Breaking the Cycle: Navigating Trauma, Drinking, and Mental Illness with Priscilla María

Episode 151 February 07, 2024 00:59:00
Breaking the Cycle: Navigating Trauma, Drinking, and Mental Illness with Priscilla María
Alcohol Tipping Point
Breaking the Cycle: Navigating Trauma, Drinking, and Mental Illness with Priscilla María

Feb 07 2024 | 00:59:00

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Hosted By

Deb Masner

Show Notes

Listen to this episode featuring Priscilla María, a Certified Trauma-Informed Life Coach, founder of the Cycle Breakers Club, and a proud survivor of trauma who has been alcohol-free for 12 years. Priscilla opens up about her personal journey through trauma, drinking, and mental illness in this candid conversation.  

Priscilla’s life purpose is to help others heal from trauma, overcome limiting beliefs, and create their ideal lives. As a sober, bisexual Latina woman with diagnosed mental illness, she shows up authentically to exemplify that recovery and healing are very possible. 

(Trigger warning: This episode discusses sexual abuse and other potentially disturbing content.)  

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Welcome to the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. I'm your host, Deb Maisner. I'm a registered nurse, health coach, and alcohol free badass. I have found that there's more than one way to address drinking. If you've ever asked yourself if drinking is taking more than it's giving, or if you've found that you're drinking more than usual, you may have reached your own alcohol tipping point. The alcohol tipping point is a podcast for you to find tips, tool, and thoughts to change your drinking. Whether you're ready to quit forever or a week, this is the place for you. You are not stuck and you can change. Let's get started. Welcome back to the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. Today I have Priscilla Maria. She is a certified trauma Informed life coach. She is founder of the Cycle Breakers Club, a trauma survivor herself, and she empowers others to break harmful habits and cycles of trauma. She is also proudly twelve years alcohol free and I am honored to have her on the show to talk about trauma and alcoholiday use disorder and the connections and just learn more about your story too. Priscilla. So welcome to the show. [00:01:12] Speaker B: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to have this conversation with you. [00:01:16] Speaker A: I'm excited to meet you. Just tell me a little bit about yourself, like where you're from, what you do. [00:01:22] Speaker B: Yeah, for sure. So my answer to where I'm from is a bit complicated. I still, at 32, don't know how to answer that because I moved around so much. So I was born in Michigan, but I didn't live there past, I think one if that. So my family went back to Los Angeles and we moved around a bunch within California. Eventually moved to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Pennsylvania again Maryland, Pennsylvania again, California and then Michigan. And now I'm in Florida. So a lot of moving around throughout my life. So I guess I'm just American in every sense. My dad is Central American, my mother is South American, and I'm born and raised in North America. I am apart from a trauma informed life coach. I'm also a speaker. So actually in JanuaRy I have my next scheduled speaking engagement at a college outside of Joshua park in California where I will be speaking about trauma informed care. So I'm really stepping into that space, public speaking and working with college students. [00:02:36] Speaker A: Oh, that's wonderful. And such a need just to help people when they're young and that's great. So you're from all over? I'm just like born and raised in Idaho, so I always feel kind of like boring. Just a mountain girl. All right, well, can you share a bit about what your experience was with drinking or addiction and what got you to where you're at now. [00:03:07] Speaker B: Absolutely. So I would say drinking and alcohol were already a part of my narrative before I was even conceived into thought, let alone born, because of the legacy of alcoholism in my family. So I think primarily of my grandfathers, but I know there's more before them that had alcoholiday use disorder. Their behaviors really negatively affected my parents. My mother, she actually lived in a house that doubled as a neighborhood bar in Ecuador. Yes. And so she was around a lot of drunk men, particularly, and saw a lot of things and experienced a lot of things. Neither one of my parents actually became drinkers because of their fathers and things that they saw. And so it kind of skipped a generation to my brother, myself, and some other family members in my generation. And I would say what really was the gateway drug for me was traumatic experiences from actually one of the grandfathers I just mentioned. That was something that happened when I was eight and ten that I recall. So trigger warning, child sexual abuse. That really was very confusing, earth shattering. How do I even make sense of this, of this person that was a second father figure for me? That trauma coupled with other traumas that I experienced before college, such as domestic violence and just unresolved feelings that I never expressed. And so by the time I went to college, I actually told myself, I'm not going to drink because my brother, at that point, had entered his first rehab. So as I was entering college, he was entering rehab, like, the same time. And I remember going to that rehab and sitting down and the instructor explaining to us, family members, what that looks like, what is alcoholism and things like that. And I remember saying, like, well, I'm not going to drink. I really did go in with the intention of not drinking to college, but even before college, I had already binge drink. But it was always with family members, like a wedding, family dinner with other relatives. I think I gave the rationale to myself that it didn't count as drinking because I never drank with friends in high school, even though they were drinking, things like that. It's like I kind of made an exception, like, oh, but it's with family. But regardless, I recall blacking out. I recall just straight up binge drinking and just being, I don't want to say a natural at it, but it was like I felt comfortable doing it. And I was not someone that you would think would be, like, a novice. It was like I was just drinking and drinking and drinking. Those experiences were, prior to college, so once I was in college, that intention did not last too long. I want to say it lasted maybe. [00:06:33] Speaker A: A month or less. [00:06:35] Speaker B: And once I decided to just go ahead and drink, I was definitely a binge drinker. I've always been a binge drinker. And one thing I would do is I would never count or keep track of drinks. And I think I did that intentionally as a teenager, as a college student, because I was trying to find loopholes. I think, like, oh, well, kind of like in high school, well, I'm doing with family, so it's okay. And okay, well, I'm drinking in college, but I'm not going to drink alone, because I remember in the rehab, those are bad, but alcohol, at least it's somewhat legal, even though I was underage. So things like that, I would try to rationale within myself, but nonetheless, I was a bin drinker. And so I don't understand the concept of wine tasting or just grabbing, like, a little cocktail with the girls or something like that. That's never been me. I want vodka, or I want to feel the effects that took place throughout my freshman year of college. I didn't think I had a problem, because in college, of all places, binge drinking is very normalized and part of, I guess, this rite of passage, at least that's how I perceived it. And I also learned that I definitely associated with people that were into drinking. And it wasn't until I stopped drinking that I was like, oh, there's, like, a lot of groups that don't drink. A lot of people don't drink. But I kind of cultivated this environment where I surrounded myself with drinkers. And so some consequences of the drinking, I would say just putting myself in unsafe neighborhoods, conflict with others. I received a verbal warning that year because of my behavior that could have escalated. So that verbal warning, it's like, I could have been expelled had maybe that Ari heard some of my comments or my intentions and things like that, and then other things like falling downstairs and dropping my phone off a second level or whatever from the top of a staircase or whatever, just things like that. But what definitely stood out to me was how much energy I devoted to partying and drinking. And it wasn't coming from a place of, oh, this is so exciting. It was more of, I want to get drunk. I want to escape. I want to be able to step out of my role and identity as a high achieving student. I wanted to escape from feelings tied to unresolved trauma and stress. And so that definitely is not a recipe for success or wellness. So, actually, after my first year of college, I went to a wilderness program. I'm not sure if you're familiar with those or if your audience is, but they're very different. I had never even heard of a wilderness program until my brother went. And he went maybe like a month before me because he had been kicked out of. So he's also in recovery, and so he was kicked out of, I want to say, seven rehabs. I mean, it was truly a very difficult journey, and that was part of my stress and part of my pain, not being able to understand what's going on with my brother, not understanding and other memories that I haven't really shared publicly, just things I saw and things like that. And so it's really scary, especially for a young, barely adult woman. Once I went to that wilderness program that I agreed to go, that was very challenging for many different reasons. It's very intense. You hike every day. You make your food, which is dehydrated beans, dehydrated rice, using latrines. Just a bunch of things that I've never been exposed to. But by far the most challenging part was the emotional work. And so while I was there, they did. I mean, you don't really have any say. So it's not like maybe other rehabs where you can leave voluntarily or you can kind of have some autonomy in this situation. You're literally in the Utah desert. You don't know where you're at. They regulate everything. Your conversations, what you do, what you can say, everything. And so one of the things that they did make me say was my molestation, like, to disclose it to my parents and my brother. And, I mean, there was just so much that I learned more about my brother, more about my family secrets and traumas that ultimately I left that program more angry than I came in and more, like, in pain. While in that program, they did recommend for my aftercare to go to an intensive outpatient program back in Maryland. And I did not complete that program. I don't even remember how long it was supposed to be for, but I know I did about two weeks, and then I was like, all right, I'm going to go back to school. Because I didn't want to miss a semester or a year of school. I just was not ready at 19 to really do the work. And so part of that program was they put you on an abuse, which is a pill that if you consume alcoholiday, you become seriously ill, and they do your analysis and you do group meetings and things like that. Ultimately, I did leave. And I remember the program director was not happy about that. And I remember him also saying, in my opinion, you're an alcoholic after doing an intake interview. And that was a lot to swallow. But I went back to Hopkins. Oh, I went to school in Baltimore. And I remember starting that first semester of sophomore year with an abuse still in my system and trying to calculate, like, okay, is it gone by now so that I can drink? So literally, that really didn't have any effect, that second program. And I went back to drinking, and I did dabble. Like, okay, well, maybe I can just go to a support group on campus. Because, of course, my parents definitely expressed their concern, and they wanted me to not go to school. And once I convinced them, no, I need to go back to school, they're like, okay, well, you need to sign a contract. We're trying to help you. Don't drink. Don't do this, don't do that. Because I'm very open with my parents. So when I was there and they visited, I was very open about more details of what my partying looked like. And so with all that information, they're like, we need you to have some type of plan so you don't go off the rail. And I don't even remember if I signed that contract. I don't think I did. So I definitely went back into sophomore year. Like, I'll give it an attempt, but I'm not there. I'm not able to commit to sobriety. And I remember my mom being like, if you can't say or really imagine life without drinking, then you have a problem. And I remember that anxiety at 19. Like, how can I not drink? How can I not drink in my life? I'm 19. I can't even legally drink. And you're telling me that I can't drink or I shouldn't drink? She was right. I just was not ready. I didn't have the emotional maturity, the mental maturity to make that decision. What my attempt looked like was, okay, I'll just go to some substance abuse support programs, support groups on campus. And I probably went to, like, two or three of those. And I remember I stopped going because I hadn't stopped drinking. And one of the participants was like, I don't really feel comfortable with people being here that are still drinking. And was like, oh, okay. And now I'm having that reaction as I was there, kind of like, oh, okay, whatever. But in retrospect, it's like, I can understand why he felt that way, and that's pretty much why I stopped going because I realized he's right. I'm drinking and going to these meetings because I'm trying to act like I'm trying to stop, but I'm clearly not. And I think maybe I went, like, a month without drinking at one point. So I would try, but as when people have alcohol use disorder, those attempts, you can have all the good faith to try. But eventually, I found myself drinking. I would try to cut back, and like I mentioned, I never kept track, I think, to make myself feel better. So I don't have data around literally how many drinks. I just know that when I drank, the objective was to be intoxicated. And so that just, I would say, worsened because you build tolerance around alcohol and kind of like the bar for self destructive behavior kept, I think, lowering. So it might look like more high risk behaviors, more partying, more pushing, I think, the limit. And so that continued until my junior year of college. And by that point, I was blacking out more. And I absolutely hated blacking out. That was definitely a big reason that I stopped drinking. I don't really know how to explain it, but I feel like I was given a tolerance, maybe because of my genetics. I'm not sure what the science is, but blacking out wasn't something that really happened to me or getting hangovers. I can only remember maybe twice at most in all those years that I got a hangover. And it's not because I wasn't drinking a lot. I don't know. I just didn't really get them. And so once I started to blackout, I was like, oh, no, I hate this. I hate waking up and being like, how did I get in my bed? Or someone being like, oh, my gosh, you did this. Or you said that. And I'm like, I did. I have zero recollection. I don't. That in itself was triggering, because I just had this need to always feel like I was in control because of some traumas I experienced. And so in those moments, you feel so out of control because you can't even control your memory, let alone, really, your decisions or whatever took place. And so after a particularly scary night where I found myself in a very vulnerable situation that could have very much ended in SA, and then I blacked out. Fortunately, once I left that party, that was enough of a scare that I was like, whoa, I need to take a break. Because that wasn't the first close call of someone trying to violate me. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Guys or some guys or some sexual predators will see that, oh, this woman or this person looks like they're not in the right state of mind. She might not notice if I try to lure her back to my bedroom or if I try to do this. And thankfully, either because a friend intervened or I was barely able to understand, it didn't happen. But then with this situation, I was all alone and I was in a very vulnerable situation. And I just remember being like, whoa. Never again. I know in my heart that there will be no other close calls. The next time, it's going to be something really bad. And that scared me. And so I told myself, and that was after a Halloween party. I told myself, I'm going to take an extended break. I'm not committing to full sobriety forever. I just need a long break. And so that was November 2. And then my brother, unfortunately, he did not get better or recover from his addiction. So by the time January 2012 rolled around, I received a phone call that he was found unresponsive and was being rushed to the. You know, we think he's in a coma. We don't really know what's going on, but I'm just letting you know because you need to get to DC or PG county as soon as possible. And that was very earth shattering. And then getting to the hospital, seeing my brother on life support dying and having to say goodbye to him, and I have no way to really describe how things played out because it's so twisted to see the person you love the most on their deathbed. And the doctor is telling you, like, he's going to die. I believe his blood was septic. I know for sure one of his lungs collapsed, his organs were shutting down. So he was quite literally dying. And it was just a matter of time for him to die. But he didn't. And I don't know how to explain that other than a miracle. And it was recognized by our priests. Like, this is a miracle. The doctors are like, this MRI does not match what we're seeing. I remember the first doctor that looked over his case said it was the worst MRI he's seen in his whole career, and that we are prolonging our agony by keeping him on life support. It was very encouraged that we pulled the plug, but we, especially my father, my mother, especially my father, just. I went to bat for him and we're like, you know what? No, we need a second opinion. We're going to take him to Johns Hopkins, which was and is a very top hospital. It was a fight. It was a fight for everything. To have him transferred, to have him seen by certain people and God intervened and allowed him to. I mean, it's just like, so many things connected that shouldn't have connected. Like, oh, there's suddenly a bet open, like, oh, I guess we can accept and things like that. We're like, I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to be eternally grateful. And so, long story short, he did wake up from his coma six months later, and it's still a journey that's unraveling. Now I'm at a much better place, but for a long time, that was just so numbing and beyond words of pain, of confusion, of overwhelm. But one thing that did come out of that for both my brother and I is neither one of us went back to drinking. My brother, he works now. He doesn't have to be with one of us 24/7 initially. So there's ample opportunity to consume alcohol. But he has chosen not to, and I have chosen not to. Back in the days being underage, it was a little more challenging, but now it's like, I'm 32, I can easily obtain any drug, and I don't want it. And that's a really good feeling to have that choice for myself. So I never drank after November 2, 2011. But what I do want to highlight is a cross addiction that did take place. And for those that are on this journey, whatever their journey looks like, I would say just be cognizant of how sometimes, whatever the symptom is, if you don't work through the underlying cause. So in my case, unresolved trauma, it might manifest in a different kind of symptom because it's the same source, but now it's just taking a different form. So for me, it went from binge drinking to eating disorders. And I never experienced, like, a full on eating disorder. I had some instances of disordered eating, but I was very not knowledgeable around eating disorders until I had one. And even when I had one, it was really hard to accept. And so for those that have experienced eating disorders, I went to a third rehab, and I remember one of them calling it, like, the good girls addiction, because it is very much an addiction. And in my personal experience, my eating disorder recovery has been at least three times longer and just super challenging. More challenging than the alcohol. For, like, at different points, it looked differently. So prior to the third rehab, I went to the runfruit center in Pennsylvania. It was bulimia and anorexia. So a lot of compulsive exercise, very restrictive dieting. I mean, yeah, it's really twisted. And it was really hard to get through that. And kind of like with the alcohol, I found ways to make myself justify it. So it's like, oh, well, I'm not trigger warning, like vomiting after I eat, so I don't have an eating disorder because I'm not doing that. But I am exercising for 3 hours straight because I ate a lot of peanut butter. So that's another way of purging. It's not just vomiting, it can be exercise, it can be laxatives. And so after the treatment, it eventually turned into binge eating disorder, which feels a lot, even more like binge drinking because I just literally replaced vodka with high caloric, nutritionally deficient foods. I'll put it that way. So junk food, it was a lot. It was like going from one extreme to another extreme. I remember feeling like, okay, I'm not going to keep going to these rehabs, I'm not going to keep having these different symptoms and also collecting different diagnoses. Like I found out, OCD, borderline, I had no idea that I am borderline. And I feel like that label really encompasses everything. So the binge drinking, the eating disorders, the mental illness, the paranoia, things like that. And so what really helped me to be so much more solid in my recoveries was getting the appropriate mental health treatment and medication in my case. So I'm on medication currently. It works really well for me. I did different therapeutic modalities, such as dialectical behavioral therapy. So that's like the recommended therapy for people diagnosed with BPD. I also did prolonged exposure therapy to confront some of my most painful traumatic experiences, talk therapy, and then of course, the rehabs that I mentioned. But really, once I got the treatment for borderline personality disorder, that's what really helped me because I was like, oh, I finally know what's been going on for so many years and I'm finally getting that directly addressed. And that has really helped as well as community. So sharing more about my experiences to my family, breaking the silence, owning it. At this point, I'm the most open I've ever been publicly. So as I mentioned previously, I'm a public speaker. Getting on stage and talking about my mental health recovery is really empowering and healing for me. At this point, I'm twelve years alcohol free and I have zero desire to drink. The only thing that comes up is, and I think my last dream was maybe a day or two before or after my twelveth anniversary, is I'll have these drinking dreams where I wake up and I hate those. And that's really reaffirming for me because it's like, even on a subconscious level, I'm not enjoying it. I'm not like, oh, wow. I always wake up with regret and like, oh, why did I do that? I'm so disappointed. And then I'm like, oh, it was a dream, and I feel so relieved. And so aside from my subconscious, I'm definitely not consuming alcohol, and I don't want to. [00:29:18] Speaker A: Wow, thank you so much for sharing. I think that just speaking out loud really is a way to let go of any shame or stigma associated with mental disorders that people have. And you so bravely shared what you went through, the different programs you went through, struggling with, eating disorders and drinking and your family history and sexual assault, just like, wow, you really are living out loud, and it's just going to help people that you are so vulnerable. That shows strength right there. So thank you for being so open and honest. I wanted to ask you more about borderline personality disorder because you said that was the one finding out that you had that. That was kind of like a click for you. And so for people who don't know, can you just describe what that is? [00:30:28] Speaker B: Sure. So it is a cluster B personality disorder, and I believe other disorders in that group include narcissistic personality disorder, historic personality disorder. I want to say antisocial. That might be an outdated term, but, yeah. So a lot of highly stigmatized personality disorders, it's something that is definitely, I would say, one of the most stigmatized, just in my experience. So often when you see it depicted in media, the stereotype is you're just up and down, but up and down on a very small scale. It's like throughout the day, you are up and down. Some people confuse it with bipolar disorder, which, and again, I'm not a psychologist, but it's more episodic bipolar. So I believe the episodes last much longer. But with Borderline, it can be, like, within a few hours that you're having these highs and lows. And I've heard different things. Like, I remember I was actually misdiagnosed as bipolar or having bipolar disorder when around the same time because I went for, like, a second opinion. And I remember that psychiatrist, which, after seeing her, I saw her refuse. And I'm like, yeah, I don't know if I really trust this person. But anyways, she told me, like, she doesn't believe in personality disorders and that borderline is really bipolar disorder. And so she diagnosed me with bipolar and prescribed me, like, mood stabilizers, and I had a really bad reaction to them. So I'm not bipolar, and those medicines did not work for me at all. And so I've heard different schools of thought. So apparently there are some people that really don't buy into them. I've also heard people say, well, it's not really borderline. It's just complex trauma. That's what it is. It's just trauma. I've heard it described as like a broken heart syndrome. Like, you just really experience something painful and you haven't been able to really regulate your feelings around it. But to my knowledge, it's still in the DSM, and there are nine symptoms that they identify. And so some of those include, just off the top of my head, an unstable self image, bursts of anger, propensity for suicide ideation or suicide attempts, unstable relationships. Yeah, you're basically just very emotionally unstable in one way or another. And it is common for someone with borderline to have eating disorders or addictions or substance abuse. And it pretty much made sense of a lot of behaviors. And when it comes to borderline, I remember, I think it was in DBT, someone was saying, basically, it is a result of experiencing a trauma and being in an emotionally invalidating environment. So you experienced something painful, and either you were gaslit or not believed or pushed aside, and so you didn't learn how to cope with it. You didn't learn how to regulate your nervous system, how to express your needs or have your needs met. And that looks like, oh, well, I guess I need to take it to the extreme to be heard, or I don't know how to cope with things. And so with me, that's where all those different maladaptive coping mechanisms came into play. And BPD, I know, is stereotyped as someone that's maybe belligerent or volatile, but it's a spectrum, just like any disorder. I was definitely a quiet person throughout school. Most people will still probably describe me as that, but for me, it was largely internal. So suicide ideation, self harm, things like that, it was very personal and private. But once I went to college and in college mostly, that's when it would be more external. Like, you could probably observe some of these symptoms with the aggression, the bursts of anger, the impulsivity. And that persisted into law school, but it looked differently because I was a little bit in a different space where I did have some medication. It wasn't the right one, but it was something. And I also had so much fear of messing up. I was just like. I still had my impulsive behaviors for sure, but I kind of like, in college, I just kind of hid them. And it's like I had different personas depending who I was around, and that's known as splitting. Now I feel more like I am myself. I'm authentic at all times. And I found that some things that I thought I was into, maybe I wasn't. Maybe I'm not really into that. Maybe it was just giving me that escape that I so desperately wanted. But now that I don't want to escape, I don't need to go to such extremes. [00:36:32] Speaker A: Yeah, interesting. It just helped to know, like, okay, I have an explanation for how I act or what's going on in my life, and now I have appropriate treatment, and that has made a huge difference. And so you went on to law school. You were a lawyer. Are you working as a lawyer still? [00:36:55] Speaker B: No. I earned my jurist doctor. And as I was studying for the bar, I was like, why am I doing this? And that wasn't, like, a random thought. That had been my thought throughout law school, even before law school. So I went to competitive schools. And part of my story is that education was very encouraged my whole life, and I didn't relate to kids that, oh, I'm going to be the class clown or I'm going to goof off. I saw it as a job. So elementary school, middle school, high school. I went to four different high schools in three different states, and I still performed well. And it was really hard, but I just had this drive in me that I've connected the dots, that it was coming from a place of not like, wow, I really love learning, which I do, but this sense of survival that I received from mostly my father because of his very traumatic background. And so education for him was how he got out of poverty and was able to give us a better quality of life. So, from small age, it's like, we got to do well in school. And I've always been a high achieving student, and my father is an attorney, so I was like, okay, maybe I'll go to law school like my dad. And no one pressured me. I know some family members create their own narratives, but no one pressured me to do anything to go to law school. As I was applying, I was like, maybe I'll go to school for public relations. Maybe I'll go to school for something else. Social work. And so, clearly, I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I didn't. I was, what, 21? No, 20. I don't know, applying and looking at law schools, and I would say my maturity was definitely arrested by drinking and by trauma. So I really didn't know who I was, but I thought, okay, that's a safe bet. That makes sense. And I was blessed to receive an almost full ride scholarship to the law school I went to. So I was like, hey, why not? It was kind of like a form of escape for me, literally, like going to law school, because I got to go back to California. I knew that I was going to study, which, like I said, I like to learn. I like to be in that environment. And so I think that's what really drew me in, was going far away to California, which is where I consider myself from, if I had to choose. As I mentioned earlier, it's complicated. So I actually went to law school. I think I was enrolled maybe six months or less after I completed my rehab for an eating disorder. So that's definitely not wise. But again, I always was a people pleaser and wanted an escape and things like that. So that shows what type of headspace I was in. Barely making it through with my eating disorder, just went to another rehab. My brother is not where he's at now. He was very much. A lot of stress around what's going to happen to him, things like that. And so once I'm in law school, I perform, as always. That's part of my mask, was performing academically, and I completed it. And even when people would ask me, like, so what are you going to practice or what are you going to do? I literally would say, I think I'm going to do HR. I didn't know what the hell I wanted to be or do. And I felt, like, so inauthentic because I was being, and I'm grateful for my education because I learned so much, it strengthened my writing skills, my speaking skills, my analytical skills. I took a lot of courses that I did, like, et cetera, et cetera. So it was far from a waste of time at all. But I did not choose to pursue and take the bar or to pursue a legal career. And I'm so glad that I didn't. I think that was my awakening. That's when it started, because I always knew I was going to get a graduate degree because I wanted that. And so once I got it, I was like, oh, like, I'm done. I did it. You know, I've been working on this for my whole life. It feels like to make it to grad school and get that higher level degree, and now it's like, now what? I don't want to be an attorney. I've gotten my taste through legal internships and whatnot. I'm like, I don't want to read all this. I don't want to apply all this. I don't want to write all this. It's not what I thought it would be. I had kind of this romanticized idea that I would be, like, the people's champion and all these things, which a lot of attorneys are, but it wasn't a match for me, and that's okay. And so it definitely was a journey to discover who I am. Like Priscilla, me, not what other people want me to be or what I think I should be. Not hiding from my traumas anymore, not hiding behind masks, just being me. And fast forward to now that looks like a public speaker and a life coach and a writer. Don't write as much, but definitely have some things that I'm cooking up. This has always been me. Even as a little girl, I've had the same value system. It's so funny because I saw something I wrote when I was, like, in fifth grade. I'm like, oh, my gosh, I'm like, the same person, the same value. Social justice, helping people, doing what's right. And it's just a matter of kind of fine tuning it. And now I know that I'm where I'm supposed to be, especially with the speaking part. I love speaking. And it's so ironic because of how much I was bullied and made fun of for being so quiet and things like that. But I know why I was so quiet. It was the trauma. It was the pain. I lost my voice a long time ago, and so it's really healing for me and little Priscilla and teenage Priscilla to be able to not only share my voice, but be paid for it and be invited to share. [00:43:38] Speaker A: Yeah. Wow. That's amazing. Well, so now you are founder of the Cycle Breakers Club, and you're really passionate about helping people break the cycle of trauma. Can you just share a definition of trauma? What is trauma? [00:43:57] Speaker B: Yeah. So the definition I like is it's anything that overwhelms your ability to cope. And so I know there's more scientific definitions, but to me, I just like that it's super accessible and it makes sense because that leaves it open to if getting in a car accident was overwhelming for you and you were not able to cope with it, it affected your relationships, your ability to work, your quality of sleep. That was traumatic for you. For some people that have been in car accidents, they can walk away from it, and it's whatever. And some people, I just want anyone listening to know that your trauma is valid no matter if someone else had it, quote unquote worse, or someone went through something similar and they're quote unquote. Okay, it's your experience. Everyone has unique thresholds of what they can handle. So whatever overwhelmed you, then, that's your trauma, your traumatic experience, or however you want to phrase it. Yeah, I think that's my go to definition. [00:45:02] Speaker A: And I'Ve heard people talk about, like, big T trauma and little T trauma. What would you say to that? [00:45:10] Speaker B: I think it's okay. I think however people want to describe their experiences, whatever resonates with them. So my understanding to that is Big T is maybe like sexual assault or little T is maybe like being bullied, not severely bullied, but maybe just made fun of. I kind of feel like maybe people say that so that other people can digest it. Because I know, in my experience, I've had, for example, a family member tell me, like, you've never been through anything. You've always had it easy. And this family member was aware of my molestation, of my brother's injury, of me going to rehab, of my eating disorder, and still said that. And I think in his mind, it's, oh, but you lived in the suburbs, and you had to two parent household. You didn't grow up like me and your dad. Single parent refugees, poverty, having to flee for their lives. So in his eyes, it was by choice. Nobody can tell me worse things than family has told me. Unfortunately, over the years, I just, again, want people to know. You can call it Little T, big T, but if it feels like a big T to you and a little t to someone else, then it's a big T. It's really how you feel and how it affected you. It's not something that anyone else has a right to judge or quantify, because it didn't happen to them. It happened to you. You were there. So, you know. [00:46:52] Speaker A: Yeah. Thank you for that. Because I think people do get caught up in comparison. Either thinking like, your trauma or what happened to you didn't qualify as trauma because they're looking at the world and what's going on in the world, or they're maybe with your family that has been through so much and judging other people based on their experience. And like you said, it's your perception and just validating. It's what happened to you and how you feel about it. And it doesn't matter where it came from or how it came or any of that. [00:47:37] Speaker B: One of the superheroes that superpowers that I acquired was self validation. So I didn't know that that was something I could do. I always leaned on other people to validate my feelings or my experiences, and that's part of borderline. Like I mentioned when you were not validated growing up, you don't know how to validate yourself. I would kind of lean on therapists. Like, was this traumatic? Is this enough for me to make sense of what I'm experiencing or feeling or leading on family members or anyone? And it's like, wait, no, I was there. It happened to me. No one can tell me what I felt or I experienced or what I thought or what I believed. Only I can. And so that has been really helpful to validate my own experiences. And my hope is that others listening to this can also know how that feels like, to be like, no, this is my experience, my identity, my belief systems, and they're valid. [00:48:47] Speaker A: And I think that goes for drinking, too, where we're constantly comparing our drinking to others and, like, am I an alcoholic? Well, really, it's. How is alcohol affecting you? And so interesting. Okay, so then what is generational trauma? [00:49:06] Speaker B: Yeah, so that is essentially the stress related behaviors and symptoms that are passed down. So, for example, I'll use my dad. I did not grow up in Nicaragua. I've never experienced war. I grew up in the suburbs. And so, no, I did not experience his direct traumas. But it was still shared in the sense that I inherited and saw his model of how he viewed the world, which is coming from a place of scarcity, of distrust of other people, of intense drive and ambition, of worst case scenarios. Always got to be ten steps ahead. And so that is generational trauma, where people that haven't even experienced the original incident or circumstances still feel those high levels of cortisol and fast heart rate or views of the world that they didn't even create themselves. And that's just one example. In my lineage, there is definitely a pathology of sexual abuse, of alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and things like that. And so it takes just one person to break the mold and to break the silence and say, this runs out with me. And so, for me, that's been my driving force, because I'd love to be a mother one day, and I'm going to do everything I can. Of course, there's things outside of my control so that they don't experience some of my traumas or my parents traumas, my grandparents traumas. I don't want that to keep being recycled. And what really helped these generational traumas continue to circulate is secrecy. Secrecy minimization, things like that. And that's why I'm so vocal, because I was in silence for so long. And also, people have tried to silence me or things like that, and it's like, no, not anymore. [00:51:27] Speaker A: Yeah, you're definitely breaking the silence. You talk about breaking the cycle. What are some ways to break the cycle besides talking on a podcast? Which is, how do we go about that? [00:51:45] Speaker B: So you can start with yourself, being curious about yourself, looking at your relationships, taking an inventory. Your relationships say a lot, I would say, about you. And so if I look, for example, at my last romantic relationship, it makes sense. I wish I didn't have that for myself, but I can see why I not attracted this person, but accepted this person and their behaviors and why my behaviors look like they did in reaction to what was done to me and things like that. I would say, start with yourself and see what are my values? What are my habits. Even with the drinking, for example, you don't have to start by saying, some people say alcoholic. Some people say, do I have alcohol use disorder? Just look at it. How often do you drink? What are the consequences of your drinking and are you still drinking? What extent do you go to obtain alcohol? How much do you spend on alcohol? Things like that. And come from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and criticism and comparison. Because that route does not really help us as much as we might think it does. It usually anchors us in shame. But if we come from a place of curiosity and compassion, then we're just being investigative reporters. We're just learning about ourselves, and we will know what to do with that information. But first, let's just acquire it. [00:53:35] Speaker A: Yeah, I think just that awareness and being radically honest in a kind and compassionate way. And like you said, the curiosity way is so helpful. And so what do you do, like, in your work as a cycle breaker coach or with the club that you have, the Cycle Breakers Club? Tell us about that. [00:53:57] Speaker B: Yes, the Cycle Breakers Club is my private practice for life coaching. So I see individual clients, and I pretty much am the advocate and support system that I wish I had when I was out in Utah, in the desert, when I was in college, when I was in law school, someone that could be a companion through this, because unfortunately, some of my therapists were not appropriate, and in some cases, some of their comments or their approaches were more harmful than helpful. But because there is no checks and balances in that private room, it was a similar dynamic to a professor, student, or elders in the family. And being Latina, I grew up, you're supposed to respect your elders without question. And so now, because of the self validation muscle that I built, it's like, no, I didn't deserve some of those comments. No one needed to tell me how I should feel or what I was thinking or things like that. I enjoy holding space for people because a lot of them do see a therapist or have seen a therapist where they can check in with themselves and they can have that support for setting goals, reaching goals, and checking in on how they're feeling, how they're doing. So there is someone else that's involved instead of maybe just them or just them and a therapist or them and their family. It's nice to have a third neutral party that I'm not diagnosing you, I'm not telling you what's wrong with you or anything. I'm just here holding space with you for you to explore. And we can have a collaborative thought process, and I really enjoy it. So people come with all types of different goals. Some of them are, I want to be alcohol free, or I want to minimize my drinking, or, I'm in an unhealthy relationship and I want to leave this person, but it's really hard, and I know how that feels. And so because of my diverse lived experiences, I can empathize with a lot of different types of people. And it's really fulfilling to just sit with someone. I see people from different cultural backgrounds, careers, and sometimes people will just reach out to me and tell me something that they've never told anyone. And I'm thankful that they feel safe because I know how important and freeing it can be to just release something that has happened to you and to not have to hold on to it. And honestly, a lot of people just want to be heard. A lot of people just want to be heard and validated and understood and not judged. [00:57:06] Speaker A: That sounds beautiful and so needed. Well, how can someone find you then? [00:57:12] Speaker B: So you can find me on cycle breaker, coach on Instagram. I'm on Instagram the most. I also have LinkedIn, so LinkedIn.com slash. I think it's like Coach. Or you can search my name, Priscilla Maria cyclebreaker coach. I should come up and then my website is priscillamaria.com and I am taking clients. So if you need some one on one support, feel free to reach out to me. And I'm excited to meet some of your audience. [00:57:47] Speaker A: Well, thank you. I really appreciate you coming on and just being so honest and sharing your story. And I think the more we can share, the more we can help other people and thank you so much. [00:58:01] Speaker B: Absolutely. Thank you for providing a safe space for me to share my story and for your platform because I know it's helping a lot of people. These are topics that need to be discussed, so thank you for the work that you're doing. [00:58:15] Speaker A: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. Please share and review the show so you can help other people too. I want you to know I'm always here for you, so please reach out and talk to me on Instagram at alcoholiday Tipping Point and check out my website, alcoholiday tipping point free resources and help. No matter where you are on your drinking journey, I want to encourage you to just keep practicing. Keep going. I promise you are not alone and you are worth it. Every day you practice not drinking is a day you can learn from. I hope you can use these tips we talked about for the rest of your week and until then, talk to you next time.

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