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Healing Shame


February is turning out to be a deeply healing month. I have been processing a ton these last weeks and when two newly sober people reached out to me for help today I knew I had to write about what’s been coming through recently.

Post breakup/moving aside, this time of year always has some emotional tugs as it’s when I was hitting bottom in my addiction years ago. My sober anniversary is around the corner and like clockwork, each year grief surfaces that needs to be felt.

Hitting bottom was the lowest point in my entire life. It was dark, scary, and ugly. I’m not writing that in an I’m more fucked up than the next person kind of way, believe me that is not something I want to run around shouting to the world. I’m sharing that it was terrifying and ugly because I know there are other women out there with similar experiences who need to hear this, just like I needed to hear it when I stopped drinking and using.

What I have come to understand about the grieving process as it connects to my recovery anniversary is that I am grieving the visceral hollowness I felt towards the end of my using. That vast, real sense of being empty, unworthy, and unlovable permeated my entire existence and landed me in very dangerous situations. Each year around this anniversary waves of emotions surface that need to flow through and out of me.

And the beauty is that with every passing year the waves become smaller and smaller.

Today the waves don’t take me down into a spiral of shame but rather brush up against my heart and remind me of those tender places inside.

They remind me of that young woman who was so scared to be herself that she tried her best to disappear.  

They remind me of a time in my life where I was desperate to be held and told that I would be okay.

And they remind me that my spirit is resilient and that the unworthiness I felt has never been who I am.

Healing Shame by Ashley Neese

I know for sure that shame wants you to be judged. We keep small by not talking about what is really going on and hiding our experiences from each other. In order to move through shame we have to speak up and tell our truth, especially when we’re terrified. Shame wants us to stay small.

The bottom of my addiction was being raped at gunpoint. The man lived across the street from my college dorm. The details are not important. What matters, is that traumatic experience that was the lowest point of my life and summed up the essence of my addiction. It was the ultimate manifestation of the unworthiness I felt my entire life.

When I managed to escape down the hall of his building, clothing in hand, I was the most scared I have ever been. I stopped going to class all together. I lived in my bed with the blinds drawn, getting high alone, hoping I wouldn’t wake up each morning.

Two weeks later I went to rehab and began the next chapter of my life.

I held onto this very painful experience for many years in my sobriety. I compared myself to other women in 12 Step meetings and felt like my pain wasn’t as great as theirs so I should just get over myself. I also believed that I deserved it. I thought being raped was my fault because I was the one that had been up using for days on end, I was asking for it.

I’ve been in therapy off and on on since getting sober and it wasn’t until last year in couples therapy that the therapist told me I needed to address this trauma in my body immediately. I told her I already addressed it through other talk therapy sessions, meditation, and loads of 4th steps, but she said that energetically I was still hanging on to it and I needed to process the trauma through my body.

After hearing her words I sat there on the couch sobbing because I knew she was right. How could I miss this? I’ve processed loads of trauma through my body, why was the rape the elephant in the room? I’ve been an energy practitioner for over a decade and worked with so many clients to heal their trauma, how did I still have this work to do?

Enter shame. I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want people to think I am less of a teacher because I still had this ball of trauma lodged in my body that needed to come out. I was afraid of being seen as less human somehow because I still have work to do.

Shame is all about the ego. It wants us to stay isolated because that is where it thrives. It feeds off our suffering. The moment we shine a light into shame is the moment it starts to disintegrate. Shame cannot exist in the face of openhearted vulnerability.

And I am here.

Getting super vulnerable with you because it’s how we heal.

By sharing something I’ve held so tight for nearly fifteen years I am freeing myself of old energies and making room for a greater capacity to love and be of service.

Because that is all I ever wanted when I was using.

To be loved.

To be whole.

To be real.

Over the last six months I have cleared the majority of the trauma energy in body through my breathwork and writing practices. Today I am coming home to the truth that being raped was not my fault, that I didn’t deserve it, and that it’s okay that it has taken me this long to heal the shame I’ve carried of being reckless and unworthy in my youth.

Almost every woman I know who struggled with addiction has a similar story. Most rapes go unreported and mine was one of them. What I know for sure today is that I have to go to the depths of my darkness and share it with you. This is how I bring in the light and if what I share makes one woman feel less fucked up and alone than it’s worth it. Creating that connection is what matters most to me.

Healing shame has to be part of the trauma conversation. We have to expose what we’re most afraid of with people and communities that can hold space for our healing to unfold. When a woman lifts herself up out of the darkness and commits to her healing and growth, she lifts up future generations of women and heals her lineage.

Below is a poem I wrote last year after a huge breathwork clearing. It’s very intense and close to my heart. Thank you for seeing me and for being part of this community. I am grateful everyday I have a place to speak openly and continue to do this amazing work I get to do.

Healing Shame by Ashley Neese

Stone Cold Sober

I finally felt the shame.
Stone cold sober.

Pulses of energy shooting down my spine,
collecting like bullets in the soles of my feet –

those are the Chakras that connect me to our Mother
and they have been closed for so many years.

I finally felt the shame.
Stone cold sober.

Emotions pulled my stomach to my spine,
this dark energy with all its fingers digging in every which way.

Like a steel web,
starting in my stomach
extending out towards every area of my body,
out into my energy field.

I kept hearing her say,

What are you protecting?
What are you protecting?

She was right.

The armor was thick like molasses as we say in the South.

So thick that a decade of twisty, bendy yoga poses couldn’t break through it,

though there were many times that summer in Berlin I cried on my yoga mat,
class after class,
hips opening wide,
and everyone told me I was glowing,

And I was.

I was also halfway around the world hanging out with a woman I wanted desperately to fall in love with me.

In many ways I was learning to take care of myself for the first time.

In other ways I was avoiding,
continuing to repress the shame.

I’ve watched Brené Brown’s TED talks probably more than anyone.
I’ve even read all of her books.

I can talk about shame,
but it wasn’t until this morning that I actually let myself experience it in my body,

This is who I am.

I never told anyone the full story.

The rape,
or was it rape?
It was rape.

The self-hatred that has lived inside of me ever since that night.

I blamed myself.

This was my big secret.
This was THE story I’ve been clinging to for over fourteen years and it’s time to feel it.

All of it.

I finally felt the shame.
Stone cold sober.

The energy gripping me from the inside out,
someone is living in there,
punching me until I collapse,
sucking my life force,
it’s that rabid ghost.

Trying to keep myself  busy on the outside……

There is no amount of busy that will keep me from having to feel the wretchedness of this dark energy living inside.

Just like there was no amount of cocaine that made him fucking me with a gun to my back okay.

No matter how high I was no person deserved that.

I finally felt the shame.
Stone cold sober.
Screaming like a starving wild animal in the night.
Letting the energy move.
Allowing the feelings to flow through,
and out of me.

I finally felt the shame.
Stone cold sober.

And I am still here.


If you are wanting to heal trauma and gain clarity through breath healing please reach out. I would be honored to support you.

All my love.

Photos by Lani Trock


  • Katie brier

    Wow, thank you so much for writing this.
    This really means a lot to me to read this and to know someone has been to the same dark places I have also been.

    • ashley

      Hello Katie,
      You’re so welcome. Thank you for being here and sharing that you relate. It’s really important to see each other in this way to let in more light. Sending love to you. xo

  • Sara Romeo-White

    Hi, I love you and your strength and beauty you incredible woman you. I hope you know how amazing you are. Thanks for always be willing to share it with the world❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Love you ????
    Xoxoxoxo Sara

    • ashley

      Love you Sara! Thank you for being such a force in our community and for showing up and doing the work. Truly grateful for you. xo

  • Beautiful. Real. Raw and so needed to be heard. Your words and willingness to unlock the secrets of your past free all of us up to do the same. Thank you for your vulnerability Ashley. So grateful for your work. Love and blessings, Jamie

    • ashley

      Hello dear Jamie,
      Your words are coming through at the perfect time. Thank you for being here and for the love and support. I am honored to be in community with you. xo

  • Dorit Wright

    Thank you for sharing. I would love to heal some trauma too.

    • ashley

      Hello Dorit,
      You are welcome. I am grateful you are here. If there is anything I can do to help feel free to reach out. Sending love to you on your journey. xo

  • LB

    Are comments private ? Or can anyone and everyone see a comment ? Thanks

    • ashley

      Hello dear, all comments are public. xo

  • Carolyn

    Thank you for sharing your journey and especially opening up about your addiction. So few people speak openly and honestly about addiction, but it really touches all of our lives. I hope sharing your story was as cathartic for you as it was meaningful for your readers. Sending love and light.

    • ashley

      Thank you for your thoughtful and kind words Carolyn. What you said about few people speaking up about addiction was one of the main reasons I wrote this. Transparency is really important to me as is being of service to anyone who has been affected by addiction. Wishing you a wonderful week and thank you again for being here. xo

  • Kim

    Hi Ashley, I’ve been following you for a while and have always enjoyed your posts but this really hit home. I would love to somehow in some way begin to heal past trauma and shame. Thank you for being so brave and bringing light into the darkness. Hugs.

    • ashley

      Hello Kim,
      It is lovely to connect with you. Thank you for being here and sharing what you are going through. Healing trauma and shame is possible. For so long I thought I was going to carry all of the heaviness that comes along with it. This past year has been one of such deep healing and I am amazed at how much I’ve been able to release. Please reach out if there is anything I can do to support you. Sending lots of light and love your way. xo

  • Olga

    Ashley, I started crying somewhere half way through your poem and couldn’t stop. I wanted to leave a comment for you but I can’t find words.

    • ashley

      Hello dear Olga. Thank you for sharing and writing. Your honesty is everything. Sending love and light your way. xo

  • I read the poem aloud and I was very moved.

    • ashley

      Thank you Bruce. Grateful for your presence here. xo

  • Nina

    Bravo, Ashley! I applaud your courage and your bravery for this incredibly tender and beautiful post. I don’t know you, but I am so, so proud of and grateful for your willingness to be vulnerable in letting us see you through your personal story. Strength and beauty are *all* over this post. It is so touching, honest and sincere. Sending you much love and light. xx

    • ashley

      Thank you so much Nina. I am holding your generous words and loving kindness very dear this evening. It truly means a great deal to me. I know part of my journey this year is to show more layers of myself and to be able to have a place to share and be loved through it is such potent medicine. Thank you for holding the space and making this a deeply loving and healing community. Sending you a giant hug and wishing you a wonderful week. xoa

  • Andrea

    This is something far beyond my life’s experience. But bless you for sharing it for those that need to hear it. May your healing continue.

    • ashley

      Thank you dear Andrea. Sending you love this evening. xoa

  • This is such a sad story, but it seems like you made the first step which is good. I cannot find the right words, but I am sending you a biiig hug! Corina

    • ashley

      Hug received Corina! Sending one back to you ;) xoa

  • Nadine

    You are so very, very brave. This makes me love you even more!! I applaud your vulnerability and am so honored to be your friend!! xoxo

    • ashley

      Love you so much Nadine. Thank you for being here and for the continued encouragement and support. You are such a light in my life and in our community. xoa

  • John Saslow

    Ashley, what a strong and cathartic piece! Congratulations on writing, sharing and letting it go. It takes a lot of bravery to lay it all out for the world to see.

    • ashley

      Hi John!
      It’s great to hear from you. Thanks so much for being here. Means so much to me and the community. Wishing you a wonderful week. xo

  • Chiara

    endless love and awe for you + your beautiful spirit. thank you.

    • ashley

      Right back to you dear!!! Lots of love xoa

  • AZO

    Thank you for sharing. I usually receive a “message” from the last place I expect… Your have always been special to anyone that knows you. I needed to hear this tonight…
    Thank you

    Andrea Z Owens

    • ashley

      Hello Andrea,
      I totally relate to receiving messages in that way. There truly are no accidents in the universe. Grateful for your kind words and that my share supported you. Sending love and wishing you a beautiful week. xoa

  • corinne

    still new in recovery & so grateful for you. you are a gift. thank you <3

    • ashley

      Hi Corinne,
      Thank you for being here and reaching out. Recovery is such an incredible journey and I am very glad we are on this path together. Sending you lots of light and love this evening. xoa

  • michelle ma

    thank you ashley,. you are seen and heard <3 thanks for opening up to and for all of us

    • ashley

      Love you to the moon and back dear Michelle! xoa

  • Oh Ashley, wow, oh wow. So beautiful and touching. I’m moved to tears. Tears of sympathy, of sadness, of empathy, of appreciation, of deep respect and love. Your story is so different than mine, and yet seems to resonate on all the same levels. Much love and gratitude for your honesty and rawness. <3 <3 <3

    • ashley

      Hi Christa,
      I really appreciate you taking the time to write. I love that you were able to connect to the feelings and the soul of it. That’s how we all heal, by seeing past the details and getting right into the heart of it all. Thank you for that touching reminder this evening. All my heart. xoa

  • Emily

    Thank you so much for sharing. I love this movement of transparency that we are walking into. Each time we tell our honest story we are healing the world. That scary place turns into such a big power that radiates out beyond what we can see. Thank you Thank you!! So much love to you. <3 ++++

    • ashley

      Thank you for being here Emily. Yes! The transparency movement, I am really feeling it too. I love the way you describe this shift, very eloquent and it’s giving me loads of energy. Grateful for your light! xoa

  • Hannah-Phoebe

    Ashley I send so much love to you and am grateful that you chose to share your process with us. Know that it helps others ????

    • ashley

      Hello my dear, thank you so much for your love and support. Means the world to me. Wishing you a beautiful week. xoa

  • I feel moved by your story and in feeling the journey of it. <3 It gives me hope in my own life to be able to move through things. Thank you for sharing it<3

    • ashley

      Hello Luisa,
      Thank you for being here. It’s really great to connect. Wishing you endless compassion and grace as you move through your life. Lots of love. xoa

  • Cat

    Very brave and very honest share.
    Much love to you.
    You are not alone, you have many sisters here that are listening, sharing your pain and your joy.

    • ashley

      Thank you dear sister! Feeling very full of love from your words this evening. Grateful for you. xoa

  • Abigail

    Hi Ashley, I just recently found your blog and I find everything you write to be so lovely and inspiring. I have have been thinking about trying to have a go at being a life coach and I would just love to know if perhaps you had any advise to give on the subject. I want to help people to live a simpler and more nourishing life but the fear of jumping into something that is so new is making me have second thought. It would mean the world to me if you could share a little expertise on the subject.

    • ashley

      Hello Abigail,
      Thanks so much for connecting. It’s totally normal to have second thoughts when you desire to step into a bigger and more fulfilling role in your life. Lean into whatever fears arise and trust your intuition. Sending love. xoa

  • ASHLEY! I’m just reading this and I am blown away by your honesty and bravery. Thank you so much for sharing. You are so brave to share and to experience shame so deeply and wholeheartedly.

    Your words about sharing really resonate with me; “By sharing something I’ve held so tight for nearly fifteen years I am freeing myself of old energies and making room for a greater capacity to love and be of service.” In addition to that own gift you’re allowing yourself, your vulnerability provides space for others to reflect and open up as well as possibly have the courage to face their shame and release old, outworn energies and patterns.

    I see and know the woman you were during those dark times and I love her. And just know now that you are loved, you are whole, you are real. Your gifts of voice and vulnerability are so powerful.

  • K~

    I am fairly new to your community, and appreciate all that you have shared of yourself in each post that you send. I believe that we all have our work to do, and we just have to be happy that we are aware and addressing our issues (rather than get down on ourselves about where we are in that journey). Having that personal experience probably lends itself to your ability to empathize with and help others. Thank you for not only sharing, but bringing attention to the need to heal shame, personal crisis or other issues that cut us off. I have been doing a lot of soul searching myself over the last couple of months, and now I realize what I have neglected to deal with. I will be sending love and light your way.

  • Marlon

    Dear Ashley.. I’ve reread this a few times and haven’t found the words aside to say thank you. I feel very connected to you, and your journey, and you have always been so raw and real and truly present ; for you to share your darkest moments with us and to share them in full awareness and ownership is so powerful. I have struggled with sobriety a lot myself.. And I would relay that my pain has been “less” but I think that’s something you put forward; comparison.. our shame keeping us in the dark of ego.. Please know you’re an immense inspiration to myself and so many others ; to hear what you have experienced just gives me more courage to keep pushing forward and more admiration for how much healing can be done. Thank you :)

  • You did it!
    The ultimate self care.
    You are brave.
    Courageous woman. Free now.
    You have that in your body now. Light.
    You can settle into more ease.
    You paved a more amazing path for yourself.
    You can heal others more now.
    Rock on!

  • I couldn’t have read this at a better time. Thank you for being transparent with all of your work. You are an incredible, beautiful being that just gave me so much courage. I can’t imagine how hard it was to post this, but I am so grateful that you did. For you. For me. For all women that struggle with shame. Always <3

    • ashley

      Hello Sara,
      Thank you for being here and sharing. This was a difficult post to publish but one that I felt so strongly in my heart was bigger than me in many ways. Your words are a beautiful affirmation of that and I am grateful for them. All my heart. x

  • Thank you for embodying your truly deep essence. It’s a beautiful pleasure to behold. Honest, well written, and worthy as an inspirational influence to others who hear your message. The next blog I’m writing for my website is about the subject of abuse, because I’m a passionate protector of personal freedom, physically and mentally, and I’m going to link to this article if that’s alright with you.

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