AFTERWARD: What to do with the pain of P.T.S.D.

SOUL-PAIN

Pain is a response, an internal expression of your hurt and wound.  Pain can be hidden and create a silent suffering that no one knows but the survivor.  Pain can also be revealed by the survivor in ways in which they respond to having their pained activated.   All people have a deep desire to be loved and cared for, and survivors are no different.  Often times chronic, debilitating pain means that the survivor has not appropriately processed what originally caused, or causing, their pain.  Some survivors may be aware of their pain-blockages and can experience intense sadness and anger by their inability to do anything about it.  Because of this, the lives of some survivors are lacking in warm, close bonds or a stable social network.  

STEP TWELVE Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

You start your recovery process with identifying, and relating to a Higher Power as you understand this Power.  This understanding, in partnership with applying time-tested principles, puts you in touch with that power greater than yourself.  As you continue to apply the principles, and your understanding deepens, you can explain to yourself what this Power is, and how it manifests in your personal life journey.  At this point, you have experienced a spiritual awakening personal to you.  This has happened slowly and gradually, as you have been patiently working the steps.  If you have been asleep for a long period of time, you may need a long period of time to awaken.  It does not happen overnight.  

STEP ELEVEN Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the Power to carry that out.

Step Eleven is the daily practice and experience of deepening your awareness of your Higher Power through prayer and meditation.  You are capable of prayer and meditation, regardless of your background or history.  If you set aside the time daily, you can reach for whatever you believe is greater than, deeper than, or beyond yourself.  Step Eleven also assumes that by now you have a conscious awareness of your Higher Power, and you are drawn to deepening that connection.   

STEP TEN Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step Ten is not about maintenance, because there is a rule in our universe that nothing ever stays the same.  All living matter is either in a process of growing or in the process of regressing.   Up until now, if you followed the first nine steps with an honest heart and the direction of a Higher Power, you will have grown considerably.  If you do not keep growing, you will start sliding back into your old behavior patterns and ways of thinking.  As you may now realize, spiritual growth is an experience so precious and valuable.  As with the preceding nine steps, the Tenth Step is one more power-tool to help you succeed during the day. 

STEP NINE Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

Step Nine is no different than the other steps, and it reminds you once again, that you cannot overcome personal difficulty alone.  You have prayer as your constant companion to get you through.  You pray for the willingness to be willing, whenever you find yourself not willing to take the next right action.  If you have people on your list where there has been, or still is, mutual harm being done, you may have difficulty with this step.  There may be people on your list for whom you do not feel it necessary to make amends.  You may simply not want to.

STEP EIGHT Made a list of all persons you had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Eight is about unfinished business.  This step sets the stage for you to relate to yourself and others in a new way.  The first order of business here is to define “harm” and “amends”.   Harm includes the following:  damage, impairment, wound, injury, trauma, and change for the worse, any act of sexual abuse, incest, physical injury, and psychological harm, financial or emotional damage.  It is the act of spoiling something, or damaging someone.  If you committed harm the way to restore the balance is to make an amends.  Amends includes a verbal acknowledgement of what was done, accompanied by a change in behavior.  The change in behavior should mirror the opposite of the harm done.   

STEP SEVEN Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step Seven is about humility (realistic, selfless, and modest) and asking for help to make the changes you are now prepared for.  Consider Step Seven as a portal into openness for change.  Once you take Step Seven, you step out of the way so your Higher Power can handle the rest of it.  The combination of humility and asking provides a survivor with a perspective beyond the traumatic events.  Sadly, you can form an inaccurate perspective based on how you internalized the traumatic event(s).  Through prayer (humbly asking), you can trust that your prayers are heard, shall be answered in God’s time only.  

STEP SIX Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

When I first attempted this step, I had two immediate thoughts: 1) How and why would my Higher Power “remove” anything from me, and 2) What would I feel like if I were “entirely ready” to give up all my “defects”?  I felt that if I would attempt this step, I would allow something extreme in my life, and this seemed intimidating.  My fear was that Step Six meant I would have to open up in a way that felt unnatural to me.  Frankly, I did not want to let go of what I thought would have to be too much, too fast, or parting from my vital survival skills.  Taking this step did not seem at all appealing to me.   The way I processed my fears was by asking which parts of me I thought would be removed, and was I afraid of having to live a life without these very necessary parts of myself.   My fear was that this meant I had to become someone fundamentally different from my basic personality and nature.  This was because I believed that I was defective, and who I was must be problematic.  This too, is another tragic result of trauma and victimization.  It is not the intent of Step Six at all.   

STEP FIVE: "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

At first glance, you may feel absolutely resistant when you look at this step.   How can I let someone find out about me?  You may feel fear, dread, anticipation of rejection and humiliation if anyone knows of your past or “secrets”.  Perhaps you may feel knots and tangles in your body with no vision or understanding as to how to “untangle” those knots.  “Fearlessly” writing an inventory takes enough energy, and trips your trigger wires badly enough – now you have to actually share this with someone.  When I got ready to share my inventory with my beloved therapist, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this process became the validation I had always longed for. 

STEP FOUR: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Most survivors, unless they are in a crisis, do not put much thought into what happened; the people, places, things, and reactions to events that have long-shaped their life.  But if you have not yet taken a look at what traumata shaped your personality, behaviors, fears, and ways of responding in life, Step Four is a good opportunity to stop and think about it.  Perhaps you have reached the day when you realize that you are not living your life as you really want to.  Perhaps you feel a deep inner longing for healthy, secure attachment, love and a more kind relationship with yourself.  You may experience a longing for life as you were told it was supposed to be but you have no evidence that you are living such a life.  

STEP THREE Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

You have worked Steps One and Two with a safe and trusted person – you have surrendered and you have demonstrated your willingness to try a new approach to your life experiences.  When you admit your powerlessness over your traumatic history, you learn a comforting and critical truth: that you experienced certain painful life events that you absolutely could not have controlled. You were also not always in control of the coping patterns that have emerged.  For some survivors, this can be a frightening and humbling experience.  (More of this will be revealed through the Fourth and Fifth Steps).

STEP TWO Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

When I first met Adam, it was not obvious why he came to me for help with the Twelve Steps.  From a superficial look at his life he appeared to have every reason to be a trusting person.  He described his successful love-relationship, healthy and smart children, a genuine love for his work, and a satisfying social life.  His life would be the envy of most people, with a bank account, and external factors that most people dream of.  Unlike many people who turn to the Twelve Steps because of addictive patterns of behavior in their lives, Adam turned to the Twelve Steps because a friend had urged him to seek help using spiritual principles that have helped countless others.  

STEP ONE: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

Step One is your guide on how to process and heal from trauma.  It will also serve as your guide to personal growth, which is applicable for anyone, not just for trauma survivors. Why is processing trauma, and personal growth, important for you?  You may wonder of the necessity of going through such a process, especially if you are high functioning and successful in life.  After all, growing pains are indeed painful, and we humans are wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure.   You also have a responsibility to take care of yourself, and although some pain can be avoided, there is the pain that cannot be avoided, and requires processing.   

INTRODUCTION

This book is directed to the individuals without any experience of Twelve Step recovery, the seasoned veteran of Twelve Steps, as well as the experienced mental-health professional.   The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have helped countless addicts.  This healing process is based upon spiritual principles that speak to the human spirit.  If you practice them, you will experience physical and spiritual growth, and emotional stability.   

FORWARD to Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide

Rivka Edery is a social worker who is dedicated to helping survivors of trauma to recover healthy lives.  Her book explains the invisible cord underlying the problems resulting from unresolved trauma which dramatically hinder a person trying to live a satisfying life.  She clearly illustrates the therapeutic value of incorporating spirituality as part of a survivor’s recovery process.  This discussion is useful to both the survivor and the mental health professional.