Saturday, November 12, 2005

my ongoing recovery from ptsd

OK, two days ago, I told a little of what my ptsd was/is like and yesterday I talked about meds and ptsd. Both were a little intense, so today, I'll talk a little about what has gone right over the past couple of years. In many ways, I have been very fortunate.

First of all I have gotten away from the really sick people in my life that I seemed - and am still capable of -- attracting. For me this involved finally clearing out of 12 step programs and hanging around with what they call "earth people" -- normal people without all the problems and twisted personalities that go along with addictions. I probably owe my life to this. I had a knack for being able to immediately pick out the sickest person in the rooms -- it was whoever I was most attracted to. I still have the knack, but now when I bring home strays, the other people in my life will point out how sick and twisted/ dishonest/ manipulative/ uncaring/ unreliable the person is, all stuff I have a hard time seeing, no doubt as a result of normalizing all the trauma in my life. But now instead of being re-traumatized by these people, in spite of their best efforts, I can laugh at myself and move away and on with my identity intact.

Second, I relied on this support network of sane people to help me get help. They really came through...from people on my job, to friends with advice or timely loans or frequent flier miles, -- especially to my partner. There is where I have been kind of lucky, because it was a chance thing and some decisions I made that put me in the situation where I first made friends with these earth people, but it has made all the differnece. Find sane friends!

Bouncing ideas off these people helped me put together a non-abusive therapeutic support system, a first for me. There are a lot of bad shrinks and indifferent psychiatrists out there, and left to my own devices, I managed to find the sickest of them, which was hurtful to my recovery. One of the major issues I have to work on in therapy is trusting the therapist. I can dissociate and talk about anything that happened, but I don't trust my therapist enough to show how those things actually make me feel. This has slowed things down tremendously, but I am really cautious, having been really screwed over by therapists who ranged from incompetent to evil charlatans.

One thing I have observed is that addictions counselers, who often only have a BA, tend to be awful. A lot of them are really sick recovering addicts or co-dependents who are doing it out of some "save the world, aren't I wonderful now" perspective. Addictions counselors also seem to draw a higher ratio of scam artists using new-agy crap to suck in vulnerable people than therapists with more education who have met more stringent requirements of a higher degree. Not to be an education snob...two of the worst therapists I have had were PhDs or MDs...but the very worst, and most evil and ignorant, have all been addictions counselors peddling alternative, new agey crap as therapy. So I am not saying that all addictions counselers are bad, just that they are not qualified to deal with ptsd, they get in over their heads, and instead of admitting it they laid stuff on me, which I being dutifully trained in the 12 steps, took on and internalized. So if you have ptsd, or you are seeing an addictions counselor and they are blaming you for your lack of recovery or progress, clear out. Find somebody qualified. That especially qualifies if they are pedalling new age remedies. RUN!

So that is what to avoid. What we looked for, first and foremost, was someone who listened and actively tried to find out what my needs were. I think that is more important than whether the person is a cognitive behavioralist or a jungian analyst or whatever. The next thing was to pay attention to the training. All the best of the therapists I have had (and two of the worst, so it is not a sure shot) have been Ph.Ds. Third thing is to find out what there method of treatment is for ptsd. Is it a formula that they impose? These can be retraumatizing, especially if they don't work and the therapist then blames you. Look for somebody that will work with you to make the changes that you want, at your own pace, not somebody that promises to fix you with a twenty step protocol. I say this even though I am doing a 20 step protocol with my present shrink, but we stop and adjust and there is a "let's try this and see" approach rather than a promise of a cure at the end.

Unfortunately, meds have been a crucial part in making me stable enough to function. I think they mask my emotions and subdue them somewhat, but I am not overwhelmed and constantly being retriggered anymore. This has made me stable enough to stay off Social Security and keep a job, which I wasn't able to do before. The stabilty, though it has come at a cost, has made my life a lot more bearable and made progress possible. Hopefull as I grow more stable I'll be able to continue to ease back on the meds and be able to deal with the underlying damage without them. That remains to be seen though, and I am not in a hurry. My psychiatrist works with me on this rather than just telling me what to do. She pays attention to how I tell her I am feeling. I often don't like what she has to say (usually something to the effect of "slow down") but I have learned to respect what she has to say because she listens and responds to what I am saying, not to some pre-supposed path laid out by the pharmaceutical companies.

Exercise and meditation are both good things but difficult. For a long time, I couldn't go running or work out because it would trigger me really badly, I'd go into a rage and break down crying. It sucked. I used to meditate, but after the last round of trauma, I couldn't clear my mind. Anytime I had a moment of stillness, memories would come flooding back and overwhelm me. I also learned yoga, but I had to work on that a lot. Some of the cult abuse I had happen to me involved misappropriations of meditation, yoga, tai-chi and other non-western mental/spiritual practices, so I had to do a lot of work to reclaim them. I'll talk about that more sometime. Anyway, I couldn't do yoga in a group at the Y because it would trigger flashbacks, so I got a really good teacher who did Kripalu yoga, which is one of the mellower less stressful kinds, perfect for me. That was really good, but I stopped practicing it. I have a hard time making the time for that or meditation even though I know they are good things. Maybe I'll be able to yet. I was running again recently, and really liking it, -- no flashbacks or intrusive thinking -- but hurt my knee, so I have to be careful about that for now. But I know that all this stuff that I'm not really doing is good for recovery. So is a good diet, another thing I have trouble with (sugar addiction[pdf]).

Another big help has been acupuncture and some massage. Here I was quite leary of drifting back into the realm of the new age, but I found a good no-nonsense acupuncturist with the help of an acupuncturist friend from another city. I'll talk about that more too maybe, but the type I do is called "Five elements." It is supposed to be more attuned with emotional issues as a part of overall wellness than some other forms of acupuncture. Again, I haven't had time for it recently but will probably go back soon. I am especially skittish about the massage, because again, part of the cult abuse involved very new agey "body work" the goal of which was to work all the money out of my family's bank account, even at the cost of destroying it. So I go slow there too.

A lot of people might wonder, does spirituality come into all this? Isn't that part of recovery? For a lot of people it is, but some of the worst abuse I have had in my life has been spiritual abuse, most commonly of the form of screwing me over and claiming it was "meant to happen" or "happened for a reason" or it was "god's plan" and that I need to stuff my anger and forgive them (if they even admitted to doing anything wrong!). This is a real mindfuck, and an over-simplification of what happened, too, and I really struggle with spirituality as a result. It used to be a big part of my life (not organized religion, but spirituality) but some people really betrayed me and used it as a cover and it no longer works for me. I have come to terms with that somewhat, but I'll have more to say about it later maybe, as I know other people struggle with this, and you won't find any guidance for spiritual abuse in 12 step rooms. You are more likely to encounter the abuse there.

My life is a lot more liveable today than it was a year ago, or two or three or five. I can stand being in my own skin. I am able to be present a lot better. I am a lot less driven by demons than I was. I can work. I have a wonderful network of supportive friends. I still have a ways to go and lots of recovering and growing to do, but in some respects, I have never been doing better in my life.

Anyway, it has turned into another long post. If you actually read this, plz leave a comment and let me know!


  1. another survivor of s. abuse. sending you tons of good vibes...

  2. Thanks for sharing

  3. Hey,
    I want to say, thanks for the heads-up, so to speak. I've been in AA for 8 months, and I posted elsewhere on this blog about some issues I have with Type A and B alkies, but what I want to say here is just that I needed to hear that I need to be careful of people in AA. I think I had been in a blindly trusting mode, re: if someone has lots of years, I assume they are "normal". Recently a guy started paying attention to me and I was surprised since they say wait a year to date. so I just need to take care of myself and make sure I don't get into an abusive sitch. I wasn't able to get sober until I left my last traumatic bonding sitch, so a) I may not be ready to know how to chose a healthy person, and b) maybe I just need to chose outside the AA group. I had assumed that would give me some sort of immunity, but from what people with experience have posted here, the same types of abusive people are in the groups as out. Or maybe worse folk, esp. if they are Type a alkies. Thanks for the heads-up.

  4. I can relate to many of the things
    you are saying in your posts.
    I am a survivor of multiple types
    of childhood abuse. Have seen
    several therapists. The only
    therapist who helped me gain clarity was certified as a trauma
    specialist...she was able to
    educate me on what I was experiencing. I am in a healthy
    relationship current
    boyfriend has suffered abuse also.
    Finally...someone I can talk
    and work things through with!
    The betrayal bond info was pivotal
    in my/our recovery.
    Thanks for your site, and good wishes to you for continued recovery!

  5. AA is great for getting sober; I spent five years doing 2 and 3 meetings a day and even ran a club for 18 months. I have been alcohol free almost 11 years now. But about five years into the program I awakened to the real evil intentions of many of the sick people that would intentional trigger my cptsd just for fun; so I have not gone back. I thought I found a normal spouse outside of AA She has never drank or done a drug; grew up inside the church. Thought I would be safe; HUGE MISTAKE!! I like what was said about therapists. I have had so many over the years that would not listen and have been giving wrong or only partial diagnosis. Finally I found Dr. Elizabeth Roberts a specialist in addiction and child abuse. What a relief! Finally someone who would listen. Of course she told me what I had already became aware of. CPTSD. I feel better just knowing I am not alone and that there is someone that knows what I am going through without having to give them an education.

    Hope you all well and any prayers for me and the millions of silent suffers is always a plus.

    Thx. Steve