Friday, August 03, 2007

a loving and supportive network of friends

In a comment to this post, anonymous wrote:
also maybe you just haven't found the right support group yet. There's nothing like sharing with others who have endured similar experiences

This is true, sharing with others who have been there, or who have other ways of understanding, is a tremendous help. If you look through the rest of the blog, you will see that my recovery has come a long way. I do have a lot of support but it is not formalized in a "group" right now and that is fine with me. What I do have is a loving and supportive network of friends and family of choice. Groups have served their purpose in my recovery, and I have done them in several different forms and may do more if I see an opportunity to get better by doing so.

But groups have also been fraught experiences for me. I've said enough elsewhere on 12 step approaches, but even in therapeutic groups, the nature of a lot of my trauma and its manifestations is often threatening to other male group members' sense of their own masculinity and they have often gone out of their way to not identify with me, distancing themselves as much as possible. From what I gather this is their issue, not mine, but I'm not there to have them play out their idea of what a man is by being hostile to me or undermining my sense of who I am and what I have been through. Its counterproductive and whatever the opposite of affirming is.

Here is what I do have though, a loving and supportive network of friends and family of choice. Most untraumatized people grow up with the family part and develop the friends part as a matter of course. I had to spend decades to learn how to do it, and it had to be with a new family of my own creation, not my family of origin. I was able to manage this by reaching out to people as people, not as alcoholics, drug addicts, or trauma survivors.. Some had some of these issues mind you, but I reached a point in my life where that no longer needed to be the primary basis for a relationship.

When the PTSD came on hard, I involuntarily had to lean on this network for all it was worth, and these friends and family were there for me and came through for me in ways that my family of origin and my old frineds, both as an active addict and as a person recovering within the frame of the twelve steps, did not. What I like to think is that I had gotten well enough to operate in the world of "earth people" -- normal folks, in other words -- as one of them, instead of identifying as an addict or a victim or a survivor first and foremost. One of the goals of recovery is to reintegrate into society as a useful member, and over the course of many years that is what I have done. I'm just a person among people. Like everyone, I've got my own unique history, and I act in some particular ways...for example, not drinking or drugging. But I am more or less just a regular person, as long as I take care of myself.

So anyway, when doing EMDR, I was having difficulty facing some of the trauma yet it was intruding in my life in the form of flashbacks, seizure-like things, hypervigilance, and a host of other things. We did what is called installing resources, and the resource that I came up with was to think of my firends as a literal net, holding me up and protecting me from falling when I could not do so myself. This resource or whatever has helped me immensely, and my earth-friends have come through for me again and again to the point where I don't have to rely on that net anymore. It is good to know it is there though. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the end of Harry Potter (spoiler alert) where he goes and faces the evil Voldemort alone sort of, but with the sort of mental company of supportive and loving friends and family that carry him through things he did not believe himself capable of. Even when the are not there they are there.

Perhaps that image...a literal net made up of supportive and loving friends and one that will help others get through the trying times of PTSD like it did me. It was not a cure, and it did not make it easier or less painful, but it did enable me to get better and to face some pretty horrific stuff to know I wasn't -- and still am not -- in it alone.