From Surviving To Transformation: Hope, Addiction, Loss, And Trauma (H.A.L.T.)

By Rivka Edery, L.M.S.W.

From Surviving To Transformation

From Surviving To Transformation, the consequences of surviving trauma are complex, making it difficult to formulate a recovery and treatment plan. The most common defense mechanism, and the toughest one to work through, is denial. Throughout human history, lack of knowledge and non acceptance of the perpetrators misdeeds has placed the suffering of survivors behind an armored wall, perpetuating traumatic effects. No recovery can occur behind this wall of forced silence, ignorance and lack of helpful resources. Over the last two decades, research has revealed the frequency of traumatic events, and their injurious effects on a survivor’s psyche. Mental health professional have come to understand the connections between unresolved trauma and serious psychological problems.

The survivor’s decision to begin a process of healing begins with the admission of what happened to them. This involves working through the defenses employed to shun from consciousness the excruciatingly painful memories of the traumatic events. Having passed through this phase of remembering (in any way possible), the acceptance of the truth of the traumatic experience moves the survivor towards resolution. Thus begins the creation of an internal, healing space for the survivor to feel what remained frozen in time, banished and unwelcome in consciousness. By going through the felt experience, the survivor can let go and access healing. The way is open to be in charge and responsible, embracing difficulties as well as personal assets and gifts.

Over the course of each survivor’s life, there will be people who will criticize any efforts to acknowledge and heal from traumatic experiences. Such nay-sayers accuse survivors of using their histories to live in the past, or to make excuses for personal problems. This criticism comes from those who have limited empathy, or may be in denial about their own mistreatment. Qualified trauma specialists know that the stress from repression manifests itself in serious life difficulties. The perpetrators themselves will often intimidate their victims in an attempt to enforce silence. Although the absolute recall of traumatic events is not possible, the overwhelming consequences and burden on the untreated survivor deserves attention.

The role of spirituality in trauma recovery is often misunderstood and subsequently minimized. There is a great need for understanding the healing potential of spirituality in addiction and trauma recovery. Utilizing spirituality as part of trauma –informed care, while detailing the complicated puzzle of the survivor’s inner reality, requires a step-by-step process of applying spiritual tools to each phase of recovery. This process significantly alters a life of pain and confusion. In order to engage in a truly effective treatment process, including utilizing spiritual tools to help surmount the challenges a survivor has to face in order to heal, the survivor has to be prepared to go down this road.

Trauma survivors usually have a difficult time experiencing their vulnerability and the attending feelings of having once been profoundly helpless and alone. The process of unearthing one’s memories and re-experiencing anguish requires the help of skilled, knowledgeable and spiritually grounded professionals who have done healing work on themselves. With issues as delicate and sensitive as deep emotional wounding, each survivor and counselor must approach the recovery path with patience, self-love, self care and the development of an appropriate support network.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous comprise a spiritual program used to treat alcoholics and other individuals with a range of self-destructive and addictive tendencies. The potential for transformation in trauma-recovery lies in the powerful spiritual process that has its own mysterious element to it. Due to the nature of the wound of trauma that is so often intertwined with addiction – a comprehensive approach to healing the physical, mental and spiritual wounding is essential. It is my hope that survivors will consider incorporating a rich spiritual component to their recovery, and encourage others to do the same.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have helped countless addicts. This healing process is based upon spiritual principles that speak to the human spirit. The Twelve Steps can help you with any issues that cause emotional suffering. You can apply them to specific emotional problems, confusion, unresolved pain, areas that you seek growth and happiness.

Consider each of the Twelve Steps as a Power Tool you carry around in your toolbox, for use at any time. Steps One through Three are the “Surrender Steps”, Steps Four through Nine will heal your memories, and amazingly, they will “clear away the wreckage of the past”. You will also realize that due to the effects of trauma, you have misunderstood a lot about yourself, other people and the God of your understanding. As you earnestly apply these Steps to your life, you will get to the truth about yourself, other people, and the God of your understanding. All three can be distorted due to impact from trauma.

The great truth about any living organism is that it is either growing or dying; there is no maintenance. This is completely true of our spiritual condition: you are always either moving towards growth, or towards regression. Eventually, if you are open and honest with yourself, and vigorously apply these spiritual principles in your life, spiritual laws will begin to replace everything you have learned. A life based upon these principles will become your habit for living. If you are like most well-defended people, you may be resistant and closed-minded to any of these ideas. For you I say your ego needs to face its limitations before it can assist you in your growth. In addition, The All Powerful Creator will not do for you what you are supposed to do for yourself. Recovery via application of spiritual principles and concepts can be somewhat of a mystery, and there is no ‘spiritual silver bullet’. The best way to start this process is to surrender to the mystery, and not try to solve it. You do not know if this program will work for you until you try it – thoroughly, honestly, and consistently.

You may find that by exploring the Twelve Steps, in the context of your traumatic history it stirs up the pot of emotions inside you. This may be a new experience in your life, which happens when you seek “conscious contact” through a spiritually sound and disciplined practice. Try to follow through with the process, and let your thoughts and feelings be as they are. If you are in the habit of fleeing from yourself, try a new way of responding and simply be with those feelings. If it touches you in some way, and you are tempted to flee from yourself, know it is the Great Reality that Lives inside You that is nudging you toward the pain of healing. You will learn how to remove the blockages that prevent you from loving yourself and other people. This self-love is necessary to the process of trauma recovery. If you operate out of a False Self, that False Self will collapse by working these Twelve Steps. It is natural to be afraid of the truth, and the fact-finding process of reaching for the truth. You will discover the joy of the truth setting you free to experiencing
love and service.

The great paradox that lies in this process is that out of trauma, loss and addiction, is the rising phoenix of Hope. She emerges as a symbol of transformation, and signals to the trauma survivor towards the Great Spirit of Healing and Compassion. It is there for each and every one of you.

Rivka Edery, L.M.S.W. is a resident of Brooklyn, NY. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Science and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. Applying the ancient spiritual principals of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous saved her life, and continues to guide her in every area. It is for this reason that she wrote the book: “Trauma and Transformation: A Twelve Step Guide”, using these time-tested principles directed towards trauma survivors, available at Amazon. To contact Ms. Edery for speaking or consulting, please call (646) 691-7771 or e-mail