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for adult children of alcoholics

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The Body Keeps the Score

Angry People Live in Angry Bodies

Angry people live in angry bodies.
Frightened people live in easily frightened bodies.
Worried people live in worried bodies.
Tense people live in tense bodies.
Defensive people live in defensive bodies.
Traumatized people live in traumatized bodies.
Everything you experienced as a child of an alcoholic gave you the body you live in now. Every yelling match. Every “pack your bags” in the middle of the night rush. Every frightening and muffled sound from beyond your bedroom door. Every time you were not seen, heard or cared for in the way you needed. It all lives in your body.

The only way to heal is to get in touch with our bodies. To become aware of the sensations in our bodies as they happen. To make our bodies our cherished friends. To undo years of being disconnected from our bodies as a way to survive what we were living in.

Try yoga. Hiking outside. Breathwork. Massage. Dance. Running. Climbing. Inhabit your body and begin to notice the sensations. It is the only way to move traumatic feelings out of you for good so you can fill your body up with new and wonderful memories.

As Bessel van der Kolk so powerfully states in his wonderful book “The Body Keeps The Score”: “In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step to releasing the tyranny of the past.”

I’m going to practice yoga and go on several hikes this week. Tell me how you plan to get more in touch with your body this week to begin to heal the past. We’ll do it together.

When Your Yoga Mat is A Mirror

As I work to clear away residual pain, as new triggers appear and I feel and face and release what was, I find myself wanting to connect ever more deeply to my body. I realize I’m missing my daily yoga practice again, after years of just practicing once in awhile or incorporating certain poses before and after every workout.

For so long, my yoga mat was a safe haven for me. A wonderful place to connect to myself and move with joy. Yet once life cracked me open and all the ACoA realizations kicked in, I found my yoga mat to be too much of a mirror. Too much of my truth. Too much of my pain. Too much of feeling disconnected from my body. I’d start practice after practice and just cry. The same thing happened to me with my regular runs and training for races. I’d lace up my shoes and cry. The places that had once been a solace and a safe place to think deeply were exactly what I didn’t want while facing that much pain and the giant task of healing. I didn’t want silence and thinking. I needed all-consuming brain and body action. So I started rock climbing. And I’m so glad I did.
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The “must be very present or I will die” nature of rock climbing meant that my brain and my body were so busy I didn’t have a free moment to think or hurt or worry or wonder. About my dying step-father (cirrhosis of the liver; talk about re-traumatization given my mother died the same way 20 years earlier), about my marriage ending, about the financial woes these two situations created. Climbing allowed me to simply be present to what was. I’d climb at the gym or outdoors and hours would pass before I even thought about all that was going on in my life. It was exactly what I needed. And I’m so glad I now climb.

But I’m ready, anew, for my silent practices. The ones that allow me to think big and be silent and move with joy. I take that as a very good sign.

📷: @fetisova.as

Non-Attachment

One of the very first philosophies of yoga that really rang true for me all those years ago when I first started practicing Ashtanga in San Diego, was the idea of non-attachment. Not simply non-attachment to material/physical things, but non-attachment to outcomes. Find a way to be present in your life, in a yoga pose, in a particular situation, without clinging to a result. Without needing it all to go a certain way.

As a lifelong builder of businesses, that’s sheer madness. I live to deliver results. I’m really upset when I don’t. And it’s a little funky to think about in every day life, too. How to go about your day, your interactions, your workout, your work, your chosen competitive sport, without placing expectations on outcomes?

This concept of non-attachment is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita: “Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of the action.” It all sounds lovely until you realize that we are wired to do a set amount of actions to get a specific result. Do the work, get the reward. Make the plans, watch them pay off.

As I navigate some tricky bits in life these past many months and find myself frustrated that the outcomes I’m attached to aren’t happening, I’ve been reminded of this tenant of yoga again and again. I know the way through is to surrender my attachments. Surrender, surrender, surrender and simply focus on doing the “action” as well as I can and leave the rest alone. (Ah, but so much easier said than done!)