Trauma can be like a wound that never heals. No matter how recent or how far in the past the traumatic event happened, whether it was a loss, an accident, long-term illness, abuse, violence, or other trauma, the pain festers inside of us. This pain can in turn make other pain in our lives. In fact, trauma is often at the root of our substance use, because we strive to escape or numb the pain. So how can we recover from trauma?
Why Trauma Haunts Us
When we experience or even witness trauma, it is more powerful than just that event in that moment. Particularly if it occurs when we are young, and our brains are still developing, our perception of it can be edited by our brains, making us believe that the threat or experience was even greater than it was. It is almost as if the trauma is engraved in our brains, and we cannot escape it, no matter how hard we try.
Trauma carries with it physical manifestations, as well, such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, lowered immunity, and more. Like that festering wound, we cannot heal physically or mentally on our own. We may try, which is where substance use often comes into the picture, as we try to numb the pain. That, of course, only compound our problems.
When Trauma Becomes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When our brains are exposed to loss, abuse, violence, and other traumatic events, our brains invoke the fight-or-flight response until the danger is clear. However, often with trauma, that danger is put on a loop in our brains, and random things will trigger the traumatic experience. When that experience is triggered, so is the response, and our brains suffer because we are exposed to the high levels of cortisol which the fight or flight response creates. In our minds, it is as if the trauma is happening over and over again, and we are in perceived danger. This is the next-level trauma, or PTSD.
Someone with PTSD can have flashbacks, bad dreams, or scary thoughts. These can hit at any time and cause anxiety, panic attacks, and more. These responses can be confusing for others because there is no visible threat, but the response is very real. They are confusing to the person having the flashback because to them, the threat is real. PTSD also carries the same mental and physical risks as trauma, but on an exponential level, just like the responses.
Types of Treatment for Trauma
Treating trauma usually involves one or more different types of therapy. These include:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – this therapy involves the use of visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli to help reprocess traumatic memories and change the perception of the event. This therapy is very fast-acting and powerful, healing in a few visits what might take years in talk therapy to heal.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – dialectical is defined as creating change through two opposing ideas. This therapy is based on the concept that using acceptance and change together is powerful. In addition to the initial benefits of therapy, we are taught a set of skills that help us going forward in our recovery process.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a very effective form of therapy that is very goal-oriented. The therapy is hands-on, practical, and meant to produce results short-term. Like DBT, the skills we learn in CBT can be applied to our lives going forward, even for things beyond trauma.
The Power of Healing from Trauma
When we have a wound and there is perhaps a foreign object and the wound festers, we are constantly hindered by the pain, the infection, and constant care that it requires. We might not even realize that there is a reason for the infection. However, when we seek medical treatment and remove the foreign object, the healing comes quickly. The comfort that we feel when we are finally whole again is perhaps only a portion of the relief we feel when we are able to heal our trauma.
Being able to be whole again mentally, physically, and spiritually after suffering from trauma or PTSD allows us to make new decisions and be confident in ourselves again. We are empowered to also keep our recovery from substance use, and with the pain gone, we take away the need to numb our pain. We may still remember how our lives were before, but healing from trauma creates a freedom that is difficult to describe and incredible to experience.
Moving Forward in Recovery
Healing from our trauma means that those memories, nightmares, and flashbacks are no longer going to be there. That pain that we have lived with this whole time is gone. All of the energy we unwittingly gave to those traumatic experiences can now be used for other things in our lives. Any physical symptoms that we had can begin to heal, and we can truly move forward with our lives.
How can I recover from trauma? You can seek treatment for trauma and for substance use, and step into a full recovery. At AToN Center, we believe in treating the whole person. Your recovery from substance use includes your recovery from trauma. Call us today at (888) 813-5928 so we can be your guide on your recovery path. You deserve to be free of your trauma.