The original newsletter (pdf)
- From the Desk of Executive Director George Bilotta
- A Reflective Moment: Life is a daily struggle or part of the meaning of life is to struggle
- ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment: Telephone Support Sign-Up
- Poetry: “Crooked”, by James Daniel
- Rotation C Topic: Possible ASCA Meeting Topic for March: Courage: Recovery’s Adhesive
1. From the Desk of Executive Director George Bilotta
Winter’s severity seems to be receding. Looking out my window, the intensity of the cold and snow is steadily and reassuringly melting away, revealing patches of snowless landscape. Each passing day thaws winter’s dormancy and prepares the earth for the first signs of spring. Catalogues containing every conceivable plant, shrub, and flower arrive in the mail as an encouraging sign that spring is close at hand.
Using the image of winter subsiding suggests an image concerning our past abuse and movement into initial recovery. Winter, like child abuse, froze and numbed us. It constricted our growth. It paralyzed our ability to move on with our lives as children, teenagers, and adults. It stunted us from evolving and developing in the usual and normal way.
Like in late winter, the intensity of the big freeze dwindles, giving way to an initial thaw. Trees and shrubs begin to energize themselves. The tapping of sugar maple trees announces that the sap, the life blood of the maple tree, is flowing once again. Similarly, each of us in the initial stages of our recovery moves from the deep freeze of abuse to the slow thawing that gives way to recognizing and moving into recovery. We literally begin to thaw and tentatively start feeling.
Many survivors sense that they are not growing, moving, or getting on with their lives; that they remain in the deep freeze of winter. Yet there are initial signs of new life, renewed energy, and regenerated ways of seeing, hearing, and feeling. These are small signs of hope. To some extent, this is what Step Two is describing: I have determined that I was physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child. For various reasons, we begin to thaw, moving out of the deep freeze and into the initial stages of recovery. We acknowledge that we were abused and, in Step Three, we announce that we have made a commitment to recovery from childhood abuse.
Looking for the signs of hope that appear in our early stages of recovery can encourage and energize us. When we acknowledge that there is some movement, we note that we are capable of growing, of renewing our lives. It all takes time, patience, and courage. We might reflect and ask ourselves: what are the encouraging signs that reveal and point to our growth in our initial recovery?
2. A Reflective Moment:
Life is a daily struggle or part of the meaning of life is
by George Bilotta
(The following brief article is a continuation of our monthly series focused on pondering some of life’s basic questions.)
As we introduced in January and again last month, I think it is worthwhile to spend some of our time reflecting on some of life’s most fundamental questions and issues as we slowly move into a new millennium. Last month we discussed “What is life asking of us?” This month we raise another basic issue—life is a struggle.
We often hear people mention that life is a struggle for them. They interpret and experience life as a burden, as difficult, as a grind, full of stress, full of effort and exertion. As a survivor of child abuse, we might say, “What do you expect?” Many people believe that life should be free of burdens, easy, stress-free, and effortless. Many people think that the ideal life would be easy, full of comfort, without conflict, without labor or exertion. We hear some people say, “If only I had a better job, if only I had more money, if only I had a better home, if only I had a better family, if only I had not been raped as a child, humiliated as a child, beaten as a child.”
Part of the meaning of life is to struggle, is to accept life as a daily, ongoing struggle. Many people interpret struggle as a negative, that they should not have to struggle, or at least not have to struggle as much as they do. When we struggle with life’s daily demands, we use our energy to accomplish something. In trying to accomplish this, we grow, mature, and move toward that which we desire.
To struggle is also to confront difficulties and do something to overcome them. We use our energy in a positive manner to deal with the many hassles, difficulties, conflicts, troubles, and stresses of a typical day. To struggle is to experience our aliveness. If we can frame our everyday struggles in a positive rather than a negative manner and balance the energy we expend in our daily struggles with self-nurturing, then struggling with life might lead to increased engagement, excitement, and commitment.
Perhaps one way to wrap ourselves around the issue of life as a struggle is to ask ourselves: Are we struggling against or struggling toward? A frame of mind that is struggling against seems defensive, hunkered down, guarded and closed. Those with a frame that represents struggling-toward seem open, receptive, creative, and energized. How do you frame that life is a struggle?
3. ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment:
Telephone Support Sign-Up
Many, but not all, ASCA meetings pass around the “Telephone Support Sign-Up” sheet at the beginning and end of the meeting. The sign-up sheet states:
Signing this list is totally voluntary. If you want to volunteer as a telephone support person during the week, please print your name and telephone number. During the last part of our meeting, the phone list will be passed around again. At that time members can copy down numbers of individuals that they want to stay in contact with for this week. At the end of the meeting, the list will be destroyed. Your name will be active only for the time between meetings.
What is a support person? A support person is a member of the ASCA meeting who volunteers to be available by phone to receive calls from another member of the ASCA meeting who may need support during the week, between meetings. The volunteer generously donates his or her time to be supportive of another ASCA member in need for that week only.
However, even though a person has volunteered, if his/her circumstances change during the week, he/she has no obligation to continue to be a support person. If this should happen and someone calls, the volunteer might simply say something like, “I’m sorry, but my situation has changed and I am not in a position to function as a support person this week. You might want to call The Morris Center for more immediate support.”
The Telephone Support Sign-Up procedure operates on the honor system. Names and telephone numbers taken from the list should only be used to request support via the telephone. They should never be used for personal gain, like soliciting a date. This is not a social listing but a list for support. Trust is a basic concern for all survivors. Misuse of the list erodes trust and hinders our recovery.
by James Daniel, Copyright 1999
There was a crooked man
Who grew from crooked stock
Who never could recover
From his post-traumatic shock.
When he was very young
Ma beat him with her gun.
Pop tore him all apart
’Til he had to close his heart.
He grew up asymmetric’ly,
Circuits closed electric’ly
Stiff with pained anxiety
Betrayed by his own piety.
No one wanted him
With their eyes
They just saw
And when he tried to fantasize
’Twas always just the same reprise
Of crooked cries and crooked tears
To straighten a bit the crooked years.
5. Rotation C Topic:
Possible ASCA Meeting Topic for March:
Courage: Recovery’s Adhesive
Courage is usually defined as a quality of spirit or mind that permits a person to confront fear and/or danger with confidence and bravery. Many books and articles which elaborate on recovery from child abuse mention the need for courage in order to pursue recovery.
Courage does not eliminate or diminish the feelings of fear, apprehension, anxiety, uneasiness, dread, etc. Courage does not remove nor lessen the dangers that we face throughout recovery; the possibility of rejection, the denial of others, the betrayal of family, the general minimization by society, etc. Rather, courage is that type of spirit-filled energy, that focus and determination of mind, that helps us to stand our ground, to speak the truth, and to re-experience the world with new eyes and ears, with an open heart and an open mind.
As a quality of spirit or mind, courage is something that requires cultivation. We cultivate courage by spending time during the week dwelling on and reflecting on the various aspects of courage. We imagine what it feels like to be full of courage. We review past situations in which we acted courageously. We anticipate upcoming encounters that will require mustering up our courage. We practice by role-playing scenarios either in our minds or with others that involve us being courageous.
- What is your experience of courage?
- What do you believe is the role of courage in your recovery efforts?
- On a practical level, what can you do to foster courage in your daily life?