- Charlene Warin
Is there a connection between trauma and addiction?
When addicted people come to us for support, we work with them to help them explore where they’re at and how they can move forward. Together, we look at how they are living and how they can change their behaviours so they can live a clean, wholesome and prosperous life.
But treating addiction isn’t just about fine-tuning behaviours. We also help the addicted person to survey their past, identifying events or situations that created wounds that never healed and which cause pain that our clients attempt to mask by using substances. Healing these wounds removes some of the energy of addiction, allowing our patients a much better prospect of long-term recovery.
What is trauma?
Trauma is caused by adverse experiences that overwhelm us. The imprint of trauma affects everyone differently, but it often leaves people feeling emotionally drained, physically exhausted, spiritually broken, and socially isolated. Trauma survivors can feel constantly on edge, as trauma has made them feel like their world is unsafe.
Finding your way back to the light after encountering trauma is not always straightforward. You may have to process emotions and memories you suppressed for years or decades. You might feel like you did something wrong and have something to feel ashamed about.
You don’t need to feel ashamed. The most loving action you can do for yourself is to uncover and heal your trauma, freeing yourself. It isn’t easy to confront difficult experiences from your past, but it is much less painful to do this than live with trauma.
What is addiction?
Addiction is when someone can’t stop using a substance or behaviour even when it’s causing them harm. People with addiction often want to stop but are caught in a cycle that can seem hopeless.
When most people think of addiction, they focus on substance abuse, but there is much more to addiction than this. People can become dependent on food, sex, gambling, and a million other behaviours.
Each of these addictions are capable of causing immense suffering, leaving the addicted person feeling trapped at the whim of something beyond their control. And the pain isn’t just inflicted on the addicted person. The loved ones of an addicted person can become enmeshed in the hardships of the addicted person, making them victims of addiction, too.
Is there a connection between an individual who is a serial relapser and trauma?
Some people keep relapsing, no matter what they try. These situations are always heartbreaking. Serial relapsers often can’t get out of the starting gates of life before falling back into addiction. Others who struggle with sobriety face a desperate pattern of getting their life back on track before losing it all again. Careers, relationships, and children fall by the wayside.
When we at Clinic 77 work with serial relapsers, most of the time it becomes apparent that the person has unresolved trauma. The reason why they take drugs and alcohol is to escape the pain caused by trauma. Tragically, doing this is what creates more pain. Chronic drug and alcohol use always comes with a price, leaving those addicted in a far worse position than before they started using them.
Trauma survivors may not be aware that they have trauma and simply don’t know why they can’t stop drinking and taking drugs. But usually, when this person engages in therapy, the truth emerges. This isn’t an easy process. Often what is uncovered is raw, untreated hurt that requires healing. Once this pain is soothed and rejuvenation takes place, it is possible for the former serial relapser to live peacefully and free of substances.
The healing process is different for everyone, which is why a holistic approach is best. Using a variety of healing modalities, including therapy, allows us to tailor trauma treatment to the needs of the individual.
Why drinking/drugging acts as a soothing tool
There is always a reason why someone uses alcohol or drugs to soothe themselves. For example, someone with trauma might experience anxiety, depression, or flashbacks, and begins drinking in the evenings to shut off their mind or help them sleep. They soon become reliant on alcohol to block out how they feel all the time.
Some trauma sufferers use pharmaceuticals like Xanax, Valium and Tramadol to self-medicate and numb their emotional pain. People with a dependency to medications may convince themselves that they don’t have a problem, as they have a legitimate reason to use the drugs. They only realise they are in deep water when they try to stop and face the consequences of their addiction.
Others may mask their escapism from trauma as “partying” or “letting off steam.” Trauma survivors can effectively disguise their substance addictions by claiming they enjoy night time socialising. They might even get together with a group of people who also take substances excessively and are also in denial of their own traumas.
Over time, they begin using more, using stronger substances, and using in more dangerous ways. Cracks start to appear as this lifestyle takes its toll on the person and their life. At this point, they may abandon their “party” lifestyle and instead drink and use drugs in isolation.
All these addictions can compound trauma-induced self-loathing, as the addicted person does things they would not have considered while sober. Someone in the throes of addiction may turn to crime or steal money from loved ones to feed their addiction. They might also engage in risky or promiscuous sexual behaviours, which can arise from hyper sexuality induced by trauma, combined with reduced inhibitions from substance use.
Free yourself from trauma with Clinic77
If you’ve spent years trying to solve your addiction problems and keep relapsing, you may wonder where you’ve gone wrong or what it is that you aren’t getting. The missing piece of the puzzle could be that you have not uncovered, accepted and healed the trauma you experienced.
At Clinic 77, we know what it’s like to live with trauma, and we know how to move through it. There are no doubts about it; doing this is tough. But we make it as easy as possible by providing a supportive and understanding environment from the moment you walk through our doors.
If you believe you have trauma, don’t despair. There is a way out of trauma and addiction.
Contact Clinic 77 today to find out how we can help.