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One in three women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted. Today’s guest, Gina Rolkowski, is a survivor herself. Struggling with drug addiction, abusive relationship patterns, and suicide attempts, Gina later found healing through trauma informed therapy and her faith. Now a former elementary school teacher and parent educator turned trauma coach, Gina works with women who have experienced sexual abuse, whether in childhood or as adults. She also is the founder of Bridge to Breakthroughs, a faith-based mentoring and coaching program for women. In this episode, Gina talks with Zach about relating to our inner child, dissociation, shame, and more. Learn more about Bridge to Breakthroughs at ginarolkowski.com. The Landmark Recovery Podcast is a production of Landmark Recovery. We understand that everyone has their own history, their own struggles, and their own needs. Our goal is to not only treat the disease of addiction, but the underlying causes as well. https://landmarkrecovery.com/life-at-landmark/the-landmark-difference/

Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host, Zach Crouch. In this program, we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields and help navigate the road to recovery. Now, here’s the host of Recovery Radio, Zach Crouch.

 

Zach: I’m your host, Zach Crouch. Today’s episode discusses topics that could be triggering, including sexual abuse, fiscal abuse, and suicide. I’d encourage our listeners to proceed with discretion but our guest today is going to share her message of healing and hope. It’s really important. So, if you are in an abusive situation, you can also visit thehotline.org. That’s thehotline.org or you can call 1800799S-A-F-E. That’s 1800799 SAFE. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1800273 T-A-L-K. That’s 1800273 TALK. It’s an unfortunate reality that one in 3% or 30% of women worldwide has been subjected to either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

 

This is according to a 2021 World Health Organization Fighting. In the United States alone, every minute an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes that victim is a child. This data is from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. That’s the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. So that’s the hard data. On a personal level, someone you know has likely been a victim of abuse. Our guest today, Gina Rolkowski, is a survivor herself. Gina is a former elementary school teacher and parent-educated turned trauma coach. She is also the founder of Bridge and Breakthroughs, a faith-based mentoring and coaching program for women who have experienced sexual abuse, whether in childhood or as adults.

 

Gina’s approach to helping women heal from their trauma focuses on transforming the way they see themselves. She does this by combining social, emotional intelligence strategies, brain science, and research around transforming trauma into triumph and purpose. I love that. The steps reflected in our Bridge to Breakthroughs program personally helped Gina overcome her shame, fear, and self-hatred caused by past trauma. As a survivor of chronic sexual childhood abuse, Gina found herself in abusive relationship patterns and struggled with drug addiction, even surviving multiple suicide attempts through trauma, informed therapy, brain-based strategies, and finding herself through her faith.

 

Gina recently celebrated 18 years of sobriety and mental wellness. Gina, congratulations on that. I’m going to begin with two quotes from Gina to frame our discussion. The first is you don’t have to relive the trauma to heal from it. It’s really important. I’m going to read that again. You don’t have to relive the trauma to heal from it. The second, healing childhood shame cannot be accomplished with things. We’ll put things in quotations there because no amount of money, cars, or mansions can overcome the power of shame unless consciously acknowledging shame steadily and consistently increases in intensity and frequency. Gina, welcome to the show.

 

Gina: Thank you so much for having me back.

 

Zach: I want to go back to the quote that I just mentioned. The second one particularly spoke to me a little bit. Healing children and shame cannot be accomplished with things because no amount of money, cars, mansions, etc. can overcome the power of shame unless consciousness acknowledges shame steadily and consistently increases in intensity and frequency. Why is that the intensity and frequency of the shame just increases when we don’t acknowledge it?

 

Gina: Well, I think one reason is you can go back to some real basics when it comes to healing from trauma and that’s based on the science and the book from Professor Vanderkolk called The Body Keeps the Score. Anxiety and shame, what happens when you are dealing with shame are your body’s keeping the score so you’re going to experience anxiety. You’re going to experience panic because your body is going, “Please keep me safe. Please keep me safe. Everything is in danger.” All your body knows is that it has been programmed to stay on high alert. And so, when you’re feeling shame, you don’t feel safe. You don’t feel loved.

 

So, your body is just constantly going, “Please resolve this. Please do this. Please resolve this.” And if we don’t pay attention to that, then it just gets louder and louder. I mean, it’s kind of like if you think about it, this is a metaphor. But the point is if you’re calling for somebody’s attention and you’re just like, “Hey, you’re like, over here.” And they don’t hear you. You’re like, “Okay, there’s a fire.” You’re going like, “Yo.” Do you know what I mean? “Oh, I’m over here.” And you say, “I said, there’s a fire.” So, your body is going, “Excuse me, but we’re on fire here.” Everything is a danger and you feel like crap. And you can’t go out there because every time you do, you get hurt.

 

And so, the body and the nervous system stay on in this alert, this constant state of alert and this struggle with that. That puts you into the part of your brain where it’s the brainstem where all you can do is survive. That’s not where you learn. It’s not where you develop flexibility. It’s not where you can transform or think. It’s survival and you’re just like this thing. The idea of anxiety and shame increasing is basically because if we don’t recognize it, it just gets bigger and bigger. It’s just like if you light a max. It’s a small little light. But if you put it on a pile of hay, it’s just going to explode and it just gets bigger and bigger until we can acknowledge it and then offer what it needs.

 

Zach: It’s so, I don’t know what the word is. I guess it makes sense as it relates to your first quote, which was, you do not have to relive the trauma to heal from it. That said, what happens, though, or people who have had trauma, what they do is they continue to relive those pieces, those things that happen, right? Because what they want is resolution. So, they go back to the scene of the crime where it happened and they don’t get resolved.

 

Gina: They just get repeated.

 

Zach: Yeah. I’m curious from that perspective. Number one, you don’t have to relive the trauma or heal from it. Well, how do you heal from it, then?

 

Gina: Well, that’s a really good question, Zach. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. It’s part of why people hesitate to approach healing from trauma. But just to give you a little bit of a background, one of the things that I do with clients and things that I’ve done myself in my own group therapy is that I continue to say we don’t get in there and start swapping war stories. That just re-traumatizes you. The best way to heal from trauma is really to learn to recognize some of the things that you might not know that can normalize why you do what you do or why you feel, how you feel.

 

And then you can deal with learning how to relate to yourself and to get a little bit better so that you don’t have this relationship with yourself that’s so awful that you can’t even relate to yourself. Because most of the time when you’ve been through trauma, you’re dissociating. Things are so awful inside your body and your spirit. You’re just so awful that you just associate so you don’t even want to be yourself. The key really is not to go in and let me tell you how awful it was and all these horrible things but to deal with the core issues of shame, fear, anxiety.

 

How do you deal with these feelings? How do you calm the body down? The cause of shame is a lack of unconditional love. Okay. If there’s a place to find unconditional love and build a relationship on that, you can heal that. That’s why the piece of having a relationship with God in recovery is so important. I think that’s why you see that in AA. It’s why you see it in ACA in the Twelve Step programs because you can’t heal shame without having some relationship that is based on unconditional love. After all, that’s what causes shame is a lack of that.

 

And so, when you work towards healing, finding a way to love yourself, beloved by God, dealing with how do I calm my body, how do I put in place ways to communicate with people, you’re retraining your body, your mind, and your spirit and learning new ways of accessing and being in the world, as opposed to just operating from survival. That’s the way you want to kind of heal. That’s why things like experiential therapy and psychodrama and things like that are so important because they help you to not just move from knowing it but to experience a change. Does that make sense?

 

Zach: Sure. It does. Your background is this compilation of unique perspectives where you’ve been an elementary school teacher, parent educator, a trauma coach, and we’ve all heard the concept of our inner child. I’m curious about your perspective as it relates to trauma in children and adults. I don’t want to force something that isn’t there but what connections have you made between your work with kids as a school teacher and your work with adults as a trauma coach?

 

Gina: I have to say, it’s so incredibly remarkable to me how much I learned with my kids as a teacher, how I learned how to teach them and discipline them and relate to them. It can be so incredible just like moving right over into adults into learning how to interact with your inner child. It’s funny because I just wrote a blog recently about reparenting and how important that is. One of the things I talked about is how in the heck are you supposed to like repairing yourself and you didn’t maybe even have a parent who was parenting. They were abusing me. They were traumatizing. And so, one of the things I learned when working with my kids was, I took a very intentional approach to work with my students.

 

I spent several years working on learning how to incorporate discipline that was based on social-emotional learning. That included attachment attunement, community building, eye contact, safe touch. Teaching them what they could do, having a safe place in my classroom, teaching them how to breathe, teaching them about the brain, and learning to connect with them helps transform my own artist and helps me to be able to use some of those very same tactics with my inner child. It’s funny. I was at the gym yesterday and it’s not my favorite place to be. I’d go because it’s good for me but I don’t like it.

 

There was a part of me that was just feeling like I don’t like being in front of all these people. I was able to stay with my minute child at that moment. I see you. I got you. You’re safe with me. It’s okay. Nobody cares. I see you. I just went back to doing my thing and all of a sudden, the anxiety is not there. It’s just fine because I’m meeting her needs. But I think learning how to interact and relate to our inner child it’s so important for healing from trauma because that’s the part of us that was taught that you’re unworthy, you’re unlovable, you’re incapable. In order to be able to see that and say, I see you. 

 

Then you’re not seeking somebody else to give you that assurance but it’s amazing to me how much of a parallel. And even things that I do with my own clients and my own business now are a lot of the things I did with my students. I deal with them because the biggest thing I think about healing from trauma is to me, it does not have to be horrible and heavy. It can be a playful element. I mean, I’ve got doodles in my office that I’ve posted online that have helped me connect with my inner child and see her differently so that I understand that she did what she did to survive. How can I be ashamed of her trying to survive? I may not like the way she did it but that’s all she knew, right?

 

Zach: I’m curious to know and hear more about that piece that you just mentioned about having this conversation with your inner child. What do you say to people who probably aren’t convinced that having this conversation is going to have an impact with that I guess smaller version of yourself?

 

Gina: I think one of the first things and there’s no doubt back that healing from trauma requires some vulnerabilities. I know for me personally, and this is what I would say to other people, it’s very difficult to face the part of you that you think is embarrassing, shameful, you don’t want to even acknowledge. Like I said earlier, for the longest time, I didn’t even want to be yourself. I think it’s really important, especially to talk to people who are kind of doubting this and feeling uncomfortable is to share my own story of doing this, how I felt in that experience. Helping normalize the discomfort around it really can make it a lot more palpable for other people.

 

In the very beginning, this was probably 10 years ago or more, I wasn’t even able to work with my inner child the way I can today. I actually had a doll that a therapist suggested. And I thought you know what? I can do it with the doll. I just couldn’t do it with myself but I got this doll and I did things with her that I did with my students. I did a little, I love your rituals. I got a little blanket for her. It was really weird but I started to be able to connect to this thing outside of me before I was able to connect to the part of the inside. I think too, the other thing is to realize that the things that you’re ashamed of about this child or the other thing are there’s this fear behind acknowledging the inner child that what you’re going to find out.

 

This is not the case with me. “Oh, my God. She is unlovable. She is unworthy. She’s just a loser.” And there’s just like, “Oh, my God. If I acknowledge her, maybe I’m going to find that out.” But there’s nothing that could be further from the truth. I think that’s why it’s so important to have spiritual assets, building a relationship with God in a recovery program of any kind because that is where unconditional love comes in. But it definitely does take an element of vulnerability. But I think, too, helping you see the similarities between you and another person who might be doubting. This helps me to know like you’re not alone. I’ve been there. This is what it feels like.

 

So, hopefully sharing some of that and explaining that what we’re ashamed of lots of times is the things we did to survive. That’s part of that inner child, whether it’s screaming, bullying, kicking, sweeping around, whatever the things are that you might think of this little child as embarrassing. When you can look at her with compassion and say, “Here’s this child who all she wants to do is be loved and cared for.” and she didn’t know what to do or he didn’t know what to do, we learned by watching our caregivers. If they scream and they drink and they do drugs and they ignore and they put down, that’s what we learned to do because that’s just the way our brain works. We can go with that’s all I learned to do. Now, I can learn something new. It kind of normalizes it. It takes away the sting of like, “Oh, my God, I’m going to find out. I’m just a crazy loser.” Does that make sense?

 

Zach: No, it says. One of the things that were coming up for me as you’re talking about a question is I know that you work primarily with women. What have you noticed or colleagues that you’ve spoken with, if any, have you noticed in terms of differences between men and women in terms of the messaging that goes on to that inner child?

 

Gina: Well, I have to say, having even been a group therapy myself and with men, and the message is the same because we’re all human. It’s not like if I’m a man or female or whatever I am, it isn’t like all of a sudden, my need changes, right? Because we’re basically dealing with the need at hand. The need at hand doesn’t change as a human being. We need safety. We need unconditional love. We need encouragement. We need empathy. We need empowerment. And maybe just to say, for example, I’m dealing with a guy and he’s more than a sportsperson. I’m not personally a big sports fan of the Eagles but they suck this year but that’s beside the point.

 

But I might say, “Hey, let’s talk about. Are you using the power of your imagination to take your child to a baseball game or go outside and play fetch with them?” Do you know what I mean? It’s really about building a relationship with that child based on the premise of this unconditional love. Things that just don’t change based on the gender of any kind, and then learning how to build that relationship. It’s just like being married. Not all married people do the same thing when they go out on a date or people who are dating, right? You just want to have this different relationship. I may talk to mine, one way, you may decide to create a safe place or talk to her one way or go outside and play ball or something. But it’s just about learning to just start to relate to that part of us.

 

Zach: I’m curious. I want to be clear when I ask this question, too. The internal messaging that many women have versus those men have when they are early on in their life, men do have maybe more of a difficulty cultivating that vulnerability piece because of the cultural messages that men internalize early on in their life. It doesn’t mean that the purchase is any less hard for men or women but have you got it to be true that for a lot of guys a lot of men that it’s just like they can’t get past this idea that it’s okay to be vulnerable?

 

Gina: There’s no doubt that there’s a challenge about that. I would agree with that fact. I would say that it’s funny because there is this macho tough guy kind of thing out there and yet now, more and more you’ll find men on social media or wherever you can online and things like that where they’re talking more openly about being vulnerable or experiencing, sharing your own story. I think it’s really important, I would say, especially to men who are struggling to seek out some other people or other connections on social media or like through Landmark or something like that to see that they’re not alone, that there’s something incredibly strong about being vulnerable. Even when you think about historical figures in the past, we look at them as heroes, they have to be very vulnerable to do some of the things that they did.

 

There’s no doubt that there is like I said, a macho kind of. You got to be the provider and the strong one and all. I do think that that’s a challenge. I wouldn’t say that the message and the need are any different but I would certainly say that I think it’s important. It’s part of the reason why I think should a male come along and say, “Hey, I’d like to work with you.” I would never say no. Do you know what I mean? My clients are primarily women but I do think that it’s important for men to have space for learning to be vulnerable and heal. But I do think that, yes, especially with the stuff you see on TV and the things you see in the movies. It’s all tough guy but that’s just to make a quick buck not to change somebody’s life.

 

Zach: When we reached out to you about coming on to the podcast, you mentioned that you found very few addictions recovery programs that address recovering from childhood trauma and abuse. Talk to us a little bit about why addressing those kinds of traumas? I would say, in a safe and science-informed setting is important.

 

Gina: I think it’s important because when it comes to addiction, alcoholism, pills, whatever it is isn’t really about the behavior. It’s really about the need that’s causing the behavior. When it comes to drinking or taking pills the trauma was so bad in my life and I didn’t even know what it was about that I was just taking Clonidine, Xanax, and Percocet, and all sorts of things. But I think it’s really important to address childhood trauma because if we don’t address the issues that cause the addiction, we’re just going to find other ways of either being sober and still repeating crappy relationships, right?

 

You can be sober and still be kind of an asshole to say it like that but you get the point. I think when you look at the issue at hand, I’m like, “Yes, I was abused and I was traumatized. What does that mean about myself and my self-belief?” then you can realize. For example, now, I know how to regulate my nervous system. Now, I know how to calm my body, mind, and spirit so that I’m not overly anxious and can’t control myself to the point that I’m seeking outside relief. But if we can deal…

 

Zach: I want to ask you a quick question.

 

Gina: Sure.

 

Zach: You brought up a great point. I want to unpack this briefly. When you mentioned the piece around doing the work, what did you believe about yourself and the abuse before you chose to do it?

 

Gina: I thought that I was crazy. I mean this with all sincerity. Having been in the psych ward three times, tried to kill me, my biggest fear for so long was that I believe that I was just going to find out that everything I thought other people thought about me was true. I thought that I was just a loser. I thought I was crazy. I hated myself. I couldn’t look in the mirror. It’s a funny way, way down, and decided there was a part of me that was like, “No, I don’t think that’s true.” But everything in my life demonstrated and almost proved those fears. I just believed that I was working with. I was unlovable. Nobody cared about me. It’s horrible to be me for so long.

 

Zach: Sure. I appreciate you sharing that because I think there are probably quite a few people out there who feel very similar to that. They have the opportunity to step into the work. Going back to this idea, though, about how addressing the trauma in these safe settings is so important, though, what happens when people don’t work on this stuff when they don’t have the opportunity to process through some of this stuff?

 

Gina: Well, it’s funny. One of the things I learned about the brain is pattern-seeking, right? I mean, it’s funny because just to go back to one of the first questions you asked me about being a teacher, one of the very first things every single year that I taught kindergarten first, I agreed, the first thing I ever taught in math was patterns, teaching the kids how to know and identify patterns. The brain is the same way it seeks patterns. It knows this. What happens is if you don’t resolve that trauma, you are going to repeat it because it’s all that you know. It’s like an unconscious.

 

Just to give you an example. Having been through sexual abuse with my father. I married an abusive man. I continue to get into relationships. After that, that was not fulfilling in any way that was not good for me. There was no reciprocal self in any kind of real love of any kind. One of the things the therapist said at the time told me was, if you want to break the pattern of this, you’re going to have to start going out with somebody that you wouldn’t normally attract. You’re going to have to start a new pattern. I swear. Honestly, it’s the only reason I went out with my husband who I have been with for 14 years or more now. I only did it because I was like I’m going to go out with him just to show him. I have no interest in going out with him at all.

 

In fact, I blew him off the first time he told him I was seeing somebody else. I didn’t like his picture and I was just like, “Oh, God. No. This is a no. This is now all over the place.” I can’t tell you how different my life has been with him because of how safely and unconditionally loved I am with him. I think when you don’t address the trauma, you’re going to repeat it because it’s all that you know. It’s literally like asking yourself, “Well, if you don’t know how to learn to write with your left hand, why do you keep writing with your right hand?” I mean, it’s just the way the brain works. Like, you’re not going to learn to write with your left hand if you keep writing with your right. And if your right is causing you to hurt yourself, then you have to learn something. Does that make sense?

 

Zach: It does. I’m curious it relates back to your husband. What sort of opportunity do you think you gave yourself or a better word that might be what gift did you give yourself by going out with him?

 

Gina: Oh, gosh. I will say, I don’t think I ever really knew what it could be like to be someone who really and truly loves me. I don’t mean, like, enable me but I mean, who will call me out on my bullshit, who will build me up. I would say the biggest thing that I have gotten from him is a husband who is willing to learn how to do things differently. Like, how can we communicate better? I have had trauma therapists tell me that they believe the only reason that my memories of being sexually abused came back was that I was with my husband and I was safe. had I not been in a safe relationship. I don’t think my body would have been able to calm down enough to remember those things. If I hadn’t remembered them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

 

Zach: Wow.

 

Gina: Very deep stuff sometimes.

 

Zach: You bring up I think some really important things, too. One of those, as you just pointed out, is the survivor of sexual abuse as a kid. I think that you have this truly empathetic understanding of your clients.

 

Gina: Yeah.

 

Zach: Would you mind sharing your journey with us from the realities of addiction and mental health to finding healing and hope? I think it builds on what you just talked about with your husband.

 

Gina: Yeah. I start at the very beginning. I was 14 years old when I started having seizures and I had seizures for 20 years. Many times, people like the doctors thought at the time they were epileptic seizures. We know now, they were most likely dissociative. But not knowing how to function in the world to the point where my body had to shut me down, I ended up just kind of going through the timeline of it. By the time I was 19, I was pregnant. I am not married. I had brain surgery. That was just another story. Thank God, they didn’t follow through with what they were going to do with that. But then I ended up in a psych ward for the first time. The next time the doctors would start putting me on drugs Clonidine, Xanax, and Ambien.

 

And then the next thing, I’m in an accident. I get pain pills and I still have issues and go to the hospital for a psych ward. At one point, another almost institutionalized me. But I got addicted to those drugs, not realizing that that was actually happening. I think that’s kind of important to point out. I can remember looking at a medicine cabinet and going, “These are addictive drugs. I wonder how you know if you’re addicted.” I mean, I had no idea that simply becoming dependent on them and not in your body builds up resistance that this is actually what’s happening. When I had my final suicide attempt in 2003, at the time that my mother was dying, they put me in the hospital again, put me in psych ward. It was the first time I was diagnosed with PTSD. After all those years, I was like 37 or something.

 

Finally, having that diagnosis helped. They got me in touch with a really good trauma-informed therapist who helped me go inpatient to an inpatient program for that. And at the time, I still didn’t remember the sexual abuse growing up. I was dealing with the abuse of my ex-husband. But after that time, in order to go inpatient, I had to get off the drugs. And so, they detoxed me upstairs and kept me in balance towards a heart attack. I went through the withdrawal. It was horrible for years. But after that period, the thing was, I was still dealing with the impact of this sexual abuse and trauma growing up and shame that I didn’t know. And so, I was still repeating old patterns. I had trouble keeping some of my teaching jobs and struggled with that until the flashback started.

 

This was like, I guess eleven years ago, of the sexual abuse growing up. I just thought to myself, “My God, I’ve been in recovery all this time and now it’s almost like I have to restart.” And thank God, I was able to get a good experiential trauma-informed therapist who could help me work through that. And on top of that, I also went back to my spirituality, going back and spending more time with God, which is something I did when I was in AA. I was leading the third step and eleven step meetings. I was doing that before my seizures had stopped and things like that. So, I was kind of forced in a way. I sometimes think God forced me to get back to what I needed to learn and experience in order to heal from all of this. When I did that, I started learning that I’m not unlovable.

 

These are the things that happen to me. And like I said earlier, normalizing some of those things when you can speak to somebody who can speak to the brain and how that works and you start understanding that everything that’s happening, you’re experiencing is very normal for what you went through. I had a therapist tell me at one time, you cannot deal with abnormal situations the way you would normal ones. When you’re dealing with sexual abuse and you’re dealing with the intact, you can’t just be with somebody, “Well, walk away and get over it.” It just doesn’t work that way. But having a chance to go deep into my work about healing from trauma was the key that helped me to stop feeling free from the anxiety, start feeling free from shame. I mean, I was just amazed at how much better I felt about myself after doing that work.

 

Zach: I want to ask you a question and I think this has been sort of a theme throughout our conversation today. You brought it up several times about the importance of the relationship with God. You mentioned the word transformation, too. It’s something I think that did that happen over weeks, months, years for you? And why would God centerpiece for you and all that?

 

Gina: It’s funny. I stop and think about that. That’s a really good question because, at the time, I would have said, “Oh, this is taking forever.” When I look back on it, I think there was a bit of a turning point when I started spending time with God. I hired a business coach who I thought was also a very spiritual Christian woman. I just hired her business and she ended up helping me nurture my relationship with God instead of helping me with my business. I was absolutely amazed at the amount, the significant decrease that I felt in anxiety and shame.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I go to my group therapy. I’m gung-ho on my self-care about maintaining my recovery. I’ve been in this group for a good year or so. I started to do this every day. My group leader and my group ask me, “What’s going on with you? You’re so much calmer.” I’ve actually been doing my soaking prayer every day. I literally just put on this soft music and lay with God. I have to say that it’s amazing how much calmer I started feeling and how I started realizing like I started making God super-duper personal. I used to say this when I would need eleven-step meetings. It’s funny because I kind of got away from that.

 

This was like 2004, I’m leaving these meetings about God, and then I went in the other direction and went, “Oh, no. I’m like I have recovered. I’m so great. I’m going to go do all these things.” And I saw all this validation and like, “Oh, I’m not crazy. Now, I have a career.” and all that. I still haven’t resolved all this. So, all these years later, I come back to this and I start realizing that, “Who am I? What is my purpose?” I realized that who I am is God’s child. If God loves me unconditionally, then it doesn’t matter what happened to me. If you think about it, they put Jesus on a cross.

 

Does that make him like a loser? Do you know what I mean? No. A lot of heroes in the world have been assassinated, right? It doesn’t matter. Like, who I am is a loved, unconditional love child of God. That would never change. And so, having that relationship, I literally would close my eyes and picture God and me like walking on the beach and I’d be like, you know what? You can’t wear that goofy toga thing. You got to put on some jeans and a T-shirt. Roll up your jeans and let’s go for a walk. The more personal I made God, the more he was relatable to me. Does that make sense?

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Gina: The more I could receive his gift.

 

Zach: I guess the things that come up for me are these two words, real freedom, and perspective for your life. Do those two speak pretty true to you like today? And how have things been different if you can look back a year or five years from now when you were maybe not as involved with this relationship with some people say higher power which you say God or whatever it’s called?

 

Gina: I will say this much about that fact is, I notice now when I’m slacking on nurturing that relationship. I’ll start to get anxious and I’ll be like, “Oh, man.” I’ve been rushing to the gym in the morning instead of spending more time. And so, I’ll do something. But I really can tell the difference. When you ask me about freedom when I start to feel like I’m shackled like I’m anxious or I’m not free, I would say I can tell for sure that I literally will just shut it down and go lay down with God, or I’ll go for a walk with him, or whatever it is. But I really could say that if I look back on my life a year or five years ago, I did not nurture this because of other things, too. We’re body-minded, spirit. There’s a whole crap kind of stuff out there for mindfulness, mindset, blah, blah, blah. There’s a lot of stuff up there for the body, right?

 

But how much is there for a spirit? And I think when we can get in touch with our spirit and know, like, who is our spirit, what is our spirit, it’s made in the image and likeness of God. It’s God’s child. It’s God’s creation. Like, all of a sudden, you’re dealing with the whole three parts of you. It’s almost like now, my body lets me know when it’s gone away from spending time with God. It’s kind of like thinking about it like this. If your stomach starts to rumble when you get hungry and you’re like, “Oh, I guess I better go to the refrigerator or eat something.” and now I can pay more attention to my body and go, “Oh, man, I feel like crap. I’m scared.” and whatever it is and at least find some relief in what God has to offer me.

 

Zach: Gina, thank you so much for joining us on the Recovery Radio Podcast.

 

Gina: Thank you so much for having me back. I thank God that I inspired other people out there to let them know that they’re not crazy, not lunatic, not unlovable, and there’s absolutely hope. Like if you do the work, it will be amazing.

 

Zach: You can learn more about Gina and her Bridge to Breakthroughs program by visiting her at ginarolkowski.com. That’s ginarolkowski.com. You can also find her on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. And again, if you’re in an abusive situation, you can please visit thehotline.org or call 1800799 SAFE. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Online or call 1800273 T-A-L-K. That’s 1800273 TALK.

 

And at Landmark Recovery, we work to address your needs as it relates to drug and alcohol, substance use and abuse as well as co-occurring disorders. We are not just treating addiction. We are treating the challenges that lead to addiction. Our clinicians specialize in evidence-based addiction treatment, and something unique to us is that we offer double the amount of therapy hours compared to the national average. If you’re ready to live beyond your addictions, check us out online at landmarkrecovery.com as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Catch you all next week. Take care, everybody.

 

Thank you for tuning in to Recovery Radio. New content for this program is available every Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern Time and 09:00 AM Pacific Time, with all episodes available on-demand on the Voice America Health and Wellness Channel and through our content partners iTunes, Stitcher, Tune In, and Google Play Podcasts. Please remember to subscribe, rate, and review so we can continue to create quality content to help save 1 million lives in the next 100 years. You don’t need to struggle through addiction alone. Live the life you’ve dreamed on the road to recovery.

 

About the Author

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Zachary Crouch - LMFT

Zach is the National Business Development Manager at Landmark Recovery. He graduated with a Masters in Family Therapy from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and has worked with addiction in multiple capacities, including: an IOP therapist and operator of an acute medical detoxification unit in Norton Hospital. His passion springs from being in his own recovery process for 14 years.

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