ACE Your Life — Alleviate Compulsive Experiences

Image by Dan

In my past 30 years of personal growth, it became obvious that transforming fear into joy first meant relinquishing my addictions.  Or, as Dr. Daniel Sumrok states, abandoning my ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking.

When thought of as comfort seeking, I can safely say my big three addictions were sex, cigarettes and money.  With regard to adopting addictive coping behaviours, I think it is also safe to say that what happened for me happened for many.  My addiction experience extrapolates to an existing multi-generational and global pattern of ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking of the negative kind — food, drugs, gambling, alcohol, hoarding, power, etc.  I am not holding society responsible for my personal choices.  Rather, I am suggesting society as a whole requires consciousness raising relative to new comfort-seeking behaviours that heal rather than hurt.  As an example, who among us has lived addiction free?  Have you?  And, why are addictions so prevalent as coping mechanisms?

Here are some interesting 1998 statistics that uncovered a “stunning link”,  but still well-kept secret, between adverse childhood trauma and chronic adult physical, social and emotional illnesses.  The major finding — the greater the number of adverse childhood experiences, the greater one’s risk of health and social issues, i.e., addiction(s).

Curious about my own experience, I took the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test, and so can you.  Ten different childhood traumas are tested below.  Give it a try.

ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test

  1. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Prior to your 18th birthday:  Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: ______ This is your ACE Score.

Dr. Sumrok, a physician working in the addiction field, puts all his patients through this ACE test.  He claims, “I’ve seen about 1,200 patients who are addicted.  Of those, more than 1,100 have an ACE score of 3 or more.”

My ACE score is 3 suggesting my thesis, what happens for me happens for many, carries truth.  Sumrok further asserts that due to “how we grew up”, we tend to underestimate our level of post-traumatic stress.  For instance, many teenagers experimented with sex in the 60s and 70s.  Nonetheless, non-consensual sex with a minor was and is abusive as well as traumatic; not experimental.  In my youth, sex, violence and other forms of addiction were swept under the carpet, which my generation later referred to as “the conspiracy of silence”.  Given this shared upbringing, you may want to go back and retake the test.

Adverse childhood trauma blocks our ability to fully realize our human-spiritual potential.  Awareness is always the first step to building greater resilience and freedom from constraint.  Intuitively, we also know self-compassion and continually choosing to behave in loving ways toward ourselves heals the wounded child within.  With that in mind, what act of loving kindness can you gift yourself today?  Could you habituate this loving act into a ritualized comfort?