How to Deal with Trauma in Sobriety

There is a very strong connection between trauma and addiction. One often leads to the other. People struggling to numb the effects of traumatic experiences in their lives will often self-medicate on drugs and alcohol. While this works as a quick-fix, continued abuse of these substances quickly leads to addiction, exposing the addict to additional trauma. On the other hand, trauma may be the result of a lifestyle of abusing drugs and alcohol.

Trauma and Addiction Co-occurrence

 

Trauma occurs as a result of experiences that are too disturbing that they overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope. This varies from person to person, depending on their resilience. For example, adults are generally more resilient in the face of traumatic experiences than children. Examples of traumatic events include sexual assault, child abuse, military combat, domestic violence, natural disasters, car accidents, battling life-threatening ailments and any other events that elicit fear, intense pain, and dreadful memories.

Unresolved trauma may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which presents symptoms such as nightmares, anxiety, depression, irrational fear, and a predisposition to addiction. Alcohol and drugs offer trauma survivors temporary reprieve and escape from painful feelings giving them an illusion of control over their lives and the world around them. Unfortunately, substance abuse does more harm than good in the long run. It soon becomes a problem and instead of helping ease the pain causes more harm to the already suffering trauma survivor.

Another possible explanation for the addiction and trauma connection begins with substance abuse. The lifestyle of an addict exposes him/her to dangerous neighborhoods, unsavory acquaintances, and dangerous behavior. It is no surprise that most addicts are victims of crime, abuse, violence, accidents, and other traumatic events.
Treating trauma and addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse is a valid coping mechanism since it effectively dulls the emotional pain and suppresses the memory of trauma. Evidence of past trauma can be so well hid in some addicts that many treatment centers end up not noticing it. Non-trauma-focused, addiction treatments set up alcohol and substance abusers for relapses or other addictive behaviors such as gambling, overeating, and sexual promiscuity, among others.

Regardless of which comes first, trauma or addiction, both have to be treated if the sufferer is to lead a healthy life. One cannot maintain sobriety while still harboring unresolved trauma. It is recommended that addicts first detox before working on recovery from addiction and trauma in an integrative and comprehensive manner with clear minds and stronger bodies.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatment plans that help addicts kick their addictions and conquer their trauma. These include medication and comprehensive therapies that teach coping skills, mindfulness, problem-solving, and relapse-prevention skills that lead to lifelong sobriety and improved quality of life.

 

Dealing with Trauma in Sobriety

Getting over a traumatic experience is easier said than done. Most recovering addicts prefer not to face the pain and fail to realize how it is intertwined with their addictions until it is too late. They choose to bury and ignore past trauma with the hope that it will go away and as a result, are unable to maintain their sobriety.
After a successful detox and a commitment to stay sober with the help of coping tools and skills, the next step is to heal from your trauma. Dealing with trauma in sobriety can be a difficult task which does not happen overnight. With the right attitude, however, you can deal with and overcome your trauma while maintaining your sobriety.
Healing from trauma is a process
When you’ve numbed yourself for so long with drugs and alcohol, the feelings may flood back and overwhelm you during recovery. You must recognize this as progress. The healing process may be tough, but as long as you are moving from one stage to another, you are making progress.

 

Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Will Not Help

It is important to realize that using drugs and alcohol may numb the pain, but once the euphoric state of mind has passed, the symptoms of unresolved trauma will still be there and are likely to be more disruptive than ever. While there is a temptation to take a break from the pain caused by the traumatic event, you must realize that escapism by way of substance abuse will not help.

 

You Are Stronger Than You Know

If you have survived a traumatic event and addiction, you are strong enough to survive the recovery. You must stop seeking temporary safety and face your trauma with the knowledge that you are worthy of love and redemption.

 

Your Habit Makes Perfect Sense

Trauma survivors have every right to chase after feelings of safety, worth, control, and to numb their painful feelings. Trauma changes you, and it is only rational to turn to substance abuse even if it is for the illusion of normalcy. You must, therefore, realize that even though your habits are bad, your intentions are pure. You only need a new coping mechanism that is healthy.  To make meaningful and lasting life changes while recovering from addiction, one has to change their thoughts, behavior, relationships, environment, and face the trauma that fueled their addictions in the first place.

 

Sexual Trauma & Substance Abuse: How to Recover from Both

The troubling high rate of boys and girls who experience sexual trauma and abuse leads to a lifetime of challenges that include substance abuse. The signs are all there, and the findings from the  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services support the troubling realities. These traumatized kids turn into adults who struggle to come to terms with the emotional and psychological shrapnel of abuse. Survey results indicated that of those adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse, some 70% had associated trauma.

In turn, the reports offer insight into some of the most prevalent tendencies and mental-health struggles associated with sexual trauma and abuse. Here’s a quick overview:

Depression

Sexual abuse often leads to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and self-deprecation, which also leads to clinical depression and often to substance abuse. It’s a vicious spiral, which also leads to severe difficulty in functioning on a daily basis in school, at work, or in your interpersonal relationships. It can just be something as simple as weight fluctuations, but there’s also the associated feeling of apathy. A depressed person may just not care what happens anymore, a self-loathing and self-destructive trend that can lead to falling even deeper into the abuse of alcohol and drugs. If the person doesn’t care anymore and simultaneously wants to forget the sexual trauma, substance abuse can be a dangerous avenue toward self-harm.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Any traumatic event can cause severe and long-lasting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You may be most familiar with associating PTSD with war and battle, but the effects can be felt when you’ve had a car accident, a surgery, or a vicious attack. The memory becomes linked with the physical and emotional repercussions, as nightmares and panic or anxiety attacks can lead to severe physical reactions: loss of breath, distress and increased heart rate related to sudden sounds, lights, smells, or anything related to the traumatic event.

Dissociation

Also, linked with traumatic encounters and abuse is the dissociation, which is also linked to PTSD. That’s the feeling of being separate or absent from one’s own body. It’s often associated with a feeling of being disconnected, an outsider. In trauma cases, dissociation is a coping mechanism to allow the person to survive and function. Long term, though, it can lead to more troubling effects like trouble focusing or concentrating. In more severe cases, dissociation can lead to a loss of the ability to function for periods of time. Depending on the severity of the dissociation symptoms, those affected by the disorder can also turn to alcohol or substance abuse to help or reinforce the numbing feeling that helps them cope with everyday life, and avoid memories of the past trauma.

How to recover

Even by itself, sexual trauma and abuse present difficult challenges coping with life and all of its challenges. Combined with the major depression, PTSD, and dissociation (as well as the potential for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychological illnesses and disorders), the obstacles may seem insurmountable.

Just as the studies track the troubling trends of trauma and substance abuse, though, they also offer hopeful moments. Recovery is possible, but awareness of the relationship between sexual trauma and substance abuse is key. If we don’t understand or grasp what is happening, we are not able to take the steps to prevent it from happening to other young trauma survivors, and we also will not be prepared to implement the appropriate treatment that’s so desperately needed (and lacking in many cases).

The process of recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not an easy journey, but with the right help and continued support system in place, you can be on the road of recovery.  Contact us today to make the first step. Newport Beach Recovery has trained professionals to help you get through this.