• Coming from a home filled with alcoholism and abuse, Gina knows the grit & grace it takes to not just survive, but to move into a life filled with peace. She trusts that her immediate instinct to follow her intuition (which she calls her light) has been the catalyst to every success she has been blessed to experience. Her greatest passion is to help others find, and trust, the light inside of them—no matter their past.

    With a mom who wasn’t ready to relinquish her party lifestyle, eight-year-old Gina was thrust into a world of alcoholism, drugs, sex, and molestation. Abandoned by daily parental guidance, she was forced to fend for herself and navigate a world that brought more darkness than security. As her childhood was scraped away bit-by-bit, Gina held true to something within that guided her, a light that burned brighter once a brief interaction with a stranger connected her with the truth. Everything will be okay.

    The Parakeet Drawing is a powerful memoir about the ripple effects of a small act of kindness, and how it helped one little girl find the strength within to save herself.

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  • "I am four years old in that photo, half-naked and burned all over. I am propped up into a sitting position. My hair, which had been honey blonde and bouncy with waves, sprawls in a dark, stringy mess. My chest is completely covered with tight, raw bands of scars. My right arm, also constricted by scars, is attached to my torso by contractures. My left wrist contracts in as well. You can see my tiny right ear and my nose unscarred, still sweet and untouched. The lower half of my face, however, is obliterated. My mouth gapes wide open because I have no lower lip to close it with. Fire has devoured my lip, chin and neck. The remaining skin tightly draws my face down into my chest, like a reverse face lift, preventing any emotional expression. The black band in the photo covering my eyes was to keep me from being recognized. If you could see my eyes, though, I would have been trying to smile as best I could. I was a good girl, and I aimed to please. Effort were paid to keep my tiny face in profile and to hide my eyes. But burn scarring is as unique as fingerprints; no two burned people get burned exactly the same way. It was clearly me. This was one of several stunning revelations I uncovered as I began to investigate the fire that nearly killed me a half-century ago."


    Flashback Girl Book

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  • Vera Wilhelmsen was once ill with "incurable" chronic illness as a result from narcissistic abuse from her parents and grandparents. She fought her way out on her own, realized the root causes, cut contact with her entire family and all toxic people in her life and went deep into her own trauma to heal.

    She states on her web site “I was severely ill. Around Christmas 2018 I was preparing to die. I had been bedbound for 3,5 years. No sound - I cried when I heard cutlery. No light. No appetite. Dizzying headaches. Severe,. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for 6 years. I was sometimes crawling from the bed to the bathroom. I had trouble getting food and water in me. My hygiene and shower-routine was nonexistent. But I refused to give up”.

    She is now living her best life and helping to do the same. Her dream is to continue healing herself and help other people heal. She emphasizes “I learnt that you CAN save yourself and you CAN heal yourself. I am not a qualified health professional, but I can share my story and the resources I used, and be a friend”




  • There is significant truth behind the statement "everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about". A conversation with my stepsister reveals how toxic parenting, favoritism, manipulation and emotional immaturity can fracture family ties - usually beyond repair. My stepsister was the scapegoat and I bounced back and forth from golden to lost child. All the assigned roles have their poisonous ripple effects.

    It may help to first check out the episode titled "1 single revelation every BIG STEP she takes".

  • "It is my goal to help other who grew up in homes with Alcoholics. I tell my story in hopes of bringing awareness to Alcoholism. I want to help other children of alcoholics, find community, develop their voices and heal. My work is dedicated to help create community, promote healing and change the attitude around Alcohol." - Colleen Perry


  • Codependency, the habit of gaining your self worth from pleasing others, is something most people know of nowadays. But it’s lesser known opposite, called counterdependency, can be just as much of a problem and is often related to codependency. Those who suffer counterdependency have a dread of ever depending on or needing anyone, at heart of which is an inability to trust. If there was a mantra that all counterdependents have, it would probably be “I don’t need anyone.” It can cause intense (if often well hidden) feelings of loneliness. This can often spiral into depression and anxiety. If it isn’t the loneliness that causes severe low moods, it’s often the hidden low self-esteem that counterdependents suffer from, which is one of the leading pathways to major depressive episodes. I appeared strong, secure, hardworking, and successful on the outside. On the inside, I was ashamed, insecure, and fearful. Counterdependents may function well in the world of business, but are often insecure in the world of relationships. Frequently they have poor social and emotional skills, are afraid to get close to others, and avoid intimate situations as much as possible. They also create a lot of defenses to prevent anyone from seeing their secret weaknesses, neediness and vulnerability. I put on a good front to prove that I was okay and do not need anything from anyone. These defensive tactics create feelings of loneliness, alienation, and a sense of “quiet desperation.”


  • On my healing journey, I wrote (but never sent) a letter to my toxic parents. Journal therapy originated in the 1960s with psychologist Dr. Ira Progoff's Intensive Journal method. With his developments, the therapeutic potential of journal writing moved into public view. One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy way to express yourself. This makes a journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health. It can make us more aware (and self-aware!) and help us detect sneaky, unhealthy patterns in our thoughts and behaviors. It allows us to take more control over our lives and puts things in perspective. Further, it can help us shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one, especially about ourselves. All the experts encourage us to write freely. Silence your inner critic and ignore the urge to edit your work. Therapeutic journal writing is not meant to be pretty or grammatically correct; it is meant to be real.

    Journaling can help you:

    Manage anxiety and reduce stressCope with depressionCalm your mind, examine your thoughts and shift your perspectiveReduce rumination and promote action

    Link to poem

  • Emotional abuse is a way to control another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate another person. In general, a relationship is emotionally abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviors that wear down a person's self-esteem and undermine their mental health. Children often lack the perspective to be able to identify the abusive elements of their emotional relationship with their parents, and it's only in adulthood that they're more able to detect them.

    The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal. ~ Astrid Alauda

    Forms of emotional abuse

    Ignoring and withholding attention and affection, including the silent treatmentDisapproving, dismissing, and condescending looks, comments, behaviorThreats of abandonment – physical and/or emotionalInvalidation – inability or refusal to acknowledge the child’s feelings or experienceCovertly or overtly make you feel in the way and unwantedBlame child for their problems or circumstancesProjecting their pain and disappointment onto childrenEncouraging overdependence and crushing individuality Intentionally undermined my ability to take care of myself and reinforced self-doubtNegative comparisons to siblings or peers – creating solid foundation of deficiencyExpressions of disgust that emphasize and emphasizes rejectionConstant switching from engulfing to ignoring, intrusive to indifferent, depending on moods

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  • Shame is often referred to as “the toxic cousin of guilt. Guilt says “I’ve done something bad”. Shame says “I am bad”. Shame may show up in some of these ways: feeling inferior, defective, flawed, worthless, phony, and unlovable. For codependents, shame can lead to control, caretaking, and dysfunctional, nonassertive communication. Shame creates many fears and anxieties that make relationships difficult, especially intimate ones. Many people sabotage themselves in work and relationships because of these fears. You aren’t assertive when shame causes you to be afraid to speak your mind, take a position, or express who you are. You blame others because you already feel so bad about yourself that you can’t take responsibility for any mistake or misunderstanding. Codependents are afraid to get close because they don’t believe they’re worthy of love, or that once known, they’ll disappoint the other person. The unconscious thought might be that “I’ll leave before you leave me.” Fear of success and failure may limit job performance and career options. When we feel guilty, we are looking outward and seek to reverse the harm we caused. When we feel ashamed, we turn our attention inward, focusing on the chaos churning inside us and are unable to recognize what is going on around us. Authentic parental connection, unconditional love and attunement from the day you are born is a foundation for self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love. Too many of us don’t get that. Instead, we get ignored, rejected, criticized, judged, belittled, controlled and manipulated and grow up into adults that feel undeserving, inadequate, angry and inferior…all leading to shame. I perceived everything through a shame filter, even when it wasn’t intended that way, it distorted my perception, created a manic hypervigilance to my environment and blocked authentic connection with myself and the people in my life. Compassion is the anecdote to shame. Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. It may require revisiting shame-inducing events or past messages and re-evaluating them from a new perspective. Usually it takes an empathic therapist or counselor to create that space so that you can incrementally tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates. When we step back from momentary experiences that trigger shame and observe it without self-loathing, we are strengthening our capacity for self-reflection. Toxic parents shamed the real you into oblivion. Awareness and acceptance will expose the “you are not good enough lie” that we were told by people who didn’t know better. When you bring compassion to your daily thought process, you’ll be empowered and liberated by a shift in your thinking and well-being and you will feel less isolated.




  • Comparing ourselves to others allows them to drive our behavior. I often worked too hard to determine what others expected so I can make sure I fit in. I was constantly feeling less than, wanting to be greater than – leading to an ultra-competitive and unhealthy mindset.

    You can be anything but you can’t be everything. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re often comparing their best features against our average ones. Not only do we naturally want to be better than them, the unconscious realization that we are not is self-destructive.

    There is one thing that you’re better at than other people: being you. This is the only game you can really win. Once you acknowledge that lifebecomes about being a better version of yourself. And when that happened for me my effort and energy was directed at being awake and aware and raising my emotional IQ. I became more content, experienced a freedom that is hard to put into words, accepting and graceful rather than bitter and angry. Comparison fostered a false identity – once that identity went away I was able to focus on the present moment and be authentic.

  • When parents emotionally ignore children, they feel invisible, invalidated, worthless, and disconnected from their true self. Parents with unhealed emotional wounds are unable to authentically connect with their children and this lack of connection makes children chronically question their value. They then turn to OUTSIDE forms of validation in an attempt to block feeling the deep pain of rejection. And then grow up to unconsciously teach their children to do the same thing. It’s a horrible addictive cycle. If you grew up believing you had work hard and prove yourself to be seen and loved, you will perpetuate these toxic behavior patterns through your adult life in the form of unhealthy relational dynamics with yourself, your partners, your career, your social circle and your children.

  • Marisa shares her story of surviving and healing from childhood emotional, mental, and physical abuse through Instagram (@littlebent_notbroken) to help others in a similar situation or with a similar background feel seen and heard, and to validate their experiences and emotions. Covert abuse in the form of narcissism or gaslighting can disconnect the victim from their inherent inner voice and their intuition. It is Marisa’s mission to help other survivors reclaim their birthright of self-love and compassion and empower them to live their lives full of freedom, joy, and independence.


  • The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We talk ourselves into believing that we're not good enough. And, as a result, these thoughts drag down our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers. Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes. Many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our physical health, and affirmations are like exercises for our mind and soul. These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently and better. Generally speaking, validation builds relationships and helps ease upset feelings. Knowing that you are understood and that others accept your emotions and thoughts is powerful. Validation is like relationship glue. Self-Validating your thoughts and emotions will help you calm yourself and manage them more effectively. Validating yourself will help you accept and better understand yourself, which leads to a stronger identity and better skills at managing intense emotions. Self-validation helps you find wisdom. What I am hoping to accomplish with lyrics is to create affirmations and provide validation and put them both to music so the same way a song gets inside your head – I hope the meaning behind the lyrics do that as well.

    LW Music

  • Gail Ferguson Jones is an award-winning journalist, speaker, podcaster and family recovery coach. She is a recovering codependent who survived the trauma and chaos of three generations of alcoholism in her family: maternal grandmother, father and husband, all of whom died of the disease. After hitting a personal rock bottom about eight years ago, she embarked on a healing journey and is dedicated to sharing the beauty, freedom and empowerment of recovery.

    Gail's Buttrfly Effect program offers peer-to-peer coaching, specializing in recovery from codependency. Learn more or subscribe to her newsletter at http://www.buttrflyeffect.com/ or contact her at info@buttrflyeffect.com.

    Link to podcast

  • Toxic Family Dynamics

    Splitting: Planting seeds where jealousy resentment, and anger will flourish.Pitting: Setting family members against each other, usually through dishonesty.Smear Campaigns: Premediated efforts to ruin another person's reputation and character usually by lying and deceit.Chronic disrespect and contempt.Becomes angry and enraged when you assert boundaries. Refusal to apologize.Takes no responsibility, blames others.Controlling & Guilt trips.Overt and covert verbal abuse.

    5 Toxic Family Roles

    The “Hero” or “Responsible Child” -T hey are self-sufficient, perfectionistic, and over-achievers. They are afraid of becoming like their parent, so they learn to be the exact opposite. If the hero has a narcissistic parent, they are often that parent’s favorite child. As a result, the hero relies on performing well in order to feel and receive love.

    The “Scapegoat” or “problem” The scapegoat or trouble maker is often angry and defensive. They tell the truth by acting out the family’s problems that are usually denied at home. The scapegoat is often the child that toxic parents are the most ashamed of. They come off as rebellious, distrustful, and cynical, but beneath their hard exterior, they are the most emotionally sensitive. The scapegoat has been hurt and damaged by their abusive parent and can be self-destructive.

    The “Lost Child” or “Dreamer” - They are often invisible in their family and try to cope with their family’s struggles by disappearing and focus their attention on reading books, daydreaming, or watching movies. The lost child is typically very shy and enjoys having a lot of space and solitude. Because they withdraw themselves from others, they struggle with developing important social skills and relationships with others, and often suffer from low self-esteem.

    The “Mascot” or “Class Clown” - Typically known as “the cute one,” they are always ready to lighten the mood by cracking jokes or putting on an entertaining show for others. Often, the mascot feels powerless from the family’s dysfunctions and tries to cope by breaking the anger, tension, and conflict with fun and humor. Behind the mascot’s cheerful demeanor, they usually suffer from anxiety and depression. Mascot children often struggle with low self-esteem issues and can exhibit workaholic tendencies to make up for their insecurities. Mascot children enjoy helping others with their problems because it’s a way to distract them from their own. T

    The “Enabler” or “Caretaker”
    The enabler often justifies the behavior of the toxic or addicted parent. They are the martyr and good at masking the family’s downfalls and dysfunctions, making sure that the public sees that they’re a happy, well-rounded family. It’s painful for the caretaker to come to terms with what happens behind the scenes. I



  • Definition of dis-ease - a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.

    Early experiences of stress and trauma require soothing by caring, consistent parental figures. When that care isn’t available early in life or when stressors are chronic, it can wreak havoc with our worldview, making us feel unsafe and hyper-vigilant.

    Psychotherapy helped me understand that I can do something to repair the damage caused by generational dysfunction. I took a big step back back, which is a surprisingly rare act, and studied the inner workings of the mind and how it affected my spirit and soul. Understanding thoughts that produce negative behaviors, emotional triggers, and lead to bad decisions helped me move forward on a healing journey.


  • Gaslighting — any sort of statement that makes someone doubt their own feelings or perceptions — is a common tactic used in abusive relationships. But it's also present in many kinds of relationships; not limited to romantic relationships, it may occur in parent-child ones, as well. Once you can spot the signs your parents are gaslighting you, you may come to realize that this type of behavior is practically normalized — although it definitely shouldn't be.

    People who gaslight other people in their lives may have a psychological disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. A person with this type of mental disorder has an inflated sense of self and needs and craves attention but may secretly feel vulnerable and ashamed of themselves — she or he also feels intense hurt when someone criticizes them, which explains why it’s often so difficult for narcissist parents to even realize they are gaslighting their kids. If left unchecked, long-term effects of gaslighting can leave the child feeling highly insecure, bitter, inflexible, anxious and aggressive. They grow up to be unsure of their place in the world, develop inferiority issues or seem highly paranoid and mistrusting of others.

    During the first stage of development from birth to eighteen months, a child learns to trust their parent to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, support and nurturing. When a parent meets these needs, the child learns to trust; when it is not met, the child develops mistrust. Once the trust has been established, the child will naturally believe the parent over their own intuition.

    A parent who gaslights their child is manipulatively deceptive. They take advantage of their position of trust and authority over the child to meet their own dysfunctional needs. The child, whose brain and emotions are still in the developmental stages, doesn’t have the ability to see their parent’s behavior as abusive. Rather, the child trusts the parent even more and begins to believe that they are in fact crazy. Sometimes this process is done in ignorance, as their parents did the same behavior to them as children. Other times, it is done intentionally to keep the child emotionally stunted so the parent can remain in control.

  • The phrase “Gray Rock Method” was first coined by blogger Skylar in this article on her website: https://180rule.com/the-gray-rock-method-of-dealing-with-psychopaths/ after a fateful conversation she had with a complete stranger. You should definitely go and read that article after you’ve finished here.

    Whether you play a big role such as a partner or family member, or a smaller part such as an occasional acquaintance, adopting the Gray Rock method is an effective way to get yourself written out of the series altogether.

    Just imagine watching a scene from a show or film in which one character gives nothing in the way of emotion or interesting dialogue. How boring would that be? You’d probably switch over to something else, right?

    There’s an old saying that is quite relevant here: you can’t get blood from a stone.

    In this case, you are the stone (or rock) and the blood is any behavior that provides the narcissist with the supply they crave.

    Keep dialogue to an absolute minimum. If you don’t have to talk to them, don’t.

    Never talk about your personal life, even the smallest details.

    They will hook their claws into any morsel of information you provide and use it to try and further the conversation and extract narcissistic supply from you.

    They want to know what you value in your life now. They envy what you have (regardless of what it is), and if they can’t have it, they will seek to take it from you somehow.

    Remember, they are driven by their egos, and any suggestion that you are better off without them or that they are in some way inferior to you will be seen as an affront to their identity.

    They see themselves as above everyone else in every regard, and if you imply that you are doing better than they are, it will enrage them.

    Do not ask them questions.

    The Gray Rock Method is not always easy, but it is often effective. You might want to scream at them at times, but by biting your tongue and not flinching when they try to get a response, you will starve them of the drama they feed off.

    Rather than go without it (which is simply not an option for them), a narcissist will look elsewhere for a new source of supply.


  • Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother's Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son's Addiction, in 2016.

    Annie's Mission: There are more people affected by addiction than addicted. My mission is to promote healthy dialogue and to offer support, information and hope to the stressed out, affected family, partners and friends (the “entourage”) of those in the grips of addiction, alcoholism and SUD. I believe no one should have to go through it alone.





    Other than being known as "Elliot's Mom," Annie Highwater is a long distance runner, health and wellness advocate and a fanatical researcher of behavioral science, family pathology and concepts of dysfunction and conflict. Annie resides in Columbus, Ohio where she has worked in the insurance industry. She also enjoys writing, yoga and visiting her son in Southern California as often as possible.

  • For years (actually decades!) Carol didn’t know what she wanted to do. She had been working in the corporate world for over 20 years, most recently in a leadership role at a Fortune 5 company.

    Although she worked hard and was consistently recognized and promoted, she somehow knew that she was meant to do something different. she felt stuck in a life that didn’t fit.

    In early 2018, she left her corporate job and made the leap into the unknown. After doing months of intense inner work with her coach, Michael Sandler, and reconnecting to her higher wisdom, she discovered that she could combine her life and business experience with her soul-aligned interests. She knew she had a talent for building thriving, productive teams and helping people to see their unique strengths and gifts, but it took a while for her Soul-aligned purpose to emerge

    She became the creator and Co-founder of The Divine Breadcrumb, a global online community and podcast, which showcases amazing people shining their light around the world. She started writing a blog to share her own story. These are things she couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. But as often is the case, the Universe had an even bigger plan for her than she had for herself.

    She is now a certified Inspire Nation coach, focusing on awareness, empowerment & transition. She helps her clients to clear old patterns & beliefs, connect to their heart intelligence, re-wire the mind and discover meaning and purpose. It’s when we do this inner work that we can move forward towards our goals with confidence.

    Her Soul knew what she would be doing long before she did, and she is grateful that she followed the Divine map that was laid out before her.

    She loves traveling, exploring new cultures, being in nature and helping people on their own paths. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Hofstra University. She lives in Massachusetts with her rambunctious and hilarious rescue cats, Petey and Emmett.