March 6, 2023

Letting Go of Shame and Embracing Self-Love with Andrea Ashley

In this powerful episode of the Think Unbroken Podcast, host Michael Unbroken sits down with Andrea Ashley, the host of the Adult Child Podcast, to discuss the journey of healing and self-love... See show notes at:

In this powerful episode of the Think Unbroken Podcast, host Michael Unbroken sits down with Andrea Ashley, the host of the Adult Child Podcast, to discuss the journey of healing and self-love. Together, they delve into the shame, guilt, and pain that often keeps us stuck in our past, and explore the idea that we are not defined by our past choices or mistakes. Instead, we have the power to choose who we want to be today. Andrea's inspiring story of overcoming dysfunctional families and alcoholism to create a life filled with love and purpose will leave you feeling empowered and hopeful. Join the Unbroken Nation and discover the support and community you need to heal and thrive!

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest, Andrea Ashley, who is the host of the Adult Child Podcast. Andrea, my friend, what is up? How are you today?

Andrea: What’s up, Unbroken Nation! I started doing that for my show. I go and I think that they all hate it like I think it makes them cringe and I'm losing listeners every time I do it, but I just like it.

Michael: Well, I don't think you're losing listeners, people who love your show, probably just ignore it at this point. I say Unbroken Nation all the time, so I imagine that these guys in gals.

Andrea: You have to do it in a weird voice Unbroken Nation.

Michael: I don't wanna do that, so the answer is no. You know, I'm super excited to have you on for a couple of reasons. One, because I've been fortunate enough to be on your show and we had a really deep and beautiful conversation, you're a great interviewer. And two, because you're creating massive impact and change in people's lives, like ultimately, you know, the mission here is we want to create education and information that on a long enough timeline helps people heal, transform trauma and triumph, turn their breakdowns into breakthroughs, and ultimately in this generational trauma, this thing that has impacted so many of us. And I think one of the things I appreciate the most about you and what you do is you allow your personality and your humor to really shine and probably to disarm a lot of people in the show. And so, I think really the first question that I want to ask you is like, where does that come from for you? Because I think so many people are terrified to like be themselves and you're one of those people I look at and I go, they know who they are. And so, is that something that was a childhood defensive mechanism? Were you the class clown like what is this for you? Because sometimes I'm listening to your show and I'm just f*** cracking up.

Andrea: I don't know how I came to be so funny. I don’t know. I'm trying to think of like, when I really started to notice it. And I don't remember being as sarcastic as I am now, you know, I started drinking at 12 and really just became like such a sh*t show so quickly that growing up I don't think I was like known as like the funny gal, it really, I think has come through and I'll save my answer for the end, ‘cuz I know you're gonna ask what it means to be unbroken. But I think it's really about, finding the humor in our stories like I think it's so important to be able to laugh at the sh*t that makes us cringe, you know, I think it's really empowering and I think that it takes a lot of, if you're doing it in a healthy way, but I just think it's, I feel like that's part of my mission and like why I was brought here is like, for some reason, like I'm able to find like I'll tell you my most embarrassing stories, like I'll tell a stranger them, you know, ‘cuz I'm not embarrassed about it. It's like, what's shaped me into like, who I am today and it's made me interesting and I don't know; I don't know why this is my superpower, but it is.

Michael: Yeah. I get that. Two thoughts came to mind. One, sharing embarrassing stories helps other people relate. However, my grandmother wouldn't agree and she would probably say, you have no coot or home training as it would be and like whatever, grandma, your old racist.

Andrea: Shut up! Grandma.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. And the second part of it is looking at it and going, I believe, firmly that for some people, your voice can heal the world, it can change. I mean, you go look at incredible people, Martin Luther King, JFK, Gandhi, like these people were amazing, Beyoncé, I mean, she's changing the world, right? Jay-Z, these guys who have these incredibly powerful voices in which they speak the truth of their existence. And one of the things that I've obviously shared on this show is like at a very young age, I started doing drugs and getting high, I am 11, 12, 13 years old and deep, deep into that world. And so, I'm curious, I wanna create some context about leading this path to where you've become who you are. And so, give us a screenshot like what was childhood like for you that led to this place where you're like 12 years old getting drunk?

Andrea: Hmm. So only child, I used to tell people I grew up in Philly. I just recently interviewed somebody who like actually grew up in Philly and told me that I can't say that anymore. So, I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and you know, I would say like really like picture perfect family from the outside. And I would say in many respects it was, and I think that that is one thing that I've had to come to terms with and why it took me so long to, I thought that because, I was never like physically or sexually abused how bad could my childhood truly have impacted me? But the fact of the matter is it impacted me a whole hell of a lot. But so when I was, I would say like the key experience that really just changed everything for me was when I was seven years old and I was out to dinner with my parents, or I was with my mom we were waiting for my dad to get there. And I remember my mom had ordered a beer and she was like barely sipping it and then when my dad got there, she started to cry and at a certain point she took me to the bathroom and I said, what's wrong? And she said, I'm an alcoholic, and I'm seven, so, I don't know what the f**k that means, can I curse or are you gonna get demonetized?

Michael: Yeah, go for it.

Andrea: And she said, it means I can't drink and it was like I didn't have any idea what that meant or what an alcoholic was, but at the same time, I knew exactly what she meant. And it was like I went to bed that night and woke up the next morning having transformed almost into like this little adult and I developed this sixth sense as it relates to my mom's drinking and I would know like hours before she would even pick up a drink like I just knew it intuitively that she was gonna drink that day. And so, you know, my dad was a workaholic and he was out of town a lot in the times that my mom drank the most is when he was out of town and he knew that she was driving me around drunk I mean, thank God nothing horrible ever happened. And she was always there to pick me up and feed me dinner and put me to bed but my dad had trained me to search the house for her booze ‘cuz he would have me do it with him. I remember one instance of going into the liquor cabinet with him and using a paint stick to like measure and monitor, like each bottle in the liquor cabinet as if like, somehow that's gonna like, make a difference, we know that she drank out of it. But I really just became parentified, you know, my mom's drinking was a secret from the rest of the world and my dad really used me as his emotional confidant and support. And I got like an adrenaline rush from it, you know, like it was very, I think that that was the way that I coped with the fear was to like get a rush from it. I remember sitting on the stairs as a little girl and just listening to my parents fight and like just getting a hit from it almost, and wanting to hear like every single word that they were saying. I think that I felt safe if I knew everything that was going on, what that translated to an adulthood is like I asked so many f*** questions and thank God I found a job where like, that's appropriate. But I developed separation anxiety around nine years old. I started sleeping with my mom and her bed every night and after a few months of this, my parents sent me to a therapist. And I remember asking my mom years later, like, did you ever tell that therapist that you were an alcoholic and that you and dad fought all the time? And her answer was no, it didn't seem relevant. And so, I became the identified patient and the scapegoat of the family then. I think that that was me trying to sound the alarm bells on what was going on in the home, it didn't work. And so, then at 12, you know, I started drinking and using drugs, and guess what? That worked. When I started acting out, my parents stopped fighting as much and my mom stopped drinking and it was like they had to come together to deal with me. And I would say the other thing, like the other really, really big experience that I had, that I really feel like shaped me was in the seventh grade, I became like the school slut. So, me and my friend went to this high school party and gave two guys blowjobs and when we got back to school, the whole entire school knew about it. And it was like essentially overnight I became the girl that no one was allowed to be friends with, that no one wanted to be friends with and I feel like that's really, really, really when shame became my identity. And so, it was like from that point on, that's really when any means necessary to get fucked up.

Michael: You know what's wild about that is, you know, when you're young, especially in high school, like middle school, high school, we're all trying things. We're all doing stuff. And for some reason there's always that boy or that girl who they just get pigeonholed into this identity of like, that's who they are. And we don't even know how to make meaning of that I mean, you're so young, you can't make meaning of what it is to be promiscuous. Right. And not that I'm shaming it, like, go do you, like whatever makes you happy. You know, I shared on the show before like, I've only ever had one nickname in my whole life, and it was in my late teens when MySpace was a thing and I was hooking up with every stranger I could, my friends all called me MySpace whore like that was literally my nickname. And it's like I was still in this place, I'm just in discovery, I'm figuring it out, but the mechanisms for safety that we use as coping, they can be drugs, alcohol, sex, especially if we see it's actually creating a semblance of peace. Like you drinking and acting out brings your parents to this place where now your mom's not drinking and there's less chaos in the home and so, as an adolescent, you put two together and you go, okay, cool, I got it. So, If I'm partying, they're taking care of me, they're better parents, they're not drinking, they're not fighting if I'm not doing that, then I know what that's like. And when I was young, it was escapism entirely for me. I was like, I want to turn off the yelling, the screaming, the abuse obviously very different background than what you've come from, but it is like we will do whatever we need to do to satiate our need for survival, for acceptance, for being seen. And you use a word that I think is really powerful, here's what's interesting, like when I was young…

Andrea: Identified patient?

Michael: Not that shame because here's the truth. Like I didn't think that shame was a bad thing, I just thought I was a bad person. And so, all the time I'd get involved in these things like, oh, this is just because I'm bad. And then I realized like, oh, this is actually because of shame that I actually feel bad and it's like this whole vicious cycle then you go to therapy, you spend a quarter million dollars, and then one day you're healed. And so, you know that journey when you're in school, when you're young, like, do you still feel the ramifications of those experiences today? Like, have you stepped into healing those, like what has that been like for you? Because I know that somebody listening right now is still carrying shame from similar experiences that they had in their childhood that they can't seem to let go?

Andrea: Well, first when you made the comment about how like one kid gets pigeoned, it's so interesting that you say that because it was me and another girl. But she had an older brother that I went to a private school, so it went all the way up to 12th grade and even though she had done like the same exact thing that I had done, she really escaped the harassment because she had an older brother that was kind of protecting her. But it's interesting, I actually reached out to her when I was about to start the podcast and I was like, I'm really curious ‘cuz we stopped being friends then too. And I was like, I'm really curious to hear like how that experience impacted you ‘cuz I became the girl that like, did not have any friends, like for, until I got sober at 19 like that really put a tarnish on me. But she turned out okay as far as like having friends and she seemed like she was pretty popular, but she shut it, you know, she shut it down, she had no interest in going there, which I thought was interesting. But I think what's also important to clarify is that, you know, I said shame, but I said that shame became my identity, right? So, we have like shame, which is a feeling, and then we have toxic shame, which is internalized shame. And so, when we internalize an emotion, it no longer functions as an emotion and becomes one's identity, right? So, there's nothing wrong with feeling shame, but there is something wrong with believing that we are shame. So, I think that that's the same thing as like you saying that like, you know, you were bad I mean, that's what that internalized toxic shame is this belief that there's something inherently wrong with us.

I had an experience a couple years ago where I was living in San Francisco and it was the year that the Eagles won the Super Bowl a couple years ago and hopefully again on Sunday and I went to this Philly bar and I walked in and there was a table of about six people that were all in that my seventh-grade class, the year that that happened. And I hadn't seen them in, you know, 15 years and I went up to them and I talked with them, and asked how they were doing and it wasn't until I was driving home when I was in my lyft on the way home, that I realized that that experience and that like identity, like I hadn't thought, I didn't think about that at all, like while I was communicating with them. And that was like huge just to see that I had let that go, how did I work through it? I mean, I think that I understand and I have compassion for myself that like, I was just trying to survive, you know? Like, I don't know. I have a lot of compassion, like for that little girl and I don't feel like I carry shame about that, but I do think that one thing that comes through is because of that like scapegoat role identified patient, I do think that that sometimes comes into play like engage in like self-sabotaging type behavior or like procrastinating, I do think that sometimes that is me defaulting into that role. If that makes sense.

Michael: Yeah. It does make a lot of sense. And the thing that came to my mind was like, how brave of you to go and engage with those people. Right. One of the things I always think about is like, share your truth, speak your truth, be who you are no matter what, that's the greatest sign of healing that you will ever experience. Right? So many of us are used to stuffing down, hiding, running, keeping quiet and it's like, well, you know, you could do that or you could face the reality of like, the truth of the environment and the fact that, yeah, like these things have played a role in your life, but they're not who you are. And that's been one of the hardest things, I've probably done is get to that place where I'm like, I am not those ideas, I am not those things. And you know, everybody procrastinates, everybody self-sabotages, and I do too like it's crazy, I'll sit sometimes to get my day started might take me two hours. Right. And even though I'm like in my routine, in my habits, and I do though like it's sometimes it's like that one activity, I'm like, just do this f**** thing and your day will be better like, that can take forever. And I think most people don't understand that like, I don't know anyone who doesn't I mean, go look at it do like Goggins, right? Everybody touts him as like the man's man and the greatest strongest superhero dude alive. And I'm like, he's dealing with a lot of trauma. He's dealing with a lot of things that he's gone through and even that dude struggles to put his shoes on to go for these runs sometimes and it's like, you've gotta recognize that. And that's been a reminder for me in this journey because I do want to do great things like you, like you want to do great things, you want to impact the world for the better, but it starts with us. And so, I'm curious when you're in these modes of self-sabotage and procrastination. Two part one, what is the conversation you're having with yourself? And then two, how do you move through it?

Andrea: So, this is like all very present for me and something that I've been talking about on my podcast, ‘cuz I think what I kind of came to the realization a couple months ago is that I've really just been shaming myself about it and like using it as a way to shame myself, right? So, at the end of the day, beating myself up for the things that I didn't get done and treating it almost like, it's just like a behavior thing. But what I've realized is like I really need to come at it from a level of like curiosity and compassion instead of beating myself up so, I've just been trying to really just notice what's going on. And then the other thing that I've been doing, are you familiar with the term outer child?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrea: So, I had on Susan Anderson on my podcast a couple weeks ago. And so, she talks about, and this really hit home for me and…

Michael: Do me a favor and define that ‘cause I know some, you asked me if I am and my brain went, yeah.

Andrea: Yeah, I'm getting there so, it was like, really? So, she's like the abandonment trauma guru and I had her on before, but I had her on again and it was like such divine timing for her to come on. So, she has a concept of like where you have like your inner child and your outer child, and I guess outer child could be similar to like inner teenager, but I prefer outer. So, the way that she describes it is that our inner child, that is the part of us that feels so, that is the emotional part of us, that is the vulnerable innocent part of ourselves. The outer child outwardly manifests whatever the inner child is feeling. So, the inner child feels, the outer child then reacts in response to these feelings, but not in a healthy way like in a self-sabotaging way. So, your average child is the part of you that breaks your diet, that procrastinates, that gets into unhealthy relationships. And so, the reason that it's so important that we separate the two is because the inner child isn't doing anything wrong, the inner child's feelings are valid, right? It's the ways in which we are coping with these feelings, that is the issue. So, if you don't separate them out, it's almost like you're blaming, you're punishing, you're attacking the inner child from what it's feeling. And also, it's your outer child is also acting in ways so that you don't take a look at what those feelings are. And so basically, I've been reading her book, it's called Taming Your Outer Child, but it's separating the two out so that you can then connect with your inner child and really get at like, what are the underlying feelings? Like why are we reacting this way? And so, I've been doing this like journaling exercise where like you ask your inner child, like how do you feel about the ways in which I procrastinate and self-sabotage? And what she told me is that when I say I'm gonna do things the next day and I don't get them done, that it feels the exact same way as when my mom would tell me that she was not gonna drink anymore and she still would. And that just like really hit hard, you know? And that's like that, that's like that f**** repetition compulsion, right? And it came to me. It's like when we are habitually disappointed by our parents as kids, we then go on to habitually disappoint ourselves as adults. And so, through this exercise, I'm separating that out and I'm getting into these feelings and I'm allowing my inner child to express this disappointment and this hurt that she was not able to express as a kid. And that's part of stopping these behaviors is like expressing the repressed feelings. And so, what I've also been doing is like, when I'm doing this journaling exercises, I'm writing to her and telling her, hey, I'm gonna do these things tomorrow and I'm gonna check back in with you to let you know that I did that. And so, you don't wanna promise the moon, right? Like it could be something so simple that could take five but it's like through this process that you're like rebuilding that trust with your inner child. And it's been incredible like for some reason, by me doing this, it's like raising the stakes and I'm getting the sh*t done. There's been one time where I didn't do what I said I was gonna do, and instead of making excuses for why I didn't do it, I just said, I'm sorry. I said I was gonna do it and I didn't do it, and I own that, but I'll do it tomorrow. And so, that's like been what the past few weeks that's what I've been doing to kind of look at this sh*t.

Michael: So yeah, that's so powerful. I consider myself the king of not doing what I say I'm going to do. And it's been through, I didn't have words in language like you just used, but when I really made this decision to create this change in my life, I knew so much of it was about accountability because I was looking at my life every single day, I'm like, dude, you are a f**** loser, right? Now, that's the language I needed. I always try to create context around this, use the language you need. I use that language because it is the language that I know. And so, when I was in that, it was like, okay, now do the opposite of what someone who's a loser. And what I came to realize, it is compassion and self-care in which what you build and create in your life starts to take shape because like, even though on this one hand I have this language, which most people may look at volatile, I go, that's the language that I'm from and if you come to me super nice, fluffy kitties, I'm gonna like get the f*ck outta my face. Right. And so, I come to myself with this language and then the dichotomy or juxtaposition of it is, okay, cool. Now how do you have acceptance about the fact that this is your fault, that you didn't do the thing that you were gonna do, even though it's tied into this thing from when you were seven years old and your mom take you to see toy story when she was supposed to and all the rest of the kids on the class field trip, gotta see it and you had to go back to school the next day embarrassed. Right. And that's a real story. And so, like when you get into the depths of this and you're like trying to make meaning of it, I love that you're journaling because that has been the thing that has set me most free.

Andrea: I've been so resistant to it.

Michael:  Most people are, and I was too at first, even though I'm a writer like I'm a writer, I wrote my very first vampire romantic comedy when I was like 10 years old, I've been a writer since I was a child. But getting into the depths of the emotional capacity that we have around the experiences of our life is f**** scary. And what happened for me was, I was like, okay, I'm gonna step into this. I bought a red journal after a therapy session and it became my angry journal and eight years ago, was when this happened, and it's actually still over here on my bookshelf. I have the same journal that it's full now there's like five red journals.

Andrea: My angry journal.

Michael: But that's what it was. It was like, be f**** mad. Put all of your emotions in there. And then I realized a lot of the things that I was mad about were things that were my things that my cost, things that I had done because I'd forgiven or let go of so much abuse, so much. I mean, I even let go of the fact that my mother cut my finger off, right? I was able to do that, but I would destroy myself over not doing the dishes. I would ring myself out over like not folding the laundry or showing up late to work or whatever that thing. And then I realized, and I don't know if this is holding true for you or something you've experienced, but I realized like one of the most important things in self-care is doing what you said you're going to do. Now, a big part of that's reparenting obviously, but it's like the people who know me best in my personal life, they know that when I say I'm gonna do something it's done. And that to me has just become not only a badge of honor, but just proof that I used to be a guy who was unreliable to everyone all the time, but especially myself and through this healing journey and through so many of the things that we talk about, it's different. So, I'm wondering if a big part of this for you has also just been in self-accountability and navigating that.

Andrea: Yeah, it is. Because I think that I hold true to what I say to other people, you know? But I think part of why it's coming up too is because I've it's just been in like the past two years that I really feel like I'm stepping into my purpose too, you know? So, I think that that brings up a lot of things. I think one thing that's interesting that you say too about, you know, just being angry at yourself, I think what also what happens is, you know, as kids, it's not safe to outwardly express our anger towards our parents. And so, we redirect that like at ourselves too. And so, I think it's also like looking at like, is this anger misdirected at myself, you know?

Michael: Yeah, no, I do know, and it's what's really interesting is, as you were saying that, my thought was if I got angry at my parents, I might as well just plan on crying and getting my ass kicked the rest of the day. What an odd thing that as children, we don't have the safety to have emotional connection at that level, right? Because of our parents and the choices and decisions that they make. Whereas now I'm like, I encourage, like, when I'm coaching my clients, I'm like, yeah, be angry. It's okay. You don't have to hide from it, because if you hide from anger, you're not gonna know love. My thought on it is, how in the world can you experience any emotion if you cannot experience all the emotions? And that's been a hell of a journey for me. In order to imagine like, I don't know what it was like for you but how did you find the safety to have emotions? Because I imagine being that young and stepping into drugs and alcohol in the way that I did, it's a turnoff valve. So, how'd you get the valve turned back on?

Andrea: You know, in my family it was only like certain emotion, like I think for me, it's been slow to release like the sadness, that's been like the thing that's been the most difficult for me to tap into. And I would say it's really been in the past year or so that the tears are finally really starting to come because what I saw in my home growing up was like anger or numbness, right? So, it's tapping into that sadness I think it's just been, I think it's just a natural process of recovery and healing and I think that our body and our psyche just knows when it's safe for certain things to start to come up, you know? And really getting an understanding of like what it is that I'm really feeling or what is the underlying fear beliefs to kind of get clarity on that allows for me to get like clarity on what are the emotions that I'm feeling, you know?

Michael: How do you get clarity in it? Because I think that's a place, historically I had been stuck and I know that that is a place where many people get stuck because they're like, what is this actually like? How do you get clarity? How have you guys discovered that?

Andrea: A lot of therapy and in a lot of meetings and yeah, 12 steps and everything talking to other people. I think it's just like a process of doing the work, right? I don't have like a specific answer.

Michael: Yeah, no, I think you're right.

Andrea: I think it's like looking at trauma responses too. So really, you know, anytime I'm having like an overreaction to something, like I'm not reacting to something in the present that has been like one of the biggest beauties of an areas that I've been able to see my growth is that I'm really able to now identify pretty much like in the moment, oh, you're not like you're having some sort of an emotional flashback right now like what you're reacting to is not what you think you're reacting to.

Michael: Yeah. It never is. Like that's been the biggest thing for me, especially probably in the last six years, five years, four years, last year, is just looking at it and going, dude, the response that you're having to this either A – is not warranted, or B – is so tied into something that happened 13, 23, 40 years ago, almost at the 0.9 years ago at this point where it's like, what's really happening here? It's like the arguments, the things that we get mad at, it's always about like, you don't put the keys in the right place. I'm like, it's not about the keys, it's about the fact that this happened or that happened and then you tie in deeper and I think getting that place of in real time in the presence making meaning of that, like that's f*** powerful.

Andrea: It is. And here's one tool for people, because I think that that take time and I think a lot of people might be able to recognize, Hey, I'm having an overreaction, but I don't have any idea where this stems from. I think one good tool for that is to like a trauma response log. So, anytime you're having some sort of an overreaction, you know, writing down what happened, what you were feeling in your body, what you were feeling emotionally, what were the thoughts going through your head and how did you respond and you know, perhaps through time you're gonna be able to kind of see some patterns and connect the dots on what might be underlying it.

Michael: I think that is a great tool, so thank you for sharing that. I mean, you gotta get pretty damn real with yourself to be able to step into that and I hope people will honor some compassion for themselves as they navigate that world, because I have done that and there's a lot of work in this process that s**k like it just, I'm gonna call it what it is. It just sucks. And that's one of the things that for me, s*ck the most in part because like A – I have a very stubborn personality and B – because I was having to come to realize like, I can control a lot of these responses, and that was really interesting. I'm wondering as you have created this podcast, which is absolutely incredible and it's one of my favorite shows, and as you've had all these conversations, do you find that there any elements of what you do that have helped you just as an interviewer or somebody having these conversations that you carry into your life? Because for me, when I'm interviewing someone, like I pull tactical stuff into my life immediately and I fear that unfortunately a lot of people are just listeners, they're not doers. And so, I'm wondering like, what is the impact that like having these conversations with people have in your life?

Andrea: Well, I just shared one like with the inner child and the outer child, you know, that's been the coolest thing about this is, and what I try to, you know, portray to my listeners, like, I don't have this shit figured out. You know, like I'm still a shit show and I don't want them to ever think that like I know what I'm doing like I don't, you know. And so that's like what's been really cool for me is I feel so honored that I get to do this podcast like I'm still going through it, you know, like this is me still healing and growing and I feel so honored that I'm being supported as like, as I go through this journey, like by my listeners and by my community and yeah, like I get to talk to some really great people and so that's an example, it's just all the time. I mean, sometimes you gotta take some of it and leave the rest behind. But generally speaking, I think I have pretty good conversations, but sometimes it takes a little while to sink in. And I also like to get feedback from my listeners on like what they take away from the episodes ‘cause then that also, you know, helps me to see things through a certain perspective as well.

Michael: Yeah. I have the same, like, I know with massive certainty, I have no idea what I'm doing. It’s just I'm sharing in real time like this is what I think it means to go down this process ‘cuz it's what's worked for me. But it's really interesting because what works for me, it doesn't mean it's gonna work for you. Right. And for example, the type of language I use, like I definitely have people who are like, you say f**k too much. And I'm like, well maybe it's not for you and that's okay and I hope that you find what is.

Andrea: Did you know about the E for everyone? Did I tell you about that?

Michael: No. Tell me about this.

Andrea: Okay, so I had this woman leave me a review on iTunes and she said, She gave me two stars. She goes the podcast, it says E, which means for everyone, but yet the podcast is riddled with language. And I was like, lady, it stands for Explicit.

Michael: That's hilarious.

Andrea: It’s not for everyone.

Michael: Yeah. And you know what? And it shouldn't be for everyone. And I think as a part of our journeys and stepping into our pure authenticity, which I know is a f*** buzzword, but like, let's respect what it means, it's about being in your truth. And if you're intentionally not, being you, you're not for everyone and in fact, you're not for anyone ever, ‘cuz you've gotta go figure out some sh*t and that's been a big part of the process for me, is like, I gotta figure out my sh*t. Like who am I? What do I want? What do I want to create? How do I want to create it? What am I willing to do? What is my capacity? And it’s interesting cause I've come to find, not only the longer that I do podcasting, but coaching and speaking on stages and all these things, it's like my capacity is not what some of these other guys' capacities are, right? I'm an introvert, like to its core. I was just actually speaking at this really amazing event last week and like as soon as I got off stage, I'm in the flow of it and talking and shaking hands and this goes on for like two hours. And the second I was done, I was like, I'm disappearing. And I went to my room and I listened to music for like three hours. I ate dinner and then I came back and it was like there are people who can continue to show up and do that and serve at that level at a speed that I don't have the capacity for because so much of this really comes down to know thy self. And I love what you just said because like, yeah. Be explicit. E should be for you doing what the h*** it is that you think is going to serve people the best.

Andrea: Well, and I'll have people say, and I think at some point I probably should like define adult child, for anybody who's not familiar with the term but somebody, you know, a lot of people will be like, well, there's not that many adult child podcasts out there so, I really wish that you would have a podcast that would appeal to all of us adult children. And that's like, goes against everything that my message is, which is about like living as our authentic selves, you know.

Michael: Yeah. And I want to encourage people to do that more because here's an interesting thought, everything in my life became different when I became me. I had a therapist who's the literally dude, changed my life. He's the greatest therapist in the history of the world. And he goes, change only happens when you make change happen. And when he told me that, we were talking about identity. And so, I'm curious, like, as you have shifted into a deeper authenticity and a deeper true sense of who you are, how has that impacted your life? What has that meant for you and what has that journey look like?

Andrea: Well, I mean, that's what this podcast is like, that this podcast is the exact result of that. You know, when I hit my adult child bottom, I was working, I was a CPA but what I realized was that I had never once considered like what a fulfilling career would look like, like ever, like all I had cared about was like finding a guy and getting married and I mean, all I was doing was like dating one emotionally unavailable alcoholic after the next. And I realized how much I was selling myself short and so not only did I like embark on this journey to like heal from my childhood, but I also embarked on this journey to figure out like why the f*** I was put on this earth. And that's why I just think that like this adult child recovery work is so powerful because, you know, I was nine years sober at the time because it allowed me to like figure out who the f**k I was and live accordingly. You know, I think getting sober gave me that that like a possibility for me, but then it wasn't through until doing like this adult child recovery work like, that I had the ability to do so. And so really what it was just like a journey of healing, but then also like just learning about myself and being able to see that my gift is like my authenticity and like my vulnerability and my ability to connect with other people. And I don't know, it's just like been the most like, amazing experience. I feel so f***ing lucky. And I think it's available for all of us like what are your thoughts on that? Like, I think that we all do have a purpose and I think it's capable for anyone's, you know, able to do that. I just think a lot of people don't do it.

Michael: Yeah. Well, a – I agree with you first and foremost, and my hypothesis of why people don't is because we are more scared of success than we are a failure. And we are so used to failure and failing and being the loser and everyone pointing at us going, you're not good enough, strong enough, capable enough, that success is actually an identity, it's a shift, right? In the same way that shame can be with success. And so, to go to this place, because there's f*** levels to this game, right? Because here you are, you look at your life where you are today, you go, okay, this is a level above where I was, but maybe the thing that I want is eight more levels up and its level 10 I'm at level two. Here's the analogy that I use people want to win championships. Well, if you want to be champion, you have to have a champion caliber, and most people don't because of the work required to put in, because it's not as simple of, I listened to the podcast, I read the book, I went to the conference, I had f*** therapy three times, it's the day in and the day out and the micro decisions that you're making when you're making 3000 decisions a day that lead you down that road.

One of the hardest parts of that is it is one, you have to have massive clarity. This is just the way that I've been able to create the life I have is when I have no clarity my life was a disaster. Okay, cool. Check. So, we know if I don't know where I'm going, I'm screwed. So, I got clarity I said, what do I want to do? I want to build this thing that's impactful for people where I can teach them as I'm learning and that ultimately became Think Unbroken, almost seven years. Okay, cool, so, let's do that. Check. Now what? Alright, now I have to understand that for me to go to the level that I want to be, which my zeroed in focus right now is like I want to be the number one mental health speaker in the country. Cool. I'm at level one. What does it take to get to level 10? The battle that I know that I have between level one and level ten is in between my f*** ears, that's it. That is the whole game. That is the whole battle. And so, when I'm coaching people, when I'm speaking with them, when people are listening to this show, the thing that I'm always hoping that they're taking away is like possibility because you have people like you and I who are sitting here I'm not an anomaly, I'm not special, I don't know anything anyone else doesn't know, I just execute the thing that has been laid in front of me from the people who have done it before. It's like f**** Tony Robbins says success leaves clues, it's like follow what's in front of you and success is inevitable, but you have to be willing to accept it. And that was a thing that really shifted for me, I was like, can I accept the fact that it is okay to not be a loser? Just going back to that language again that was literally the conversation I had in this organism. I was like, you don't have to be a loser. You can be great but you have to allow it to happen, and you have to learn the skills that allow you to be great. Greatness is defined by each person individually. You may not want what I want, that's totally fine, but whether you want what I want or you don't what I want ultimately, the way that you get the thing that you want is by doing the hard shit every single day that builds confidence and once you build confidence, you level up. So, if you're at level two, you have level two confidence. Now you have to start doing more difficult things to get level three confidence and so on and so forth until you have the championship caliber. And so, my answer in a very simplified way to what you just asked me is, yes, I do believe it's possible for everyone, but not everyone is going to do it.

Andrea: Yeah, ‘cuz it requires a lot of deep work and I think most people just don't know who the f*** they are, you know.

Michael: Well, that's where journaling comes in, like the pen is the greatest tool in the healing journey. There's no question.

Andrea: The pen.

Michael: The pen. Sit and write.

Andrea: Have you ever done much non-dominant? Have you done that much of that?

Michael: I have. We used to do the non-dominant hand drawing.

Andrea: Oh my God, tribe writing. I tried to do it, I have to show you what this looks like.

Michael: For those listening and not watching Andrea's going to get a drawing.

Andrea: I mean, I'm not afraid of anybody reading this because I can't f**** read it.

Michael: Yeah. I have no idea what that said. It looked like hieroglyphics.

Andrea: It's horrible. I don't know if people can actually make like letters, but I couldn't.

Michael: I did that years ago in a session with my therapist where he was like, just write all the bad sh*t in your life, but do it left-handed, I was like, I don't know why. I still don't know.

Andrea: I'm here all day.

Michael: I was like, there's not enough time. You know, I love that this conversation has been fun and enthralling and hopefully impactful for people. I look at your journey, I look at what you've been able to do and accomplish in your life, knowing that, you know, like here's what's so interesting about you and where you're at. On paper people would look our childhoods and they go, they're so different but they're really not because trauma impacts people. Whether you're rich or you're poor, or you're black, or you're white or you're purple, yellow, or your parents are together, divorced or separated or whatever, trauma is going to impact people, and there is a path in front of you where your life can be different, where everything can become what it is that you want. And I'm not saying you have to go start a podcast like we have, but what I am saying is like there's an opportunity in front of you if you're willing to take it because the universe is always leaving you signs. And my friend, this has been a really beautiful, beautiful conversation. Before I ask you my last question, can you please tell everyone where they can find you?

Andrea: Yes, my Podcast is Adult Child and you can find me on Instagram and TikTok @adultchildpod you can email me @andreaadultchilpodcast. There are millions of adult children out there who don't know that they're an adult child. If you're gonna do anything right now, Google the ACA laundry list. If you were late, go listen to my f**** podcast.

Michael: Yeah. I love it. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Andrea: It means embracing our entire story, all of the mess, all of the shame, and really just embracing that and having gratitude for our pain, I think, you know, like so if I could go back and not have a f*** up childhood, if I could go back and not have become the school slut in the seventh grade, I wouldn't do it because it's shaped me into who I am today and I can honestly tell you that I really love the person that I am. Am I perfect? No, but I think I'm pretty alright.

Michael: Hmm. I love that. Thank you so much my friend.

Unbroken Nation. Thank you for listening.

Do as a favor. Leave review on Apple Podcast and Spotify for the podcast.

If this brought any value to your life.

Andrea: You guys, if you have not given him a five-star review, what the h*** is wrong with you? You need to stop, if you don't, next time you go to listen to the pod, it's not gonna be here, it's actually gonna disappear. So, I highly, highly recommend that you go leave a damn five-star rating right now.

Michael: Couldn't have said it better myself.

And Until Next Time.

My Friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll See Ya.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.

Andrea AshleyProfile Photo

Andrea Ashley


Andrea grew up in an alcoholic home and was the only child of an alcoholic mom and alcoholic dad. She turned to drugs and alcohol at 12 and became the focus of the family for the next seven years. She got sent to rehab for the first time in eighth grade. For seven years, she was in and out of rehabs and boarding schools. It did work in saving her family because her mom stopped drinking as much and her parents stopped fighting as much since they had to come together to deal with the nightmare that she was.

At 19, Andrea got sober. But that was only the beginning of yet another journey through a deeper recovery of healing her adult child. Seven years sober, she found herself in a toxic relationship. Dating for less than a month and she reacted as if her life was over. She became a non-functioning human. But she had an aha moment realizing that her feeling wasn’t actually connected to the heartbreak but it was rooted in her childhood.

Nine years sober, she found herself again in another toxic relationship that was associated with feelings of shame and powerlessness. When that relationship ended, she knew she had to treat it just as seriously as her alcoholism.

It has been four years and the transformation has been mind-blowing. Her journey to healing her unresolved childhood pain led Andrea to launch the Adult Child Podcast, which now impacts thousands of people who are also dealing with their own adult children.