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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Friday, June 3, 2016

Remembering a Gentle Giant

By Carrie Steffensen

I had the incredible opportunity of traveling with John Bradshaw as we put on presentations for The Meadows across the U.S.  I’m so grateful for that experience. John influenced me, encouraged me, and was a genuine and generous friend. 

“When death finds you hope it finds you alive.” John regularly shared this African proverb with his audiences, urging and imploring us all to accept ourselves, trust ourselves and believe in ourselves. He asked us, “What is the water of your life? What is the work you like to do, the work that makes you graceful? Who are the people that bring you vitality, who make you feel the most alive? Where do you find a context that gives you a sense of yourself, a purpose for living?”

John was a prolific scholar with an almost photographic memory. He would stop mid-sentence when referencing an idea from a book to mention the author (including the correct spelling!), title, and even page number. He was an amazing teacher synthesizing psychology , philosophy, and theology, and helping each of us to explore our family system and our inner child. 

 He was also very funny. If you’ve heard him speak before, you’ve heard about Sister Ida and her actual pictures of hell! He was transparent and charismatic, weaving his story into our story, from innocence to dysfunction to recovery. 

 In one of our last conversations, he spoke of being enormously happy in spite of his physical decline and still incredibly excited about learning. He loved poetry and shared this poem by Derek Walcott with me: 
The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 
and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
When death finds you hope it finds you alive. RIP Johnny Bradshaw.

By Jim Dredge, Meadows Behavioral Healthcare CEO

John Bradshaw’s presence looms large at The Meadows. His seminal works on toxic shame, dysfunctional families and reclaiming one’s inner child are central to our model for treating emotional trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other behavioral health disorders. We were heartbroken to hear of his passing earlier this week.
He was a Senior Fellow whose work influenced many of our other senior fellows. Dr. Claudia Black said recently in a Facebook post that John “has left a great legacy. For me personally, he was a dear friend. I have many poignant memories.”

Part of his legacy includes an ability to connect with people on a deeply personal level, even when he was delivering his message to an audience of thousands or through a television screen. “Everything I write about I struggle with myself,” he once said in The Observer of London. Perhaps that very personal understanding of the struggles faced by those with addiction, childhood trauma, and other mental health issues is one of the things that allowed him to speak about complex psychological concepts in a way that was relatable and deeply meaningful to so many.

This amazing gift of his lead him to become a household name in the 1990s through appearances on PBS—for which he received an Emmy nomination— and on popular talk shows like “Oprah” and “Sally Jessy Raphael.” He also led workshops all over the world and wrote many best-selling books, including Healing the Shame That Binds You, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child and Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What to Do When the Honeymoon is Over.
His aim through all of his work was to help people improve their lives by learning to love and accept themselves. He helped a great many people overcome the shame, rage, resentment, and despair that fueled their addictions and self-destructive behaviors and encouraged them to live more purposeful, fulfilling lives.

Above and beyond his professional accomplishments, his joy, his compassion, and his spirit of kindness were an inspiration and guiding light to us all. “The number of people John helped over the decades has to be in the six figures,” said Shannon Spollen, Director of Community Partnerships at The Meadows. “I couldn’t help but smile whenever I was with him these last couple of years…”
John’s presence will continue to loom large at The Meadows, and our continued commitment to helping people heal from trauma and addiction will be our never-ending tribute to his work and his life. He will be terribly missed.

“John Bradshaw was a corner stone in my building a new life. I'm sad for his passing and grateful for his message.”
— Judy Nagle

 I was first introduced to John when I started therapy seeking help to set appropriate boundaries with an acting out teenager. What I discovered along the way was I needed to change things on how I looked at life and heal from childhood traumas and wounds. My therapist recommended I read Healing the Shame That Binds You. This book saved my life. I was able to discover the wounds which did not belong to me and what I was passing on to my children, which resulted in acting out behavior by my oldest daughter and my co-dependence. I worked very hard to change the old messages of shame, not being enough; as well as having to be perfect in order to be loved because of the healing messages in this book. I had the opportunity to participate in Survivors Week at The Meadows, which catapulted my recovery with co-dependence on the fast track. I attended lectures by John at Unity of Phoenix and alumni reunions at The Meadows. I honestly don’t know where I would be today without receiving his messages and guidance from his books, lectures, and tapes. Today, both daughters are wonderful, powerful young women. One celebrated 19 years sober on March 21, 2016. I am now a licensed master level social worker providing substance abuse counseling and I facilitate a parent group weekly. I love passing on the messages and recommend Bradshaw’s works to my clients. I will forever be grateful for receiving the his gifts. He will be missed.  
— Linda Williamson, Clinician

His books are awesome. I went to his workshops. RIP John thanks for being an inspiration AND HELPING so many. Prayers to his family. 
— Chris Wudarski 
A huge loss to the field but his contributions and legacy will carry on!
— Sean Walsh, CEO,The Meadows

John was an innovator in the field of recovery.  
— Rick Baney, Dir. of Business Development SOL Recovery