It has been my pleasure to review 'The Recovery Toolkit' on it's final leg of the blog tour.
The 12 week plan which supports survivors on their journey from Domestic Abuse is aimed specifically for individuals who have already left an abusive relationship and are starting out on their journey to recovery. This is a self help approach that you can work through at your own pace.
The book is written by Author Sue Penna, who also runs a Group Programme with the same title. There are some great comments from participants who have attended Sues 12 week Recovery Toolkit programme, sharing their views of the programme and the positive impact it has had on their lives.
Throughout the book, Author, Women's advocate, domestic abuse survivor and friend of A Positive Start CIC Jennifer Gilmore, shares snippets of her experiences of the Recovery Toolkit and how the programme has helped her on her own journey to recovery and beyond.
Have you left an abusive relationship?
Are you still carrying guilt?
Do you still think what happened to you was your fault?
Do you find dealing with new people in your life something to be scared about?
If you have answered 'yes' to the above questions, - you are not alone and it
is my belief that you are likely to find this book helpful!
A survivor of Domestic Violence myself- albeit nearly 30 years ago now, I am passionate about educating on the subjects of abuse and trauma and share the authors vision for a society that is trauma informed. On a personal level, I was interested to learn how the programme compared with my own journey of recovery. There was nothing like this book available back then - if there had been, it is possible it wouldn't have taken me nearly so long to get my life back on track after the abuse, or at the very least, it may have made the process of recovery less confusing.
My initial impression of the book when it arrived in the post, was how incredibly soft it feels to hold. The cover is 'plush', almost suede like; the book itself is small and compact making it easy to carry in your pocket or a handbag. While size and feel have no bearing on the content, I need to consider things like this because I always have so many books, folders and bags to lug around, I would struggle with a heavy hardback; top marks for design!
My first thought when I started reading this book was - 'Sue has written this from the heart and it feels very personal. Sue is connecting with you the reader directly which in my opinion is really important when you are the one seeking support with recovery. You need to know that the person who is supporting you fully understands what you are going through, that they can empathize with your situation - and this certainly comes across in this book.
In Week One we immediately explore the topic of 'How We Think', which for me, was without question one of the most important lessons of my journey. Realizing how my thoughts impacted on my life and the decisions that I made or more to the point - didn't make I just 'went along with' believing that things just happened to me outwith my control, was a major light bulb moment. I was delighted to discover 'How We Think' at the very beginning of this book.
I remember sitting nervously in a solicitors waiting room back in the early nineties; there was a framed poster on the wall depicting the quote;
'If you think you can or if you think you cannot - you are probably right' ! (Henry Ford)
At that time I had never come across the saying before and I was completely blown away by it and what it meant for me. It made perfect sense. I had become so used to the abusive negative environment where nothing was possible and everything was a problem, always of my making. An environment that was constantly critical and dismissive and so when introduced to this positive new perspective that hadn't previously been available to me, it was a real turning point for me. Sue deals with the subject of How we think brilliantly. She explains in plain language Negative Automatic Thoughts ( NATs ) and how these patterns of thinking impact on our daily lives. This really needs to be taught in schools in my opinion.
In the Senses workshops at A Positive Start CIC we explain how 'A human beings first thought tends to be a negative one, and how once you are made aware of it, you have the option to stand back and decide what your second thought is going to be! if you can change your mind - you can change anything!
Another really important subject for me which Sue has addressed in this book, is one that I have rarely come across outside of Psychology; 'Cognitive Dissonance', which again, Sue explains simply and clearly without jargon. The thought in mind when I was reading this section was;
'If only I had access to this book back then! - how much easier recovery would have been!
One of the most distressing situations I encountered after the abuse had ended, during my own recovery was the utter confusion of not knowing my own mind. I remember, only a few months after leaving, my children and I had been re-homed in an unfamiliar part of the town in an attempt to keep us safe! It sounds utterly ridiculous now, but at the time, the following was an overwhelming and painful experience. My children and I were walking home from the shops when I came across a fledgling chick on the pavement- it was alive but only just. We looked for a nest but couldn't find one. My then 5 year old scooped it up in her in hands and we placed it under the buggy in a clean disposable nappy that I had with me for my youngest child. All the while confusion was descending as my mind searched for answers.
I was trying hard to determine whether or not saving a tiny dying chick sparrow was the right or the wrong thing to do In this world. I was brought up as a Christian to respect all of Gods creatures, including the life of a tiny chick. However, the voice of my abuser was rattling around in my head, yelling at me that this was the most stupid of ideas, that I was an idiot, and this was a completely pointless exercise. In my heart I wanted to try to save the chick, if only for the sake of protecting my children - but I could not work out whether in the scheme of things, this little chicks life was important or not! Should I try to save it or should I leave it to die. It was excruciating and ridiculous in equal measure. So much so, it was one of the very few times I actually reached out for help - I called my Mum from a phone box. I begged her to tell me the answers to ease my mind - "Does it matter? Is it just nature’s way? Am I crazy? 'What if it dies?'- I sobbed down the phone.
I battled with these two conflicting ideas all the way home - tears streaming down my face as I struggled to understand what was happening to me and why. I couldn't figure out what was right or wrong.
I was 25 years of age at the time, I had never even heard of Cognitive Dissonance. I like that Sue explains this in her book - further evidence of her expertise and understanding.
Throughout my own recovery, I was constantly searching for answers; desperate to learn what had happened and why. Sadly, at that time, more often that not I felt that no one really understood. Rather than supported, I regularly felt judged and labelled by the very people; services, judges, police officers etc, who I imagined would and should have known better.
Having lived on high alert for so long, I was highly sensitive and could sense when I was being judged in a negative light by others. I often felt the saw me as being stupid, unstable or less than, which reinforced my own sense of worthlessness. I was ashamed and embarrassed just being me back then, but I had no understanding that the way I thought about myself was in many ways the issue. It was only when I was able to be honest with myself, some ten years later when I began to consider how I actually felt about me. Looking within at the person I truly was I began to see how badly I treated myself, how little respect I had for me and how often I was punishing myself! Only by recognising and dealing with this was I able to forgive myself and start liking myself again.
I particularly enjoyed the sections of this book that are dedicated to self-care, self-esteem and self-dialogue. There are exercises and a thought diary that will help you to track your progress, help you to learn 'all about you' - about how you think and feel, all designed to help you reconnect with yourself and learn to love yourself again. This is a great book and one I'd recommend.
In the Recovery Toolkit, Sue has brought the important lessons together in this book, lessons that that took me the best part of 30 years to workout and master. By dividing them up into 12 weekly bite sized chunks, The Recovery Toolkit makes it so much easier to understand and process. It shouldn't take 30 years to recover from a 6 year abusive relationship, and with the help of The Recovery Toolkit, it really doesn't need to!
In closing, I can say this is one book that you can definitely judge by its cover, it is a self help recovery toolkit full of useful information and valuable lessons that will support you on your journey. Please don't just take my word for it, judge for yourself and grab your copy on amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0881TWTBK/r
Alternatively you can enter to win yourself a signed copy;
The Recovery Toolkit on Amazon
(universal link): http://mybook.to/TheRecoveryToolkit
Meet Author Sue Penna
Sue has worked with individuals who have psychological trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for over 30 years in her professional life as a clinician, trainer and supervisor both within the NHS and independently. She has specialised in writing psycho-educational programmes that promote trauma informed practice and a recovery model. Sue is passionate for the need for multi-agency working and committed to supporting front-line workers to have the skills to support families with a trauma informed approach. Sue has an extensive background in the domestic abuse sector and has written trauma informed domestic abuse programmes including the Inspiring Families Programme, Adult and Children and Young People Domestic Abuse Recovery Toolkit and the Sexual Violence Recovery Toolkit. Sue has also devised the ACE Recovery Toolkit written for parents and them ACE Recovery Toolkit for children and young people.
I hope you have found this review of interest, and if you would like to know more I have included some links below;
Have a great week All
Deborah J Crozier Counsellor, Trainer, Author of Senses Transformation & S.T.A.N.D for Prevention
Chief Executive Officer
A Positive Start CIC