Trauma: Getting to the Heart of Your Addiction

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The causes of addiction are numerous. Some may have a genetic predisposition, others may have learned the behavior from family, and some may have been exposed to their addictions at young ages. For others, addiction to drugs or alcohol may be a way of dealing with past traumatic experiences. Finding the underlying cause of your addiction can help you in your recovery. If you have experienced trauma in the past, healing from trauma goes hand-in-hand with recovering from addiction. Victims of trauma may be using substances to forget about painful events or to numb themselves from the pain. By moving through and processing painful experiences, you can begin to heal from your addictions and your trauma.

Types of Trauma

Trauma is an emotional response to any harmful, life-threatening, or shocking event. Trauma is caused in part by the lack of ability to get out of the situation. You may have been too frightened to fight back or too shocked to turn away. You may have experienced a life-threatening event, like a car crash, and had no control over what was happening at that moment. When you are unable to run away or fight a threat, you feel trapped and helpless. These feelings may carry over and you may begin to feel like a victim in all other areas of life. You may also have done all that you could to remove yourself from the situation, yet you could not stop what was happening. You may even struggle with blaming yourself for what happened to you. Trauma can be categorized into three types:

  1. Acute: trauma resulting from a singular shocking or dangerous event. 
    • Examples: Car crashes, sexual assault, witnessing an act of violence, etc.
  1. Chronic: trauma following a long period of neglect, abuse, or exposure to danger.
    • Examples: abusive childhood, abusive relationships, living in an unsafe area for a long period, etc.
  1. Complex: trauma due to multiple shocking or life-threatening events.
    • Examples: any trauma resulting from a combination of several events or acute traumatic events while facing chronic trauma.

Understanding which type of trauma you have experienced can help you to make sense of how trauma has impacted you. Everyone experiences traumatic events differently, however, having an understanding of what is going on may help you uncover the underlying factors contributing to addiction. Trauma can affect your emotional, physical, and mental health. You may feel:

  • Anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • On-edge
  • Shakey
  • Excessive guilt
  • Hopeless
  • Depressed
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Racing thoughts
  • Flashbacks

Addiction, Avoidance, and Trauma

Addiction can keep you from dealing with the heart of your issues. Avoidance of painful memories or negative feelings can prevent you from dealing with your issues. Addictions are an escape from these feelings. Strength will come from within, when you experience these feelings to process them properly. Drinking alcohol may dull the impact of a flashback; doing cocaine may help alleviate fatigue; sedatives may help with sleep. Unfortunately, these are just temporary means of masking a deeper issue at the root of your addiction: trauma. You might be using substances to get a break from or temporary relief from symptoms, yet they do not go away. As you continue using substances, you prevent yourself from healing and growing by concealing the pain that keeps coming back. Addiction is a way of avoiding true recovery from trauma.

Self-Blame Can Hold You Back

As you process your traumatic experiences, you may struggle with self-blame. You may think things like, “Why did I let this happen?” or “I was too weak to fight back, this is my fault!” You may struggle with your self-image and suffer from lower self-esteem as a result. When you look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are to blame for your trauma, you are getting in your own way of recovery. Blaming yourself will only hinder your ability to heal. What happened to you was not your fault. Learning to appreciate yourself and engage in self-care activities that empower you can help you find hidden strengths. You may find strength you never knew existed. 

Trauma is not your fault. Terrible things have happened to you and now you have a chance to heal. You may have been a victim at the time. You were put into a bad situation without a choice, without a way to leave, or the ability to get away in the moment. Now, you have a choice. You can choose to be a victim and continue to blame yourself, or you can find strength from within to get through this. In recovery, you are not alone. You can find support within the recovery community. Reaching out to others can help you to process your pain. You do not have to walk through the pain alone.

Trauma can have a profound impact on all areas of our health–physical, mental, and emotional. To escape from these symptoms, or to avoid painful memories and uncomfortable feelings, you may turn to addictive behaviors as a temporary solution to a deeper issue. By avoiding your pain with addictions, you are holding yourself back from finding the strength within yourself to heal and to grow. Get your life back! What happened was not your fault and you can now choose to recover. You do not have to be alone in your recovery. While trauma is unique for each person, others have learned to heal from similar experiences. Get back to the life you once had! Everlast Recovery Centers is here to help you learn new ways to cope with trauma. Healing from trauma and addiction may be one in the same. Call us today at 866-DETOX-25 to get started in your recovery journey!

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