This story is taken from Kim’s forthcoming book – Your Strength to Heal is the first book of its kind to offer stories of inspiration and recovery to survivors of severe trauma including physical, sexual, emotional and ritual abuse, as well as healing tools to aid in the survivors’ recovery process. It also contains stories from clinicians’ and counselors’ journeys working with these survivors. Caregivers and partners give their stories of living with and helping a survivor heal from trauma.
This book is based on the author’s twenty six plus years of healing from sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and ritual abuse. The goal of this book is to provide hope, inspiration and encouragement to the survivor community, to explain the process of healing, and to help clinicians gain a better understanding of the therapeutic tools used in working with ritual abuse survivors.
“Kim Kubal, Executive Director of Your Strength to Heal, began her journey of recovery and healing in 1988, initially in therapy as a result of a divorce that brought her face-to-face with her addictions, self-abusive behaviors and PTSD. Her journey is recounted here, both as historical record and as a chronicle of her experiences, some heartbreaking, others heartwarming, but always a reminder and inspiration to herself and others, that we can change, we can heal, there is hope for us all.
I spent most of my childhood and adolescence fragmented and out of my body. I don’t have many memories of my childhood, teens and early adult life, because I wasn’t “present” for much of it. It was safer for me not to be present, not to feel, as many of the events unfolded and occurred. I now know that my situation was one of extreme and recurrent abuse and trauma.
I needed to escape, rather than feel the abandonment, rejection, betrayal and even hatred directed at me. It wasn’t safe for me to feel. I couldn’t tell you what my feelings were then. Even looking back now, I’m not sure what I felt, if anything, at the time. Instead of feeling the loneliness, desperation and self-hatred I came to experience later in life, I was just numb. As I grew up, I learned to escape my body and uncomfortable feelings with multiple addictions and self-abusive behaviors – food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, relationships; you name it, I probably did it or used it to escape my feelings.
It wasn’t until I started therapy, went through an ugly divorce, got into the first of many 12-Step recovery programs and, finally, started dealing with my multiple addictions, that the memories began to surface, though only gradually, at first. Even so, I was in tremendous denial. I couldn’t believe that my family, particularly my father and mother, had been involved. After many soul-searching months and much therapy, I came to understand that my father, who I thought I adored and had placed on a pedestal, had sexually abused me; with my mother’s complicit knowledge and approval. I realized she had also been sexually abused by her father. She didn’t know anything different, I thought to myself. Later, when I finally confronted my parents, they denied everything. I was ostracized by them and the rest of my family.
I descended into a deep depression, clinging to my therapist and several 12-Step programs I was in. I prayed every night for God to take me, even as I experienced the horror of flashbacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During those early years of recovery, I felt alone and isolated. I developed physical problems that didn’t make sense and were only later identified; one diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition not well understood and a diagnosis viewed with distrust by many physicians. I learned about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and how it applied to me. I wanted to give up many, many times, but somehow I held on.
I seemed to intuitively know that my salvation depended upon finding a spiritual path of healing. I started spiritual counseling to overcome my concept of an abusive God, which was based on what I learned as a child – that God hated me and would abandon me and I would end up on the streets homeless with no one to take care of me. I had so much rage toward this Higher Power. What kind of God is it, I thought, that allows such terrible abuse, that permitted the perpetrators to destroy my soul, my body and mind! It wasn’t until after many years of professional therapy, 12-Step recovery and spiritual nurturing that I realized God cannot stop free will, even if it’s the will to do evil.
After working hard to heal for 10 long years I finally thought I was done and could start to live life. Boy, was I wrong! More memories of abuse came up. The realization that my mother, the woman I had come to regard as a victim herself, as well as my grandfather, had joined in the abuse, was overwhelming. I wanted to die all over again – I just couldn’t believe this had happened! I experienced a new round of denial, until I had the sobering realization that this had indeed occurred, that my memories were real, and that I had more work to do.
After many years of intense therapy, I have been in six different 12-Step programs and dealt with 14 addictions and self-abusive behavior disorders. One day at a time, I am now ready and able to give back. I started a nonprofit in 2009, Your Strength to Heal. At first, my focus was almost exclusively on establishing a residential facility and program for women like me. I was disappointed, to say the least, when it didn’t just happen automatically. After all, I was sure God was on my side. But, it hasn’t happened yet. One of the blessings of this frustrating effort is that I have learned to be part of a team, to collaborate with others who agree with my core vision – to stop the cycle of violence and abuse. After I was able to set my ego aside, I realized that this could be accomplished by education and training workshops on trauma. We are refocusing, re-tooling and moving forward.”