Unfortunately, this is not shocking. As my Facebook and Twitter feeds became inundated with women and men sharing their sensitive, profound secrets using two distinct, yet powerfully basic syllables, I became overwhelmed with emotion. This happened several times as the cold black type permeated my brain. Questions began to consume me as I wondered how is this so commonplace in our society? How is this possible? How is it that so many perpetrators feel entitled to aggress these actions? The stories of these victims, men and women, some I know well and others mere acquaintances, are sometimes distant, deep, and unprocessed and oftentimes clear as if they occurred only yesterday. For some it was yesterday. For me it was a handful of distinct, distant, far away memories and some, unfortunately, more recent yesterdays.
As I learn and hone the art of self-care, self-awareness, and the general science of living a “normal” life, I wonder what has helped me most over the years. I find it very helpful to reflect, especially when maintaining my sobriety and recovery is often intertwined with these old wounds and sometimes tricky to navigate. The happy and sad paradoxical fact is that I’m not alone. I am writing this post for a few reasons. I hope there will be more awareness of what is NOT okay in and out of the workplace, personal relationships, and our communities. I truly desire to be that change that I wish to see and live. I want to provide more awareness about personal, emotional, physical, and sexual boundaries. I hope to bring awareness to this very issue and demonstrate how strongly interrelated that sexual harassment and sexual assault are to substance abuse issues, suicide attempt and unfortunate success rates, and the institution of sexual trafficking, among so many sexual perpetrations.
Over the years I have begun to internalize many coping mechanisms. I was not an overnight disaster so the universe knows that I take a long time to learn, practice and utilize coping skills in a non-overnight sort of way. It takes time and energy to practice them when I am in a crisis. I have a large bank of them today. I suck at using some of them (for example, exercising is a good example of this). Others, I am pretty good at, such as getting regular therapeutic massage and beginning to learn and practice basic yoga techniques which helped me to create a positive body awareness and grounding that I never thought possible. I have outlined three of the many skills that I try to use as often as possible and that have helped me exponentially over the years. Sometimes I still falter, but I do not feel powerless over my past anymore.
- GROUNDING Grounding techniques are best described as techniques used to aid in remaining present and in the moment. Often, when trauma-related symptoms arise, it can be difficult to stay in the moment and remember that there is no current, active threat. Fight or flight is always on. It can be very easy for me to feel like I am out in left field and in my own world and the world is passing me by, Willy Wonka fast boat-style. I begin to feel disoriented and crazy. I venture easily to an alternate universe and find it difficult to remove myself from that cunningly comforting place. How do I ground myself? I utilize all of my senses in order to ground myself. I have mantras that I recite to myself and tell myself that “I am safe.” I work to physically feel my feet against the floor, earth, rug, in my shoes. I vocalize how I am physically connected to this world. Using mindfulness techniques I say aloud everything that is around me that I can see, hear, smell, and feel. I also have become obsessed with essential oils and they have a nice way of bringing me present while also relaxing me and helping me find a calm center. I enjoy lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus among other organic blends. Their healing power is unrelenting.
- NATURE IMMERSION One of the most effective healing techniques I can recommend from personal experience is putting myself smack dab in the middle of nature. Being at one among the beautiful foliage, water, the sky, the sun, the earth, the moon…all of it is one of the most amazing gifts I have allowed myself to open. Not only does it empower me, but it energizes me. I feel empowered because I have chosen this. I have chosen to be in a particular place, time, area, hike, mountain, stream, waterfall. I have chosen how far I want to go and what I want to do. Sometimes I will take photos. Other times, I will just sit in a quite place and meditate to ground myself. Sometimes I will bring a notebook and write or I will bring someone to walk with me. I have a new appreciation for being outdoors, being in communion with all that is more amazing and larger than just my mere existence in this world, this universe. I find that I believe in something greater when I can begin to experience it through this lens. Ultimately, I feel connected and alive with an overall gratitude, not isolated, alone, and hopeless which is what my norm once was. It is simply beautiful to feel nature wholeheartedly.
- WRITING Expression is necessary for my healing. Writing is an amazing outlet and a true gift that we all have. Whether it is writing in a journal, typing, recovery-related step work in a simple spiral bound notebook or writing a blog entry, the result is inspirational, healing, and helps me feel alive. Sometimes I will free write, make lists, spill all the crazy-sounding words on paper. Then it is not inside of me. It is in a place that is secure and safe where I can choose to share it or destroy it. I can light it on fire in a safe place or send it off in a bottle into the Atlantic Ocean. I have choice, power in the situation and ultimately the final say regarding how my chapter will conclude. Sometimes I will share my writing with other like-minded individuals, a sponsor, therapist, my wife, a friend, a community. The healing power is infinite. Writing has allowed me to anchor my thoughts in a safe way. It is safe because I have made the decision as to where it will go and how it will live. It is no longer living inside of a crushed, painful, angry soul. It frees me from my burdens and catapults me gently into a reality that I am now a part of, not a victim of.
Please do not misconstrue this simple list as diminishing the severity of what so many of us have experienced. Based upon where I had been before…suicidal, not sober in the slightest, and ultimately an utterly disheveled, emotionally unstable mess of a human being, I have evolved in many ways. Being part of the “Me Too.” community, I have unfortunately suffered in several situations that are no longer holding my soul hostage. I have come out on the other side, more healed, more sane, and fully sober and with my head held high. This is not to say that I do not sometimes regress, feel self-pity, want to smash shit, and become angry, cry, and lash out. I am human. I just know that the more that I hold these coping mechanisms and techniques close and accessible, the more life is easier to navigate and the more beauty I see. Life can be seen as the gift that it is. I begin to feel hope, have more faith, and feel love from those who truly matter to me. The best part is that I can begin to show love to others, unconditionally and receive it as an equal.
If you are still suffering, please consider using these resources. You are not alone. You are brave. Get help: