piece the puzzle together in a way that offers a sense of solidity, of
confidence about what happened." So many people who have been hurt as children
struggle when, for whatever reason, those who knew them refuse to acknowledge
the pain they've experienced. As you later express, the back and forth, the
questioning those who have experienced abuse find themselves resorting to (did
this really happen? What if those who tell me it was all in my head are right?)
can be intolerable. How were you able to overcome those worries and trust your
I first remembered my abuse when I was 18. It was
clear, there was no question. Then I spent a few years trying to find a
therapist to guide me on my healing journey, and all 3 of them denied any
possibility of childhood sexual abuse. My partner at the time, and the few
others I shared it with, knew it was true. But having that professional
invalidation was damaging to my already practically non-existent self-trust. I
shoved the memories back down because it was too confusing and painful to feel
such a strong lack of support from those I felt were capable of supporting me.
Eventually, not dealing with my abuse issues began to eat away at all of my
relationships. It got to the point where if I didn't deal with what I knew was
true, I was going to lose everything I valued. At that point I became strong
enough to confront my abusers. Not confronting them was keeping me in denial,
keeping it distant and unreal. Their unempathic response to my disclosure and
questions solidified what I knew on an even deeper level, and gave me the
confidence to finish my book.
2. It is common for those who have experienced
abuse as children to mistake the maltreatment for real love. The journey one
must take to obliterate that false belief is both painful and profound. How did
you begin this journey?
I began the journey when I was a teenager and I
picked up a book by Ram Dass on meditation. The simple truths deeply resonated
with me, and it was then that I began a dedicated spiritual practice. In
getting in touch with my inner world, I realized that there was something
better then the outer world I was raised in. It gave me hope and it sparked a
deep desire to discover what is real. What is real, IS love. So for me truth
and love are inextricably connected. My entire life is fueled by the desire to
know truth. That has never changed. And along the way, I have found love. For
myself, for others, and for God.
3. What was it like when you discovered that pure,
sincere love is not tainted by the kind of pain you endured? Was there a single
moment when you thought, this is it. This is how love should
Love beyond my personal history, that's deep! Yes,
there was a single moment when I felt that. It happened around 18, I felt loved
by someone, and I also felt respected by them. And I had never known both of
those at once before, it really blew me away.
I want to make the distinction though, that while
sincere love may not be tainted by the pain I've endured, at times it still
informs it. It's still important for me to respect myself as a survivor, to set
appropriate boundaries for myself in my relationships, and to give myself the
time and space I need to continue to focus on my healing process. Love is
really all there is, but we also live in duality. We live in the ups and downs.
I have made peace with that.
4. After your harrowing experience with sexual
abuse as a child, you grew up to find solace in drugs. For people who have been
traumatized, the option of using a substance to numb the pain seems so natural.
And, how could it not? How did you learn to step into your pain and work
through it once you realized that the drugs were not helping you heal? How did
you summon that courage?
Yes, anything to help disassociate becomes natural
to any trauma survivor, child or adult, rape, violence or
I started using drugs to avoid pain and to
disassociate, but then what ended up happening was it allowed me to explore my
inner life. This saved me. It really did. But like with any medicine, it can
turn to poison, and that happened within a very short period of time, I would
say the first two years. After about two years of using I knew that there were
no more lessons to learn, or wisdom to be gained from exploring drugs, but I
couldn't stop. I tried, and tried. When I was 25 I was almost killed by drugs.
Facing my death made me realize how much I wanted to live. When I was kept
alive I felt a deep gratitude and became inspired to create something beautiful
and meaningful with my life. It felt like surrender. I've spent the rest of my
life refining what that means. The book was born of that. That's where the
courage has come from, gratitude.
To answer the other aspect of your question -
stepping into pain is necessary in order to heal. I did it with a lot of
community support. I am now in a space where I can face my pain alone, without
much resistance, and work through it quickly. It took discipline and practice
to get there, and I do reach out for support when I feel that will be
beneficial. I see facing pain as an important aspect of being free, so the
rewards for facing it are so much higher then the rewards for ignoring it. It's
just a part of life.
5. On your road to recovery, you consulted a
number of spiritual advisors. Can you speak a bit about the role spirituality
played in your recovery?
Spirituality was, and is the entirety of my
recovery. I could never separate it out from all the other aspects. I have been
honored to meet teachers in the Sufi tradition, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition,
Maori and Cherokee medicine people, and certain lineages of Tantra and
Hinduism. I engaged in extensive mentor-student relationships in all of these
traditions. I grew up in Christianity. I experienced yoga, qigong, and
body-centered healing. So all of these inform my present day understanding of
The truth is spirituality is very simple, and one
does not have to embark upon a worldwide quest for spiritual understanding like
I did. In fact, sometimes the search can become a roadblock because it fuels
this belief that "it's in them, and they can give it to me." Or "it's separate
from me and I have to learn about it." Spiritual practice begins and ends with
self-love, honesty, and truth.
6. In your book you speak about your experience
with a group called “The Maori Healers.” Could you explain a bit about who they
are and what they do?
They don't necessarily call themselves "The Maori
Healers," but that is what they have affectionately began to be known as as
they've traveled around the world. They are indigenous wisdom keepers of
Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud," New Zealand. There is a group of
them that travel, at the request of their elders, to spread their healing work
to people on pretty much every continent. Their work is deeply loving, and the
unique aspect of it is that they are not afraid to move beyond the pain
threshold. They encourage people through the body, to let go of all
self-imposed limitation, and embrace healing on all levels. They're amazing.
You can check their schedule out at www.maorihealers.com.
7. How did poetry and other art forms help guide
you through your recovery?
Poetry was another lifesaver! Tori Amos and Ani
DiFranco are two poets that gave me strength and hope to move forward. Hilda
Doolittle, Carolyn Forché, Anna Akhmatova, Gertrude Stein, Audre Lorde, they
all expressed the things I wanted to say, think and feel in order to free
myself. They all pushed boundaries from the known into the unknown. It's almost
like reading their work gave me permission to do so also. I began to write
poetry when I was 9. It allowed me to develop a voice, even though I kept that
voice hidden. When I was 25 I started a performance poetry organization called
ThirdEyeSpoken. We organized spoken word events that were also fundraisers
benefitting local non-profits. It was the complete merging of art, service, and
healing. I really thrived in that environment. Spoken word art performers are
known for their vulnerable and powerful expression, and I learned from so many
other incredible artists how to find that balance within
8. As there will surely be many readers who are
eager to buy your book, could you give them some information on how and where
Recovering the Spirit from Sexual Trauma can be
The book is available at www.recoveringthespirit.com.
on the wesbite I describe who the book will best serve, and who it may not be
the best book for. I think that's important.