To those of you who know me. Hello my lovelies. To those of you who don’t. My name is Vivian McKinnon. I was once an addict.
I have no shame in saying this because my past has become my educator, my mentor, my reason for being and doing better and for helping other people do the same.
It has led me on a journey of self-discovery and improvement. I am now an award-winning speaker, author, entrepreneur, therapist, addiction recovery specialist and owner of Hydro-ease; Northern Ireland’s only dedicated floatation and trauma therapy centre.
I’ve met some incredible people along the way developing personal and professional relationships I couldn’t have dreamed of especially back on that day in 1999 when because of my chaotic lifestyle, I almost lost my life.
Last week, one of those people I have been privileged to cross paths with, Dr Gabor Mate; a world leading expert in childhood trauma and addiction, gave me two hours of his invaluable time. It was 120 minutes of compelling conversation about his life’s work and best-selling book; In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
In a spell binding session, sixty invited people attending the online event learned more about his conviction that
the source of addiction is not to be found in genes but in the early childhood environment. Gabor said: “Helping the addicted individual requires that we appreciate the function of the addiction in his or her life. More than a disease, the addiction is a response to a distressing life history and situation.
“Once we recognise the roots of addiction and the lack of personal connection it strives in vain to create, we can develop a compassionate approach toward the person, so that person stands the best chance of restoring him or herself to wholeness and health.”
To reach as many people as possible affected by addiction or in caring or supportive roles, I’ve sought Gabor’s permission to share the session’s insights and intelligence to broader audiences.
In the coming days watch out for a series of blogs, guest articles and posts. I want to support the global movement of talking about childhood trauma, addiction, stigma and shame because it is only in speaking out about difficult issues things will change.
Gabor says: “There is a growing conversation around trauma. It’s getting much more mainstream with people like Oprah writing books and in her conversation with Prince Harry.
“While it is becoming mainstream, it’s not fast enough, not broad enough. It hasn’t entered the systems enough. In the jails of your country, like in any other country the vast majority of people there are traumatised.
“This awareness has not yet entered the legal system. In schools, children are still punished for their behaviours rather than seeing their behaviours as desperate expressions of emotional pain.
“Medical people aren’t trained enough in the fact that mental illness is a response to trauma. I believe the stigma is lifting, the conversation is broadening and deepening but it has a long way to go.
Watch “When Viv met Gabor – In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
So why me, Vivian McKinnon? Why now?
I have lived experience of the effects of early life trauma and adverse childhood, teenage and early adult life experiences that led to an addiction related near death experience.
I’m not ashamed to say I have suffered every abuse imaginable or to admit I made some unhelpful decisions in life that landed me in trouble.
I am unapologetic about the addictions that drowned me, the drug dealing it took a long time to admit to or being hospitalised when my body gave in and gave up.
I’m not sorry because it has made me the person I am today. I proudly acknowledge my experiences. Those years are almost like my badge of honour.
I give thanks for my wonderfully flawed, lovingly polished skeletons who I’ve now promoted. They no longer live in the closet but stand proudly beside me, helping me to inspire and motivate others.
I know I am not my story. I have the ability to choose the life I lead, to create new pathways, to build new relationships, to live my best life despite the hand of cards I was dealt with in early life.
It’s my purpose to help other people recover from the pain of the past and to reach their potential; the fullest expression of themselves.