Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Hairstylist
Living in recovery from substance abuse, sugar addiction, depression, and CPTSD

After coping with symptoms of addiction and CPTSD for years without knowing what they were, Karen found comfort in her diagnoses. Through her journey, she has been able to learn about herself and what therapy modalities work best for keeping herself healthy. She encourages others to take tiny steps towards happiness and spend time with people who support them.

Karen’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life?  What was your most difficult time?

I believe I was born addicted to alcohol and sugar, and growing up in an abusive household made matters worse. As a child, I had no ability to understand my emotions or control my food intake. I ate and ate to soothe myself. Then, I discovered drugs and alcohol at age 16 – the first taste of relief – and I was off to the races.

The constant running and numbing carried on into my thirties and led me to attempt to take my own life. For 11 years, I tried every antidepressant, antipsychotic and antianxiety medication on the market, but nothing could keep me from using sugar, drugs, and alcohol to escape my reality. 

One day, in my late thirties, someone called me an “alcoholic.” I was flabbergasted for 48 hours, then it all began to fall into place, and a little glimmer of light shone through. Somehow, I felt relieved and set out to rescue myself, so I joined AA in 2008.

In 2013, while married, I came to the reality of my sugar addiction when I began to notice that my rage was in direct response to my candy binges, so I surrendered to overeaters anonymous. With no substances left to lean on, I was forced to sit with emotions, stored trauma, depression, and isolation. To get through some of the most difficult times, I turned to meditation, the only remaining option.

What is your life like now?  What does success/living well look like for you?

For the most part, I am happy, even when I’m alone.  Although I am highly sensitive to technology, I am managing well and have many tools to deal with my mental and emotional ups and downs.

One of the most important pieces of my self-care is staying off of the foods that I am intolerant of as they have been proven to cause me sadness, depression and suicidal ideation.

I have friends now and am much more willing to meet new people and try new activities.  I know that it is okay and necessary for me to be alone to rest and recharge. I am letting go of the word “should” and trying to focus on how I feel and what would make me happy in the moment and sometimes that means a simple walk. 

Success in my life looks like forgiveness, acceptance and the understanding of my brain and trying to remember that I am not my thoughts. Each day, I try to turn my thoughts around to gratitude and self-praise for what I have accomplished and what a lovely, simple life I have created for myself.  I try to be of service to others even if it is a hug, hello or just a smile. Staying on top of my meals, supplements, prayer, nature and moving my body a little each day help to keep me stable and focusing on what my body needs for stability.

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability? 

Through years of therapy, I found EMDR and that helped dissolve some of the trauma and old neuropathways. EFT, emotional freedom technique (tapping) helps me speak self-love language and lifts my mood.  I took a 6-week meditation workshop that helped with self-forgiveness and offered me the ability to see my lineage through the lens of addiction and the emotional neglect passed on through the generations. These modalities have taught me how to sit with myself, tune in and let my sadness and anger come up and that my emotions are not going to kill me.

I also sought nutritional therapy to receive help with supplements and herbs to soothe my nervous system and fill my body with nutrients to help with the sugar cravings. Between three twelve-step programs, nutrition, prayer, meditation and learning all I can about falling apart to find myself, I came to learn that I can recover from my past,  manage my present and also be a happy, loving, successful person.

Resting a lot has helped soothe my nervous system and I try to get out into nature every day and thank God for the beauty that surrounds me.  Prayer is a big part of my life and I receive messages and assistance from my spiritual help and I no longer feel alone or unloved.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

Cook my own meals and stay away from caffeine, cane sugar and the foods that my body is intolerant of.  Practice my baseline gratitudes out loud as I walk to work. Yoga, weight lifting, walking, seeing my dog and taking my supplements for my body and brain health. Kundalini yoga has become one of the most important exercises to ground me and keep my mood up.

I have learned how to feel an anxiety attack coming on and I breathe deeply and try to remain calm. If I can think about what is going on in the moment and how my thoughts or emotions are causing me panic, I can get through it.

Each day, I try to assess where I am at and determine what the best thing for the day would be.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career? 

My mental health and addictions have certainly hindered my potential; I feel as if I have only been able to do the bare minimum and haven’t had the ability, energy or the confidence to unleash my true talents and creativity.

Currently, I have stuck with a few healthy habits and am building my nutrition business. I have learned to take breaks and ask for help.

My self-esteem has improved considerably, and I am finding that if I share a little bit about my story when appropriate, I connect with others in a way I never thought possible. I gave up on belittling myself and decided to let my weirdness shine, even if no one understood. I would rather be happy and alone than trying to fit in by not being myself.  This improved my overall happiness at work, with my clients and within myself.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling from a condition similar to yours? 

What has helped me most has been:

  1.  Believing that I am a special and unique soul who came to Earth for important soul expansion. My brain, body, and soul are a team and together, the three of us can accomplish anything. I turn to the Heavens for help and it works quickly, so if you have anything at all to turn to for help, even if it is the tree in the yard, it relieves pressure. 
  • Gratitude. I turn my day and my mood around each day through statements of gratitude aloud. Example: “I really appreciate the beautiful leaves today, I see the work of Mother Nature and it makes me so happy to see the phenomenal colors and feel the breeze on my skin. Thank you for giving me the ability to appreciate the wonders of this world”
  • Asking the question, “How can I use my unique experience to spread awareness, love and be of service?” I believe we chose to come here to learn and grow and each person’s purpose is so unique, only they can accomplish it. 
  • I looked into the mirror and said, “I love you” and it changed my life. Baby steps turned into significant lifestyle changes and one day, I awakened happy.

By practicing the tiny steps that feel good, no room will be left for the things that feel bad. By spending time with the people who support you, believe in you and offer you an ear, the others will become intolerable.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?  What do you hope to get from it?

I have a friend who has overcome phenomenal hardship with mental health issues and she told me about The Stability Network and I jumped at the chance to help others find freedom, happiness, and health after addiction and depression: a way to share from the heart with no agenda.

Are there resources (books, videos, websites) helped and/or inspired you that you would recommend to others?

  • Heidi Sawyer: The Intuitive Sensitive. Helped me understand sensitivity, narcissistic abuse, and the underlying health issues and gifts of being highly sensitive.
  • The documentary: Sensitive, The Untold Story
  • Kundalini yoga: Guru Gayatri in Seattle. Helped me find community with folks seeking a spiritual life and it also helps to soothe and heal the nervous system. It was probably the most significant shift in depression and self-love for me.
  • Insight Timer app is where I began to meditate and find peace, forgiveness with myself, others and nurture little Karen.