New Directions for Women would like to thank Gina Tabrizy of Pat Moore Foundation and Harmony Heals, Inc. for filming this video interview: “Facing Trauma” with us.
Hi, my name is Gina Tabrizy and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I’m really glad that I have this opportunity to sit down, have this conversation, and be invited as guest speakers for New Directions for Women, so I thank you for that. I’m very honored to have that privilege.
One of the reasons that I wanted to speak is: I’ve been in the field for over 24 years and I’ve been working with dual diagnosis and basically that’s trauma, addiction, recovery. When a person has mental health issues as well as addiction issues, we like to call that dual diagnosis. There’s a lot of facilities and a lot of therapists out there that focus on these issues and what I want to say to you is, that at the core of that issue is trauma.
That word is a catchword these days. You hear it everywhere. Everyone says they treat trauma. It’s one of those things that catches your eye and catches your attention. For many, many years, the belief is that trauma is something that was only attached to Vietnam vets, let’s say. Post-traumatic stress disorder was a very common disorder.
What we’re starting to understand now is trauma is a lifelong process. As long as we’re walking the planet, as long as we’re being with other human beings and relating with other human beings, there’s always the possibility of some traumatic event. It could be as simple as a death of a loved one or even your favorite pet or even a dear friend. It could be losing your house and, in this recession, losing your job, being displaced, being homeless. I mean, these are incredible traumatic events that are happening right now daily to all of us, to us, to people that you’re close to. And, even in witnessing someone that you care about go through an illness is incredibly traumatic.
I know from personal experience struggling with illnesses for the past several years and what that has done and impacted me and my family is unbelievable. For me, defining trauma as an event, not just an event that where you feel your life is threatened, is that’s just the surface of it. That’s the definition most people go by. For me, trauma is any time that I’ve experienced in my life the feeling of my needs not being met. And, these could be your basic needs of life, sustenance, water, shelter as in poverty. That’s a common experience. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, all these things are traumatic.
Then there are your emotional basic needs: the need to be loved, the need to be validated, the need to be seen, the need to be heard, the need to feel a part of a group, a part of a family, the need to be protected, and the need to be supported. All of these basic needs as we grow up from the beginning of our life story, and our life story always begins at home. It starts where we came from as such a huge part of who we become and the story plays out throughout our life.
When those needs are not met, or they go unmet as a child, we start to fill in the blanks. We start to define who we are based on what we didn’t get. If we had parents who weren’t attentive or, let’s say they were workaholic, not just alcoholic, they were absent because they weren’t available because they were so attached to their work and being successful, we might make up a story that I’m not worth sticking around for. We might make up a story that I’m not as important as this other thing.
So, throughout our life, we might be re-creating relationships where we say to ourselves, “well, I’m not as important as you are.” Underneath that, there’s a beautiful statement, and we’ve got a new word that we’ve been using for years and years, is co-dependency. Everybody says they’re co-dependent. Well, originally co-dependency was “I’m addicted to a person who has an addiction.” Co-dependency has become “the way that I function in relationships is dysfunctional,” the relationship with others and the relationship with myself.
If I’m not willing to go back and look at my family history and the stories that I made up, those blanks that I filled in, those negative beliefs I created about myself, I’m going to have a hard time unwinding that tape and figuring out today how to do those things differently. I like to call it “getting your story” and “getting your history straight.”
Well, Pia Mellody is definitely at the forefront of “getting your history straight” as such a big part of working with trauma. If the things that I’m saying to you as you’re listening to them, you identify with it, you have the sense of going, “oh my God, that’s me,” or “that’s my childhood,” or “that’s my story,” I want you to know that it begins with just getting that story straight. The best way for someone to begin to deal with their trauma and to unravel it, is just to tell their story. It’s a beautiful experience and it’s a healing experience to sit in front of another human being and just tell them the story of where you come from and have your experience validated.
Most of the time when you hear the word “trauma” and in the ways that I defined it – were my basic needs met, did my life feel threatened – a lot of people like to say, “no, it wasn’t that bad.” We’re fabulous at minimizing, rationalizing, suppressing this information, especially if we have full-blown addictions going on. When your needs aren’t met, you’re going to go to addictions to fill those needs. You’re going to try to fill that empty shell that you’ve been carrying around. That void has to be met. That’s where the life of addiction steps in, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, shopping, self-mutilating, sex and love addiction, gambling, whatever it is.
So, the marriage of co-dependency, getting your story straight, understanding how you relate to people, and addictions go hand-in-hand and at the core of those is the trauma as I’ve described as all those needs that didn’t get met. I really, really encourage to look into and understand co-dependency and trauma, especially if there’re any addictions in your life and your family’s life, because you’re going to find it there. I definitely encourage you to look at and redefine trauma, not as just something threatening, but as the basic source of life, emotion, love, affection and unconditional regard. “Did I really get that?” “Did I really get that?” “Really, am I just acting out trying to get those needs met through my addictions?”
I encourage you to look into it whether it’s going on the website, my facility, I’m at Harmony Heals Counseling Center. We have articles, we have newsletters, we have resources. I’m happy to consult with anybody. If you need that kind of help, it’s available to you. There’s many wonderful books on trauma and co-dependency. There’s Pat Carnes, Pia Mellody, John Bradshaw, Claudia Black, these are wonderful resources to look further into the trauma and to understanding this work.
And, if you’re in the field, I want you to understand it. I don’t just want you to use it as a word and sugarcoat it and pass it off and put a Band-Aid on it. I want you to really get it. If you’re going to go on that journey with another human being, to go to the most wounded places within them, you’ve got to know and you’ve got to be ready to deal with your own wound. So I strongly encourage therapists to do the same work.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity. I’m also the Clinical Director at the Pat Moore Foundation drug and alcohol treatment facility and I’m happy to be available to the community in a resource in any way that I can and I thank you so much for your time today.