aren’t afraid to challenge any negative thoughts you have about yourself or your purpose in life.
  • You aren’t afraid to live your life as your full, authentic self.

What does being #fearless mean to you, and to your recovery? Tell us in a short essay (500 words) or short video (2 minutes), and we may feature you on our blog or Facebook page! Email your submissions to asauceda@themeadows.org, or share them on Twitter and mention @AndreaSauceda in your tweet.

Published in Treatment & Recovery

When bystanders pulled Stanford University swimmer and Olympic hopeful Brock Turner away from the woman he was sexually assaulting behind a fraternity house dumpster, he laughed.

When the judge in the resulting sexual assault trial handed down a sentence much more lenient than the recommended six years of jail time, citing the “severe impact” he feared a harsher sentence may have on the 20-year-old, many felt that he might as well have laughed.

Both reactions to Turner’s crime make light of the traumatic and often devastating impact that rape and sexual assault has on its victims. The Brock Turner case opened up many fraught and painful discussions about rape culture and the way that society tends to blame victims of sexual assault and normalize sexual violence.

Many of those same wounds are being reopened this week with the news that Turner will be released from jail after serving only 3 months of a 6 months sentence. The news is not surprising—most expected him to only serve part of his sentence on a presumption of good behavior—but, for many, it’s serving as an unwanted reminder of their own sexual traumas and the ways in which their pain was silenced, ridiculed, or ignored.

The Long-Lasting Impact of Sexual Assault

Researchers aren’t sure why, but rape seems to have a more severe impact on a person than other types of trauma. It’s normal to feel some symptoms of traumatic stress for a few weeks after any experience with violence. Those who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, can continue to experience problems with sleeping, nightmares, panic, severe anxiety and depression that last for months or years. As time goes on, if the person does not receive treatment for the disorder, the symptoms can get worse and worse, and even become debilitating.

People can develop PTSD after any number of horrific events including combat, car accidents, and life-threatening injuries, but rape victims have been found to be more likely to struggle with long-term psychological and physiological issues. They also have a higher risk of developing PTSD and related disorders.

In addition to PTSD, women who were raped have also been found to be more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction, pain during intercourse, menstrual problems, and inhibited arousal.

Why Does Rape Have a Stronger Impact Than Other Types of Trauma?

Though no one has yet been able to determine the reason why rape has such a heightened traumatic impact, some theorize that both brain chemistry and rape culture play a role.

Cortisol, a hormone that is released in times of stress, was reported in a 2011 study to be found at higher levels in rape victims than in those of people otherwise traumatized.

The exact reason is unknown, but some researchers believe that it could be that the physical closeness of rape prompts the body to respond differently to rape and sexual assault than it does to other types of trauma.

Another possibility is that rape victims’ levels of cortisol are elevated due to the level of shame they experience—shame has been found in some studies to be linked to higher levels of cortisol. If the shame theory holds true, it further illustrates the importance of changing the way we treat rape and sexual assault victims as a society.

Recovery from Rape and Sexual Trauma

Many women who are traumatized by rape experience a secondary traumatization through the harsh scrutiny, blaming, and shaming they receive from law enforcement, family, peers, and others are often reluctant to ask for any further help. Men who are raped or sexually assaulted may be even more unlikely to report the crime or ask for help from the resulting trauma, due to stigmas related to men, sex, and powerlessness.

More must be done to help lift the burden of shame from both male and female victims of sexual assault, and raise awareness about treatment options for PTSD and other mental health issues that often result from the emotional trauma of sexual assault.

If you’d like to talk to us about treatment options for sexual trauma and related disorders, please give us a call at 866-330-1925. Our specialists are glad to answer any questions you may have and understand the importance of keeping your call strictly confidential.

Published in Trauma

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