News

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation that night.

Last night, we hosted our second meet-up at the month, this one at The Commons. There were many returning faces that we haven’t seen in a while, including some members of the local Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) chapter.

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle. [BACA]

THEMES

  • Forgiveness and letting go: there was a lot of talk about letting go, forgiveness and surrendering. This concept was described in a profound way by one of our board members.

“I call it being in non-resistance, accepting exactly what’s going on right now.” — Sheryl Anderson

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Helping is healing: something we always circle back to, how helping others actually helps ourselves too. Volunteering your time, mentoring someone—there are so many ways you can help others and find a purpose. There have been numerous studies on this, including some noted benefits in this article from Mental Floss.

Looking for more meaning in your day-to-day existence? Studies show that volunteering enhances an individual’s overall sense of purpose and identity—particularly if they no longer hold a life-defining role like “worker” or “parent.”  [Mental Floss]

OUR MEET-UP STRUCTURE

Because our meet-ups are growing each month (which we are so grateful for), we now have the need to provide more structure to these meetings so everyone gets more out of them. Last night we introduced a few rules and ideas for the meetings:

  • Please no cross-talk. We want to be respectful of people’s stories and their time, so please allow others to finish their piece, before adding on.
  • We encourage participants and members of our community to reach out to new joiners and offer to support them or be a mentor of sorts. This type of thing is a successful structure in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with their ‘sponsor program’.
  • As BFF members, we are at the meetings to facilitate a safe conversation, but a reminder that we are not therapists.
  • If you need someone to talk to between meetings, please reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre or call their 24-hour line at 403-266-HELP.

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation that night.

Last night, we hosted the first monthly meet-up at Serenity Now Wellness, a location that we have the honour of using once a month, in addition to The Commons. We will host at Serenity Now the first Wednesday of every month, and a second meet-up at The Commons, the schedule will vary. We are so grateful to host meet-ups twice a month!

ABOUT SERENITY WELLNESS

Tessa Martin is a psychologist and the owner of Serenity Now Wellness, she shared how all of their practitioners are trauma-informed.

At Serenity Now, you will have access to our team of Calgary psychologists, mental health counselors, massage therapists, dietitians, and yoga therapists who are dedicated to creating a peaceful and relaxing therapeutic environment, enabling you to work through a diverse range of issues.

Last night, had some new faces and some inspiring regulars. It was a night of many gifts and many lessons for us all, but there were some recurring themes to make note of.

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Mike Terry: Terry is a veteran biking across Canada for veterans. Recently, he shared a video on suicide that hit home for a veteran at our meet-up.

I want to carry the message that we as veterans are all connected, that we are all worthy of happiness and purpose. I want every veteran to know that it is ok to struggle. And that no one of us needs to face our demons alone or fear judgement for them. – Mike Terry

  • Tools on dealing with triggers (as shared by the group):
    • Gratitude journal
    • Writing
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Boxing/fitness
    • Music
    • Food/diet
    • Massage
    • Reading
    • Photography
    • Nature
    • Animals
    • Support/friendships

RESOURCES

  • EMDR: EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is an integrative psychotherapy approach. This type of therapy uses a patient’s own rapid eye movements, to take emotionally charged memories out of traumatic events. Using eye movements and “tricking your brain”, therapists can essentially reprogram the memory of a traumatic event to more positive or neutral emotions. [Learn more about how it works]
  • ‘The Body Keeps the Score’: this is a book on the body’s interaction with trauma, written by Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. [Amazon]

OUR MEET-UP STRUCTURE

Because our meet-ups are growing each month (which we are so grateful for), we now have the need to provide more structure to these meetings so everyone gets more out of them. Last night we introduced a few rules and ideas for the meetings:

  • Please no cross-talk. We want to be respectful of people’s stories and their time, so please allow others to finish their piece, before adding on.
  • We encourage participants and members of our community to reach out to new joiners and offer to support them or be a mentor of sorts. This type of thing is a successful structure in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with their ‘sponsor program’.
  • As BFF members, we are at the meetings to facilitate a safe conversation, but a reminder that we are not therapists.
  • If you need someone to talk to between meetings, please reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre or call their 24-hour line at 403-266-HELP.

UPCOMING GOLF TOURNAMENT

Our mission is to provide survivors of traumatic life events with the treatment and support needed to reclaim their lives. Our goal is to pave the road for trauma healing and create valuable conversations about mental health, trauma and abuse. Removing the stigma, starting the healing, one day at a time.

One of the ways we are doing this is through our Therapy Grant Program, which allows approved candidates to receive designated therapy services, paid for via our foundation.

The fundraising goal of our tournament is to raise $25,000, that will enable 33 individuals to access therapy grants.

Full schedule available on the website!
18 holes | Prizes & swag | Lunch & Banquet Dinner | Silent Auction & Celebrity Golfers

Confirmed celebrity guests include:

  • Theo Fleury
  • Curtis Glencross
  • Mike Commodore
  • Gord Bamford
  • Colin Patterson
  • Dana Murzyn
  • Brent Krahn
  • Sean Selmser
  • Russ Romaniuk
  • Dwayne Hay
  • Mike Cvic

Sponsorships are still available and we encourage you to register and help us spread the word!

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night.

On Wednesday, we had some special guests, some new faces and some veteran staples. It was a night of many gifts and many lessons for us all, but there were some recurring themes to make note of.

Initial thoughts to circle back to: 

  • “They” don’t need to see what they’ve done, for you to get better.
  • Forgiveness is an inside job.
  • Remember that healing is a journey, not a destination. There are many peaks and valleys on this ride, but celebrate every small step forward.

Themes: 

  • Spirituality: When it comes to our healing journey, there’s one aspect that oftentimes gets overlooked—spirituality. Spirituality often gets mistaken for religion, but spirituality is broader than religion, it’s a simple belief system that helps us connect to ourselves, others and things beyond us.

“To me, spirituality is all about relationship. Most addicts are traumatized in their family of origin situations, so what they really lose faith in is relationship. That’s a setup for addiction. The trauma causes emotional pain for which the best answer is spirituality.” — Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

  • Fight or flight: this is our body’s physical response to stress, also known as acute stress response. This Psych Central article explains a bit more:

The fight or flight response is characterized by feeling bodily sensations of stress — for instance, an increased heart rate and faster breathing. You can feel a pressure in your chest as though something is pressing down on you. You may also have heightened sensory sensitivity — you’re more sensitive to sights or sounds around you. [Psych Central]

  • Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a feeling, not an action. Forgiveness can be difficult for many reasons: we haven’t let go of our anger, we want to harm those who’ve harmed us, or simply the notion that forgiving will free our offenders from justice. When battling with being able to forgive, it’s important to note that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean justifying the actions of your offender. [Read more]
  • “Remember, real forgiveness does not make excuses for the other person’s hurtful behaviour. Forgiveness is a decision that you make with your whole self after you have done your emotional work.” — Kim Barthel, from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ 

Our special guests, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA): 

We were so honoured to be joined by members of BACA in Calgary, and we had the pleasure of hearing a bit more about what they do and some of their powerful stories of their ‘heroes’. If you’re unfamiliar with the amazing work BACA does for children, here’s a bit about them:

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.

Because of the work Breaking Free Foundation does on the Victor Walk every year, this group is particularly special to us, so we thank them for making the time to join us.

Stay tuned for our next meet-up date!

My ex-husband showed up drunk at his Christmas with our kids. It really, really sucked. I have three kids; one cried and yelled, one would not acknowledge him, and one disappeared until things calmed down. Something in me broke.

I have spent years protecting both him and our kids, in order to keep his healing journey safe, and so as not to embarrass or expose my kids. While I believe I did the right thing for the kids’ sake, I also ignored that I am part of this life experience too, and it is part of my story. Does it need to be public? No, it doesn’t, but in my life purpose of helping others, my experiences can bring meaning, help and hope to others. This is part of my story and I should be able to share it as such.

Pain comes in many forms. Watching my kids that night propelled my pain to a whole new level. There was nothing I could do to make any part of it okay, because it simply wasn’t. We were able to salvage some of the evening, but when I went to bed that night, I was shattered. Do I understand why his drinking has escalated over the past year? I sure do. Does that mean I turn a blind eye to its effect on others? A resounding NO.

Some lessons from that sh** show night:

  1. I realized a couple of ways I’ve been enabling bad behaviour.
  2. My kids (all teenagers) still need me to be their safe place, and to provide a safe place. While I fully recognize I have done a great job, for the most part, this showing up drunk thing is fairly new water to navigate.
  3. It reminded me that I’m not always strong, and that’s okay. I have a reputation for being kind, compassionate and resilient, but there are just some crappy moments that I’m allowed to be upset about. If I don’t handle it perfectly, I will still survive. One of my greatest fears is falling apart and not being able to support my kids’ emotions through the traumas they’ve been repeatedly exposed to.
  4. I am not alone. I know that, but I sure felt alone that night. It’s the holidays, who wants to ruin someone else’s Christmas?! When I woke up the next morning, I reached out to a friend. I vented, she listened, we talked, and I hung up feeling like I could carry on.
  5. I can change how I do things, I can still be kind and compassionate while drawing strong lines and boundaries for my own mental health, so my job as the mom isn’t derailed. After all, if I’m not okay and don’t take care of myself, I am not teaching my kids how to navigate the deep, dark waters of life either.

Simply put, what I allow is what will continue.

My wish for you and for me is that we will take time during what can be a difficult season to reflect on who we are, how far we’ve come, and how the challenges we face give us the opportunity to become bitter or better.

 

You may have heard members of the Breaking Free family reference a “banana”, and you are probably wondering… what the heck we are talking about! What started out as a bit of a joke, has turned out to be the best daily reminder for myself when that “not good enough” sign shows up in neon lights.

Last year, when we were in Whistler for the Victor Walk Documentary premiere, a few of us were attempting to pose for a selfie, and Shandra said, “I hate myself in photos”. It was a very honest statement, and one that I’m sure many people can relate to (myself included). I immediately scolded her (in the nicest way possible), and jokingly said that anytime she said something bad about herself, I’d say “banana” as code to snap out of it. We had a good chuckle about it, but that word has stayed with us to this day.

Trauma teaches us many things about ourselves, and a big one is that we are not good enough. I know for myself, I’ve struggled with my “not good enough” stuff a lot lately. “Will anyone ever love me? Am I good enough at my job? Does anyone need me?” That yucky track can be like a loop in my head. But when that loop gets going, I stop myself and yell “banana!” Many times, out loud, which can make for some interesting scenes, I’m sure. It is just a small reminder that I am lovable and good enough and valuable. It always does the trick at getting me out of my own head.

I also really appreciate when my BFF family tosses a “banana” at me too. If they catch me saying something negative about myself, someone (usually Dawn or Shandra) is quick to yell “banana!”

I am sharing this story, because we all get that yucky “not good enough” feeling from time to time, and maybe you can get some help from the banana too.

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we’re going to start posting these resource blogs the day following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night before.

  • Self-care ideas include journaling or writing, many people seconded having a gratitude journal. Physical activity can be a great asset as well, and reading was also noted as an effective tool for self-care.
  • Changing perspective led us into a great conversation about how thinking about our trauma from another person’s point of view, can really reshape how we think about that memory. Try it for yourself!
  • EMDR is an incredibly powerful tool for dealing with trauma and PTSD. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is an integrative psychotherapy approach. This type of therapy uses a patient’s own rapid eye movements, to take emotionally charged memories out of traumatic events. Using eye movements and “tricking your brain”, therapists can essentially reprogram the memory of a traumatic event to more positive or neutral emotions.
  • Complex PTSD: we were led into this discussion surrounding another branch of PTSD, Complex PTSD. This article gives some great insight:

Unlike formally recognized PTSD diagnoses, C-PTSD doesn’t stem from a singular event, but is instead the result of sustained abuse and powerlessness, from which the victim has little hope of escape.

“C-PTSD occurs when the hyper-vigilance of PTSD is accompanied by a breakdown in the ability to self-regulate,” said Julian Ford, a psychology and law professor who heads the Center for Trauma Recovery at the University of Connecticut. “Intense emotions or emotional deadness will overwhelm the person’s ability to cope. Mentally, they will suffer lapses in consciousness or in problem solving or judgment. And interpersonally, they will have extreme conflict in or withdraw from relationships.” [Vice]

The Breaking Free Foundation Golf Tournament is coming up on September 21, and the push is on for more golfers! If you don’t golf, you can simply join us for dinner. Details and registration online here.