[The Decolonizing Medicine Podcast S01E05. Original release date September 20, 2021.]
Jamee: Mabuhay! You are listening to the Decolonizing Medicine Podcast. We will be exploring the intersection of decolonization and healing work with Black and Brown practitioners
involved in a variety of modalities. I am your host Jamee Pineda coming to you from Piscataway territory, otherwise known as Baltimore, Maryland. My ancestry is mostly Tagalog and some Chinoy, but I was raised here on Turtle Island. I am also a queer non-binary trans person and a practitioner of Hilot and Chinese medicine. My guest for today is Carolyn Collado.
They are a writer, decolonial dreamer, ancestral homecoming coach, and founding steward of
Recovery for the Revolution. They are a queer, non-binary, Afro Taino, neurodivergent human in long-term recovery and believe recovery from a decolonized anti-oppression lens can point the collective towards liberation.
Jamee: So my next guest for today is Caroline Collado. Carolyn, how are you doing today?
Carolyn: I'm doing good! I'm happy to be here. We did some beautiful grounding before this recording so-
Jamee: Yay! I'm so excited to talk to you and to hear more about your work. I've been following you on Instagram and seeing the awesome writings and offerings that you've been putting up there. I can't wait to delve into that a little bit deeper. So my first question for you is what is decolonized recovery? What does that mean?
Carolyn: Yeah, um, so decolonized recovery to me is about looking at the ways in which
we are unwell as a result of the history that we've lived through, the history of colonization,
capitalism, and the forces of systemic oppression, white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy, fatphobia, which is also rolled up into those other things, but um looking at the ways in which our society promotes this unwellness as part of the legacy of colonization and, really, a return.
A return, a homecoming process, to who we are individually and collectively before the burdens of, you know, the history of colonization impacted us and completely changed our lives and the lives of our ancestors before us.
Jamee: I love it. I love that you call it more of a homecoming than a recovery. Yeah that makes me - to me that evokes that there's ancestral wisdom, ancestral love, that existed within us before colonization and that continues to be there and to support us. We just have to figure out how to get to it. I don't know if you have a different relationship to it, but that's what it evokes for me.
Carolyn: No, absolutely, and you know a bit on my journey with it. I've been sober from alcohol use and other, you know, substances for three and a half years and a big part of that process has been embodiment and coming home to my body and being able to be with the body, you know? And in that process of sobriety like really like why that feels important to name is that
you know we live in a society that promotes disembodiment and I really believe that so much of the wisdom of that homecoming lies in our bodies, lies in the memories of our bodies, lies in the unanswered and much called for healing that our ancestors desire for us and weren't able to experience in their own lifetimes. That's just really, like, all waiting for us in our bodies and ourselves.
Jamee: so that brings me very easily into my next question, actually. How do you see capitalism and white supremacy interacting with recovery and, more importantly, how do we move beyond that?
Carolyn: Oh this question! Oh, but I love it though. Um, capitalism. So capitalism is a super disembodying systemic force. You know, capitalism is constantly pushing us to be in our heads.
That's why before we started it was good to be grounding because I was in a headspace and this is heart-centered work and body-centered work. So again, we're all being forced to be in our heads and to be in like a really sympathetic nervous system space. When we're trying to meet the needs of capitalism, which is that in order to survive we have to produce, that puts so much stress on us and, you know especially for those of us who are trying to like survive under capitalism, it puts so much stress. There's no ability to really be with ourselves and to be with what our bodies are telling us that they want. There's just no space for that and so, you know, when if I'm naming like recovery from substances, recovery from codependency, so much of that is struggling with these systems and just being disembodied to be able to withstand them.
And white supremacy in the way that that comes in too, oh wait, um, one second let's go back
to what I was just saying. Well, the thing with capitalism is also that the role of those things they can help us to withstand and continue to be in those systems, to continue to contribute under capitalism. Then there's also the very particular role of racial capitalism, which is the ways in which Black bodies, Indigenous bodies, bodies of the global majority have been used to promote capitalism in this country and globally. And then white supremacy and that side of it, you know, racial trauma is a real thing. The ways in which that lingers in our bodies, the ways in which we are taught to fear or to react and respond to whiteness, it's such a-it takes such a toll. When that interacts with capitalism it leaves so many of us constantly stressed about white supremacy, whiteness, its opinions of us in order to be able to survive. So, and the role that it's taken on, and the tolls it's taken on our families, the, you know, what comes up for me a lot as a first generation born to this land and child of immigrant parents, is just how much that need to survive under capitalism took away from intimacy, took away from familial time, took away from healing time. So yeah, when those two come together it's really hard for us to know what we need. So many of us are really struggling to address what's inside of ourselves under those two forces and their reinforcement of trauma. And so for me, decolonized recovery looks like really visibilizing the fact that that's at play, that constant re-traumatization under these systemic forces, and that those need to be addressed internally and collectively if we want to stop struggling in this way, if we want to preserve beautiful lives of people who are struggling under these systems.
Jamee: Yes. Yes. Thank you for that. It's so complex and so pervasive and insidious. So for folks who are listening, I was wondering if you could give us examples or, actually, give us tips for how to identify, maybe, when we're more in our heads instead of in our bodies or in our hearts. How can we know that for ourselves? I'm giving you all of these combination questions, which I think I'm not supposed to do when I'm interviewing people, but all of these things are so connected it's hard to, like, not talk about it all at once in a very non-linear way. So yeah, so first how do we know when we're in our bodies or in our heads and then how can we know when we are being affected by racism or colonization or white supremacy in a bodily way, right? l'm not talking about in the more intellectual conceptualization of how things are affecting us on a broad scale, but how can we know that this is affecting us? How do we know that anxiety is actually racism acting upon us not that we're, like, chemically imbalanced or something like that.
Carolyn: Oh, absolutely. I love this. I think it begins with a really slow integrating practice of noticing. So for me, for example, I know that I'm in my head. I can feel it, right? I can feel if I begin to start to notice. I can feel the tension that's happening in my temples. I can feel like a contracted form of breath, like my my breath is shortening because I'm taking out all the the blood and circulation from the rest of my body to try to send it to my head and that way that I can logically try to figure things out. That's how I've dealt with a lot of racial capitalism and white supremacy which rewards being in our heads. Again, so beginning to really notice, like, beginning to notice when you know it's just one thought after another in a really quick succession and noticing the tension in the head, the racing kind of thoughts. For me, I think that's been a big practice of noticing. And my gut, if I can get there, I'll notice that my gut has really been holding a lot because, again, that quick contraction, that shortening of breath in order to be in my head and try to rationalize things. Then the rest of it is really interesting as you know in my own experience of like coming to my body in that um that journey. It began looking like okay, I'm beginning to notice the ways in which my body had for decades been really just coping with all of that trauma. For me I began noticing, for example, that I perpetually had tension in my shoulders and that began with my somatic-based therapist like being like what are my shoulders trying to tell me. I've come to learn that my shoulders, when they're tensing up, it's because generally, and again that shortness of breath, but it's ancestral.
This is ancestral wounding in these shoulders and when I'm being triggered racially, when I'm in environments that don't serve me because they're perpetuating that kind of oppression, I get knots here. So just beginning to come back to the body, to pay attention to different components of it, and asking them what what they would like you to know has generally been my path in terms of coming home to my body and a lot of delicious body work. I've loved massages forever and when I worked with someone, Eve Grice shout out, but when I worked with her for the first time it really kind of opened up my body map again to be able to really identify more somatically what was going on for myself in terms of trauma. So love bodywork, love massage. Jamee, I'd love to hear about how you help folks come back to their bodies. Massage is great. Yoga has been very helpful for me in terms of giving my body back to myself.
That's really how I felt the journey has been for me in terms of embodiment.
Jamee: Oh I love love bodywork, I love movement work as a way to ground ourselves and be in
our bodies more. When I'm working with folks in clinic, I'm so glad you brought up guts and shoulder tension because I'll - some people have an awareness that they're um, they have an awareness of where they're at emotionally, they'll be in tune with their emotions and feel anxious or feel depressed or feel stressed out or worried or whatever, and some people don't feel that. Some people feel neck tension or back pain or like in my case I get bubble guts when
I'm really upset, you know? Maybe that's TMI, I talk about poop and periods all the time in my work that's just how it goes. I think we don't - we're not really taught to understand that our bodies and our emotions and our minds are inseparable and that an emotional experience that is a body experience is very legitimate, right? I think part of that disconnection is absolutely a symptom of of Western rational ways and I say rational with disdain, Western rational ways of relating to our bodies. It's very reductive. It's very compartmentalized. What we know is that that's actually not how we exist, right? We exist within ecosystems related to our environment, other people, other entities that are not human. We have ecosystems within ourselves and it's not linear and nothing is actually disconnected. And so, I do use more body-based therapies where I'm inserting needles, or I'm prescribing herbs for someone to take, or I'm doing bodywork, or we're doing qi gong. Even if you're taking pharmaceuticals to work with your mood, that is still a body-based therapy even though we're relating to our emotions as a separate thing to treat that's not related to our body. Meds are a body-based therapy. So I just, I think there's a lot of ways in which we can connect to our bodies. Sometimes those are ways that are held by other people, like going to a massage therapist, and then there are ways that are just in our normal daily lives that we can re-appropriate, reclaim, to become a body-based therapy. So like for me, I use food as my own body-based therapy. The act of cooking is very - it becomes very spiritual and very physical, but it could be anything, right? Like it could be rubbing lotion on your skin, or petting your dog, or whatever.
Carolyn: Yeah, oh absolutely. What comes up for me is a lot of like movement and dance. Even today navigating some tension, it was just like all right time to put on some Celia Cruz and dance in my kitchen.
Jamee: I love Celia!
Carolyn: Oh, absolutely! That is a beloved ancestor. She is a beloved ancestor. And yeah, that wisdom and you know thinking about the decolonized recovery, that is wisdom that our ancestors had and still have and pass on to us that, you know, that we are reclaiming, that we are coming home to, that we are remembering, and freeing ourselves. Because, yeah, even just thinking about, again, how much of our society promotes us to be static and sedentary, coming home to that and knowing that we can find refuge in care of our bodies and movement of our bodies, uh that is worth it.
Jamee: In an effort to make The Decolonizing Medicine Podcast more accessible to folks we are now on YouTube with captions. This is made possible by folks on my Patreon. If you love this podcast, love making things more accessible, and you have the means, head over to patreon.com/jameepinedahealingarts. We are community-funded. This is who we do it for and who we are accountable to. We also appreciate support in other ways like sharing episodes with friends and family and liking and reviewing the podcast on Apple Podcasts. Thank you so much for listening now back to our show.
Jamee: Let's move on to our next question. Tell us a little bit about your journey in forming Recovery for the Revolution. What is it, first of all, for people who have not encountered it yet.
Carolyn: Yes! So Recovery for the Revolution. It is work where we are focusing on recovery as a catalyst for liberation within ourselves, it's a practice of liberation, and it's a, you know, a liberating practice that can get us all free. That's the idea and so, you know, everything from talking about decolonization and recovery, talking about the interconnectedness of you know substance use struggles and oppression, and really naming that. And I guess that's a nice segue into how that began. So I got sober three and a half years ago in AA. For those who don't know AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, very white institution. I really, really struggled because when I was getting sober I began to come home to my body. I began to come home to myself and I was noticing the ways in which my ancestors and you know my sobriety is such an homage to my grandfather. And I say that because he, you know, struggled with alcohol as well and he was a, you know, anti-fascist revolutionary. I know that that was a struggle for him and I say that because I could feel that. I could feel the remnants of that like wanting to be healed in my lineage. All of those different questions like all of that healing around you know through Hido the dictator, all the healing around our journey to come here, all of the grief that was really calling to be healed. I could feel it on a subconscious level that I knew that I needed to heal from all the ways that I had been surviving up until that moment under white supremacy, ableism, fatphobia, patriarchy, all the ways that I had really suppressed myself. But being in this institution, I knew that I had to kind of play it. Like I, in that institution, I couldn't really really do that because there was so much active policing and there was so much of a blatant disregard of the interconnectedness of oppression and substance use struggles. And you know, they're literally called "outside issues" when people talk about the internet.
Jamee: No, really?
Carolyn: Oh, I'm so serious. There's a whole tradition that people - it's like AA has no opinion on outside issues and people use it as justification to say that if people talk about their experiences with racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism that that's an outside issue. And I want to say that particularly so as relates to the starting of my work, you know there are queer spaces in AA, there are women's spaces in AA, but it wasn't really until the pandemic started that Black, Indigenous, people of color and we had started a meeting here in DC, um, there was one. Um, and we kind of were covert about it because it was not safe to be out about it. And then it wasn't until the pandemic that really people began to have more BIPOC meetings. The few that existed we started to get to know each other. So that was a lot of the organizing that I did in the early pandemic was helping meetings get together and really like sparking conversation among BIPOC folk. But then I, you know, I just came to realize that so much of what I was struggling with was that systemic oppression. Even as I found my folks in the rooms, I came to realize that it just ultimately is the framework that didn't work for me because it doesn't make sense for me if we're ignoring systemic oppression and just treating it as though it's only an individual issue um and that that's something that we have to set aside. So, you know, the name came to me in a dream and there were a lot of folks who were supporting it, you know, including Business for the People, Decolonizing Therapy. I'm grateful for all the support I've had. It came to fruition in June 2020 and that's kind of been it. Just really taking up a lot of space and just naming the thing because, again, especially for Black Indigenous people of color, that was very much denied as a valid thing the interconnectedness of our experiences with oppression and their relationship to substance use. And so ultimately in terms of like what I'm working on with it a year later is really having more conversations like this, having conversations about how do we get free, and like how do we come home to ourselves especially having survived and endured these systems. What does it look like in our bodies and how do we then by existing, by thriving, increase our capacity to be here? I know that there's so much of like, "I hate it here". You know that's what people will say on the internet like it's, it feels so overwhelming. But I also know that I get all the hope in the world when I'm talking to folks like you, you know, when I'm in community with like folks like you, Jamee, like you know, and listeners like I get all the hope in the world and I know that this place is worth living when I know that more of us are thriving and being well and, you know, taking charge of the world
as we want to live in it.
Jamee: That's that ecosystem thing like we don't, we cannot, we do not exist on an individual
basis despite all the mythology that's out there. Our wellness is connected to each other just as our diseases are connected to each other.
Carolyn: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, yeah I feel that so strongly.
Jamee: So, I want to circle back and talk about Recovery for the Revolution again and I just wanted to hear a little bit more about what your offerings look like right now. Are there any events coming up? Where can folks find out more about your work and connect with you?
Carolyn: Yeah do you mind if I pause to drink some water?
Jamee: Yes, please drink water. Everybody, drink water.
Carolyn: Yeah, um, yes. So we do have events coming up, um, not sure when are you releasing this.
Jamee: I'm releasing these every full moon.
Carolyn, Okay, so the next full moon is late September, I want to say like in the 20s?
Jamee: Hold on because I'm going to get my Passion Planner. Next full moon is September 20th.
Carolyn: Okay, ah okay. Well, um so um you know as of the release of this recording, I'll have hosted this event: AA Might Not Work for You and Why That's Okay. We'll be holding space, um, that's on September 18th, but we'll be holding space for folks on, again, like why it might not work especially with the sort of thesis that for folks it might not work to try to get the medicine from similar like in a similar fashion to the way that we've been harmed so that's on September 18th. And then starting in October I'm going to be launching a week weekly- a monthly series of decolonized recovery workshops where the first one that we're going to be talking about is embodiment, sobriety, recovery, and liberation. So talking a bit more about what we talked about in this podcast. So if you're interested in that definitely come through.
Check out my Patreon because that's where it'll be funded out of, or that's where it'll be rooted out of. And then other ways that folks can get involved with me, I do ancestral homecoming coaching. So I help folks walk through coming back to themselves and ancestry and especially as it relates to recovery and I also do advising for businesses, organizations, so that's a way to work with me as well, yeah. And I do a lot of writing if you want to hire me to write for you.
Jamee: Is there anything else that you want to let folks know before we close out our conversation?
Carolyn: Yeah. I like to end any time that I'm talking just really, you know, honoring the person that's listening and just really mirroring the importance and value of you and your life because, like Jamee said, we're all so interconnected and your healing, your wellness, your well-being
is so important for all of us. And so whatever you're doing to take care of yourself, however you're shining your light in this world, just really grateful for you. I'm grateful to everybody listening.
Jamee: Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your wisdom and your offerings with all of us, Carolyn.
Carolyn: Thank you.
Jamee: Every episode I like to ask our guests to give a community shout out to a BIPOC group
or an individual so that we can uplift them and encourage folks to redistribute funds to them.
Who would you like to shout out?
Carolyn: Okay, I'm gonna shout out two folks. So one being La Conextion which is - you can find them on Instagram @La_Conextion or it might be one word @LaConextion. My bad.
Jamee: You can - We can put it in the show notes.
Carolyn: Yeah, you can find them on Instagram and online. That was started by Gabrielle Rodriguez and they've been holding it down. Gabrielle's been sober, I want to say nine years, and you know she too has navigated everything with AA and similar struggles with it and has held down QTBIPOC sobriety meetings on a weekly basis throughout the entire pandemic. And so they've been really great, really great resources. And then the other person, group, I want to shout out is Sober Black Girls Club. You can find them on Instagram or Facebook under that name. Katie is an absolute badass and has really created a really lovely ecosystem for Black women and folks as well as queer, you know, QTBIPOC as well, um there are some groups for folks as well to thrive and to find sober resources, again, outside of these paradigms of AA as we talked about. So those two are absolutely dope folks and I definitely recommend checking out their work.
Jamee: Awesome. Everybody, give them your money, please.
Jamee: Help support these folks doing the awesome work that they're doing.
Jamee: Maraming salamat for listening to The Decolonizing Medicine Podcast. Music is by Amber Ojeda, Hedkandi, and Rocky Marciano. Big thanks to Laurenellen McCann, my sweetie and fabulous audio engineer, and all our listeners and supporters out there. If you want to find out more about my work head over to linktr.ee/jameepinedahealingarts. Ingat!