Trauma, Addiction, and Recovery

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Ep. 3- airs on Saturday March 12, 2022 at 11:00 AM CST! In this episode, my guest, Cheryl R. Luke, and I will discuss: How trauma places survivors at high risk for developing addictive behaviors. Hope that is found in programs like Celebrate Recovery Personal insights from our experiences

Chatting with Charlotte-LIVE

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Ep. 3- airs on Saturday March 12, 2022 at 11:00 AM CST! In this episode, my guest, Cheryl R. Luke, and I will discuss: How trauma places survivors at high risk for developing addictive behaviors. Hope that is found in programs like Celebrate Recovery Personal insights from our experiences

About my guest: Cheryl Luke currently serves as the National Director of Cultural Communities for Celebrate Recovery. She has been in ministry for over 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience about the affect of trauma on all aspects of a survivor’s life. She is one of my dearest and nearest friends whom I’ve known for two decades. Cheryl’s passion is helping individuals discover and reach their God given potential. She is a frequent guest speaker at events across the globe at Women’s conferences, retreats and workshops. Her smile and her love for the Lord is contagious as she draws her audience in with her unique speaking style that sometimes includes an unexpected song that fits a specific audience. Cheryl engages her audience in such a way that you feel like you’re in her living room listening to a friend share their passion and experience. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear her story, her insights, and her wisdom about trauma, addiction, and recovery! #celebraterecovery #mentalhealth #addiction #recovery #PTSD #survivingchildhoodtrauma

Not a God of Immediate Gratification

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Lead me in your truth

and teach me, for you are

the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

Surrender and Devotion

Note: In the 7 months since I posted this blog, I’ve experienced many victories, had expectations shattered, dreams fulfilled, and attempted things I never dreamed I could do. Sometimes I grew impatient because God was not acting “fast enough” for my liking. Yet, He always made a way for His plan to come to fruition.

Now, I find myself at another crossroads as I contemplate the path forward. As I considered what to share this week, this blog brought me comfort and reminded me to be patient, wait for the Lord to move, and to be still and listen for His whisper.

Surrender and devotion dominate David’s writing. Throughout the Psalms, he lays his life before the Lord and says, “teach me.” He knows his limits and desires to learn from the Lord. He basically says, “Lord, I can’t do this without you. I need you to guide me and help me know the truth.” However, he does not demand an immediate response from God. Instead, he says, “I’ll wait for you all day.” He makes his plea, then waits.

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Moving too Fast

During the early years of healing from childhood trauma, I didn’t wait on God to teach me or lead me, and it almost destroyed me. I rushed to remember everything as quickly as I could and I set unrealistic goals for completing the healing process. The result- a year in a psychiatric day program. I could not work, nor was I emotionally available for my daughter. I pushed my mind beyond the brink and feared I would never return to normal life. Still, God did not abandon me. He waited for me, guided me and helped me recover my sanity.

Listen, Rest, and Learn

As you or a loved one progresses on their healing journey, remember to pace yourself. Listen to God’s whisper, listen to those that care for you, breathe, rest, and wait. Healing is a journey, not a destination.

Painting Pictures of Egypt

leaving the security of familiar coping mechanisms is terrifying. Especially when nothing seems to ease the fear and pain like what I knew. When the “new life” became difficult or not what I expected, I wanted to return to the comfortable. I wanted what was comfortable even though it was dangerous and painful.

NOTE: This was originally posted in 2019.  I’m posting it again because I was recently reminded  how difficult moving forward can be. When an unexpected trauma occurs, it is easy to revert to old habits and thoughts. We want to grab hold of what we know or the first thing we see. The problem is we what held us up in the past doesn’t work anymore. Most recently, I’ve struggled to understand several disruptions in my life that seemingly blocked what I thought God wanted me to do. Although I was briefly tempted to reach for old, unhealthy coping mechanisms, I resisted the temptation because I recalled the song I write about in this blog. When you are tempted to hold on to what brought relief in the past, remember you are most likely, “painting pictures of Egypt and leaving out what it lacked.”

As I reflect on my healing from childhood abuse and my recovery from sexual and food addiction, I am reminded of a song by Sara Groves entitled “Painting pictures of Egypt.” I always liked that song because it illustrates how hard it is to move forward from a place that is comfortable.  Even when the comfort is painful or unhealthy, moving forward is very hard. Leaving the security of familiar coping mechanisms is terrifying. Especially when nothing seems to ease the fear and pain like what I knew. When the “new life” became difficult or not what I expected, I wanted to return to the comfortable. I wanted what was comfortable even though it was dangerous and painful. “I was dying for some freedom/But … I hesitated to go. /I was caught to between the Promise/And the thing I [knew].”[1] I was often like the Israelites who constantly complained and rebelled even though God had delivered them from slavery.

They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?” Exodus 14:11

“the place they used to fit me/[Could not] hold the things I’d learned.”

I remember times memories flooded me and I forgot the strength of the woman I had become. I became the frightened child curled up in the corner wishing I could magically teleport to somewhere, anywhere that was not my parent’s home. I convinced myself that I could hold on to the “what if’s,” that “it wasn’t so bad.” and the “let me tell you about…”I told myself so many times, “I’ll get it right this time, but let me just stay here for a little while.” “I’m not ready to leave this yet.” Sometimes I took baby steps out of Egypt. Sometimes I took giant leaps. Each time, I would forget the downside of dissociation, promiscuity or overeating because “the future [felt] so hard/And I [wanted] to go back.”[2] But as Groves writes, “the place they used to fit me/[Could not] hold the things I’d learned.”[3]

I felt the old patterns, “calling out to me/Like a long-lost friend.

I wasn’t comfortable in my new life, but returning to my old habits wasn’t an option because “Those roads were closed off to me/While my back was turned.”[4] I longed to escape reality even though dissociation was frightening to my adult self, mentally disappearing brought momentary relief to my ravaged soul. I tried to revisit the past because as Groves writes, “The past is so tangible. /I know it by heart. /Familiar things are never easy/To discard.”[5] Letting go of addictive behaviors and temporary mental escapes that kept me sane for so long was excruciatingly painful. I held on for my life. I knew there was something better because I experienced it in moments of sanity and clarity. Groves words rang true to me so many times during those early years of recovery and healing, “I don’t want to leave here/ I don’t want to stay/ It feels like pinching to me/Either way.”[6] I felt the old patterns, “calling out to me/Like a long-lost friend.”[7]

Wanting to return to old patterns wasn’t about “losing faith…or about trust/It [was] all about comfort.” My addictive behaviors were comfortable. They weren’t perfect, but they were comfortable. I depended on them for my life, or at least I thought I could not live without them. Then I learned I could live without them and I learned new healthy ways of managing anxiety and stress. Memories did not send me into a spiral of irrational thought.

no longer caught between the Promise and the things I know.

After years of work I realize, “I am no longer caught between the Promise and the things I know.”[8] Groves ends the song with “If it comes to quick/ I may not appreciate it. /Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?”[9] I firmly believe there is no quick fix for healing or recovery. While I believe in miracles, I also believe sometimes the journey is the most important part of healing. A quick fix might rob you of the ability to appreciate the change in your soul. However, change requires taking the first step out of Egypt. Waiting too long might cement the habit or thought pattern and makes it harder to leave it behind when you walk toward your Promise.

Leave Egypt once and for all

To move forward, we must take a close look at what we are holding onto.  What is keeping us stuck? When we keep one foot in Egypt as we look toward our “promised land,” we hinder our ability to move forward.   Through Christ, you have freedom. In Christ, you can move forward. We can leave Egypt and not be trapped by, “Painting pictures…leaving out what it lacked.”

Related Posts

How do I Change?

Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?

[1] Sara Groves, Painting Pictures of Egypt lyrics © Music Services, Inc

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

Distorted Love

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences.

Repost: The following blog was part of an assignment in the Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. It was one of the first blogs I posted to this website and was my first attempt at writing sonnets. This month as I focus on the topic of love and healthy relationships, I thought I would revisit where my writing began. There are links in the text to the five sonnets I wrote for the assignment. 

Modern culture often distorts the love through carelessness, but sometimes “deliberately… by those who find it in their interests to render” the term love “empty of meaning.”[1] Child sexual abuse, for example, distorts love at a vulnerable age. The abuser deliberately manipulates the child by implying that love and sex are the same act. For me, love distorted by my father and others from a very young age.

There are many ways to convey the hurt, anger and confusion created by such a distortion. Poetry provides an avenue for creative expression that helped me reveal my inner turmoil and eventual relief in a simple form. I chose a specific form of poetry, the sonnet.  In the four-sonnet sequence, I describe how my early experience of sexual abuse from my father created a distorted understanding of love in my mind. The distortion continued for most of my life. My sonnet sequence describes the paradox created by language distortion through sharing my experience at five stages of my life: age eight, age twenty-six, age forty-five, age fifty-five and age sixty-five.

In Sonnet I-Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie? I describe the confusion created by sexual abuse. In ‘Sonnet II-Does Love Reside Where I Cannot See?’ I describe how the distorted link between love and sexual performance led me to marry my first husband. In ‘Sonnet III-How Can I Make It Right?’ I describe my battle with pornography and promiscuity, a common outcome for an adult who experiences sexual abuse as children.

In “Sonnet IV-The Truth Revealed,” I describe the pivotal event that redefined love for me.  I describe my inner transformation and tentative acceptance of a different meaning of love.  The first two quatrains describe meeting John, my second husband. In the second quatrain, I describe our wedding, emphasizing the kiss. While I do not say this directly, I imply that the wedding kiss was our first kiss. I begin the sonnet questioning love but move quickly toward acceptance of John’s love which did not include sexual intimacy prior to our marriage.

Sonnet V-At Last I Stand Approved” describes how my relationship with John transformed my distorted view of love. The last six lines describe my current understanding of love. I begin with the disclosure that I am a widow, but the loss does not change the truth. Line ten answers the question asked at the end of Sonnet I.  The declarations found in the remaining two lines of the provide the transition from earthly love to Divine Love. The final couplet confirms that the language distortion no longer controls my thinking and I know the true meaning of love.

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences. I hope they provide comfort, hope and encouragement to you or someone you love.

Each Sonnet tells part of my story. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?  What Kind of Love is This? Part I   What Kind of Love is This?- Part II

[1]Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian imagination: an integrated approach to defending the faith (Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), 59.

A New Thing-New Beginnings

We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

As we begin a new year, Isaiah reminds us to keep our eyes forward. While I don’t think he intends for us to forget the lessons from the past, his prophetic words stress the importance of seeing God at work even in desolate times. 

Our vision gets clouded when we focus on missed opportunities, failures, or hardships from years gone by which may cause us to miss the wonder that awaits us in the new year. We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Reflection

Where do you see God working in your life?

Suggested Resources

You Don’t Have to Heal Alone!

Here are just a few places you can get help. Please remember you do not have to do this alone. There are people, groups, and other resources that can help you heal.

Reporting Child Abuse:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/how- to-report-child-abuse-and-neglect/

Symptoms of Child Abuse:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child- abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

Resources for Healing

Books:

A., Van Der Kolk Bessel. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

  • Explains body memories. One of the most troubling parts of my healing was understanding how my body remembered things my brain did not. This book provides answers to that question.

Bass, Ellen, and Laura Davis. (2008). The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper.

  • The first edition of this book was a vital part of my early work as I navigated the onslaught of memories. It provides concrete tools to sort through the confusion of processing the lifelong impact of abuse.

Websites/Organizations

Relate: In the fall of 2016, I transferred the intellectual property of Living as Conquerors to Cheryl and Eleanora Luke. The updated the name to Relate and are currently upgrading all the material to bring it into the twenty-first century. While I don’t discuss the full scope of the ministry in my memoir, the concepts and tools found in Relate transformed my life. It is much more than a Bible Study. It is a way of life. I continue to use most of the tools found in Relate. For more in- formation  and current group offering visit: https://www.cherylluke.com/campaign-1

Celebrate Recovery: Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. Celebrate Recovery is a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life. https://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Helping Survivors: helpingsurvivors.org Their mission is to assist anyone who has been victimized by sexual assault or abuse. The website is a compilation of information around different instances of sexual violence. They offer resources to assist survivors and their families, and we will continuously be adding more. Survivors can also reach out to them if they have any questions at all or are looking for advice.

Resources for Information:

Looking Back: The Journal of a Mental Hospital User in the 1960s: The Psychologist.

Nelson, Barbara J. Making an Issue of Child Abuse. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000.

Myers, John E. B. The History of Child Protection in America. Sacramento, CA: University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2010.

Surviving the Holidays-Tips for Trauma Survivors

Not So Merry and Bright?

Are the holidays difficult for you? Are you dreading upcoming family gatherings? Do you wonder how you’ll manage the chaos of returning home for the holidays? Maybe you’ve decided not to go. How do you manage telling your family you’re not coming home? How do you manage loneliness an isolation? What about temptation to indulge in addictive habits-is there a way to avoid relapse?

The holidays are tough for trauma survivors. For some reconnecting with family means triggers, anxiety, fear, sorrow, or guilt. For others the decision to not attend family gathering means loneliness and isolation.

Whether you’ve been through significant losses, abuse, or any other traumatic life event, you may have discovered that the holidays don’t always feel merry and bright. There have certainly been times mine didn’t!

Keri Kitchen

What To Do

While there may not be one answer to the dilemma faced by many during the holidays, on Friday, November 12, at 12PM CST, Keri Kitchen M.Ed, LPCC, NCC and I will host a live lunch time conversation to address some of the common questions and concerns we’ve heard over the years regarding holiday events. We’ll share, not only from our professional experience, but from our personal healing journeys.

Topics to be covered:

  • The role of journaling
  • Plan ahead
  • Accountability
  • What works for us
  • Identity in Christ
  • and other topics the you bring up

Open the Eyes of my Heart

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

Ephesians 1:18  ESV

At the heart of the matter

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.  It is the element that causes us to have internal conversations when faced with moral decisions.  Lewis also refers to the middle element as “emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiment.”[2] 

It’s my choice

Choice is a key element in God’s interaction with us.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[3] Without an open and active heart, we risk enduring unbridled emotions that lead to chaotic choices or the cold and calculated choices of pure reason. When the eyes of our heart are open, we view our circumstances from a balanced perspective that intersects reason and passion and allows us to hear and see the truth God has for us, which allows us to make better choices.

[1]C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1974), 25.

[2] Ibid.,25.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.

Never too Old-The Adventure of Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

I’ve always loved to play

Playing games and using my imagination kept me entertained for hours as a child. My brother and I role played nearly every afternoon in our backyard where the apple tree became a fort or the mast of a pirate ship and the grape arbor was transformed into a villain’s hideout. The time spent in our imaginary worlds provided an escape from the pain of our home. As the years passed, our adventures together stopped and I was left to play alone. Even in my solitude, play gave me joy and brightened the darkness of my existence.

As a young adult, I played in the snow with my fellow college students and experienced the magic of Fox and Hound as we permanently engraved a circle in the grass outside one of the academic buildings. Our snow packed design remained long after the snow melted. We made snowmen and had snowball fights throughout the winter. We played board games and cards into the early morning hours.

When video games arrived, my family bought nearly every Atari game that came out. I wasn’t very good at them, but I loved playing. However, my interest waned as life became complicated. We sold the consoles and all the games and I put my love of playing on pause. Board games became a source of anger and conflict between me and Marty, my first husband. So I soon lost interest in most forms of play. I actually saw play as a waste of time.

Then I had grandchildren. Angel and Isaac loved playing games especially when Wii, Xbox, and Playstation came out. John and I bought a Wii console and played together often, but the fun really began when the grandkids visited. Finally, there was an activity we could all enjoy. My love of playing was reignited and continued to grow as the years passed.

Hello Minecraft

I’ve posted an entire blog on my interest in Minecraft, but I want to tell you how much the game brought back the joy of play to my heart. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the best way to describe it is as virtual Legos with creatures that try to blow you up (in Survival Mode.) In Creative Mode (where I tend to stay) you have all the supplies you need and none of the creatures bother you. You can build worlds to your hearts content. You can also talk to other gamers if you share a server, so it’s a form of community. I resisted playing for a long time, but I love it now. It provides the escape I need to refresh my mind while being creative. I don’t know how many other grandmas play, but discovering Minecraft was like reawaking the child who played hero and villain so many years ago.

The Cool Kids

A couple of years ago the sitcom, “The Cool Kids,” was set in a retirement community and followed the adventures the residents. The show was funny because it touched on issues I experience daily. While I don’t consider myself one of the cool kids, I do live in a retirement community with some pretty cool folks. One of things I’ve enjoyed most is the times we play. We laugh, play Bingo, share stories, and do crafts together. Playing in a community brings us all joy and takes us away from the aches and pain of growing old. I love my community and the current manager is kind and caring.

Never too Old to Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

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