The gift of pain - interview with Cathy Webber
Hello and welcome to Episode 8 of TLLoM my name is James Powell and I’m glad that you’re here with us today.
I want to give a really big thank you to all of the people who have reached out on IG, Facebook and email to share part of their stories of hope and strength as they move forward on their journey of recovery from addiction and mental health challenges.
After decades of hiding parts of myself behind layers of toxic shame it was healing on a number of levels to open up and share more of my story of trauma and addiction in E07 – Complex Trauma. In sharing I was able to connect with others who could say ‘yes, me too!”
I also appreciated those who reached out and said “you?”. I always thought that you were so put together and had everything under control…. You were/are so confident in what you do.
What do mental health challenges look like?
That’s the funny thing about mental health challenges, trauma and addiction. It doesn’t look like anything AND it looks like everything.
Complex PTSD can come from growing up in a severely abusive and/or neglectful family. You may not necessarily see bruises or external wounds AND that doesn’t mean that trauma is not there. Abuse and abandonment can happen on verbal, emotional, spiritual and/or physical levels. AND when the abuse or neglect is severe enough in any ONE category it can cause a child to develop Cptsd.
For me, this occurred from severe emotional abandonment from growing up as a closeted queer child in an ultra-religious community. Hiding who I was out of fear I abandoned myself and learned to hate myself as I was taught to believe that WHO I WAS was sinful and dirty.
This toxic shame destroyed my self-esteem and self-worth and led me down a path where I believed those thoughts to a point where I would regularly think it would be easier not to exist… as a child with nobody in the world to turn to those thoughts day-after-day become unbearable.
And this is where trauma creates a breeding ground for a whole host of both substance and process addictions.
In Western cultures we have been trained to label addictions as BAD. They are something that are undesirable, they hurt, they destroy, and they kill. Our first trained instinct when the topic of addiction comes up is ‘HOW DO WE STOP IT’, ‘how do we get rid of it’, ‘how do we help the person just say no drugs/alcohol/sex/food or whatever’
Addictions as helpers?
But what if we took another approach? What if we looked at our addictions as gifts? What if instead of immediately jumping into controlling our stopping an addiction we paused and got curious.
What if we asked questions like… What is this addiction adding to my life? What pain is this addiction covering up? What larger more overwhelming societal ills does this addiction provide some momentary reprieve.
We live in a world where it’s easy to say ‘JUST SAY NO’ or to prattle off any of other hundreds of celebrity endorsed ANTI-whatever campaigns… but I know we need to do more…. We need to do the really hard work… because WE CAN DO HARD THINGS (right Glennon Doyle… and another shout out for Untamed)
We need to take a look at the roots
In order for us to really heal we need to take a look at the roots. We need to understand ‘what happened to us?’, ‘what is it that we are trying to avoid’, ‘what is really going on underneath all of our pain?’
Is it perceived unworthiness because of our sexual orientation, toxic shame taken on because of our gender expression or is it because you have been told that you are somehow less than because of your gender, your race, your body type or differing physical or mental abilities?
These are just some of the root causes of trauma that invite addictions into our lives in an attempt to numb some of the pain that we THINK that we just can’t possibly face on our own.
Meet Cathy Webber
Today’s guest, Cathy Webber is no stranger to pain. Cathy and I met last year and have shared a number of connection points on our recovery journey together. In today’s interview Cathy will share some of her journey and about how she has been able to start seeing the gift in some of her pain.
Our conversation today contains topics relating to trauma and addiction and contains personal sharing that includes stories of personal self-harm, drug use and suicidal ideation. If this content triggers you or if you are currently having a mental health crisis I urge you to go to your nearest hospital or call 911.
Before we begin today’s interview, I want to remind all of our listeners of the importance of advocating for yourself, asking for help and reaching out to create your own network of professional mental health support.
A now, here’s my conversation with Cathy Webber.
I want to give a HUGE thank you to Cathy Webber for joining us today on This Little Light Of Mine. I also want to share how HARD this was for Cathy to open up, get vulnerable and share her story of hope and strength. Cathy really struggled with this… and there was a number of times where she wanted to throw in the towel, run in the other direction and give up.
Like me, Cathy struggles with a brutal inner critic that screams… you have nothing important to share, you’re no big hot shot, why would anybody want to listen to you and the list of internal insults could probably continue for hours… and that inner critic is a classic part of our FLIGHT response that gets triggered when we sense danger.
Feel the fear
Cathy’s inner world sensed danger but the recovery work she is doing slowed down her FLIGHT response so that she could make a conscious choice, a new choice, a choice that makes her proud. That choice doesn’t mean that her fear disappeared… it meant that she was able to assess the situation mindfully, acknowledge fear fear, feel that fear and share it with others and find a space where she could lovingly and safely move through that fear to make the choice to powerfully use her voice.
I strongly believe that we begin to heal when we 1) we are in a space where we feel safe and out of harms way 2) are able to identify our core wounds (things like worthiness, self-love, fear of abandonment) and understand ‘what really happened to us’ 3) when we are free to use our voice to share our story and to connect with others.
Permission to heal
I am so grateful that Cathy made this conscious choice and I know that by sharing her story today that she will give permission to so many other individuals to start and/or continue their own healing journey.
Speaking of healing journeys,
- Do you identify with any of Cathy’s story or with any parts of my story from previous episodes?
- Do you wear masks in your life? Are you outwardly successful or confident but inwardly feel like you’re a failure or scared kid?
- Are you a parent yourself who aspires to be loving and kind but find that all too often you “lose it” with your own kids in hurtful ways?
- Do you crave intimacy but deep inside the thought of getting close or letting someone in terrifies you?
- Or maybe you feel like you’re constantly being held back by feelings of anxiety or depression?
If any of these sound like you, you may be wrestling with the hidden but damaging effects of your childhood and carrying around a “wounded inner child” who is screaming out for some TLC.
I’d love to invite you to join us all month of July & August as we read through and explore Home Coming by John Bradshaw. Home Coming is one of the OG books on reclaiming and healing your inner child and is packed full of exercises, affirmations and meditations that will help you on your journey of deep healing.
Join our nightly posts on IG @MyLightShinesBright as we work through the book together and then join together for an open discussion on Thursday August 6 at 8PM EST on zoom to connect, discuss the book, share our insights and support each other on our healing journey.
Lots more information and discussion are live RIGHT now on Instagram @MyLightShinesBright.
Another big thank you to Cathy Webber for opening up and using her powerful voice to invite more love and healing into our world.
Will you share This Little Light Of Mine?
Do you know anyone who would benefit from today’s message? Are there any people in your network who may be struggling with self-worth, addiction or mental health? We would love for you to share This Little Light Of Mine with your network so that you might share a message of strength, encouragement and mental wellness with someone who may be in need right now.
And finally, thank you to each and every one of you who have subscribed to This Little Light Of Mine, provided comments and ratings. Your feedback and encouragement really mean a lot to me personally AND it helps get our message of unconditional love, hope and healing for ALL out to as many people as possible.
Thank you for joining us today, for sharing part of your valuable time with me and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my personal story with you in two weeks-time where I go way back and kick it old school and share one of my first memories of being taught to be ashamed of who I am.
Until then… always remember, no matter where you are on your journey, you were created on purpose, you matter, you are wanted, you are needed, and you are loved.