Trauma Impacts Substance Use and Recovery
Early trauma and other forms of trauma impact our ability to cope with stress. It can be exhausting to keep trauma-related memories out of our minds (or at least held at bay). Often when stress becomes overwhelming, frightening, and at times unbearable, it often leads to addiction. Years like 2020 have sent us all into new arenas of stress and fear, which can exacerbate existing traumas. It makes perfect sense that an individual who is flooded with shame, dread, fear, and anxiety needs a source of comfort. Traumatic experiences can surface at any time, and everyone develops coping mechanisms, whether they are good or bad – in addiction and recovery.
As treatment for substance use disorders and trauma have evolved, it has become apparent that a need exists to treat both in a comprehensive process. The isolation, fear, shame, and terror are absolutely interrelated; unless the trauma is treated, sobriety does not seem much of an upside for relief for many. Even though alcohol or drug use may provide the illusion of helping, it initially gives the addict a false sense of relief from internal experiences. We often feel isolated, vulnerable, and like we must work hard to fit in with attempts to be accepted. These attempts often include high-risk behaviors leading to compounded guilt, shame, and a risk of additional traumatic experiences. Seeking an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment, temporary relief may be found in compulsive shopping, alcohol/drug use, unhealthy sexual behavior, and gambling – to mention just a few paths individuals may take.
The Effects of Trauma
Common traumatic incidents include:
- Death of a loved one
- Sexual abuse
- Domestic violence
- War (trauma from combat or deployment)
- Serious accidents
- National catastrophe (COVID-19)
- Witnessing traumatic events
- Parental abuse
- Near-death situations
- Abuse and neglect
When compared with the general population, people who had experienced trauma (scoring four or higher on adverse childhood experiences) were:
- 2 times as likely to smoke
- 12 times more likely to attempt suicide
- 7 times more likely to be alcoholic
- 10 times more likely to inject street drugs
(Sources: This article and The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study)
Treating Trauma and Addiction Together
Alcohol or drug use is often simply a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma. Many of us have been dealt our own traumas and hopefully doing our own work if we work with those suffering the same. Many of us who suffered trauma understand the emotional impact it has on our lives, but there are also those that bury it so deeply that they are unaware of how it has affected them. Processing our personal painful past and learning appropriate coping techniques for dealing with triggers is one of the most important aspects of supporting long term recovery.
Trauma is a serious problem in itself which becomes more complex when it is buried by alcohol and drug use. With the appropriate help, one can absolutely recover from both and move on to be a productive member of society. People who seek treatment become better parents, better spouses, and better to themselves; they lead reasonably happy lives.
Our clinical team at The Augustine Recovery Center is highly skilled and trained to assist you in your recovery from both trauma and addiction. We are committed to promoting awareness and understanding in a supportive environment, so that our patients can experience freedom from trauma, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Our ultimate goal for you or your loved one is to assist you in finding a lifetime of sobriety and overall health. The holistic approach we provide helps you address your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing so you can be successful in your recovery journey. We are here to help and we can go through this together with you!