There is a big correlation between trauma and substance abuse. Trauma is an experience that caused physical and or psychological harm. It could be some form of abuse, an accident, a loss, or other experience that has negatively impacted us emotionally. Many people acknowledge that their substance use began in relation to the pain from some kind of trauma in their life. Others experienced trauma during their substance use. But how does this past trauma impact recovery?
Recognizing the Need for Recovery
The beginnings of substance use are not always obvious or consciously related to a traumatic event. Even if there was a conscious thought process that preceded our first drink, we may have forgotten what that was. So now that our substance use is interfering with our lives, our first thought is to remove substances from the equation.
However, just like we wouldn’t just paint our car if we were having problems with the engine, simply becoming sober will not keep us sober. It is important to look at our lives holistically. In addition to choosing new habits and thoughts to help us make changes in our lives, we need to find the reasons that we turned to substances in the first place.
How Trauma Impacts Our Lives
Trauma affects people in different ways. For many, trauma will leave scars that do not just heal on their own. The pain continues to impact us, often on a subconscious level. For many people, the scars of trauma will influence choices in our lives without us even realizing it. Trauma can affect whether or not we interact with others, how we interact with others, as well as family and close relationships.
The pain left behind from trauma, especially from childhood trauma, can leave us feeling empty or lacking despite our best efforts to heal. Because drugs and alcohol are presented in the media and entertainment industry as such an appealing escape from everything, we often explore using substances to fill the void or numb the pain. Once we have become dependent on one or more substances to the point that we no longer control our behaviors, we can choose to recover from this dependency.
Healing from the Inside Out
After we have cleansed our bodies of substances, the challenge of re-training our minds truly begins. The scars caused by trauma can replay those memories over and over again in our minds or can cause the brain to function differently based on the trauma. This can lead these past experiences into developing into more serious issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. When this occurs and there is also substance abuse, it is important to treat the trauma to help prevent further substance abuse.
Treatment for trauma or PTSD can include therapy, including using methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR.) Using methods such as these in individual therapy can help to heal trauma by teaching the brain to re-process memories, allowing the brain to process the information in a healthy way.
Our traumatic past experiences sometimes keep our brain in a heightened mode, like living in constant fear, causing us to react more extremely to new experiences. This is literally very stressful to our minds and bodies and often triggers the desire to use substances to combat the stress. However, when we begin treating the trauma, the brain is able to not only store those past memories correctly but is also able to respond appropriately to new experiences.
Re-Learning to Cope
Coping includes learning healthy ways of thinking about what is happening to us and responding rationally to our environment and stimuli. We realize that we do not need to escape every time something triggers our desire to drink. We can re-learn how to respond to daily stressors in healthy ways.
When we are healing from the pain and the reason for our substance us is no longer there, then we are free to make better decisions about how we cope with day to day life. We will have other triggers and cravings to deal with, but healing from our trauma takes away a big hurdle as we strive for continued sobriety. We give ourselves room to develop new skills and approach new situations with more knowledge, giving ourselves more options to face each day.
So How Does past Trauma Affect My Current Recovery?
They are intrinsically linked. For our recovery to be completely successful, we will need to go back and face our past in order to give ourselves the best opportunities for a healthy future. Treating our trauma changes the way our brain functions in new situations, it changes the way our bodies react in day to day activities. So when we seek healing for our trauma, we are healing our minds and our bodies and removing some of the triggers for our substance use. This is incredibly helpful in our recovery process.
When choosing a residential treatment facility for recovery, keep in mind that not everyone responds the same to treatments, so an ideal facility offers a variety of treatment modalities, or methods. AToN Center is very experienced in treating trauma and offers many treatment methods to within therapy, as well as teaching skills like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and more to heal the mind and the body.
Find the right treatment to heal your mind and become whole at AToN Center. Call (888) 813-5928.