The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study was one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study was a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego from 1995 to 1997. More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members underwent a comprehensive physical examination and chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. To date, more than 50 scientific articles have been published and more than100 conference and workshop presentations have been made on this study.
The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.
Almost two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems such as Alcoholism and alcohol abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, fetal death, health-related quality of life, illicit drug use, ischemic heart disease (IHD) , liver disease, risk for intimate partner violence, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), smoking, suicide attempts, unintended pregnancies, early initiation of smoking, early initiation of sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy.
Looking at the more than 250 men and women who have come into No More Secrets (NMS) since 1999 I can concur that the ACE reality is at the epicenter of the dysfunction that I witness and my NMS folks all experience. I break down the ACE abuse into two simple yet powerful main categories: overt and covert abuse. It has been my experience that often times the covert abuse is harder to see and more mercurial in nature to deal with. The covert abuse is masked inside of a Hallmark card family, Kodak Moments, a nuclear family, a nice house with stuff and a good education. It is so much more difficult to wrap your head, heart and hands around those ACE events when they are camouflaged by the outward appearance of normalcy. Overt abuse on the other hand has a built in perpetrator, a time and a place. As painful as it is, the ACEs that are in plain sight for those who choose to look can be easier to heal from. Everyone who comes into my office is broken, but being broken is not the issue, and being broken is NOT ENOUGH.
People never do recovery at the speed of light or the speed of sound. The only real qualifier for personal growth is the speed of pain and yet that often times is still not enough. The push for recovery often goes away after the immediate crisis has past, again still not enough pain. So if being broken and being in pain is not enough, ultimately what will it take? The answer is easy: being broken open!
As it says in the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous Basic Text on page 79 “What we needed was to achieve some understanding about ourselves, as much as possible without fear, pride or reservations. We needed to find some bedrock from which to assay, without illusion, who and what we had been in the world…” and in order to do that we have to be open, honest and willing, to be vulnerable and transparent. That is what I mean when I say broken open!
The correlations between the ACE and sex and love addict are clear to see. Our rudimentary inability to create healthy and whole relationships with ourselves and with others prevent us from having a balanced life where we don’t harm ourselves or anyone else, where we mean what we say and say what we mean, stay emotionally sane, safe and behaviorally sober plus live to good purpose under all conditions.
Only when someone is ready to be broken open can a person do enough repair work to lead an addiction free life. I have watched many people transition from being broken to being broken open and in time becoming healed.
So for all those who are teetering on the edge of recovery or on the edge of despair, there is hope. Set your armor and fear aside and take a chance, a chance at a new life. The choice is clear, stay broken or heal.
You are a phone call away of turning your life around.
We are here to help you.