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.