Jessica Martindale attended The Meadows Survivors workshop a few years ago and has since gone on to pursue her dream of singing. She recently contacted the Meadows to share her thoughts on her experience and how what she learned has impacted her life.
As we enter the season of thanks, I can’t help but be humbled by how much I have to be grateful. It was less than a year ago I was living what I call a ‘partial life’. I had a rough childhood and believed our pasts are in the past; we can’t hide behind them; we simply must to press on. This mentality of ignoring the events of my childhood affected every piece of my world, from the job I chose to the way I handled stress. It resulted in perfectionism - distracting me from experiencing my true self, from feeling deep joy or seeing the beauty life offers. Despite my strong faith system, I felt empty and lost.
A therapist recommended I attend Survivor’s week at the Meadows. Desperate for change, I packed my bags for the week that rocked my world. My time at Survivor’s gave me permission to look at the events of my youth in a safe environment. It allowed me to grieve the loss of parenting I should have experienced and empowered me to parent myself henceforth. It freed me from believing I don’t deserve to have my dreams come true or passions fulfilled. It gave me the courage to live and thrive as my true self- messiness and all!
Prior to The Meadows I believed minimizing my background gave me power over it, but I learned it had been crippling me. It had kept me in this state of ‘partial living’. I still have so much to learn, but my week-long experience was a catalyst to send me towards health, to which I am forever thankful.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a singer. The healthier I’ve become, the stronger my conviction to pursue my dream grew. In May I quit my safe corporate career and made my first CD! It was released at the end of September 2013 and has been followed with a southeast tour of singing my songs and telling my truth.
There are two songs in particular that capture my journey: ‘Go’ and ‘Soon, We’ll Dance’. I wrote the song ‘Go’ as a reminder to myself to live in a place of honesty, even when reverting to the ‘Hero Child’ or ‘Lost Child’ is more comfortable. I am still learning how to live in this new role where it’s okay to make mistakes and it isn’t my responsibility to solve my loved one’s problems. (What a relief!)
I wrote ‘Soon, We’ll Dance’ about my experience leaving my stable world to pursue my passion. I believe, with my whole heart, if we know we are meant to do something in life - we must run after it, not looking back. That very passion and drive will lead us to our promise land, to the place where we can’t help but come alive...fully.
Writing and recording these songs has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I hope listening will bring a measure of that joy to you!
To view more of Jessica's work, please visit her Youtube page.
By: Marla Frees
Last week I attended a program for survivors of trauma and abuse when I was gently guided in a meditation by a very gifted facilitator. She invited me to connect to my four-year-old self. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to see what would happen. I saw this precious little girl standing beside the only rose bush that grew against the side of my childhood home. She was picking off the Japanese beetles that were eating away the single rose. I could feel the prickly sticky legs of the green-headed marauder, and then the therapist said, "Hold her and see how she feels."
The girl was anxious, wanting to get back to the rose bush and save it from being ravaged by the beetle that was just doing what a beetle does. Already the pattern of codependence was set up. There I was at such a young age trying to stop the destruction that seemed an inevitable pattern of my family. As though the hunger of my fearful unhappy parents were just doing what they did to survive and the child was the rose. The analogy was daunting.
Tending to the garden of our soul is not something we think about often. But Spirit, in it's divine wisdom, set up a situation for me to heal the foundation of my roots as well as protect how I bloom.
A few months ago I was getting ready to set course with a production company on a project when Spirit told me, "We want you to heal some of your history." Hum, well, of course I wondered how that would happen, but our agendas or what we think about how such a thing can transpire is often contrary to what we WANT to have happen. I like to have things be loving and copacetic so that communication can be resolved in a harmonious way. But this time I could not make that happen because Spirit had a different idea.
What transpired was that I ran smack into a situation with people where fear was at the core of every one of our communications. This triggered me the same way it did with my parents and I literally began to do what I did as a child - vomit.
Spirit told me as my head was in the toilet, "You now can see the damage and feel the pattern of abuse; time to heal it. We want you to go to The Meadows."
The Meadows on one hand is a place for the rehabilitation of many different addictions, but they also have a workshop that was suggested to me by my therapist friends and colleagues who knew about this place. They all said I must do the "Survivor" program. This weeklong workshop investigates the origins of adult dysfunctional behaviors by exploring early childhood trauma that has led to various addictions, depression, eating disorders and painful relationships. In this revolutionary educational and experiential process, participants learn to identify and address family-related issues that took place from birth to 17 years of age. The primary focus of the workshop is to learn to deal with the emotions that accompany any less-than-nurturing past event, and then to work on resolution of the consequential grief and anguish.
The Meadows was an oasis of healing. And in the middle of the very powerful program I had a brief experience of connecting to my inner child who knew the beetles would be trouble, but also loved their sticky legs and the beauty of their metallic green heads and shiny copper wings. Their nature is just to survive. My four-year-old now knows the cycle of beetle and flower: in the destruction of each rose, the bush will bloom even more the next year.
May we all be lucky enough to have the gift of Spirit to help us see the healing and beauty by tending to the garden of our souls.
The Meadows Survivors Workshop Experience
Testimonial from Scott E - a 20 year-old participant in February 2012
I recently had the chance to attend the Meadows Survivors Workshop. Upon completion, I was asked to describe the experience and I wrote the following thoughts.
The Meadows was the most eye opening experience of my life. It has left me in awe; the program was a godsend for me. I was able to go places inside of myself that I was unaware of. Places that would be forbidden to go; and that I would unconsciously avoid. I was able to go there and break down walls from within. I love this workshop and the facility and staff because they made me capable of loving myself.
I had compassion for others and was able to share my emotions with others. I was able to cry when I needed to cry, and laugh when I needed to laugh.
Most importantly I'm leaving with a smile and love for myself. I'm content with me and I know that I am a gift to this world. I leave intrigued with myself, with a respect and love for others and ready to take on life on life's terms. My slogan for the Meadows is that shit gets real, real fast. I am 20 years old...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 2011
Renowned Survivors Workshop Goes on National Road Tour for The Meadows
October 19, 2011 (Wickenburg, Arizona) - The Survivors Workshop pioneered by The Meadows trauma and addiction treatment center is in the middle of their National Road Tour and seeing great success. This weeklong workshop investigates the origins of adult dysfunctional behaviors by exploring early childhood trauma that has led to various addictions, depression, eating disorders and painful relationships.
There was popular demand for the Survivors Workshops and requests from referring professionals to bring the successful program to their cities. The Workshop Tour started in July in Malibu, California. In August, the program moved to Chattanooga, TN on the way to New York City for two different sessions.
"As a leader in the field of trauma and addiction treatment, we've seen the amazing success of our Survivors Workshop at our Wickenburg facility," said Jim Dredge, CEO of The Meadows. "We have a history of responding to the needs of our patients and referral sources; taking the Survivors Workshop on the road was just answering that need."
The workshops are provided in partnership with local counselors who invite their clients to participate, but they are open to anyone. For the task of taking these workshops to several cities, Dredge selected Michael Cooter, MSSW, LCSW, a licensed private practitioner who also serves as a Facilitator and Director at The Meadows.
"We partner with local professionals who understand The Meadows’ model and how it can help their patients," said Cooter. "But we're also able to expose those patients to The Meadows' treatment approach if they should need further, focused care."
"Partnering with The Meadows for the Survivors Malibu was a no brainer for One to One Treatment," said Ray Santamaria, Executive Director and Founder, One to One Treatment. "Every client we referred to Survivors Malibu gained a deeper understanding of their 'core' areas. They benefitted tremendously from the experiential component of the workshop and Michael's expertise in this area."
Renowned Survivors Workshop (page 2)
Critical to successful treatment of addiction is getting at the heart of the cause for those destructive behaviors. For many, the adult dysfunction stems from some sort of trauma or emotional event from their childhood. This workshop gives participants the opportunity to freely explore the event(s), process those emotions and learn to better cope with it.
"Patients basically are able to identify, process, and release the trauma; which is both eye-opening and emotionally cathartic," explained Cooter. "Most often I hear comments from patients saying that after the workshop 'there is a profound shift within me' and 'I get it, now I can connect the dots'. This is what it's all about, helping patients get to the root of the problem in an honest, accepting, non-judgmental way."
In this revolutionary educational and experiential process, participants learn to identify and address family-related issues that took place from birth to 17 years of age. The primary focus of the workshop is to learn to deal with the emotions that accompany any less-than-nurturing past event, and then to work on resolution of the consequential grief and anguish.
Completion of the workshop often results in a kick start to further treatment. Participants may continue that work with their local resource, or determine that they need more robust therapy.
According to Cooter, many individuals desire to attend the Survivor's Workshop, but they cannot break away from home due to responsibilities such as work, childcare, etc. While the Survivors Workshop is an essential element of treatment at The Meadows, the road tour experience provides an opportunity for these individuals to access this small portion of holistic treatment normally offered on campus.
Speaking about one participant at the Survivor Workshop in Chattanooga, Ron Ashley, Owner of Reflections Counseling said "...before the workshop she was very reserved and had a wall around her. But, afterwards she really came out of her shell and is going into my Tuesday Women's Group."
Future Survivor Workshop National Tour dates are planned for Dallas in September, Chattanooga in October, and West Los Angeles in November. For more information about the Survivor's Workshop, patients and referral sources can contact The Meadows at 800-632-6397.
For over 35 years, The Meadows has been a leading trauma and addiction treatment center. In that time, they have helped over 20,000 patients in one of their four centers or in national workshops. The Meadows world-class team of Senior Fellows, Psychiatrists, Therapists and Counselors treat the symptoms of addiction and the underlying issues that cause lifelong patterns of self-destructive behavior. The Meadows is a Level 1 psychiatric hospital that is JCAHO accredited.
Contact: Patty Evans; Telephone 317-344-2922 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2004 edition of Cutting Edge, the online newsletter of The Meadows.
Denial is not a River in Egypt
By Robert Fulton, MA, LISAC, Administrator, The Meadows
One of the wittiest adages we hear in 12-Step recovery is “Denial is not a river in Egypt.” It is so witty, in fact, that many recovering people repeat it without asking themselves the absolutely important question, “If denial isn’t a river in Egypt, what is it?”
The answer seems too obvious for further inspection. Denial is about denying that I had a psychological problem. Most often, I denied that I was an alcoholic or an anorexic or that I was a sex addict. But now that I have admitted to myself and to another person that I am any one of those things, I am no longer in denial. I am back in control.
Sadly, intellectual admission often leaves the deeper denial in place – intact and poisonous. The alcoholic awakens every morning swearing not to have another drink and, by 5 p.m., heads to the bar. The anorexic, who has planned three healthy meals, looks at herself in the mirror, sees a fat woman, and decides not to eat. The sex addict at the SA 12-Step program shares the agony of his addiction and, after the meeting, hits on the attractive newcomer.
In recovery, behavior cannot be the driving force. Intellect and affect are the driving forces that determine my behavior. As an addict, I behaviorally shut off my affect and distort my intellect, so that I maintain the behavior that protects me from the awful confrontation with my childhood shame.
Denial of affect involves disassociating from those feelings that our primary caregivers taught us to regard as shameful. Our caregivers taught us to dishonor our feelings, because to honor them and to communicate was to be punished and to be shamed. We learned to separate self from the emotions generated by the truth of what we witnessed. In order to avoid the worth destroying poison of carried shame, we were forced to deny the feelings we had when we witnessed an emotional event in the family.
In order to medicate the pain of having abandoned our authentic self, we find ways to medicate the dissonance – we deny the truth of what we think; we submerge and camouflage the truth of what we feel. The self that emerges from the pain of denial becomes, in most adults, the only kind of “maturity” to which they have access.
We deny on an intellectual level, and we deny on an affective level. We deny intellectually by telling ourselves that two plus two is five. We were empowered to do that, or conditioned to do that, when we were growing up – and two plus two never added up to four in Mommy and Daddy’s household. Our father was a falling-down alcoholic. We said to Mommy, “Daddy’s drunk out on the lawn. He’s passed out. He looks like he’s dead. I’m scared.” And she said to us, “Don’t worry about it; he’s fine.”
The kid knows that the fear of his father’s drunken abandonment is real, but to have that truth, that reality, denied by his mother is to have his reality denied. The child then wonders what’s wrong with himself. Mind you, he doesn’t ask what’s wrong with his father or his mother. They are the ones acting shamefully, yet it is he who feels ashamed – he is carrying their shame. Because the kid’s real fear of the father’s death is being made illegitimate by the lies of the mother, the child himself is now experiencing a death of self – of his own emotional reality and his access to it. He is not allowed to feel the fear of losing his father.
This is the most damaging kind of shame-based denial, because it attacks the child’s very authenticity. He has learned that to have the terrifying emotions attendant upon Daddy’s drunkenness is not all right. Disassociation from self becomes habitual. Denial of self is honored in the dysfunctional family system.
When the child is older and he witnesses a shameful act, the kind of disassociation he experiences will be covered up with a more sophisticated form of social camouflage than when he was 5. For example, he may think that his father’s shameful drunkenness will disgrace the family in the eyes of the neighbors. The primary lie that Daddy is not drunk is justified by the need to remain socially acceptable. The young adult now needs a defense system that not only deflects his father’s shame, but protects his own social self as well. Such denial is often called loyalty and is praised as being politic. He is often told that his cover-up makes him a good citizen.
The child who has viewed his father’s shameful drunkenness may fear that his father will stop loving him should the father became aware that his son sees him as a failed father. In Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco The Drunkenness of Noah, Noah’s two sons come into the tent and see him drunk, and they experience intense shame. They identify with their father’s unexpressed shame at having abandoned his children and given up power in regard to his sons. The intended Biblical lesson is that to see someone in his nakedness is to obtain power over them. Rarely has the Bible been so psychologically deluded. It is not the children who have power over the parent; it is the shameless parent who holds power over the children through the mechanism of carried shame, setting off a career of adapted wounded-child codependence.
So denial, better than alcohol, is the best dysfunctional medication for shame. However, denial cannot salve one against that sense of hopelessness and despair that is engendered when one loses connection to self. It is then that we feel the need to buddy up to an addictive process that will give a false sense of power, that will eliminate the fear in a moment, that yields that one-up posturing of denial and grandiosity.
When dealing with these disconnects, one is driven back not only to the newborn-to-age 5 feelings of shame but to the adapted state of ages 5 to 17 as well. The early shame sets the stage for the acting out, through which each individual learns to dramatize brilliantly his dysfunctional avoidance of emotional truth. It is an artistic way of keeping from connecting to oneself and avoiding the agony of re-experiencing the death of our truth.
There is a Catch-22 in this artistic denial, no matter what relief it seems to give us. Even when we manage to get in touch with our honest feelings, if we do not have the tools to survive the encounter, we cycle right back into the wound of abandonment or of shame.
Feelings then seem to us a trigger to an unhealable vulnerability. They become something that we need to stay away from, which is why one of the first things a good clinician does (once a patient is reasonably stable) is to urge the patient to drop into his honest feelings, and to let him know that it is okay, that he is okay. He needs the security to feel that accessing his affect will not kill him.
This is actually what happens in the Survivors Workshop. People begin to express their affective authenticity, and they are not shamed – they are honored. And they begin to honor themselves. I often remember what I always said in group: that we have to learn to honor our feelings, which is to hold them – and ourselves – in high regard. Our feelings are our windows of insight into the depth of who we are. But all of that is for naught under the guise of affective denial when, in a defended posture, we compulsively seek to offset the initial wound of being defective, of being unworthy.
In reactivity to the carried shame of abusive childhoods, there are those who acquiesced and expressed their shame, pain, fear and anger in neurotic, seditious ways. Then there are those who rebelliously fought for some kind of voice, but who lacked the tools for connection. In either case, the trauma disconnects one from oneself.
The aim of treatment is to allow me to reconnect to me for the first time as the beneficent parent, the loving parent who needs to be nurtured for who and what I am. At the same time, I learn to present my authenticity and accept the vulnerability that my truth may meet within the world, even if the world shuns me. You may be sad, but you will have the joy and power and value of not disconnecting from the self. You do not rise above and go one-up; acceptance of one’s imperfect perfection is a soaring disengagement from that which is destructive.
People taking the first steps to deal with the trauma of carried shame will choose submission rather than surrender. This submission is often an intellectual admission that there is a problem. But unless the submission is also a surrender to the will, this apparent surrender of dignity will leave a bad taste; it will feel dissonant. It will be sensed as a false admission, one made to keep the depth of the real problem at a distance. The feeling of true surrender is internal peace. Only I will know. But I know I have surrendered when I feel that peace.
The concept of denial and surrender being in that same crucible is vitally important, because denial is a form of false security through control. If, by admitting we are addicted, we seek clarity for the sake of control, it is only to give ourselves the illusion of safety. We remain terrified of letting go of control, because if we let go of this charade, we are going to be left in the abysmal pit of carried shame. So our whole life has been to orchestrate this nonsense. We know it to be nonsense, but we don’t know anything other, so we medicate the nonsense.
In recovery, however, I am now invited to go to a place of powerlessness, and that is a miraculous paradox, because it is only there that I can be empowered. The first thing that has to happen is for you to acknowledge that change is impossible without help. When I surrender, I learn to trust another to give me that help, to help me get on the path to recovery. The recovering individual, once the path becomes a reality, takes the path and continues to go forward.
When somebody gets into recovery, and they begin to date again, it is like being back at 14 or 15, even though she is 40 or 50, because it is a whole new experience. There is the similar excitement and fear and passion – it is a whole new way of relating. It is not a state of authenticity and acceptance of self within memory. Because it is new, it is innocent. In recovery, we experience “innocence.”
And so the healthy lineage allows for the delight, the life, the joy, the possibility and the joy-pain – ever new, ever going forward. Healthy, functional shame, not the sickness of carried shame, is what fuels the joy and the richness, because it reminds me of my authentic self; it puts me back on the path, back on line. As you move in a new venture, it is all new and, therefore, a delight.
And you may find that you have overstepped and then feel ashamed of a behavior because it was all new, but it is now functional shame that allows you to become more intimate, to feel more deeply. I am imperfect, and I make mistakes. My mistakes may cause me pain, and they will. But they don’t make me bad. They only make me human. And that, I don’t have to deny.