In this episode, Tara McCausland interviews Kahi Winget, the SAL Women's 12 Step executive director. Throughout the interview, they discuss the structure and benefits of SAL 12-Step meetings for individuals suffering from betrayal trauma, the hurdles to joining the meetings, as well as the journey of recovery. Both encourage newcomers to attend meetings and push through the early challenges of the process - emphasizing the life-changing impact of the program. They also discuss faith, spiritual connection with God or your Higher Power, and how these play crucial roles in the recovery journey.Support the show
The What & Why of SAL 12-Step for Betrayal Trauma Recovery w/ Kahi Winget
Introduction and Guest Presentation
Tara: Welcome to the Pathway to Recovery podcast. I'm your host, Tara McCausland and I'm really thrilled to have here with me, my friend, Kahi, who is a great leader in our SAL 12 step group. And this interview will actually kind of mirror the interview that we heard from Andrew, who is also in leadership over our 12 step program.[00:01:00]
So Kahi, I'm going to actually allow you to introduce yourself.
Guest's Personal Background and Journey
Tara: Tell us a little bit about you, how long you've been with SA Lifeline and as much as you want about your personal life.
Kahi: Awesome. I'm Kahi. I am the SAL Women's 12 step executive director, a lot of words, but essentially I help coordinate women's meetings for women's 12 step meetings for SAL.
I was born and raised in Hawaii [and] graduated from BYU Hawaii with a degree in social work a long time ago. Still counts. I have five kids, and have been married to my husband for 21 years. We started dating in high school, so we were together for a long time. We've been together a long time.
Personal Experiences with 12 Step Program
Kahi: I started attending meetings in 2012, kind of before SAL 12 step meetings were a thing. I was attending the SNL meetings with Rhyll and that group. And then we switched over to SAL and the [00:02:00] growth and change and the program since then have been really cool to watch.
I've been helping the foundation since about, I think 2014, in various capacities. This is where I am right now and I'm so grateful. It has blessed my life in a thousand ways to be involved in this work and just spread this message of hope and healing.
Tara: Perfect. You introduced yourself so much better than I think I could have because I would just say, Kahi's amazing. And she has been with us for a long time, longer than I've been with SA Lifeline, although technically being the daughter of the founders, I've kind of been around, but she really is amazing. She has seen a change and we have evolved as we've learned through this process of starting SAL 12 step and the foundation itself. Which again, to clarify, if anybody's ever confused, SA Lifeline is the [00:03:00] 501 C3 non profit public face and we are the educational piece of this organization. SAL 12 step actually did not come along until a number of years later.
The Benefits of 12 Step for Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Tara: Again, these questions will mirror what Andrew and I talked about. So this is kind of 12 step from the betrayeds’ experience and perspective and it is different, right? So why 12 step for betrayal trauma recovery?
That's my first question for you. Why in your personal experience and maybe in your generalized experience, viewing other women coming into this program, how is 12 step helpful?
Kahi: I'll share personal first and then general. Personally, 12 step has been the most consistent, biggest impact thing that I have done for my personal recovery from betrayal trauma. I've done therapy. [00:04:00] I continue to do qualified education and I also go to church regularly and am part of a religious group.
But the spiritual aspect of 12 step has had the most impact on me as a person because it's taught me how to connect with my higher power. It has given me multiple opportunities to learn about myself, learn about the way that I work or don't work or don't want to work and how to get past that.
The Importance of Sponsorship and Support
Kahi: One of the biggest blessings of 12 Step in my life has been having a sponsor and working with my sponsor and a support group of women who understand, really like no one else can, what it's like to live day to day with trauma, betrayal trauma specifically.
Being able to call my sponsor or a support person in the group really any time or just reach out and say, [00:05:00] ‘Hey, I'm struggling to be vulnerable,’ (as we like to say in 12 step, be honest, humble and accountable) in those hard moments that come up at the grocery store or, in a conversation with a friend or whatever. Being able to have someone to reach out to who can help me work through that and remind me that I have a higher power, who can guide me and heal me has been again, life changing for me. So that's personally.
Generally speaking, I would say [in] 12 step, as a whole, I've seen a lot of women working 12 step in our meetings and I would say it is the same for most women who come and stay, who get involved, who find a sponsor, who are willing to be vulnerable and make phone calls and really do the hard, exhausting work of recovery. They see the benefits of [00:06:00] having a community of people that understand [and] of finding a way to connect with your higher power outside of religious practices.
Just the fact that it's free, recovery is expensive. It can be really expensive. And initially, when I first started attending 12 Steps, that was one of the reasons why I came, was because we couldn't afford therapy at that point. So 12 Step was kind of it for me. And I was so grateful. I learned so much. There's so much good education there. But really, the piece that comes from recognizing that I don't have to control every aspect of my life has been a huge blessing.
The Spiritual Aspect of 12 Step Program
Tara: Awesome. Well, that was a great explanation of the value you've found in 12 step and generally. But what I heard from you was first [finding] that deep spiritual connection.
We did touch on this a little bit in my interview with Andrew and in our [00:07:00] Q & A with you and Andrew jointly. But I think sometimes people, this is almost like a head scratcher for them, right? Like you, you introduced yourself as someone that is a part of a religious community, so some people might say, ‘Why did it take 12 step to help you really develop that deeper spiritual connection with God?’
Do you have any response to that?
Kahi: I do. I actually have been asked that question frequently from family members or people that just aren't in 12 step. And the way that I see it is, I spent a lot of years going to church. I've attended the same church since I was born, and I learned over time what I thought was God, my understanding of God. Or I learned, I guess, my understanding of God up until that point. And because my husband's also part of the same religion and [due to] the betrayal trauma aspect of that, there was so much trauma within my religious [00:08:00] beliefs that I had to let settle and kind of work through.
There was trauma around this idea that the God that I knew before recovery was more of a checklist God. Like if you do these things, then everything's going to work out. And I had done those things and it didn't work out. I felt like I was supposed to marry my husband. So I did. And then this is what happens. How does that work? So there was that piece.
And then there was the religious, sometimes we call it, secondary trauma. Just this idea of people in my church not understanding the issue and saying hurtful things like - “Well, if you did this, maybe that wouldn't have happened,” or you know, just uneducated ideas, but well meaning. So I had to work through a lot of that. So much of my concept of God and how I interacted with Him before recovery was wrapped up in the language of my religion.
And so, [00:09:00] I even had to start changing the words I was saying because I couldn't engage in that way anymore without feeling deeply hurt and confused and angry. It took me a lot of years to work through that, but letting go of my old language and my old way of viewing God has opened me up to this idea of just a really loving, personal higher power for me.
Step one is “My life is unmanageable.” Step two is “There is a God who can restore me to sanity” and step three is, “I will let him,” and I'm paraphrasing. But I was like, “Is there a God?” That was where I settled as I was working step two, “Is there a God? Is he really out there? And does he really care that I feel insane? Is it possible for him to restore my sanity?”
[00:10:00]And I did that through journaling, through all kinds of things, all kinds of ways, and I came out of that with the idea, the feeling that, “Yeah, He is aware, and my higher power is aware [and] wanting to restore me to sanity. It's going to take a while and I'm gonna have to do hard work and there's a lot of digging and a lot of rebuilding.” But by working that step, I have been able to see my higher power in a way that has left me feeling loved and seen and cared for and less of a fairy tale view of life. A view of, “Life is hard and I don't have to do it alone and my happiness isn't dependent on other people and how they show up for me. I get my validation from my higher power and I get my advice and counsel from my higher power. [00:11:00] And when I listen and follow, I feel peace and serenity.”
Tara: Thank you for speaking to that. I think that there are many betrayed spouses that can relate to what you just described. In our interview with Jill Manning, she talked about the upheaval, the rupture that happens in all aspects of life when betrayal trauma comes into your realm, right? And so I think being really patient with ourselves in our spirituality, in our connection with the God of our understanding and being aware that we're not suggesting that religion is not good. You're still a faithful adherent to your faith tradition of your childhood.
But I have learned, oftentimes in order to heal the horizontal aspect of your faith tradition, that community and the things that we are a part of in our religion, we have to heal and deepen the vertical relationship.
Kahi: Absolutely. [00:12:00]
Tara: And be flexible with our understanding of who that God is, not this transactional God, right? The vending machine - I do this and He does that. But we can broaden and deepen and have a type of relationship with this God of our understanding that is fulfilling, always, and brings peace and joy, regardless of circumstances. So thank you for speaking to that.
The Role of Connection in Recovery
Tara: So why 12 step? You had talked about spiritual connection and having this community of support from a group of women who get it. I think it was Lachelle Burkett, who was a speaker at our previous conference, said that connection is the kryptonite to trauma and addiction. She talked all about the power of connection and that's incredibly healing.
Sponsorship is an incredibly powerful tool within the 12 step group. And then it's free. It's a lifelong tool. I mean, you can't beat that, right? Betrayal is [00:13:00] expensive. Addiction is expensive to heal. And so you say just because it's free doesn't mean it's not valuable. Sometimes I've gotten that feeling from people.
Kahi: Yeah, no. I think sometimes people do feel that way. Like, “Oh, this is free,” so you maybe don't take it as seriously maybe as you would something that you have to pay for. I totally understand that and have done that before.
I would say that you get what you put into the program and that means, that includes actually working your steps, sponsoring, volunteering to help in different capacities in your meeting, having a meeting that you go to regularly. We call it a home meeting. Some people go to multiple meetings a week, but having a home meeting of people that you really are connected with, they've heard your story, you've heard theirs, you show up week to week as support, those all are aspects that matter in 12 step and help us to create those connections that really, in [00:14:00] trauma and addiction, are just non existent.
For a long time, I just worked so hard to stay connected to my spouse. But he was really unavailable and I didn't know that it was because in addiction you're not available for connection. You're living a double life. You're constantly hiding. So try as I might to connect with him, He was not available.
So learning what it felt like to actually connect with people in a healthy way was new for me. And for me, personally, connecting with women, because of the nature of my husband's addiction, trusting a group of women that I could be safe and really connect [with], (sometimes I call them my stepsisters) closer to them in some ways than I was to my own family because my family didn't know the situation at the time. To be able to do that with the nature of this addiction was also an eye opening gift for [00:15:00] me that I wasn't expecting but have grown to really love and rely on through my healing process.
What Makes SAL 12 Step Different
Tara: Thank you. So some people might ask, well, there are a lot of 12 step groups out there and there are other 12 step groups out there for betrayed individuals that suffer from betrayal trauma. Once again, I asked this question of Andrew, but I'm curious what your initial thoughts are about what makes SAL 12 step different from other 12 step groups.
Kahi: I don't know all 12 step groups really well, but I do know some, and one of the big differences with SAL 12 step meetings is that we are separate - men's meetings are separate from women's meetings.
I know in some 12 step meetings they have mixed groups, men and women attend the same group, The first 12 step meeting that I went to was at a local hospital here, [00:16:00] and there were men in that meeting, and I walked in and was just immediately, because of my trauma and the nature of this addiction, I immediately shut down.
I sat through the meeting, I didn't say a word. Just the idea that I was supposed to come to this meeting and open up about my trauma, but have men in there, was very triggering for me. So, then I found the meeting with your mom and the other women there and I was grateful to not have to worry about that.
On the addiction side, as a spouse who has betrayal trauma, the idea of my husband going to a meeting with women in it and being vulnerable about his addiction with women in the room is like a no go for me. That does not feel safe. The idea that they might be sponsoring each other would also be triggering for me, so the gender line in [00:17:00] SAL 12 step is a real benefit that I've heard a lot of women speak about.
Also, some 12 step groups don't encourage sponsorship and that also feels like a huge piece of recovery work that needs to happen. I love that SAL 12 step meetings are moderated by people who are actively working their recovery, so they are walking that path as well. They understand what you're going through. And even though our experiences are very different across the board, I mean, the spectrum of experiences in this addiction and trauma are huge. But the ability to feel and to hear and to validate is there. And that's a huge gift as well.
I remember, early on, in one of my 12 step meetings, I was sitting in a meeting and somebody said something. And I said, “Actually, sometimes I wish that my husband had [00:18:00] died because if he died, people would be bringing me casseroles, they would be helping me. And they don't know that anything's going on.”
And, I said it, [thinking] I can't believe these words are coming out of my mouth, you know, like, I just said, I wish my husband had died. And that's not what I wished, but what I wished was that people knew and that it was like, it's an outward thing that people could tell was happening.
And every woman in the room is nodding their head. And I thought, maybe I'm not as crazy as I feel. Maybe the fact that they got it, they understood what I meant and they didn't shame me over it. We didn't go down this path of like, “Yeah, we all want our husbands to die,” either. They were like, “We get it.” They validated and understood. And I felt like, okay, maybe this is a safe place for me to open up. So that matters in SAL 12 step meetings.
Currently, this is a newer change for us, but [00:19:00] I love that the SAL 12 step meetings are being kind of crafted and run by a group of people who are working 12 step recovery. So we get varying opinions and there are committees that work on all kinds of things within SAL 12 step meetings. So I love that there's a large group of people who are all working for the betterment of meetings and trying to find ways to get this message out to others. Those are some of the things I like about our SAL 12 step meetings versus other 12 step meetings.
Tara: Awesome. Yeah. And I might just add that we are non denominational, however [we are] God centered. Thank you. So you'll hear us refer to the God of our understanding or our higher power and we welcome people from all faith traditions, all backgrounds or [with] no faith tradition. But we value connection with the God of our understanding. So wherever you're coming from, you don't proselytize.
But we [00:20:00] encourage, again, that 12 step is [a] spiritual connection. Really, if we boil it down, it is connecting with the God of your understanding and learning to understand that relationship in a way that blesses and supports and enriches your life.
And then trauma sensitive, which is really critical for a betrayed spouses. In days past betrayal trauma wasn't a thing. It's still, in some circles, debated as to whether it is a thing. It used to be the codependency model, which my mom Rhyll would talk about, how there was something about that that didn't feel right to her.
And so we are trauma sensitive on both sides, the addiction and for the betrayed. And again, we value and appreciate the great work that other 12 step groups are doing and there are many out there that are blessing so many lives, I'd say all 12 step [groups]. I would say we have made [00:21:00] changes based upon our experience that works best for those who we serve.
Expectations for the First Meeting and Overcoming Hurdles
Tara: So my next question is, what can you expect in your first meeting? Many of the people listening to this are probably already attending or have attended SAL 12 step meetings, but some who are listening have never been to a meeting and are scared out of their mind to go.
So maybe, what can you expect in your first meeting? And the follow up question is, what are some of the hurdles you had to overcome to want to step into that room of recovery? And how have you seen other women overcome that hard thing to just get there?
Kahi: Yeah, it is a hard thing.
Okay, what can you expect when you first go to a 12 step meeting. So we have meetings online and we have meetings in person. I have attended both. Most recently I've started attending an in-person group again because my life circumstances allow that. But for a long time, I was attending online meetings. So they [00:22:00] will differ a little bit depending on whether you're online or in person.
Online, you can expect to log into the meeting on Zoom. You can expect for the people there to encourage and ask you to turn on your video during the introduction portion of the meeting. There's a reading that we do in the beginning, we read the surrender prayer, and then we go into introductions. And during the introduction portion of that meeting, we ask that everyone turn their video on at least to introduce themselves. That is a safety mechanism that we've added in just because it's easy to type in a name that's not really you. Some people actually do that. They don't want their actual identity, because of the anonymity issue, to be out there.
But we have had very few cases where people have not been the person that we thought they would be as they logged into the meeting. And we've done a lot to help minimize that as well. But we do ask for [00:23:00] you to turn on your video.
Understanding the Meeting Structure
Kahi: And then we will go through the meeting. Someone will share about what first brought them to 12 step and why they continue to come. Someone will talk about the way that sponsorship has blessed their lives that week, and then we'll go into either step study or topic study. So step study would be out of the SAL books that we read from.
We generally read through an entire step every meeting, and then we'll go through a section called practicing these principles. Some groups read the questions at the end, which are helpful to get you thinking about how you can work this step. And then we talk about what we read. And that goes on for about 30 minutes.
Sharing and Crosstalk Rules
Kahi: And then we go into a portion of the meeting called shares. That is the opportunity for people to share their strength, hope, and experience - what they're surrendering that week, how they're doing. Some people share the goal that [00:24:00] they had the previous week. During that portion of the meeting, there's no crosstalk, we call it, so you're not to comment on what other people say or ask questions during their share. It really is meant to be a safe space for people to just say what's on their heart. And it's probably one of my favorite parts of the meeting.
Ending the Meeting and Post-Meeting Interactions
Kahi: After that, we will end the meeting. We read a section called “Promised blessings of the program,” and then the meeting is done. And after the meeting is where we allow time for people who are new to ask questions or that is a great time for them to share their story with the people, with group members.
Whoever can stay on the meeting stays. Sometimes people have to go and that's fine too. So generally it takes almost two hours to an hour and a half for the meeting and then usually about half an hour for the after meeting.
In person obviously, the difference would be that you have to actually physically get [00:25:00] there, get out of your car, which can be really hard, open the door, see faces that you might not want to see, or you're just nervous about. But then the meeting is structured the same way, we read the same script, we do the same introductions, the topic study or step study, the shares, and then after the meeting, again, is a time for you to meet and mingle with other people.
Overcoming Hurdles: Making the First Call
Kahi: Once you've got to the meeting I think one of the biggest hurdles women face, I know I face this and I've heard many women talk about this as well, is the idea of reaching out and actually making phone calls. So calling someone when you're struggling is probably one of the hardest things to do in the beginning because it's a very isolating experience.
I remember the first time someone gave me the number of [00:26:00] a woman who had dealt with this I thought, “There's no way I'm calling her. She doesn't want to hear my story. Like, there's no way.” And I didn't call her for like six months. And then I met her in another situation and then I did end up calling her. Yeah, I would say that's probably one of the hardest pieces.
The Importance of Attending Multiple Meetings
Kahi: We generally encourage people to try to go at least six times. The meeting can feel, because it's so structured, it can feel a little odd in the beginning, just not knowing what's coming next or when can I talk or when am I not supposed to talk? Everyone's really kind and understanding through that process, but it does feel a little clunky in the beginning as you get used to it.
The language of recovery and 12 step is so different from regular talk, learning that language also takes some time. So we encourage people to come at least six times to decide if this is a program that you want to try. Also try different meetings, if you are able. [00:27:00] Different meetings have different people in them and so the feeling there might be different for you and you might connect with a certain group better than you do with another group. And it's not to say there's anything wrong with either of the groups. It's just, again, learning how to own your voice and take care of your needs.
Tara: That was a great explanation.
Kahi: A lot. That was a lot of words.
Tara: No, what I appreciate about that is that you really did explain what people can expect and you gave, I think, enough detail there that hopefully would alleviate some of the initial anxiety of going.
Because I think when we don't know what to expect, that in and of itself is a hurdle and we want to make sure that you feel prepared. I see a lot of the inquiries that come through and one of the big ones is, “Do I have to have books to start going to meetings?” and “Do I have to talk?” and we say no, and only for your brief introduction.
And then otherwise you're, [00:28:00] good to just be, and take it in. And I think every person that has ever walked into a 12 step room can say, “We understand how hard this is, but be brave.” It is worth it and I'm really glad that you brought up six weeks. Give it six weeks and try some different groups and as much as you can in your trauma, be flexible with the experience because it's very new.
You described it so well. It would be like going to a different church, right? If you had gone to one faith tradition your whole life and then you go to another church and it's like, they do things really differently there, but it doesn't mean that it's wrong, that it's bad.
Dealing with Triggers in Meetings
Tara: And I might also have to point out, because I've heard this, “Oh, I don't want to go to meetings because meetings are triggering to me. I hear these experiences that these other women are having, and they're crying, and there's high emotion,” and it's like, “Oh, honey. Yeah.” We hear you and we get that this is painful and hard, but that's part of the healing [00:29:00] process.
Kahi: Right. The meetings are triggering for me. They are going to be triggering. In my experience, life is triggering as well. And so by being in these meetings with other women, that I know have gone through similar experiences and are looking for healing, has made me more compassionate and given me a greater sense of empathy. But really also a greater sense of self awareness because if something triggers me, I've learned to take that as an opportunity to explore it. Why was that triggering for me? Why did I feel upset by that?
Then what always happens when I take the time to do that is I uncover some false belief that I have, or some important truths that I have that I want to hang on to and that’s important to me, that I didn't realize was there. And that's a huge blessing in my personal recovery because it's just allowed me to be [00:30:00] more self aware of what I'm feeling and why and then what to do about it.
By doing that in a meeting, I have become better able to do that in my real life. When I'm at the grocery store, or at a parade, or whatever, and I get triggered by something, I'm better able to go, “Why did that trigger me? Oh, because I had this experience years ago with my spouse and this is reminding me of that, and that experience wasn't safe, so now I feel unsafe.”
There's just all these connections that have to be made in order for healing to happen. So I always encourage people, if you feel triggered in a meeting, to talk to your sponsor, talk to a support person and try to really feel that out. And generally speaking, it's something to do with me and where I'm at and something that I need to work through.
Of course there are issues that come up in meetings and we have ways to deal with those too, but being triggered by other people's stories or the way people talk about things oftentimes has more to do with me than the person who's talking, and it can be a real learning experience.
Tara: We can't live a trigger free [00:31:00] life and obviously we will acknowledge that there will be some meetings that are healthier than others. We will fully acknowledge that. However, I was thinking as you're talking, that part of betrayal trauma, what that teaches us, is to numb out. And we have this lack of self awareness. We don't want to feel. I think that we can both, on the addiction side and on the betrayal trauma side, we don't want to feel because it's too painful. And so going into a 12 step meeting, it's like, “Whoa, there is all this emotion.”
So I think that there's great wisdom in what you said about when I feel triggered, and it’s in meeting, having the courage to ask, to be curious rather than running away. Have that self awareness and lean into that heart emotion rather than running away from it, which is such a critical part of the recovery process.
[00:32:00] So I loved everything that you said there, Kahi. Again, we want to be empathetic that this is not easy, but it is worth it.
Working the Program: A Pathway to Recovery
Tara: If we will work the program, it works when we work it. The tools work, there's nothing magical about it, but there is something powerful about having a pathway that has been paved that others will show you and they will light the way. And those meetings are a great place to find it.
So my second to last question here, Kahi, is we talk about working the program and you know, that can be like a nice little trite statement, but what does that really mean? How do we work the program? So it does work for us?
Kahi: I think speaking about this generally and then maybe personally a little bit, will be most helpful. Generally speaking, I would say, especially in the beginning, working the program looks like showing up to meetings. It looks like making phone calls when you're triggered. It looks like being willing to just come and be [00:33:00] honest, humble and accountable and show up while learning how to do that. Because at least for me, and I've heard other women say this, you don't even know how to do that in the beginning. But showing up and being willing is a huge part.
Actually working the steps. I’ve worked all the steps a few times now and will continue to do that. I encourage people the first time they work the steps to sign up for the online curriculum. It's a great way to have somewhere to go where it's kind of guiding you through each step.
They have assignments and readings and videos you can watch. And so just to be able to say, “Okay, I gave it 10 minutes today.” You'll get something out of it and it will feel good to be consistent about something and [to move] down the path like you said.
If you can't do the online curriculum, go into the book and read the step and then answer the questions at the back. That's what I [00:34:00] did when I first started 12 step. Once I answered all the questions in the back, some of them take longer than others, I talked to my sponsor about what I had written, and then I considered that passing off that step. And then I would move on to the next step.
So actively finding a way to just make it a part of your day is what I would consider “working the program.” As you get further along in your recovery, working the program might look a little different. You might be done working the 12 steps by answering all the questions. So then maybe you just start spot checking. On step 10 it talks about how you make amends quickly if something comes up. And so there was a time where I was really focusing on just making amends, but that was me working the program as well.
Sponsoring is a huge way to work the program. It's scary, another scary thing that we encourage people to do. And the meetings actually really need sponsors in order to [00:35:00] be strong and healthy. There's information on what a sponsor does and how to sponsor, but it really is just this opportunity for you to share what you're learning and guide other women back to their higher power.
And I have found that often I will get a sponsee that will call me and surrender something and I recognize, “Oh goodness, I needed to surrender something just like that.” Or “That was something that happened to me yesterday and I didn't surrender that.” It's just such a good reminder of where I've been and the progress that I've made and also this constant need to be humble and keep working and keep trying to connect with my higher power. So sponsoring is huge. Volunteering to have a job in your meeting is also a way of working the program. Yeah, just getting involved and having it be a part of your daily life is the best way to work the program, I would say.
Tara: For the person that's listening that says, “That sounds like so [00:36:00] much work. I don't have time.” What would you say to them?
Kahi: I think it's step four where it says, “Haven't we used our imaginations to worry about situations that aren't actually happening?” or something like that. I just feel like recovery takes so much time and effort and being in trauma takes so much time and effort. And for me, I've learned over the years that I want to use what little energy I have left for myself in healthy ways to build myself, to build my confidence and my relationships and my understanding of my higher power.
There are positive ways to use that energy and trauma leaves a thousand options of unhealthy ways to use that energy. And so for that, I would say, “I get it.” I have felt that way over the years and we kind of just have to choose where we [00:37:00] put our energy and choosing to put it toward a healthy thing that's bringing light and love into the world is far more rewarding for me than sitting in isolation, struggling by myself, which I've done plenty of as well.
Tara: Dr. Manning and I talked about this, that as you're walking that recovery path, initially it will all feel very hard. Trauma is acute and it may feel like trudging through mud, but it won't be like that always. And there will be relief and there will be shift and change. I've heard you say you go to meetings, not only because of trauma, but because recovery has become a way of life for you. So something once again that Rhyll and Steven will say is that eventually it becomes healthy living.
I would say as a former life coach, as someone who studied human [00:38:00] development, there are a lot of good self help programs out there and a lot of good books. But 12 step work and really applying those principles is probably the very best self improvement program that you will ever go through and it’s free, right?
Kahi: It really is the only one that I've found where I actually have the confidence now to say, “If I see a habit that I've had for, I don't know, since I was a kid, and I really want to change that and I see why I want to change it and, I work my 12 step process through that, I'm able to release shame. I'm able to understand what's mine and what's not mine in the situation, I'm able to actually make it and keep those goals much better than I was able to before.
As you were talking about getting tired, it reminded me of how we developed this idea of a recovery [00:39:00] pathway. I remember being in a meeting where we were talking about this idea and how that's what recovery feels like. It's like this road that people are walking alongside us. There are people that have gone further ahead and those are what you would consider sponsors, right? Or support people, people who know what that experience looks and feels like and can help you through it.
Rhyll and I were talking about this idea of what do you do when you're tired? We had this really special moment that I'll never forget where we just in our minds envisioned these benches along this recovery pathway. Rhyll said, “You know, I remember feeling like I just wanted to take a nap, I just need to rest.”
The idea is that as a sponsor, as a support person you're able to say, “I've been down this path before. I built this bench right here. If you're tired, go ahead and rest. Don't quit but rest, take your [00:40:00] nap, do your self care and then let's get up and keep going because there's more to learn. There's more joy. There's more peace further down the road.”
That doesn't happen even in a life coaching group or whatever. It doesn't mean they necessarily have been where you've been. So to have people who serve in that way, is one of the biggest gifts I've ever received. And one of the best gifts I've ever given.
Tara: Well, I love this conversation, Kahi. Honestly, you're a wealth of knowledge and wisdom and Kahi is my friend. She is a great lady and I learned so much from her and I know that those who listen to this interview will be blessed by it. We may have already answered this question but it's our final question that we always ask, “What would you tell a newcomer and what would you tell the old timer on this pathway of recovery?”
Advice for Newcomers and Old Timers
Kahi: Oh, to the newcomer, I would say, welcome to the club you never wanted to be a part of. I remember [00:41:00] saying specifically that I could never be married to someone who had a sex addiction or a pornography addiction or however you want to label it.
And so this was my nightmare and I just want to say that you're not alone. There are other people going through similar things. This does not have to break you or sour you toward the idea of love and connection, there is beauty along this pathway. I often say if I was ever going to write a book, it would be titled, “How My Husband's Sex Addiction Taught Me to Love God and to Love Myself.”
It is a gift in an ugly package. I think that's what we say as well. So, I am a far better person this many years down the road than I was when I first came because I've had to do hard stuff. And it has made me a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better sister, all those things.
And [00:42:00] it's here, whether we like it or not, the situation is here. I know a lot of women who have come and kind of dipped their toe into 12 step and then been like, “I can't, I don't want to,” or whatever, and I don't judge that at all. I'm not saying that everyone has to do 12 step, but I am saying that some of those women have come back and said, “You know, it's three years later and my life hasn't changed and I'm ready to do something different.” We hope that you find love and belonging and friendship here. And it takes some work. In my experience, it is worth every effort.
To the old timer I would say, “Give back, don't shy away from sharing your strengths, hope and experience and know that this program lives and dies by other people doing their 12 step.”
We need you and whether you think it or not, in [00:43:00] my experience, I need 12 step. I need to be in meetings. I just recently saw a woman who was in 12 step meetings when I first started, and I hadn't seen her in nine years, maybe, and I just saw her in another meeting. It was so fun to see her and she was like, “Yeah, I took a long break. I felt like I had it figured out. I'd worked 12 step for a while and I didn't feel like I needed it anymore. And my life is unmanageable. So I'm back.”
And that's okay. That's all part of the journey. But if you've been coming for a while, we need you and I believe that you need us as well, if I can be so bold to say.
Tara: Thank you, Kahi. Again, I just love this so much. Thanks for taking the time to be with me today.
Kahi: Yeah, you're awesome. [00:44:00]