Healing the Trauma of Alcoholism – Episode 237

What trauma has alcoholism brought into your life? How are you healing from it?

I didn’t realize it, but by the time I came to Al-Anon, I had been traumatized by the disease of alcoholism. Al-Anon is helping me to heal from this trauma. I recognized recently that it’s not over, even almost 16 years later.

Recently, I heard of 3 simple steps that can help us to heal from traumatic stress. (Simple, not easy!) I have to admit that I don’t completely understand how to apply them, but what I know is that my progress in Al-Anon has followed these 3 steps. They are:

  • Act
    • I came to Al-Anon. I wasn’t sure why I came, except that I didn’t know what else to do.
    • I kept on coming, just because each time I felt a little better.
    • I listened and identified with what members said in meetings.
    • I read Al-Anon literature (this was huge for me in reducing anxiety and enabling me to sleep.)
  • Act with others.
    • I can’t do it all by myself. That is the essence of Steps 2 and 3:
      Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
      Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
    • I asked another member to be my sponsor. This was my first step to acting with others. I didn’t use my sponsor very effectively, but I did call when I didn’t know how to act or deal in a situation.
    • I met with other members and formed a step study group (AWOL = A Way Of Life). We met weekly for about 2 years, working through the 12 steps together.
    • Working through Step 4, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”, with others helped me to see that I am not uniquely broken, and that other people have suffered similar trauma.
    • Step 5, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”, has been essential in healing my guilt and shame over my past actions. Until I open up to another person, I am not relieved of my pain. In this way, Acting with another is essential to my recovery.
  • Act from your wise mind.
    • The concept of “wise mind” comes from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). It has been described as the combination of intellectual thought and emotional thought. OK. What’s that mean for me?
    • One way I see this action in my program is in Steps 6 and 7. In working Step 6, I try to reach a fullness of understanding and acceptance of my “shortcomings”. Some shortcomings are easy to accept intellectually — I can see the negative effects of my procrastination — but hard to accept emotionally — I am somehow driven to procrastinate but I don’t really know why. Practicing mindfulness can help here. By letting my thoughts just pass by, I start to find acceptance of what is true rather than what I want to be true.
    • Other shortcomings are obvious emotionally but not so much intellectually. My fear of financial insecurity is/was one of these. I knew I was afraid, but I didn’t know what I could do about it. I couldn’t get out of it by reasoning. In fact, my reasoning mind told me that I should just do the things I was afraid of: check the bank balance, pay the bills on time, make a budget. I had to bring the emotion and the reason together to accept that I needed to ask for help.
    • When I have reached intellectual and emotional acceptance of a shortcoming, then I am entirely ready to have it removed, and I can move on to Step 7 where I ask for just that.
    • Many of the components of the Al-Anon program help me to act from my wise mind, by reaching understanding and acceptance of what is true.
      • The disease concept of alcoholism was foreign to me and I rejected it at first. I had to learn about how addiction affects the brain, and I had to listen to lots of other people’s experiences to really accept it. (From both alcoholics and Al-Anon members.)
      • I came to see that I truly could not “fix” my loved one. By “accepting the things I could not change”, I could seek “the wisdom to know the difference” and the “courage to change the things I can.” When I kept on trying to do the impossible, I did not see what I could change to make my life better.
      • Tools and slogans that help me to “act” rather than “react”.

I recently heard a story of a person who was working to make change in their life. It was hard, and most days they weren’t sure they could do it. On the way home each day, they would walk through a park. In the park was a bench, and sometimes they were so overwhelmed that they would just sit on the bench and cry. After a time, they found the energy and the will to get up and continue the journey home. Until the next day…

I’ve been on that bench at times in my life. When I said to myself “I can’t and yet I must”. And I just cried from the seeming impossibility of my task.

Al-Anon helped me to get up from the bench, to start to act for myself. Other members shared their experience, strength, and hope with me. And also shared their pain, so I could know that I was not alone. They showed me how they had found the strength to get up from the bench, and I saw that I could do the same thing. If only for an hour or a day. And that was enough for then.

So if you’re sitting on the bench, crying, not knowing how to heal your trauma, come to us. Act. We will welcome you into our fellowship. Act with us, and start to find your wise mind. You are not alone. Al-Anon is a community where we don’t have to pretend everything is ok. You can find healing, but you must act. You can take one small step and reach out for help.

 

Upcoming topics include freedom and parenting. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Links

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (Wikipedia)

A couple of links about “wise mind”: link 1, link 2.

Music from the show

Julien Baker: Appointments

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive

Diana Ross: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

 

 

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