Andres Alejandr Freyre-What happened to you?

Author of Book: Bruce Perry M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey
Date Read: July 30, 2023

Book Report

I recently chose to read the book “What Happened to You?” by Bruce Perry M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey. I chose this book because part of overcoming the problems that have plagued me is understanding why these problems became such a definitive part of my life in the first place. I’ve read research that found that contrary to popular belief, the majority of kids who try drugs when they’re young don’t get addicted or develop any significant problems having to do with the use of them. It’s actually only a very small percentage who get addicted and allow their substance abuse to have a serious negative effect on their lives. I was one of the very few who did. Naturally, the question “Why me?” has been a query that has troubled me deeply my entire life. Struggling through addiction, anxiety, and depression, especially when I wanted with all my soul to be normal, caused such distress that it pushed me deeper toward those same problems. Especially because logically I understood the simplicity of the solution. Just stop using it. The dissonance that was created was paralyzing. I felt like there must be something wrong with me. I thought that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for a normal life.
I currently have 4+ years sober now and I attribute a big part of it to my coming to understand the circumstances in which I grew up and what that can do to people as they get older. When you are young, life kind of just happens to you. It’s not until you mature mentally and emotionally that you become self-aware enough to really start to become responsible. This is hard for me to accept sometimes because I’m not one to blame or consider anything else besides my own responsibility when it comes to my personal actions. That being said, emotional trauma and abuse can affect people in profound ways as they get older. I’ve read about a maturity continuum that places us as human beings on three different levels. Dependent, Independent, and Interdependent. The dependent stage is the first one and most people make it to the higher levels, but there are some who don’t. Why don’t they? I think in a lot of cases emotional trauma and abuse don’t allow them to mature as others do. I was certainly in the dependent stage throughout most of my life. Now I can remember that many of my bad decisions were full of impulse and emotion. I was emotionally immature, to say the least. I didn’t become more independent until I got enough time sober and began to educate myself. There is new research happening in neuro-science that is helping to gain a better understanding of how such things as emotional trauma and abuse can affect the brain physiologically. This book provides a sort of explanation. A lot of us need an explanation. I believe many addicts and people who struggle with mental health have this fundamental belief that they are broken. That there is something inherently wrong with them. Understanding the nature of things can help us flip those paradigms and empower us to heal. A man literally dying of hunger will not consider the ethics of a decision when searching for something to feed himself. He is in survival mode. Such is the case as well for someone living so emotionally dysregulated that they’re looking for anything that will help them become regulated. They are in survival mode as well. Emotional survival mode and it’s just as dangerous. I believe a lot of those relatively few that become addicted to drugs, money, and adrenaline, among other things, are in this emotional survival mode. This often leads to committing crimes almost in a sort of desperation. This does not justify anything. These people are still guilty of doing the things they have done, most certainly including myself. But what it does do is create an understanding of how to help people in more correct and effective ways. People who commit crimes are still part of society and will be released eventually. We need to learn how to make better neighbors not better criminals. Collette Peterson, the new director of the BOP, is on the right track with that. These are some of the things that this book has helped me to understand. I’ll use any and all new knowledge on this subject to advance my skills in the field I’m determined to enter when I release from prison. This book has led me to more reading that will help me learn even more. These types of books that lead to deep reflection and give knowledge are absolutely important for success in life in general, but particularly for me upon my release.