December 5, 2012

A Beyond Survivor's Story: Propelling Ourselves Down the Road to Recovery

I am so pleased to bring you the next post by author and beyond survivor Cynthia Krainin. This week Cynthia shares some valuable tools for stepping onto and continuing to move down the "Road to Recovery" Enjoy!

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Is there any abuse survivor out there that looks forward to traveling the Road to Recovery?  Thanks to the legacy of a traumatic past, our daily lives have been riddled with potholes, roadblocks and detours, not to mention our inner road rage.  So why would we willingly subject ourselves to a potentially rocky road trip?

Those that have traversed the Road to Recovery before us say that, in comparison, life will feel like a big vacation once we reach the Land of Healing.  For some reason, knowing this doesn’t make us dread the trip any less.

Survivors derive great comfort from that which is familiar.  So many of us tend to retreat.  But there comes a point when staying at home and looking out our window of isolation is no longer tenable.  So, with tour book and roadmap in hand, we pack our vehicle and head out to the open road to do the work that is necessary to lead us to a future that is not shackled to our past.

The good news is that there is a Road to Recovery that crosses each one of our states, whether the state is one listed in the DSMR or it is part of our collective united state as survivors.  No matter which state we hail from at the present moment, we must travel The Road to Recovery in order to heal.

At the on ramp to the Road to Recovery there is caution sign with large letters which reads: 

Problems have been reported with certain service facilities and information stations along the Road to Recovery.  Due to gross generalizations, outdated navigational materials and some misguided service providers, there is a chance you may encounter services along this road that will be counter-productive to healing.  In this case, seek an alternative route immediately.

The message was clear.  When something is not working, make a different choice.  This felt like permission to switch gears if something did not feel right.  Sage advice.

The struggles of daily life leave great numbers of survivors feeling drained, which means we start our healing journey with what feels to be a partial tank.  Many survivors I have talked to say they are running on fumes!

I knew I was depleted and my fuel tank was low as I began my healing journey. “Red flags” went up, but I ignored the warning signals.  I was used to traveling “on empty” and knew from experience that I could push myself to the brink if necessary.  It was a shock when I realized that the coping mechanisms that worked for me in the past, did not help me now as I drove through this new and uncharted territory.

I hadn’t traveled very far and I had already gained an insight.  I needed a new coping mechanism that would sound an alarm when my “red flags” went up.  And I needed to heed the warning. 

That first day out was jam-packed. I learned a major life-lesson as well: AAA does not provide roadside assistance along the Road to Recovery.  So what was I going to do—I had just run out of gas!

And to make things worse, I was fighting an uphill battle so pushing myself to the brink, or anywhere else for that matter, was not an option.  How was I going to fuel myself?  Wow—is this a high-octane question!

First, I needed to calm myself and find a way to feel safe.  I knew that when I worried about my safety, it was impossible for me to be present in the current moment.  In order to get past the first day of my trip, I needed to de-stress and get grounded so I could figure out how to get moving again.

I learned from a tour book that when faced with a dilemma en-route, pull off the road and try some grounding techniques to calm down and clear the head.  I immediately tried some of my favorite grounding techniques.
  • Take deep breaths
  • Tell myself, “This feeling will pass”
  • Surround myself with white protective light
  • Grasp the car steering wheel for thirty seconds, then release it
  • Imagine I am a tree sending roots deep into the earth where they are firmly planted
There were hundreds of other options including taking a walk, visualizing a favorite color, performing some gentle stretches, etc.  Then I remembered some suggestions my meditation teacher had given me:
  • Smile—your brain doesn’t know you are not happy.  So sitting on the side of the road, I forced a smile on my face and much to my amazement, within thirty seconds, I started feeling a chemical surge throughout my body and I was no longer scared.
  • Repeat an affirmation.  Say out loud in the present tense that which you want to be feeling and repeat it at least 25 times.  I found paper and started writing what I wanted in that moment.  After some word-smithing, I came up with the following: I am safe, courageous, creative and have the resources I need to keep myself moving forward. The more times I repeated this phrase, the more confident I felt.  Amazing!
Once calm, I called 911 and they came with some spare fuel and directions to the nearest gas station.  I was on my way again.

With only one day on the Road to Recovery, I had already learned invaluable lessons about myself.  Even though I had great trepidation about the rest of my journey, I knew I was on the right path (literally and figuratively) and was committed to see it through.  This work would give me freedom from my past. I owed this to myself and all of the people who will be part of my future.


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Take some time and write down techniques that calm and ground you.  Make a list and keep it close by.  You never know when it will come in handy.



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Cynthia Krainin is a Certified Work-Life Coach, Writer, Presenter and Workshop Leader.  She recently celebrated her 30th year as President of Career Resources in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Cynthia has written many articles on living and working with the effects of past trauma for national and international publications.  She is co-author of the book Thriving At Work: A Guidebook for Survivors of Childhood Abuse, which will be sold exclusively through The Surviving Spirit Web Store starting in 2013 http://www.survivingspirit.com/index.html.

Cynthia holds the belief that it is because of our past, that we have the strength, courage, resilience and spirit to leverage our experiences and learn techniques that will allow us to thrive at work.  She can be contacted at survivingatwork@gmail.com.

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