I Never Knew It Was Trauma
How I Healed the Root Cause of My Struggle With
Alcohol, Weight & Relationships
& How You Can Too
How Healing The Root Cause of My Struggle With Obesity, Addiction, & Relationships Freed Me Up To Thrive
My struggle with obesity, alcohol, drugs, and relationships and all of the pain and shame that go along with them began when I was just five years old. Through my dedication to my own personal & spiritual growth, including taking a deep dive through healing my family of origin issues for several decades, I am grateful to be in long term recovery with substances as well as with food and my weight.
Although I knew that my struggles with food, weight and substances were an early coping mechanism that I used to deal with the stress of being raised in a dysfunctional family, it wasn’t until I began doing extensive research about what childhood trauma was, it’s various causes and the life long shadow it can cast on a persons life that I realized that I had only understood a small part of the bigger story of why I had and still was struggling in so many ways. As I was educating myself about childhood trauma…..
I had epiphany after epiphany, in the stark realization that for over 40 years my struggle with obesity, alcohol, drugs, & relationships were driven by a form of childhood PTSD known as complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).
The brain scan below contrasts the difference between a normal child’s brain on the left and the brain of a child with childhood PTSD on the right.This brain scan illustrates that childhood PTSD is not only a psychological disorder, but an actual physical brain & nervous system disorder, as well. Note the circles illustrating the dark areas on the traumatized child’s brain on the right. These are the areas of the brain that never developed properly or never developed at all due to being raised in an environment with chronic, toxic stress. This lack of development in some areas of the brain and over development in other areas of the brain cause children & adults with traumatized brains to operate much differently than children & adults with non-traumatized brains.
Complex post traumatic stress disorder-C-PTSD is caused by a child’s developing brain, body and mind not developing properly due to being exposed to an environment of chronic, toxic stress. In my case, being forced to live in a severely dysfunctional, chaotic home with an alcoholic parent created the perfect storm for me to struggle with weight, alcohol, drugs & relationships that would last for over four decades.
I came to realize that not only had I been impacted psychologically, which I was already aware of and had been working on, on a psychological and relational level for 30 years, but I had also been impacted, and still was being impacted on a brain, and nervous system level as well.
This new knowledge of the root cause of my struggles with obesity, addictions, and relationship being due to suffering with complex post traumatic stress disorder-C-PTSD (a brain, body and mind disorder), as well discovering that there are proven, evidence based bio-psycho-social solutions to resolving C-PTSD, are what has ignited a passion in me to get this life saving information out there to the public.
Although it was initially shocking to discover that I had been and still was suffering from C-PTSD: a brain, body & mind based, post traumatic stress disorder…
At the same time it was also such a relief to discover that my 40 year struggle with
obesity, alcohol, drugs & relationships were never my fault to begin with…
Check The Interview I Gave On The Link Between
Childhood Adversity & Adult Obesity
How Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Causes Anxiety, Depression, Attention Deficits, Addiction & Obesity
Areas of the brain impacted by complex post traumatic stress disorder that cause anxiety, depression, attention deficits and that drive addiction and obesity:
Fight, Flight, Freeze Overdevelops Causing Chronic Anxiety & Tension:
The fight, flight, freeze areas of the brain become overdeveloped, as well as overactive as a way to adapt to the toxic stress it faces on a regular basis. Since trauma keeps a brain, body and mind in a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, chronic stress & anxiety are a common state for traumatized people. A person having to deal with chronic stress and anxiety will naturally seek out ways to calm themselves down.
Without a calm, attuned caregiver to help them calm down, a child will seek whatever means are available and or/modeled. In my case, my mother was extremely anxious, angry or intoxicated and my dad was emotionally and/or physically absent. Also, food was modeled by my dad as a way to cope with stress. Therefore, food was a soothing, calming and available solution to my emotional distress when my parents were not. When I entered my teens I discovered alcohol, pot, and cigarettes worked even better than food and soothing my anxiety.
Brain research proves that the brains of traumatized children are hypersensitive to external stimuli and can become easily high-jacked by emotions that do not cause children with normal brains to become upset over. Therefore, when a non traumatized child gets angry, sad, or upset, they are able to self soothe or find a caregiver to help regulate and calm them down in a relatively short period of time. However, due to the changes in a traumatized child’s brain, they tend to be more sensitive to becoming emotionally triggered, and therefore can seem to “over react” to what seems like a mild incident, & can also have wider emotional swings that take much longer to calm down.
Therefore in my case, given the chronic, toxic stress my young developing brain and mind was exposed to by my Mom’s chronic anxiety, depression, anger & alcohol abuse and my Dad’s emotional & physical absence, my brain adapted by staying stuck in a hyper-aroused state. A hyper-aroused brain makes a person chronically anxious and hyper sensitive to stress. Therefore, having complex post traumatic stress disorder caused me to become upset more easily, stay upset longer, and therefore required I need more soothing to calm down.
This dynamic is what was driving my need to seek out soothing myself through food. Hence, I began gaining weight when I was just six years old and continued to do so until I reached my top weight of 310lbs in my mid-forties. I also began soothing myself with alcohol and cigarettes when I was 16 years old. My drinking escalated quickly to the point of not being able to stop once I started, but thankfully after 11 years of daily binge drinking I found recovery when I was 27 years old.
Pleasure Center Deficits:
Brain research proves that the pleasure centers do not develop properly in the brain of a traumatized child. Therefore in my case, I required more food to feel satisfied and more alcohol to feel better. When more food is needed to feel full and satisfied, it causes overeating, and ends up in weight gain and obesity. Of course, as a child I had no idea that it wasn’t my fault that I had a brain based, traumatic stress disorder that made me anxious and that was driving my need to use food to cope with the toxic stress in my family and later alcohol to cope with my chronically dysregulated brain. Therefore I blamed myself for being weak willed, felt like a total loser, and of course my self-esteem plummeted.
Impulse Control Deficits:
Brain research proves that the impulse control areas in the brain of a traumatized child do not develop properly. Therefore when food or alcohol cravings would arrive, I lacked the ability to say no to them due to having impaired impulse control. Hence, I ate and drank more and more due to lacking the impulse control to be able to stop. I used to hate myself for not being able to stop eating and drinking, not knowing then that I had a brain that did not have the proper development to support me in resisting my desires.
Brain research proves that the frontal lobe areas do not develop properly in the brain of a traumatized child. The reason is that the brain adapts and develops according to the environment it is exposed to on a regular basis. In an environment of chronic, toxic stress, the brain is forced to develop the fight, flight, freeze area over the frontal lobe area. Since the frontal lobe area is responsible for impulse control, planning, attention and being able to hold a focus, it’s lack of development causes attention issues.
Hence, childhood trauma is a key driver of ADD, ADHD & is what many learning disabilities are caused by. Learning about how my ability to hold a focus was significantly impaired by C-PTSD, helped me understand why it was so hard to stay focused, initiate and complete creative projects and why I had difficulty in school.
In our culture many children with attention and learning disabilities are shamed over their inability to focus and therefore do well in school. Therefore, low self esteem issues are common with children suffering with C-PTSD. When a child feels painful shame of never feeling like they can measure up, they will seek to soothe their pain with whatever they have access to. For me, again, it was food and alcohol.
Since C-PTSD happens in the context of close family relationships, this type of trauma is also known as relational trauma. Therefore, many adults and children suffering with unhealed C-PTSD find that they struggle with finding or maintaining close friendships or romantic relationships. This is due to our nervous systems being hyper-sensitive to experiencing a stress response trigger when engaging in close relationships. This is due to our brains being wired to expect stress (and the need to fight,flight or freeze) in close relationships since this is what happened in our relationships with our abusive or dysfunctional caregivers.
As humans, we have evolved for thousands of years in tribes and therefore are wired for and need bonding and close relationships to feel truly satisfied and fulfilled in life. When we have a brain, body and mind that has been changed by C-PTSD, our ability to develop close, healthy, bonding relationships can be significantly altered causing chronic loneliness, deep sadness, anxiety and depression.
Hence, many children and adults with unresolved C-PTSD find relationships too stressful, and either avoid close relationships altogether and end up feeling lonely, depressed, anxious and disconnected, or sometimes swing to the opposite pole and become completely enmeshed in their relationships thereby losing themselves. Either way, finding fulfilling friendships or romantic relationships are often very difficult for those of us suffering with unresolved C-PTSD.
Therefore, unresolved C-PTSD can lead to us isolating to avoid the stress and discomfort of being around people, and can therefore lead to loneliness, depression & anxiety. To cope with and numb this level of emotional pain, many people choose food, drugs, or alcohol. Or many instead choose work, staying constantly busy, sex, gambling, scrolling through Facebook, gaming or the internet to numb these painful feelings of disconnection and loneliness. For me, again, it was food and alcohol.
Being Re-Traumatized By Being Shamed By Society & Your Family For Being Overweight & an Alcoholic:
Most families and cultures shame children and adults for having food or other addictions as being weak willed, losers or as having a weak moral character. The more shame I felt about my body and my food and alcohol addiction, the more I needed to eat and drink to calm myself down, hence the horrific cycle of shame, overeating, & gaining more weight kept running for forty years until I discovered the root cause of my problems and found effective solutions.
The realization that my struggle with obesity & addiction was due to C-PTSD & was never my fault to begin with helped me release a huge amount of guilt and shame… This is a key step in being able to begin the healing and recovery process.
As long as I kept on blaming myself as being weak willed, or a loser for my addictions to alcohol, food and weight issues, I stayed stuck in debilitating shame. Unhealed shame is the most painful emotion their is and is therefore immobilizing, making it impossible to break free from addictive patterns.
Once I realized that the root cause of all of these issues was C-PTSD and that this type of childhood trauma had been in play for generations and that it had been passed down from both sides of my family, I began to have compassion for myself as well as my family members. This was when the true healing and recovery journey began for me.
This is not to say that we should not fully feel and process through the grief, sadness, anger or rage for the hell we were forced to live through at the hands of our parents, other caregivers, siblings or other adults. To resolve C-PTSD these unprocessed feelings need to be fully processed and resolved for true resolution . However, we must be very careful with whom we choose to process them with. Making the wrong choice can cause us to re-traumatize ourselves. This certainly should not be done alone. I highly recommend you find a trained professional who is an expert at using evidence based trauma based therapies. Regular talk therapy is not adequate to heal C-PTSD. You must find a somatic, trauma based therapist for true
Why Food Addiction and Obesity Are NOT About
Food or Being Overweight
Another major epiphany for me was discovering the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and how it related to C-PTSD. The ACE study revealed the stunning link between childhood adversity/trauma & obesity, addictions, chronic diseases, as well as social and emotional problems people develop as adults.
Vincent Felitti, MD, the co-founder of the original ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, stumbled upon the link between childhood adversity and obesity while working in an obesity clinic at Kaiser Permanente. After many of Dr. Felitti’s patients would lose hundreds of pounds through his program, he noticed that a significant number of them began to either rapidly gain their weight back or they would drop out of the program. Perplexed by this seemly odd situation (patients that were successful at losing large amounts of weight would then drop out of the program and gain their weight back) he decided to dig deeper into what made them drop out and/or gain their weight back
He then discovered by interviewing thousands of his obese patients that their presenting food addiction and obesity problems were NOT the core problems, but were actually attempts at a solutions to deeper problems.
He found that their food addiction and their resulting obesity
were in reality the markers for the real problems.
According to Dr. Vincent Felitti’s research from interviewing thousands of obese patients, the two main reasons we overeat and become obese are…
1. Due to being subjected to chronic, toxic stress in childhood, a young child’s developing brain, body and mind are impacted causing C-PTSD. C-PTSD causes a person to be chronically hyper-vigilant and anxious. To cope with being in a state of chronic anxiety, children and adults adapt by using food (or other behaviors or substances) as a drug for its psychoactive benefits such as:
a: As a sedative to help with anxiety, and therefore providing soothing, calming benefits
b: As a stimulant to lift you out of a depressed mood and provide increased energy or a sense of well being
c: As a pain reliever to numb uncomfortable, emotional pain
2. Having an overweight body was actually found to be a solution vs. a problem since an obese body provides (consciously or unconsciously) several protective factors including:
a: Obesity has been found to be protective sexually: One of Dr. Felitti’s patient’s famously said: “Overweight is overlooked, and that’s what I need to be”. Therefore an obese body says no to sexual advances for you when you lack the ability (due to unresolved C-PTSD) to say no to other’s sexual advances.. Dr. Felitti found that 55% of his obese patients had histories of childhood sexual abuse. In fact the ACEs study shows that childhood sexual abuse (which causes C-PTSD) is very common with 1 in 4 girls experiencing childhood sexual abuse, and 1 in 6 boys experiencing childhood sexual abuse.
b: Obesity has been found to be protective physically. Having a large body can give you a sense of personal power as well as feeling protected from others abusing or attacking you. Hence the common term in our culture “throwing your weight around”. Many of us felt utterly powerless to protect ourselves from abusive caregivers, siblings or other adults as children. Therefore, having a large body can provide a sense of power, safety and protection.
c: Obesity has been found to be protective socially. In our culture, people tend to expect less from obese people. Therefore, one of the benefits of being obese is it provides social safety from being judged, shamed, or ridiculed since we don’t feel pressured or expected to risk by putting ourselves out there. The narrative goes something like this: “If I am obese, I can stay focused on my food and weight problem, and other’s (as well as I) will expect less from me. With less pressure from society, myself and my family to take risks, be vulnerable, grow & make something of myself & my life, I get to feel safe.” Playing it safe provides less exposure to the anxiety of risk taking and keeps at bay the dreaded shame we would feel from the inevitable failures that come along with risk taking. Obesity also provides safety from the anxiety and vulnerability of being exposed and more visible through being successful as well.
Dr. Felitti Statement On How Diets & Nutritional Advice Can’t Solve Obesity
In light of the ACE study findings, Dr. Felitti has stated that fixing the obesity problem with diets or advice about eating won’t have any effect. Per Dr. Felitti, “Nutrition is a nice subject and has nothing to do with obesity,” he explains. “Teaching people about nutrition is essentially predicated on the assumption that people get fat because they don’t know any better.”
How Your ACE Score Can Account For Your Struggle With Obesity
The below graph from the ACE (adverse childhood experiences) Study illustrates that the chances of you struggling with severe obesity increases by 240% if you have an ACE score of 4 or more compared to an ACE score of zero. To calculate your ACE Score visit: Take The ACE Survey.
You Don’t Outgrow C-PTSD Unless You Get Specific, Trauma Based, Brain, Body & Mind Types Of Therapies
Talk Therapy Cannot Completely Heal C-PTSD. Since this type of trauma lives in the brain, body and mind, talk therapy alone cannot completely heal C-PTSD. To fully recover you need brain, body, mind & attachment based therapies to completely heal it.
If you have C-PTSD, your brain will stay stuck in an anxious, hyper-aroused state throughout your entire life unless you get brain, body and mind trauma based therapies to fully recover. This is not only important in terms of being able to calm yourself down enough so you don’t need to medicate with food. It is also imperative to get treatment to heal your C-PTSD so that you don’t end up with the many other adult onset illnesses, emotional and social problems that are proven to be caused by un-treated C-PTSD.
As I began to understand what C-PTSD was,
I began to realize that I had finally
discovered the root cause of my life long struggle with food and weight…
It was due to having a hyper-aroused, anxious brain
that used the only thing it had
access to calm itself down with:
How Discovering The Root Cause & The Solution
For My Struggles With Alcohol, Drugs,
Food & Weight Revealed To Me My True Purpose
Discovering the true cause of my 40 year struggle with obesity, addiction & relationships as well as discovering evidence based solutions to heal these issues at their core: resolving C-PTSD, inadvertently revealed to me a new passion and purpose which is to help others who are still suffering with these issues to heal these issues at the root cause as well.
I do this by sharing my story as well as sharing the solutions I have found that have been instrumental in resolving my C-PTSD, which in turn have been key in resolving my food and alcohol addictions, my ability to maintain a healthy weight for the past twenty years as well as my ability to be calm, centered and focused in my life.
My goal is to teach, motivate, inspire, and empower you to plot a direct path toward healing your struggles with anxiety, depression, alcohol, food and weight by addressing and healing the root cause: C-PTSD. When you heal your C-PTSD on a body, brain and mind level, you will no longer feel compelled to medicate with alcohol and food, and will therefore have the most effective, as well as the fastest route to reach and maintain a healthy weight and create a healthy, joyful life.
In addition, by healing your brain, body and mind from C-PTSD, you will also get the benefit of healing many other areas (psychological, spiritual, relational, life purpose, health issues) of your life that have been impacted by untreated C-PTSD.
My goal is to save you years, if not decades from the pain, shame and grief of chronically struggling with food and weight by letting go of symptom based, ineffective, time wasting approaches to managing anxiety, depression, food and alcohol addiction and weight loss. I work with you to heal your struggle at the core which is healing C-PTSD.
In addition, my goal is to help you understand that these struggles were never your fault to begin with, and that in order to heal you must begin to let go of the shame for having these struggles in the first place.
Cause vs. Responsibility: It’s important to recognize that although your need to medicate with alcohol as well as with food was an early attempt to cope with the chronic toxic stress you were subjected to as a child, and was therefore not your fault to begin with, the responsibility to heal and resolve your C-PTSD is 100% up to you.
Once I understood what C-PTSD was…AND that I definitely had it, and had been struggling with it my whole life, all the veils began lifting.
I was able to see with new ‘trauma informed” eyes how this trauma showed up in my life. It was disguised as: chronic anxiety, sadness, loneliness, low self esteem, shame, food addiction (and other addictions as I got older) and the resulting obesity I struggled with for over 40 years.
Now that I understood the devastation that C-PTSD can cause to a young child’s brain, body and mind, I have made it my mission to let the world know that this type of C-PTSD exists, and that there are evidence based solutions to heal and resolve it on a brain, mind, body and on a relationship level.
I have personally experienced proven, trauma based, body/mind therapies that can make a profound difference in your healing. What I know for sure is that with the right consistent support and trauma based and trauma informed therapies, you can truly recover from C-PTSD, end your struggles with addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, & lose your excess weight and maintain it permanently.
The beauty of healing these struggles is once handled you can finally get on with creating a life you love vs. being constantly high jacked by the pain & drama that addiction, obesity and unhealed childhood loss and trauma creates.
The good news is that as humans we are wired to heal, and with the right trauma and attachment based therapies we can recover
I Know Because It Has Happened To Me!
My Mission Is To Provide You With All Of
The Resources & Support You Need To
Heal By Releasing Your C-PTSD
Ready To Learn How To Release Your Struggle With Obesity, Addiction, & Relationships By Releasing Your C-PTSD?
Check Out The Following Resources & Information About
C-PTSD & My Story