Testimonial from a Client of Madelon Guinazzo, Cuddlist Co-Founder and Director of Training:
I am a survivor of early childhood sexual trauma. I’m a 58-year-old man. There have been many other traumatic experiences in my life, but those first ones set the stage for my ability to form attachments with other people.
I’m writing this to the other survivors out there that might come across this blog and the Cuddlists’ services looking for relief. I know you’re out there because I’m one of you and I know what it’s like. If you’re lucky enough to realize that what happened to you has affected you to this day, and you start looking for help… That’s when things get really awful. It feels like there’s no hope, no help and this is just going to be how things are. I won’t bore you with war stories about that, you know what I’m talking about.
I want to tell you about my experiences with my Cuddlist, Madelon, and why I started working with her.
I’d been in therapy (again) for a few years with someone who, finally, was able to really help me. I was making real progress and the ‘layers’ of my trauma were finally getting peeled away.
But at one point, it seems I hit a spot in the ‘peeling’ that had an unexpected effect. A little background: One aggravating condition of my disability was profound addiction to alcohol. It was nearly fatal more than once. I won’t describe what that was like, but one component of it was, for lack of a better term, an obsessive ‘craving’ that would hit me like a freight train… Not all the time, but when it did, my focus and thinking pushed everything else but the drink out.
The good news is, this time it wasn’t an obsession to drink. Not at all. I’d already been sober almost 3 years by then. The bad news is, I had been without any sort of physical relationship with anyone for over seven years… My body, mind and spirit made a demand. They went to the one experience that worked every time. That freight train. When it hit, it dragged me somewhere I didn’t want to be. To a ‘massage parlor’. I’d been to them before, in my drinking days, but never once sober. It was even worse without being drunk. I’d like to point out here, this was not about sex… Just a blind, unreasoning impulse for human contact. For touch. That’s all.
I discussed the whole event with my therapist, and she did an amazing thing. She smiled, and said ‘I’ve got just the thing for that!’.
I spoke with Madelon on the phone a few days later, after she and my therapist discussed my case and what happened. We talked about it, but I had a feeling of anxiety about the idea of actually doing a session. Madelon’s ‘phoneside manner’ was curious and welcoming, but in my case she was up against a real challenge. She accomplished her mission, and made it look easy.
In our first session I tried to explain my anxiety, but as you know if you’re like me, there isn’t much language for it… It just is. Again, she worked her craft of empathy and patience. Made it look easy.
We cuddled. Just a few comfortable, relaxed positions laying close together with gentle touching… And we talked. She’d ask a question or prompt me with a thought about what’s been going on with me. I babbled my head off. It all came out in a flood.
It’s been that way ever since. I want to emphasize this, because the Cuddlist practitioners are, by their training, very consistent and grounded. They really listen. And they will do the work to meet you where you are. For many of us, this is the first experience with that process.
I don’t want to throw a bunch of shade at the therapeutic community, but let’s face it; too many of us have been completely let down by it, and often harmed by it. There are many therapists and even a few psychologists that do great work for us, but I’ve spent hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars being told that my suffering is my problem and my responsibility to fix. Now, don’t get me wrong… From an incredibly narrow and ham-fisted view this is a true statement. My mental health IS something only I can be responsible for. And I can certainly say it has been MY problem my whole life. But with the kind of support my cuddlist and my therapists (plural!) available, I had finally had something besides my broken mind and spirit to use… TO FIX MY MIND AND SPIRIT! Going it alone has never worked, and it will never work. For me or anyone else.
If you’ve had bad experiences with therapy, talk to a Cuddlist practitioner. Find out what it’s like to have someone be prepared and trained to accept you as you are, to not only respect your boundaries but to celebrate and honor them. YOUR boundaries, YOUR vulnerabilities. Now, they will show you their boundaries, and the process will begin with an expressed agreement that everyone’s will be respected and not violated. But if you visit a Cuddlist for the same reason I do, you know it is OUR boundaries that require recognition and repair.
It’s work, I won’t sugar-coat this. My first visit was hard for me. But after what I just went through I knew it was necessary. I knew it was the right thing to do. My Cuddlist never lost sight of my struggle for a second. And yet, she’s been able to reintroduce me to very close, physical contact with another person after YEARS of not having it. And not wanting it. Even though I’m a human being and so my body, my soul and my emotions demand it.
If you struggle with trauma of any kind, if you have boundary issues, if you are ‘neuroatypical’ for any reason, this therapy can and will help you. It takes courage, but it’s worth it. YOU are worth it.