In the Spring of 2001 I was invited to teach a workshop on recovery from childhood trauma at a National Association for Christian Recovery conference that would be held later that year. I am a survivor of childhood trauma. At that time, however, I had never shared this part of my recovery story in a public way. I had certainly shared my journey with those closest to me and for years in therapy. But sharing it in a public way is a very different thing.
People who are survivors of childhood trauma of any kind know about the fear and shame a survivor can carry about speaking about the unspeakable. Because of my fears, my instinct was to decline the invitation. But, instead, I agreed to ask God to show me if it was perhaps time to share something from this part of my healing journey.
I feel asleep that night, asking God to provide guidance about whether I should give the talk or not. A few hours later, I woke up knowing I had to get up and write something down. What I found myself writing was a simple model of recovery from childhood trauma. As I sat in the quiet of our living room, I looked at what had just poured out on the page and realized that it was a kind of picture of the healing God had done in my life.
I did the workshop that summer at the conference. And I taught it at several other conferences in subsequent years. In 2006 I wrote up the material for an article that was posted at the NACR website. Over the years the response to the article has grown. So many of us have experienced trauma as kids. So many of us live with trauma’s ongoing impact. My heart ached to offer more to fellow survivors.
This last year I created a six part video series based on the original workshop and article. The videos are designed to make this model more accessible. As a part of the series, I added a User’s Guide that can be downloaded and used by people working alone—-or in groups—-to explore their ongoing struggle with the long term consequences of childhood trauma. I also developed audio meditations to go with each of the six videos. The audio mediations are designed to help bring healing to the anxiety and distress so many of us live with.
For the next six weeks I will be sharing this video series with you. This week, I invite you to watch (or listen) to the first presentation. I encourage you to make use of the User’s Guide and to listen to the audio meditation for this session.
In this first video I give an overview of childhood trauma and talk about the tendency we have to avoid self care, and the importance of practicing self care as a vital part of our healing. The audio meditation offers a guide to relaxing and slowing one’s breathing, something that can be helpful to any and all of us.
I hope you find this helpful to you in some way, whatever your journey might be. Do feel free to share this with others.
I have started your video series tonight and am very grateful. 🙂
Juanita Ryan says
Thank you, Ann, for letting me know. I will be praying for you as you move at gentle pace through the series.
How does a person “heal” their childhood trauma if they have no memories of it? I have asked God to help me remember and my life just keeps getting worse but I don’t know what happened. Both parents and twin brothers were alcoholic and I was the baby. My therapist tells me that Neglect is a big chunk of it but just LIVING in an alcoholic family is enough and I don’t have to remember it. i feel so needy and totally dysfunctional but how can I work on that without remembering? I just feel like I’m totally crazy and how can God (I’ve been a christian for over 30 years) restore me to sanity if I have never BEEN sane? I think it would be good for me to or your book about distorted images of God because I’ve had a hard time believing he loves me and isn’t like my dad. Thanks for listening.
Juanita Ryan says
Sandy, your question is a good question that many people ask. I do not think our healing is dependent on how much we remember of what happened. I think what can help is looking at the after-effects we are living with–with a deeper sense of understanding and compassion for ourselves.
As you said, living in an alcoholic family system is traumatizing. Not only because of the chaos that is often a part of life, but because of the emotional unavailability of the adults in the family. Your therapist’s comments that neglect was a big part of the trauma you experienced is so true. It turns out that the deepest trauma for anyone who is a survivor of childhood trauma is the trauma of neglect. It is all the things that did not happen that leave the deepest wounds. All the ways you were not seen or heard. All the ways that your needs did not matter, or were not attended to. All the ways you ended up concluding as a kid that you were on your own. All the healthy longings for love and connection that were not met and, because they were not met, likely left you feeling shame for having needs of any kind. But most painful of all, is the shame survivors often feel for having a God-given need to be valued, cherished, and deeply connected with their family members.
The insanity of an alcoholic family system often leaves the children in that family feeling insane. But it is the insanity of the disease of addiction that is the problem. You understandably feel crazy because no one told you that you see what you see and you know what you know.
I am hopeful that this video series might be helpful to you in finding greater healing. Perhaps it is something that you can use to continue the work you are doing in therapy. Perhaps finding a local– or online, or phone– Adult Children of Alcoholics group might also help you find a community of people who deeply understand your struggles and your journey.
Blessings, blessings as you continue seeking wholeness for yourself.
Thank you so much for all the things you said! I feel really validated. I have to keep remembering all the things you said especially about neglect. Your email was really a blessing to me. I will print it and read it over and over.
Robert H. says
I cannot recommend Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) enough! I am one of those Adult Children who did not experience alcohol or drug addiction; the dysfunction in my home was judgementalism and negativity. I suspect that my lack of feeling loved was as much on the receiving as well as the giving. At any rate, I certainly did not receive the amount or type of love that I needed and deserved. Because I didn’t feel loved, I concluded that I obviously must be unloveable. I was even convinced that God did not, and could not, love me. Believe me, that is a VERY lonely place to be.
Please visit ACA’s website (www.adultchildren.org). Under the “literature” tab, click on The Problem, and then The Solution. I highly suspect that you’ll see yourself in a totally different light. Blessings to you!
Juanita Ryan says
Thank you, Robert, for sharing this great resource! ACA is a wonderful gift that invites us to come out of isolation and to find healing community. Blessings!
No words to express my gratitude for this workshop. About 6 years ago, I thanked you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope in regard to childhood affecting us way into adulthood. At the same time, I expressed due to my age (66 at the time) there was no way I’d have time to do the hard work ahead to recover – (nor the funds for therapy). Although, I will admit, I came very close to calling you on several occassions. The good news is: I was wrong. Thanks to your Daily Meditations, books, and articles – I have miraculously Come to Believe, no matter how I have been treated or am treated now – I now know – I was believing a lie. I know God loves me, and so do I. I am valuable and a worthwhile human being. THANK YOU from bottom of my heart. Still much work ahead – the timing of this workshop is ? ? a Gift from Heaven. Thank you again. God Bless You.
Juanita Ryan says
Thank you, Jill, for sharing your story of God’s miraculous healing in your life. God is so faithful in pursing us with the reality of our deep value and worth. It does begin to change everything as we come to believe more and more deeply that we are loved. I am so grateful that some of what God has done in my life has become a gift in your life. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. Blessings!