What is trauma?
A difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have long lasting mental or emotional problems.
By simply being human, every person experiences trauma. Trauma is defined as the unique individual experience of an event or enduring condition, in which the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity (Pearlman and Saakvitne, 1995). The death of a loved one, a car accident, the perception that we would not be able to get our next fix, or finding ourselves in a dangerous situation are just a few examples of situations where one may experience trauma. During each of these, our brain switches from the thinking part (Prefrontal Cortex) to the survival brain (the Limbic System, where our fight, flight, freeze, and acquiesce responses lie) in order to survive that moment. If an event is overwhelming enough, PTSD may occur. In this case, our brain (Limbic System) is overwhelmed and it breaks that overwhelming event into “shards” that scatter across the brain in order for us to survive the event. After the event, the brain is unable to put the memory back together without clinical intervention because the biology of the brain has been changed. People find themselves reliving that moment whether in emotions, recurring thoughts, and/or nightmares, and might find themselves constantly on guard or anticipating the next negative event.
Inherent in substance and alcohol abuse, there is inherent trauma. A person who has used something outside of him/herself, whether a chemical, relationships, or other process addiction, has felt trauma when they could not engage in that other process—in addition to the trauma that has come from hiding the addiction, getting the substances, people, with whom they have been involved. When this trauma occurs, not only is there the overwhelming experience of these events, but our brain also attaches underlying messages when they occur. The messages received from the trauma may include one or all of the following: “I’m not good enough (to be loved, to show up, to be reliable, to have a healthy relationship, etc.),” “If people really knew who I was they wouldn’t like me,” “I can’t trust other people,” and “Life without _____________ is impossible” (a relationship, keeping a secret, people-pleasing—fill in the blank with what you feel would keep you from being loved and accepted by others). Symptoms of trauma can include one or more of the following: feel withdrawn, anxiety, poor concentration, irritability, edginess, mood swings, denial, anger, sadness, emotional outbursts, lethargy, fatigue, racing heartbeat, unfounded fears, and/or panic attacks.
"Big T" Trauma
- combat veterans
- survivors of natural disasters
- car accidents
- victim of domestic violence
- death of a loved one or friend
- childhood physical, emotional, sexual abuse
- rape victim
- witnessing domestic as a child
"Little T" Trauma
- reassignment at work
- recent move
- traffic ticket
- teacher scolding
- bullying victim
- death of your pet
- pressure of unrealistic childhood expectations (by parent)
Ways we address trauma
Without healing these wounds and the negative beliefs that have been adopted about oneself and others success through trauma, success in sobriety and gaining a healthy lifestyle is impossible. To address this, TARC has taken a Trauma-Informed Care approach along with the 12-Steps upon which to build its treatment program. TARC also uses group processes, in which men are able to address the incidences and the negative beliefs that have arises from these overwhelming events to begin healing.
TARC also offers Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to every client. “EMDR is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress including trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, persistent negative thoughts, depression and post-traumatic stress. The EMDR technique allows clients to quickly and efficiently reprocess memories resulting in improved thought processing and emotional wellbeing.”