I am happy to have been locked away in an abusive facility; A now defunct kids helping kids facility that kidnapped, locked up, and abused kids. A place that, by the very definition of abuse, hurt me. It abused my mind, my body, my autonomy, my sense of worth, and my basic trust in the general kindness of human beings. It is fair to say I suffered trauma. And I'm happy to have been there.
Completely and totally true. Bizarre? Maybe. But if it's true, the rest doesn't matter. What might matter, though, is my experience on how I got to this point. By using the most traumatic period of my life as an example of how The Work worked for me, maybe you have a chance at peace with any trauma you may have gone through. Or, if no trauma, then maybe this will serve as hope for even any mild annoyances you might be facing that you'd rather not be.
It is always my goal in this blog, that by sharing my process I can serve as testimony to the amazing power of the 4 Question Inquiry that Byron Katie brought to the world in Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. (And no, you don't even need the book.)
"15 yr old Alcoholic Needs Help!"
When I was 15, I was placed into a "youth residential treatment facility" for alcoholism. The facility employed methods that cult experts would deem cultish. Even if it were not cult-like, it was still abusive.
It did have all the elements of a good abusive cult; separating you from your family and cutting off all contact, breaking your own spirit [little s] down to self-esteem nil by shaming, blaming, name-calling, using other brainwashed followers to work on you, hot seat confrontation by other followers, the inability to escape, call, or write for help, guards at the door, peers watching you shower, use the bathroom... And then, on the same hand, telling your parents it's best to have no contact because we're just liars and manipulators anyway. They called it "tough love."
"Adult Alcoholic Now with Trauma Needs Help!"
When I finally got sober in 2003 - thanks to an awesome woman i met in an organization that uses 12 steps - over a decade of being cult-free, I still listed "this place" on my resentment list for my 4th step. I did this because I still had residual [ignored] - hate that all the alcohol I'd managed to drink still couldn't murder; All the hyper-controlling of food couldn't starve away; All the pets couldn't love away; All the romantic relationships could not save me from. I still had a good solid red hot hate for this place and the events that went on there and the things that happened while in there.
So my 4th Step was successful insofar as it led me into my 5th step and so on... and of course into sustainable sobriety for a few years. But what I would not recognize until 2006 - that is 3 whole non-drinking years later - is that my subconscious mind was hiding memories from my consciousness until I had the tools to deal with the memories it was saving me from. Pretty cool, that mind of ours. [Dis-associative amnesia is what I later learned it was called.]
Sobriety Happens. Trauma Still Happens.
And when those memories came flooding in, my subconscious mind had more faith in me than I did because the pain was very painful. In time, I was able to trace back my feelings over instances of violations, victimizations, severe distrust of 'the system,' violent reactions to being cornered, hate over confrontations and controlling personalities, people touching me or coming in too close to my space, and my zealous love for children and animals, the unempowered/dis-empowered, the un-voiced/de-voiced, and the disabled. I traced it back to this place that made Lord of the Flies look like angel food cake.
Enter Byron Katie and The Work
So there's the story. There are no new stressful thoughts that I can share with you that you do not already know in your own experience. There is no way I am going to convince you of the memories of my pain. There are only two choices: I hurt or I didn't. And for this process called The Work to work in your life, I don't even need you to believe me; In fact I encourage you NOT to. Instead, I encourage you to use this for your own indelibly ingrained trauma. I'll share my answers but you answer yours for yourself.
If you are in pain over any situation in your life, just follow along and in bold blue when I make a statement or ask a question, pretend I am asking you. "The Work" only stops working when you do not answer the questions.
The Thought: "I should never have been put into this teen residential place because was an abusive place and it hurt me." I am going to answer along as honestly and as innocently as I did when it first occurred to me to bring it to Inquiry.
Let's do The Work
(4 Questions and a Turnaround)
"I should never have been put into this place."
1.) Is that true?
Yes, that is true. I should never have been put into this place. [Now to be honest...before 2006, I was here. But after a little sanity via sobriety & recovery, my truer answer was more like, "Well, I'm not sure."]
2.) Can I absolutely know that to be true?
I cannot absolutely know that to be true. [This is the point where the ego can finally relax in defending its 'right' to be angry, and I can acknowledge that perhaps...perhaps there might be something I am unaware of. There is nothing 'bad' with the ego; It's doing its job perfectly when it defends itself cause that's its job. But if I want to live in happiness, joy, and peace, I have to let my ego take some time off. :) ]
3.) How do I feel, what happens, when I think that thought, "I should never have been put there," (and yet I was)?
[This is the opportunity to let it all out. Let the ego have its way. Keep the pretty language in the trash where it belongs for this one. Get cleansed. Tell on it.] I feel [felt] angry, powerless, and the opposite of autonomous and safe. I feel [felt] intense anger toward my parents for not knowing what the place was really like. I feel [felt] anger at the doctor who suggested it, and anger at society for allowing it to exist. I hate authority in any form because I see it as a kidnapping agency without a jury to convict. I distrust those around me with my story so I keep it inside. I feel shame, stress, anger, fear, violation, victimization... I feel like God is dead and no one, not even my parents, care.
4.) Who would I be, how would I feel, without that thought?
[This is finally now - my favorite - the question where we can breathe. I meditate on this step and really let my imagination take flight. "Who would I be without this stressful thought?" If this is difficult to do, imagine yourself or remember an incident of happiness in your life... How did you feel BEFORE the stressful thought intruded? This is where we imagine ourselves without this thought. And now, since I really *am* without that thought, having done The Work on it some years ago, this one is in present tense and how I truly do feel. Now please remember, yours may be different.]
I would feel grateful that there was a place that taught me there was such a thing as 12 steps. I would feel happy that for 4 months my parents had a break from dealing with my alcoholism and other shenanigans. I would feel honored that my parents would spend money on a rehabilitation they thought I was getting. I would feel autonomous and free because I was one of the kids who did not suicide during or after exposure. I would not feel stress or victimized because I would recognize that there were some good people in there who did help me to survive that place without completely cracking up. I would not feel distrustful, shame, stress, anger, violation or victimization.
Now the Turnaround(s):
[I turn around the original statement I'm holding up to Inquiry and I find - at LEAST three - examples of the turnaround being as true or truer than the original thought. Or even examples that let me off the hook from the pain. This gives me an opportunity to expand my mind to include thoughts my 'pain' never allowed me to consider before now.]
I should have been put into this place.
- I know this to be true because I was.
- The doctor who suggested this place had diagnosed me as having alcohol poisoning. Had I not gone into this place, I may've been dead at any moment in the following 4 months I was in there.
- My body needed a break from alcohol and it's true that nothing less than physical removal from it could have stopped me at that point.
- While in there, I developed a keen sense of compassion for other peoples' pain.
- While being taken to school as to what abuse looked like, I knew I would not want to harm people with verbal assaults.
- I developed a healthy aversion to group-mentality when it does not align with my own Spirit.
- As an adult, I realize that the ever popular thought of "oh no! teenagers!" does not apply to me. Due to being in this place I advocate for the understanding of all kids & teenagers and they are my favorite people.
- Due to how I responded while in this place ~ and how it often looked 175* degrees different than other kids ~ I grew into awareness of my HSP [Highly Sensitive Person] status. This would eventually lead me into finding my niche and helping OTHER HSP's.
- Because of the horrifying model this place used, I know what NOT to suggest to parents who may have a child with a potential drinking problem.
- This teen residential facility did teach me about 12 step programs at 15 [AA and NA], which subsequently stayed in my memory as for when I would be ready to seek sobriety in 2003.
- Over a decade later, I would meet other 'former kids' associated with this place, because I was in this place, and I am so grateful to have met them. Some friendships came from it!
- Had I not been put here I would have graduated HS earlier and not made the friends I DID make that have carried on into the present.
- I highly doubt I would have made it to college because I was spurred to moving in my Grandmother after 5 years of High School who had the faith in me I needed to think about going to college - which I did! And I LOVED college!
Do not be concerned if 'all of a sudden' nothing happens. In my more stressful thoughts brought to inquiry, it feels as if nothing has happened. But later when faced with the same thought I have noticed it doesn't feel as familiar or stressful. I'll share one of those examples later and link it here.