Alumni Spotlight

Learn more about our alumni!

Liz from Braselton, GA

I was struggling with anger and rage, especially directed at my kids, along with intermittent depression, and my emotions were controlling me. My marriage was also at a breaking point. I was seeing a counselor, but I needed more help to deal with some underlying issues. I thought I had dealt with my trauma, but my life was proving otherwise. If something didn’t change, I was going to lose my family.

This is so hard to pinpoint because there were so many important parts of my experience that I feel like intertwine.  

Practically speaking, the explanation of the trauma tree and family systems, putting words to ideas that I sensed but couldn’t really outline, gave me a framework for understanding my own trauma and family dysfunction so I could dig into what was happening inside me. Coupled with the inner child work, what I learned about myself was invaluable.

As for the most impactful moment, I would definitely say my empty chair work. There are no words that can fully explain how freeing it was to put my dad, mom and husband in that chair and to tell them all the ways I had been hurt, let down, abandoned, etc, to give them back their shame and beat the s**t out of that cube. And to have Kelly and Julie and my “Bridge teammates” advocating for me in that moment, recognizing with me that wrongs had been committed and I deserved better, felt so empowering. 

Overall, being at a place where I could finally be completely honest about what I had experienced, how that had shaped me, and even what I had done as a result, was life changing. Feeling accepted and heard in the midst of that honesty brought restoration.  I have never had that in such a meaningful way. That sense of authenticity and connection, feeling understood without judgement, was so healing and also made me want that in all my relationships moving forward.   

I have not even been back from The Bridge for a year, and already my life has improved so much. I got connected with ACA to continue understanding my family dysfunction, and I am recognizing patterns in my behavior that stem from that dysfunction, which is the first step to real change.  I am in a step group with folks from The Bridge, and we are working through the ACA steps together.  Their support gives me what I need to keep walking the journey, and I am healing from my past more and more every day. 

In addition, I am slowly changing the way I react to my kids. As I understand myself and my past more, I am able to see in the moment what is triggering me about their tantrums and whining, and I am able to respond in a calm way rather than react to them. I have also connected to a DBT group that is helping with my emotional regulation, so I am not as triggered in the first place. My anger is not controlling me like it used to, even when it’s still there. For my older son, who is 6, we have had some excellent times of connection where I have been able to apologize for my past reactions and ask his forgiveness.  I am also using what I know now to help him when he starts to have trouble understanding and handling his own emotions.

My husband and I are doing marriage counseling and working on our relational issues. I feel more empowered to express my feelings (now that I know what they are!) and ask for what I need. We are slowly reconnecting and able to handle conflict in a more productive way. I am also setting boundaries in other relationships, like with my mom, and I don’t feel discouraged in doing it. I feel strong and confident standing up for myself.

Now, this is a daily process, and some days are better than others. I definitely have my ups and downs, but I am so grateful for The Bride and the journey it started me on because now I have hope that real change is possible and there is full freedom ahead of me. I feel like I am stepping into becoming the warrior woman God always intended me to be. I am in the full throes of motherhood at the moment, but I am dreaming about what I want to do in the future, likely something that will help others experience the same healing I have begun.

A buffalo.  I almost didn’t want to choose her because she was not the “cutest or cuddliest” animal, but I was so drawn to her, I couldn’t ignore it.  I didn’t know this at the time, but after researching buffalo I learned two things about them that are SO me: they are big on community. They live in herds, so relationship and taking care of each other are paramount.  Also, when a storm is coming, buffalo actually run into the storm. They face it head on and come out more quickly on the other side.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

I am an excellent mom. I love to play and have fun with my kids; we do everything from dance parties and superhero battles, to building forts and exploring outside. They know they are loved and deeply cared for, and I never cease to tell them how proud I am of them and how grateful I am to be their mom. When I mess up, as we all do, I am quick to apologize and restore relationship with them.

I am also a supportive and encouraging friend, and I am gifted at hearing from God on behalf of others. I love listening to and praying with people and encouraging them wherever they are on their life journey. 

Plus, I’m just  fun! I’m always up for any adventure, so BRING IT ON!

Jewel Syquia Olson San Francisco, CA

I grew up thinking being mad or sad was a bad thing. I didn’t know how to properly handle these feelings in a healthy way… And it did catch up to me as an adult. This compounded into so many other unhealthy habits, but I kept pushing myself. I didn’t have the time to take care of this. I had to take care of everyone else and anything else, but myself. That’s the tragic part about being unable to cope… Thinking you can keep going and going, until you either drop or get help. I eventually had no choice but to get help, and wow. I am so grateful I did.

 I think for me it would have had to have been that the staff actually listened to me. They fought for me and alongside me for the injustices I had faced in life. I finally felt safe telling my story and telling it truthfully. That’s the first time in my life someone actually took the time to hear my story and take me seriously. I had been in 12 step recovery programs but I had never spoke of or dealt with the trauma of my life so I kept relapsing. I am free from the bondage of my past because I trusted the bridge to help me.

My life has drastically changed since the bridge. I’ve been clean 2 years. I own a home, I have a big girl job, I still participate in recovery programs. Although I’d like to say I got away from the gang and the people in it, I’m still on probation until august and can’t leave the state, so I’ve unfortunately had encounters but the difference is, I no longer cower in fear and I’m able to stand up for myself and I haven’t cowered back into the lifestyle. I have helped other girls get out of that trap. I’ve been free from harassment now for 6 months and I am expecting a little boy in May. I have a relationship with my family although none of us live near each other. 

I chose a blue and green elephant

“to forgive takes love, to forget takes humility.”-Mother Teresa

Just being myself and rocking recovery. It’s not my shame anymore!

Katherine Form Georgia

I came to the bridge due to drug addiction and being sexually exploited by a gang I was affiliated with.

This is so hard to pinpoint because there were so many important parts of my experience that I feel like intertwine.  

Practically speaking, the explanation of the trauma tree and family systems, putting words to ideas that I sensed but couldn’t really outline, gave me a framework for understanding my own trauma and family dysfunction so I could dig into what was happening inside me. Coupled with the inner child work, what I learned about myself was invaluable.

As for the most impactful moment, I would definitely say my empty chair work. There are no words that can fully explain how freeing it was to put my dad, mom and husband in that chair and to tell them all the ways I had been hurt, let down, abandoned, etc, to give them back their shame and beat the s**t out of that cube. And to have Kelly and Julie and my “Bridge teammates” advocating for me in that moment, recognizing with me that wrongs had been committed and I deserved better, felt so empowering. 

Overall, being at a place where I could finally be completely honest about what I had experienced, how that had shaped me, and even what I had done as a result, was life changing. Feeling accepted and heard in the midst of that honesty brought restoration.  I have never had that in such a meaningful way. That sense of authenticity and connection, feeling understood without judgement, was so healing and also made me want that in all my relationships moving forward.   

I have not even been back from The Bridge for a year, and already my life has improved so much. I got connected with ACA to continue understanding my family dysfunction, and I am recognizing patterns in my behavior that stem from that dysfunction, which is the first step to real change.  I am in a step group with folks from The Bridge, and we are working through the ACA steps together.  Their support gives me what I need to keep walking the journey, and I am healing from my past more and more every day. 

In addition, I am slowly changing the way I react to my kids. As I understand myself and my past more, I am able to see in the moment what is triggering me about their tantrums and whining, and I am able to respond in a calm way rather than react to them. I have also connected to a DBT group that is helping with my emotional regulation, so I am not as triggered in the first place. My anger is not controlling me like it used to, even when it’s still there. For my older son, who is 6, we have had some excellent times of connection where I have been able to apologize for my past reactions and ask his forgiveness.  I am also using what I know now to help him when he starts to have trouble understanding and handling his own emotions.

My husband and I are doing marriage counseling and working on our relational issues. I feel more empowered to express my feelings (now that I know what they are!) and ask for what I need. We are slowly reconnecting and able to handle conflict in a more productive way. I am also setting boundaries in other relationships, like with my mom, and I don’t feel discouraged in doing it. I feel strong and confident standing up for myself.

Now, this is a daily process, and some days are better than others. I definitely have my ups and downs, but I am so grateful for The Bride and the journey it started me on because now I have hope that real change is possible and there is full freedom ahead of me. I feel like I am stepping into becoming the warrior woman God always intended me to be. I am in the full throes of motherhood at the moment, but I am dreaming about what I want to do in the future, likely something that will help others experience the same healing I have begun.

A buffalo.  I almost didn’t want to choose her because she was not the “cutest or cuddliest” animal, but I was so drawn to her, I couldn’t ignore it.  I didn’t know this at the time, but after researching buffalo I learned two things about them that are SO me: they are big on community. They live in herds, so relationship and taking care of each other are paramount.  Also, when a storm is coming, buffalo actually run into the storm. They face it head on and come out more quickly on the other side.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

I am an excellent mom. I love to play and have fun with my kids; we do everything from dance parties and superhero battles, to building forts and exploring outside. They know they are loved and deeply cared for, and I never cease to tell them how proud I am of them and how grateful I am to be their mom. When I mess up, as we all do, I am quick to apologize and restore relationship with them.

I am also a supportive and encouraging friend, and I am gifted at hearing from God on behalf of others. I love listening to and praying with people and encouraging them wherever they are on their life journey. 

Plus, I’m just  fun! I’m always up for any adventure, so BRING IT ON!

Lyle From Denver

I have been attempting to get sober for a number of years and have been in a cycle of chronic relapse the entire time. After my most recent relapse, my therapist suggested that I was stuck in this relapse cycle because of unresolved trauma and he suggested that I go to The Bridge to address this trauma.

There were several but the ones that stand out are the grief ceremony I did around the life I used have and the HIT list I did at my addiction. These experientials have allowed me to let go of trauma that has kept me stuck in my addiction and to find peace in my life. 

So many good things have happened since I have been home mostly because I am so much calmer and at peace. People seem to sense this because all of my relationships are improving and I am building new ones. I have also stayed in touch with some of the people I was there with and I value their ongoing support.   

“Si vis pacem para bellum” which is Latin for “if you want peace, prepare for war”.  I am also a huge fan of the man in the arena speech from Theodore Roosevelt  

I am able to connect with and help others that are struggling with trauma and addiction.