September, 2001

Edited selections from the ASCA newsletter.

The original newsletter (pdf)


  1. A Reflective Moment for September: Caring for Our Bodies
  2. Poetry: “Walking on Shells”, by James Daniel
  3. Possible Rotation C Topic: Ongoing Commitment to Recovery
  4. Step Elaboration: Step 3

1. A Reflective Moment for September:
Caring for Our Bodies

by George Bilotta, Ph.D.

For this month’s reflection, I thought that it might be a helpful exercise to discuss our bodies and how they impact our recovery process. Whether we were physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused, our bodies were impacted. As a result of the abuse, we store what is commonly referred to as “body memories” within our bodies. (You might find it helpful to refer to “Step 4” in our Survivor to Thriver manual, page 75, which discusses body memories.)

At one time or another, we may take our bodies for granted. It is just there, more functional and mechanical rather than a creation of wonder, beauty, and grace. Often, we pay attention to the body only when it hurts due to sickness or an accident. Again, we may pay attention when the body feels uncomfortable due to indigestion from eating fatty foods, bloating from overeating, stress from overwork, irritable and tired from lack of sleep, etc.

Body Influencing Recovery

From the perspective of recovery from childhood abuse, the manner in which we go about attending to, caring for, and treating our bodies on an ongoing daily basis will directly and often profoundly influence our recovery process. Why? The body provides fundamental energy for our recovery efforts and for daily living. For survivors who often feel depressed, tired, overwhelmed and sluggish, adding energy to the body can be practical and helpful.

In addition, through the body and its senses, we experience and interact with people, events, and things around us. As the primary instrument for embracing the world, without a properly functioning body, everything else seems to falter. We live and experience life through our bodies. Through our bodies, we literally touch the world. Touching and being touched physically is one of the reassuring and comforting joys of life. Many survivors have been robbed of this simple pleasure.

A body that has been abused physically, sexually and/or emotionally has been, to varying degrees, numbed, desensitized, constricted and inhibited. As adult survivors, if we do not consciously and deliberately attend with thoughtfulness and care to our body, our body, along with its senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, will continue to be lulled to sleep, dulled and anesthetized. When our senses become emotionally unresponsive, the world often looks and is experienced as gloomy, dreary, depressing, unattractive, gray, monotonous, stale, and lifeless. In such scenarios, there is little meaning and purpose to getting up in the morning. There is little motivation to work on recovery.

Most people tend to take their bodies for granted. They usually do not pay attention to or listen to their bodies. They do not acknowledge what their body is revealing to them, what it is craving and needing. How does your body fundamentally feel?

In general, does your body feel alive, vibrant, relaxed, free, energized, open, comfortable, at home, alert, graceful, healthy, light, grounded, calm, harmonious, soft, rested, peaceful, animated, refreshed, strong, coordinated, etc.? Does it feel dirty, corrupted, crushed, awkward, tense, wooden, mechanical, heavy, frozen, tired, uptight, stiff, strained, betrayed, alienated, self-conscious, inadequate, inferior, closed off, agitated, anxious, restless, pushed, sore, rag-dollish, closed down, etc.?

Through childhood abuse, our bodies were usually not respected, cared for, or nurtured. For our perpetrator(s), our body was a thing, an object to be used for pleasure or to inflict pain on purpose. Our bodies may have been brutalized, assaulted, punished, battered, kicked, slapped, raped, invaded, used, threatened, attacked, injured, sexualized, forced, violated, harmed, desecrated, pushed, ignored, etc.

Why Care for the Body?

Why is taking care of our body so important for recovery? As I mentioned earlier, our body generates energy for daily living. We need energy to do the things that we are called to do throughout the day. When we thoughtfully attend to our bodies, with nurture, we counter depression. If part of depression is the lack of energy, then energizing the body will help balance out some of the emotional depression.

In addition, as we thoughtfully care for our bodies, we stop taking ourselves for granted. We add to our sense of self-worth. By purposefully and resourcefully caring for our bodies, we reintroduce or increase gentleness, soothing and sensuality into our lives. Caring for the body has a way of increasing a sense of self-appreciation, balance, and perspective. When we thoughtfully care for our bodies, we support our ongoing recovery efforts.

Some Ideas on Caring for Our Bodies
Sleep & Rest

The first way to care for our bodies is to ensure sufficient sleep. Many people are perpetually tired due to insufficient sleep. They are sleep-deprived. Most people require an average of 8 hours of sleep per night. Most people experience a significant difference in energy level and thus coping capacity when they have 7 to 8 hours of sleep versus 5 to 6 hours of sleep. When we are well rested, we cope better with the daily concerns, hassles, problems, difficulties, and inconveniences of life. It takes energy to cope. It takes energy to process and manage the feelings that come up for us as we tell our story of abuse over and over again, as we develop new skills and ways of being with ourselves and others.


A second way of caring for our bodies is through regular relaxation. The body craves refreshment throughout the day. The body calls for re-balancing following a period of work, a period of pushing the body. For example, many people perform simple stretching exercises, yoga, or use other Eastern traditions of meditation to relax and replenish their bodies during the day.

Others have learned to relax and restore themselves through their senses. For example, through the sense of smell, people burn candles or incense. They smell flowers. We call this aromatherapy today. We can learn to eat slowly, nibbling and concentrating on the flavors and textures of foods and drinks by using our sense of taste. The sense of touch offers the opportunity for self-massage or massage administered by another. Playing with clay or finger-painting can be relaxing for some people. Through our hearing, we can listen to music, listen to silence, listen to tapes with guided meditations, poetry, etc. Our sense of sight invites us to relax by pondering and gazing upon beauty, art, and nature.

Nutrition: Water and Food

Nutritional professionals encourage us to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Through drinking water, we cleanse our bodies of various toxins and prevent dehydration. People who drink sufficient water report that they feel cleaner, have fewer digestive and intestinal problems, fewer skin problems, and have more energy.

Eating a balanced diet provides the fuel for our bodies to turn into energy. Again, nutritional professionals encourage several smaller meals throughout the day, rather than one big meal, especially in the evening. In taking care of our body, in nurturing our body, we are called to develop a consciousness and a reflectivity about what we choose to eat. Sometimes, we do not have a choice. For example, when we are guests, we may have limited choices. Most of the time, however, we can choose when and what to eat.

Some survivors have various eating and food disorders that resulted from being abused. This creates additional challenges for these survivors who struggle to take care of their bodies.


Proper and ordinary hygiene practices, not only keep our bodies clean and free of diseases, but they can also be transformed into nurturing experiences of self-soothing, self-intimacy, and self-awareness. Whether we are talking about bathing the entire body, or focusing on a specific area of the body, like teeth, fingernails, toenails, hair, hands, feet, etc., brushing, scrubbing, washing, bathing, cleaning; these common everyday practices can become a conscious reconnection with the body rather than an unreflective task. They can become multiple ways of gently caressing, loving, and empowering our bodies.


Exercising the body can become a major ally in our recovery process. Exercise helps to counter depression. Exercise is an excellent way of ridding the body of stress. Exercise, in general, invigorates and enlivens. It does not matter whether we engage in gentle stretching, walking, running, swimming, aerobics, weight-lifting, etc. From a recovery perspective, exercise simply helps invigorate the body.


Many survivors have participated in various body therapies that they have found helpful and powerful for their recovery. There are many schools of thought proposing different approaches to nurturing, healing, and restoring the body, especially the body that has been traumatized through childhood abuse. If you have the financial resources, you might want to explore some of these alternative and complementary avenues for healing.

My bottom line is simple. Paying attention to our bodies, not taking our bodies for granted, and approaching the care of our bodies in a thoughtful, gentle, and reverential manner could be a wonderful and potent ally in our ongoing process of recovery from childhood abuse. How do you plan to attend to your body today?

2. Poetry

Walking on Shells

by James Daniel, Copyright 2001

When it was least expected
Came the beatings
Just when the egg shells I was walking on
Stopped crunching under my feet
Came the beatings
Just when I thought I was in the clear
When for a second I didn’t feel the fear
Came the beatings
Arms out of nowhere flailing around
Whirling like the blades of a crazy helicopter
And I couldn’t get out of the way.

The impact on my spine
The impact on my shoulder blades
Hair being pulled
Thrown up against walls
Like a rag doll
I let her have her way with me
As I watched it from the ceiling
Hiding behind the blades of the ceiling fan
Obscuring my senses just enough
Not to believe it was happening
As it was happening.

And afterward, after the sick wind retreated
I’d gather myself up
Collect myself as best I could
Feeling defeated, feeling ashamed
Why couldn’t I protect myself?
Why couldn’t I fight back?
And where was my father?
Why couldn’t he protect me?
Wasn’t that his job?
And why did my mother hate me so?
And why would she pretend as if nothing
happened each morning after?

I believed I’d be bald by the time I graduated from high school
That is, if I ever made it to high school
I’d run away but they’d come after me
And make it twice as bad as it was before
I’d love to tell someone, but who would believe me?
The bruises weren’t big enough
At least not on the outside
So I go back to walking on shells
Keeping my antennae continually on the rise
Picking up on subtleties, in hopes of being better prepared
For the next inevitable surprise

3. Possible Rotation C Topic:
Ongoing Commitment to Recovery

In the meeting, it might be helpful to use the summary paragraph at the end of the next article, “Step Elaboration: Step 3”, as an introduction to a Rotation C topic for September.

  1. What might dilute your commitment to recovery?
  2. What encourages and fosters your ongoing commitment to recovery?
  3. What has been your experience of your commitment to your recovery process?

4. Step Elaboration: Step 3

(We continue the monthly Step series by George J. Bilotta, Ph.D. “Step Elaboration” augments the material provided within our Survivor to Thriver manual.)

Step 3: “I have made a commitment to recovery from my childhood abuse”

Commitment—Doing Something About It

Step 3’s commitment to recovery implies a promise to oneself. We promise to do something about it, the abuse (Survivor to Thriver, page 74) that we suffered years ago, along with the disruptive consequences that continue to follow us. Through ASCA, to do something about it includes committing ourselves to Stage One Remembering, no matter how difficult and painful.

We tell our story about the abuse, as well as its past and present consequences. We tell our story over and over and over again until the negative emotion has been significantly decreased. In addition, we tell our story continuously, until we gain sufficient awareness of how the abuse in the past has influenced us and continues to influence and affect us.

Based upon this awareness and knowledge gained through Stage One, in Stage Two Mourning we commit to doing something about it, by assessing and working on resolving the painful feelings and harmful effects of the abuse. Continuously telling our story makes us acutely aware of difficult feelings that need to be acknowledged, expressed and managed. We also uncover a discerning truth about the destructive impact of the abuse on our body, mind and soul.

In Stage Three Healing, we commit to an ongoing process of growth. From an ASCA perspective, this growth process includes and concludes recovery with the formation of a new self and the reunion of one’s soul (Step 21). I prefer to discuss the formation of a new self as a self that lives in a healthy manner and enjoys a meaningful and fulfilling life. We also call this thriving.

Commitment’s Dilution and Encouragement

Since Step 3 includes the ongoing commitment to one’s recovery, we must also be aware of what can dilute our commitment to recovery. Also, what encourages and fosters an ongoing commitment to recovery? First, however, we must acknowledge that recovery from childhood abuse is difficult, painful, often confusing, and full of unpredictable repercussions. Recovery stretches us, challenges us, and often results in feeling uncomfortable. Recovery demands time, energy, focus, and planning. Survivors who approach recovery haphazardly may gain limited progress. Recovery is more of a deliberate and thoughtful process.

What Might Dilute Our Commitment to Recovery?

Many factors contribute to the dilution of our self-promise to recovery. Some of these factors include feeling overwhelmed, unbearable pain, feeling exhausted and drained, and a lack of support from family and friends. In addition, unrealistic expectations and a self-imposed recovery timetable could result in a sense of frustration and failure.

Furthermore, life’s distractions and realities like employment and careers—both domestic and professional—can dilute our available time and energy. The usual and average daily stressors associated with living, working, and recreation, as well as obligations to family, friends, work, community, church, volunteer engagements, etc., all potentially contribute to the dilution of our commitment to recovery. They can also be encouraging and fostering of our recovery as well.

Dilution Through Partial Recovery

Another type of dilution to our commitment to recovery is what I refer to as partial or surface recovery. In partial recovery, a survivor works through aspects of Stage One Remembering and Stage Two Mourning. It includes telling some of one’s story of the abuse and wringing out some of the emotional charge associated with the more acute aspects of the abuse. This type of dilution usually follows with feelings and intellectualizations that “I have done enough.” In partial recovery, survivors achieve sufficient recovery to halt the more noticeable pain and discomfort.

Missing from partial recovery, however, is the transformation of significant dysfunctional patterns learned through being abused. In addition, maladaptive behaviors derived from trying to cope with the resulting consequences of being abused may not have changed. Therefore, partially recovered survivors still experience many dysfunctional and maladaptive behaviors, including self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors, decreased self-esteem, poor relationship skills, insufficient coping mechanisms to digest life’s daily stress, etc. They lack the formation of the reunion of their new self and eternal soul (Step 21). What they have accomplished is a noticeable decrease in pain, distress, debilitating depression, etc. In essence, they feel good enough. They have no particular reason or motivation to continue their recovery process.

Dilution through Resentfulness

Another type of dilution to our commitment to recovery may result from a resentful behavioral stance.All survivors feel resentful for being abused. It is usual and normal. We feel resentful that we were abused. We feel resentful that we find ourselves in this position of having to dedicate time, energy, and resources to recovering, etc. Feeling resentful is not the problem. Feeling our resentment is healthy. How we manage our feelings of resentment, like any other feeling requiring management, may be the point that becomes problematic and dilutive to our ongoing recovery.

Why? From my perspective, when we are in a resentful behavioral state, we focus our time and energy primarily on the other—the perpetrator(s) and the compliant family—rather than on what we need in order to recover and live a healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. When we become stuck in resentfulness, our energy is drained. We usually feel frustrated. We do not seem to be moving on with our recovery process.

Managing our feelings of resentment is important. We need to attend to, flush out and process our resentment. We need to manage our feelings so we are not overwhelmed, nor do we behave in a dysfunctional manner. In doing so, we free ourselves. We are in a better position to apply our time, energy, and resources to telling our story, assessing and resolving the pain and effects of the abuse, and continuing our process of growth toward a new self.

What encourages and fosters an ongoing commitment to recovery?

There are several areas that I think encourage and foster our ongoing commitment to recovery. First, doing something about it a little every day makes the task of recovery easier to handle and digest. We are more apt and willing to take little nibbles of recovery, rather than to try to take an overwhelming bite that is difficult to swallow and digest.

Second, interpreting recovery, especially Stage Three Healing recovery, as the usual process of ongoing growth as a human being, can normalize our recovery process. Every human being has “stuff” to work on. We may have specialized issues and issues as survivors, but we are all called to grow and reform ourselves until the day we die, just like everyone else on our planet.

Third, noticing, acknowledging, and celebrating our incremental steps of growth can be motivating and encouraging for our ongoing commitment to recovery. It is the opposite of taking our recovery work and our selves for granted. The familiar saying that “Every journey is taken one step at a time” is particularly relevant to us survivors working on recovery.

Fourth, forming a vision and dream concerning how we want our lives to unfold and our personhood to grow, fosters our commitment to ongoing recovery. Each of us needs meaning and fulfillment in life. As human beings, we are all called to create a vision and resulting mission for our lives. Our vision and mission provide us with meaning and fulfillment, joy and satisfaction, harmony and peace.


In summary, Step 3 is a promise to oneself to do something about the abuse. We tell our story of past abuse, assess and work on resolving the pain-filled feelings and the harmful consequences of our childhood abuse, and commit to forming a new self. But our lives are full of dilutive elements that can hinder our commitment to our recovery. On the other hand, we also have the resources to foster and encourage our commitment to our ongoing recovery process. Part of the reality of recovery from childhood abuse is that recovery takes time. It is difficult and painful. Yet, the rewards coming from the formation of the reunion of our new self and eternal soul (Step 21), I think, are well worth our ongoing commitment and efforts.