It is frequently the case that trauma at one point in life precipitates drug and/or alcohol abuse. Trauma can also be the beginning of mental illness and other related health concerns. For this reason, part of recovery and achieving long-term sober living is to address trauma-related issues.
An experience is considered traumatic when it threatens injury, death, or physical integrity, and is usually accompanied by terror and helplessness. A traumatic event could be the death of a friend or family member, sexual or physical abuse, an automobile accident, domestic violence, school violence, experiences of war, the effects of natural disasters, and acts of terrorism.
In a clinical setting, anyone who has experienced one or more of these events and who has symptoms of anxiety as a result might be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Specifically, symptoms might include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. Sometimes, these symptoms alone can trigger the need to drink or use drugs. When frightening inner experiences take place, there is often a need to find reprieve from these experiences.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently provided a list of guiding principles of recovery, the components of recovery that need to be addressed to achieve sober living. One of these was the pivotal requirement of addressing trauma. “Services and supports should be trauma-informed,” wrote Paolo del Vecchio, Acting Director of the Center of Mental Health Services, “to foster safety (physical and emotional) and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment, and collaboration.”
Along with this, SAMHSA outlined four major areas in which recovery takes place: health (overcoming the disease of addiction or illness), home (having a stable and safe place to live), purpose (engaging in meaningful activities), and community (having supportive relationships and social networks).
It’s clear that tending to the trauma would facilitate the first major area of recovery: health and overcoming the disease of addiction or illness. If the underlying causes of an addiction are not addressed, it is highly likely that chronic relapse may take place. Part of acquiring sober help is seeking the services that will address difficult events that took place earlier in life that may have driven the addiction.
Furthermore, part of recovery is learning new coping mechanisms. Once the underlying causes are addressed, a pattern of using drugs and/or alcohol to stuff challenging feelings might have developed. Therefore, a necessary part of recovery is learning healthier coping mechanisms, such as communicating feelings, addressing difficult situations in the moment, and deep breathing, if strong anxiety arises. Of course, different ways to cope will address the various needs that individuals have when it comes to healing and wellness.
As SAMHSA points out, sober help needs to include healing trauma in order to achieve long term sober living.
If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit. You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog