Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steps to Recover From Abuse and Divorce

How did I recover and rebuild my life after divorce and abuse? I’m not going to lie to you and say it was easy and that there is a magical pill you can take and it will all be better. It was a lot of hard work with hair-pulling moments of frustration. However, when I got there, I found sunny skies and a freedom I never experienced before.

First of all, there is no time limit. We all heal and deal with things on our own time schedule. The key is to keep moving and working through the problems. So don’t feel like a failure if it seems you’re not making a lot of progress at first.

1. Find Your Faith. Faith means a different things to different people. There are many religions that people recognize. Find whatever works for you, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, etc. Cling to it with all your might. This is where you’ll gather your strength to get through your painful moments of depression and anger and confusion.

2. Change Your Thoughts. There is power in your thoughts that controls your future. “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become your destiny.” When we're discouraged or hurt, it’s easy to think negative, spirit-killing thoughts. These thoughts are wasted energy that are not benefiting your future.

Change the negative thoughts into positive ones. This may be difficult at first so you’re going to have to do this exercise on purpose until it can become natural to you. This may take years of retraining your brain, but it is crucial you learn how to do this.

Our brain accepts whatever we tell it. It doesn’t know the difference between reality and what we tell it. Have you ever wondered how a murderer can pass a lie detector test with flying colors? They practice convincing themselves they didn’t do it. You convince yourself enough times, you’ll believe it.

Only we’re convincing ourselves of something good. We’re reconditioning and nurturing our minds, body and future.

When I was taking my life coaching certification we studied this neuro-linguistic programming. As our instructor read an exercise to us over the webinar, I was eating my morning almonds. She had us close our eyes and imagine a lemon—to feel it, to see the color, the texture, to smell it in our hands. Then we were to cut the lemon in half and drip its juice into our mouths. At that moment, my mouth puckered and watered and I nearly spit out my lemon tasting almonds.

My brain didn’t understand it was only an image or a suggestion. It thought I had really dripped the tart juice into my mouth and it reacted accordingly.

When you’ve been abused or have gone through a nasty divorce, there are long-lasting affects. Our brains just don’t forget—lobotomy anyone?—it stores our memories and emotions. So if we can’t forget, how do we go on to a better future?

First of all, there is no room for your past in your future. You have to let it go, or in this case, work through this pain so that it doesn’t affect you and hold you prisoner in time. You really do have the key to release yourself from this prison. Time is a huge factor in this process, so don’t expect miracles over night, but it will happen!

Don’t bury the memory or emotions. This is extremely unhealthy and you’ll never heal. It’s like putting duct-tape on the Titanic. It may last a little while, but you’re still going to sink.

Acknowledge the feelings, reactions and flashbacks. Understand your triggers that put you in this state. Don’t dwell on them; understand them so you can identify what is really happening with you. When this happens you can say things like:

  • Yes, it happened, but it’s over now.
  • I’m safe now.
  •  I’m in a good place.
  • That person is no longer a part of my life.
  • This new person is not the person who hurt me. (Let’s hope you haven’t fallen into another bad relationship.)
The more you tell yourself it's okay, you’re reassuring your brain it’s now okay. You’re telling that “small child” or “hurt self” in your brain you’re safe.

If you have nightmares, that’s okay. Our brain is processing events, but with this self assurance, even these will soon stop. Make your room a safe, loving, nurturing sanctuary.

  • Lots of fluffy girly pillows
  • Bright colors mixed in a soothing back drop of colors
  • Even sleep with a small light on, a nightlight or tiny, low-watt lamp that is filtered with a colored scarf so that you can still sleep.
  • Listen to a subliminal message CD that speaks the words you need to hear and play it as you fall asleep. This is great for the car and during the day, too.
  • Listen to soft, soothing music, the kind they play when you get a massage, before going to bed.
Whatever works to calm yourself down and tell yourself you’re safe and the trauma is over.

We are spirit and we can control our minds. Whatever we think of enough will come true. If you’re thinking negative and fearful thoughts, they can come to fruition. Fear is faith in the negative. You’ve got to learn how to stop this and think of the good things you want in your life. There is a great book called Creative Visualization I read many years ago that talked about attracting good things into your life with the power of thought.

I took a lot of time on this particular section because it is the key to healing and rebuilding your life. Faith and thoughts are going to be your foundation for everything. Make it strong.
3. Work Through Your Emotions. Working through your emotions is essential to healing. Again, there is no magic pill to take that will get you through the grief, anger and depression. It is mandatory to feel all of these “icky” emotions in order to heal.

4. Dealing with Anger. You have to express divorce and abuse anger. That doesn’t mean demolishing your spouse’s car . . . You need to express the anger in a healthy way. Taking up sports is healthy. Hitting a ball can be a great release and create some fun visions.

5. Who Am I? Knowing who you are and discovering your purpose is empowering. It is important that you begin this process as soon as possible. I know, it’s the last thing you’re thinking about, but it needs to be the first.

You need a goal to strive toward. Right now you may be feeling hurt, angry, depressed, completely shattered. You obviously don’t want to stay this way. Having that goal is going to help pull you out of the rut you’re currently in.

"Well, I'm divorced! Lets hit e-Harmony!" Don't jump into a new relationship right away. You need to rediscover who you are. You need time to heal. By not allowing yourself the appropriate amount of time to heal you're going to land another turkey. By becoming confident in who you are and in what you want, your self-esteem is going to allow you to pick the eagle for the next relationship.

6. Nothing Works without Forgiveness. OUCH! I remember showing this chapter to the girls at the domestic violence shelter. Every one of them jumped back as though the word were a snake ready to bite them. They looked everywhere but at the page. I quickly assured them that they were not ready to even think about doing this, but it was needed in the future and I wanted to give them the tools so that they knew what forgiveness was and wasn’t to help them. They did relax a bit.

There is a point when we have to let the our hearts forgive in order to have complete healing and let go of that person and incident. Forgiveness has many layers.

What Does Forgiveness Really Mean?

Forgiveness is a decision that purifies the heart, releases pain, hate and bitterness from you when you release the offense over to God to correct. Often times He will not get completely involved in correcting the wrong until we’ve done our part and forgiven.

Forgiveness is your gift to yourself.

It is important to remember you are forgiving the offender, not the offense done to you.

Forgiveness gives you peace. Without it, there is no complete healing. It is the antidote for depression, anger, bitterness, spiritual and emotional illness and loneliness.

You can forgive without reconciliation because the offender doesn’t have to know, or if they do, it doesn’t require a positive response. It’s the responsibility of the person you are forgiving to receive it or not. You’re free to walk away knowing you did what God asked you to do.

When faced with evil, kill it with kindness. It extinguishes the fire.

It is an exchange of power that really does break the binding force. Unforgiveness binds you literally, in the spiritual sense, to that person and to the offense. Do you wonder why you walk around always feeling like that person is right there with you and you can’t shake them from your life?

Imagine yourself handcuffed to every person you’ve ever held a grudge against—your ex-spouse, the kid in fifth grade, an ex-friend. The chain is real. The people are real. The weight holding you back from trying to walk forward in your life is very real. You’re either laboring forward, out of breath and tired, or you’re stuck.

Break the chains holding you in captivity.

What forgiveness Is Not:

Forgiveness is not a feeling nor does it mean to forget. Forgive and forget are not even found in the Bible. However, forgiveness has helped me forget some things and has softened the memories of others. It’s a soul-searching process that isn’t instant. At first you may feel so angry toward the person there is no way you can possibly think of forgiving. With God, you can. Sometimes it even involves asking God to help us even want to forgive.

It doesn’t let the other person off the hook or condone the other person’s behavior. It doesn’t mean you’re trusting in that person.

7. Give Unto Others. Get out of your head and out of yourself for a few hours. It will make you feel needed and have a purpose. I felt less than human after my divorce. I joined an out-reach called Adopt-A-Block through my old church. Every week I'd go out to Sunnyslope, one of the worst areas of Phoenix, and inspire adults and children. The love I received from those people will always be with me. There were many good memories and sad tragedies of loss and even a drive-by shooting--thankfully when I wasn't there! Going there made me realize what I really had and how to be thankful for my current life at the time. I set out to help others, and in the process, saved my own life.

These are just a few of the strategies I used in my recovery process. They work. In 9 months I completely changed my life. I’ve seen them work in the lives of others who’ve gone through the divorce care program I helped facilitate and work in the lives of the women at the domestic violence shelter.

Books I've written and published. All books have been edited by Micheal Garrett, Stephen King's first editor and approved by my readers.

Making Lemonade -- A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce is a memoir of my abusive relationship and recovery. You'll understand that the points above are real because I walked through them.
Discover Your Wings is a book I created to help other’s heal and truly find purpose and happiness. It was inspired by Hands of Hope, the domestic violence shelter I volunteered at and my own journey through pain and divorce.

The Confident Butterfly is a short story out of Discover Your Wings. Three Arizona Girl Scout leaders are using this story to help inspire confidence for their girls and receive a badge. I'd love for all leaders to use this book. The story is for all ages, including adults.


  1. The same steps can be followed for different situations: Loss of job, angry people on the street, etc.

  2. Yes. Especially changing your thoughts. This does apply to everything we do and what is done to us. It is the cornerstone to changing us and the world around us. Thank you for your comments.