For almost 20 years, I held the secret of my trauma. I was 5 years old when I was sexually abused. Too young to comprehend or process the magnitude of my experience, I turned to the trusted adults in my life. Finally, someone could validate my pain… or so I thought.
Perhaps it was much easier to sweep the events under the rug. In all honesty, I believe my parents did the best the could with what they had. Unfortunately, this set the tone for how I ‘coped’ with trauma and contributed to my avoidant nature.
Trauma continued to be a common theme for my childhood and long into my adolescent years. Flashbacks, nightmares, hypersensitivity, depression, anxiety, and utter victimization became me. I spent years of my life seeking out validation, only to come up empty-handed yet again.
Eventually, I began to self medicate with my prescription drugs and alcohol. I was seeking relief in all the wrong places. I will never forget my first experience with opiate detox and the utter desperation I found in that place. Drugs and alcohol removed, I was still miserable. Finally, I was forced to face the demons of my past.
I was inpatient, at a dual-diagnosis treatment center, when I first disclosed the content of the scarlet letter I had been wearing for over 20 years. Instantly, I became that scared little girl all over again. Feelings of guilt and shame held me captive and trying to break free was foreign.
I would allow myself to disclose the main plot, skipping over the seemingly unimportant details. I would only allow myself to cry and little and instantly shut down. I later learned that this behavior was directly attributed to my dissociative survival skills. I remember my therapist calling my father on the phone and encouraging an open conversation about those dreadful years… I wanted to puke. I apologized and continued to wear victimization like a badge of honor.
As I continued to divulge, the traumatic memories of my past, I was still refusing to be honest with my innermost self. My inner child was absolutely terrified. This resulted in minimizing thoughts of criticism and “Oh it wasn’t that bad.” I was my biggest critic. The hardened ‘adult’ version of myself was still condemning the innocent little girl. As you can imagine, this created a ton of internal conflict. I left treatment and I was forced to face reality, outside of the confines of my safe haven.
I managed to reach a year and a half sober before misery consumed me again. I couldn’t understand why I was sober and still unhappy. I began taking an inventory and realized I was still actively participating in the familiar merry-go-round I had been riding my whole life.
I was a year and a half sober but I was involved in an abusive relationship, experiencing horrible nightmares, seemingly unprovoked anxiety, depersonalizing, and consistently placing myself in the position to be a victim.
Approaching 2 years sober, I knew something had to change. I voluntarily sought out trauma therapy. Establishing trust with my new therapist (a woman) was a tall order. After all, women were the main culprits behind my fears of abandonment/rejection. I suppose I finally experienced enough pain that the fear of change paled in comparison. WebMD describes depersonalization as “a disorder marked by periods of feeling disconnected or detached from one’s body and thoughts.”
I could never articulate what I was experiencing until my therapist validated all of the symptoms of this disorder. Awareness and education cultivated my willingness to allow myself to process my trauma with another human being. There was a vulnerable exchange of raw honesty that continued to take place. The more vulnerable I was, the more I found myself immersed in grace and healing.
PTSD has become a major part of my story… a major part of my sobriety. Today, I have learned healthy coping skills that trump all of the self-medicative skills I utilized before. I continue to welcome vulnerability over my dissociative nature. I thrive in fellowshipping with other women over isolating alone.
My sponsor never forgets to remind me “Feelings are feelings, not facts.” I strive to confront the uncomfortable situations I fear the most. Think of the concept of a flower blooming through concrete, that was me. I now have almost 3 years sober, and I live a life I never would have imagined. I have two beautiful children and we live 5 minutes from the beach. I get the opportunity to chase after my dreams and unabashedly live life to the fullest. New hobbies and passions have surfaced and I no longer feel unworthy of true happiness.
Daily, I use my torturous experiences to share hope and bring light into the darkest places.
Tricia Moceo advocates long term sobriety by providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
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