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A Traumatic Childhood, Domestic Violence and Substance Misuse 


By Al Milledge

None of us are broken

I spoke to Lara about her life before she came to an ASOH group. She had been a seeker, trying to work life out. She told me her mother had a difficult childhood with a violent alcoholic father, her Mum had made sense of this by never drinking herself but was angry and hostile, which made an anxious and unhappy childhood for Lara and her brothers.

Lara came out of education with professional qualifications but was shy, she didn’t feel she had a voice and that led her to an isolated life. She got into a relationship with, and then married a man who soon became violent and controlling. Lara searched internally for an easier way to live. Her marriage and looking after her two boys became a dark, lonely quest for answers. In her experience people she loved were violent and angry. 

When her husband left after a vicious outburst, he took her sons with him. Lara felt broken. She was diagnosed with depression and put on medication. Lockdown concentrated the isolation and she drank more. She found herself in hospital with acute pancreatitis and the specialist told her it was down to alcohol. That turned out to be a misdiagnosis but it was the catalyst she needed for change.

Lara went to AA and found a councillor. She has now been off of antidepressants and sober for a year. She also has a good relationship with her boys. She still felt broken and thought she just had to find the thing inside her that needed to be fixed. She’d got sick of labelling herself as a ‘victim’ of domestic violence. She met our founder Caroline at the hub at the South Hill Centre in Hemel. They had a conversation that resonated with Lara and she agreed to come to a face-to-face group as soon as they restarted. Her first group was in November last year (2022)

Some of the questions I asked Lara.

Have the ASOH activities that you have taken part in improved your physical, mental & emotional wellbeing?

Absolutely. None of us are broken. My belief around labels has dissipated. By the time I came to ASOH I was openminded to exploring new things, but still felt broken. I’m ready to go back to work and I’ve applied for jobs, after thinking that I would never go back. I spend most of my time in the present now, I used to spend a lot of time attached to my story. I’m more confident and peaceful. I get on with tasks without realising it, without all of the usual procrastination, without all of the fuss’.

What would you say to encourage others to access the service?

‘People see the change in me and they are impacted, they want to know what I’m doing that’s different. People tell me that I look softer in the face, calmer, gentler. This transformation is available to everyone’.

What do you think would have been the outcome if you hadn’t taken part in ASOH?

‘I was on a journey, so I guess I would still be searching for answers. Searching for an explanation for why I felt like I did, it was often a dark search.

I didn’t have to make myself whole first, I didn’t have to do the work on myself, it’s a realisation that came from me, after being in the groups.’

What have been the other impacts of ASOH

‘I’ve never quite realised how amazing the human body is until I heard a story from Derrick, who is one of the facilitators, about the way the body is designed to heal. When you take the constraints off, it is amazing to realise how pure potential we are. I’ve stopped building barriers against the world now. Everything is what it should be’

Would you recommend ASOH to others?

‘Absolutely, I do all of the time!’