Sometimes the experience of getting sober is like melting. All the thick defenses that were there for protection, all the negative thinking, all inner barriers to hide from the resentment and shame, finally begin to soften and dissolve. This experience is challenging, but wonderful. It is difficult, but it creates the door to see who we really are.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this process of melting is finally facing trauma that you might have experienced as a child but never fully healed from. It’s easy to skip over those early life experiences – you grow up, you start high school, perhaps attend college, and begin a career. Meanwhile, you’ve been drinking and using drugs. You’ve been struggling with an addiction and have long forgotten about your early experiences.
So, when the melting in begins to take place, a part of you might recall the trauma. You might realize that it’s time to look at it, heal from it, mend the inner tears that have been there all along. But there’s no question that this is going to be difficult. You’ve got to roll up your emotional sleeves and get in there.
Events that are recognized to be traumatic include a death of a parent, physical childhood abuse, sexual abuse, rape, a car accident, or experiencing the dangers of a natural disaster. Others might have experienced a series of small traumas in their upbringing, such as not having emotional and psychological needs met. Neglect and experiencing a series of small traumas can be just as devastating to one’s development. When a person develops symptoms, as a result of their experiences, such as recurring invasive memories of the event, among other debilitating symptoms, and they last for at least three months, he or she may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms of PTSD includes (but is not limited to) flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. A person might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely. PTSD is a difficult psychological illness with severe symptoms, if not treated. In fact, PTSD is a diagnosis that is still undergoing investigation among experts in the field of psychology. However, it is commonly seen among those who have an addiction.
If you’re beginning to melt and you’re beginning to see the signs of early trauma, it is essential that you find professional assistance. There are a few reasons for this:
- Facing aspects of the trauma might trigger cravings to use again. In fact, research shows that it’s imperative to treat both the addiction and the secondary illness separately. In other words, both the illness of addiction and the illness of PTSD must be treated. As each are being tended to, the experience of addiction as well as the experience of PTSD will get easier.
- Facing trauma is not an experience to do alone. You weren’t able to handle the experience the first time alone; it’s unlikely that you’re going to do it now. As you’re unearthing parts of your early life, do so in the presence of a trained mental health professional.
- When you are suffering from a more complex PTSD or with severe symptoms that are getting in the way of your ability to function at home or work, intensive inpatient treatment might be needed. This may be especially true with repeated experiences of trauma, such as abuse. In this case, the psychological picture is much different. There are usually complex symptoms and adding to the complexity, you may also have symptoms of other diagnoses. You might show signs of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), a dissociative disorder, or social phobia.
- Lastly, trauma might be affecting your life in ways that you don’t realize. Working through the healing of trauma with a therapist or psychologist is like having someone who can see with a bird’s eye view. They will have a full picture of where you are now and where you are going. Having someone to trust as you move through healing trauma is an important part of recovery.
Trauma is a significant part of one’s life, creating such an impact that it might have been the event(s) that started an addiction in the first place. Healing from it might be a pivotal part of your recovery.
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