When you or someone you love has slipped into addiction, you may wonder why. In fact, you may have a lot of questions.
How did this addiction start? How did it get to be so bad? Was it just being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Could I have prevented this?
The truth is that many factors lead to substance misuse, and situations are rarely as simple as they seem. Some of the contributing factors may be readily known, and others may be surprising. Many people understand how mental illness and situational living can contribute to substance misuse, but they might not know how often childhood trauma plays a role in the development of an addiction.
Childhood Trauma and Its Lifelong Effect
Memories of childhood can be tricky. It’s difficult to remember everything, and it’s especially difficult to remember everything accurately.
What if childhood wasn’t as great as it should have been? What if reliving childhood means reliving past trauma that is painful and confusing? Someone with childhood trauma may find it even more difficult to remember their past, which might mean they have yet to process it and begin the process of healing from it.
Unfortunately, childhood trauma has been linked to a greater likelihood of addiction. More adults who experienced greater adversity as children partake in substance abuse than those who have not experienced trauma when young.
What Shapes Us as Children?
Many events that have a profound effect on people happen to them before they are even aware. Past situations, especially when they have not been processed, can follow people into their adult life and continue to cause harm. Without being aware of why certain feelings are bubbling up, a person who has experienced trauma may feel angry, confused, and hostile at seemingly random moments. How someone was nurtured as a child can correlate to increased deviance in adulthood, including the abuse of substances.
One study showed that children who experienced trauma, such as parent-on-parent violence, were more likely to be faced adversity, live in poverty, and endure physical and/or mental punishment. These children were also much more likely to lash out in aggressive behavior starting as young as 12 years old. This pattern often follows these individuals into adulthood. Too many of them turn to drug and alcohol use.
How to Combat the Effects of Trauma
Once the issues of trauma are recognized, what is the next step? What are the best ways in which someone can combat the trauma they experienced and the harm that may have fueled their addiction?
First and foremost, seeking help from a medical professional is important. Complex trauma, which is trauma that occurs more than once, can cause intense neurobiological changes in the brain and should not be dealt with alone. Some professionals specialize in this type of trauma.
A therapist may help you heal from trauma by having you do activities at home such as mindfulness training. Skills involved in mindfulness training include being able to recognize the internal signals that indicate the need for self-care. It is important to listen to what your mind and body need and deliver on those requests in a healthy way. After substance misuse, the body needs to rebuild itself, and it can’t do so unless you give it the rest, nutrition, and meaningful engagement that it needs.
Getting Involved in Your Community
Childhood situations involving trauma may have prevented people from developing strong social and communication skills. If this sounds like you, know that it is normal, but it does not have to remain this way. There are organizations focused on creating space for people to get and stay sober while connecting them with other like-minded individuals. Through these connections, people can build their intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and further their healing process.
Social and recreational recovery programs offer activities that do not include drugs or alcohol that you can do with other people. These programs may have anything from sports teams to play or cheer on, beach days, trips to museums to observe art, and classes on how to knit or sew. There are so many options out there, and they are waiting for you to join! Healthy activities that give you joy can increase your well-being and help you strengthen your sense of self in the present and make you excited about the future.
Healing From Trauma
Learning about your trauma and how it impacted your substance misuse can be overwhelming. You may feel alone or misunderstood during this time, and that is why it is paramount to seek treatment as well as support from loved ones or other supportive people.
There is unfortunately no end-all-be-all to fixing trauma. It will always be part of your story, but it does not have to hinder your present or your future. Healing from trauma through treatment and support can help you understand and manage the long-term effects of trauma so that you can live the vibrant life you deserve.
You were likely not in control of what trauma you experienced, but you are in control of how you continue to respond to it. There are thousands of treatment programs across the nation, many specializing in trauma-based recovery. Experiencing trauma is an injustice that too many people have to survive, but why let it hold you back? Why not thrive as best you can and build a life that you’re excited about?
Seek sobriety and long-term healing for yourself. You deserve it.
There are often many factors that contributed to someone slipping into substance misuse and addiction. Some of these factors can be obvious, and others may surprise you. Childhood trauma starts young and can have a life-long effect on individuals. However, having experienced trauma doesn’t mean people can’t overcome it. Understanding and working through these traumas can make a huge difference in preventing trauma from continuing to have negative effects on one’s present life. If you have experienced trauma, talk to a loved one or seek the help of medical professionals today. Some recovery centers for substance abuse specialize in helping people heal from trauma as they recover from substance abuse. Call 449 Recovery today for more resources and information at (949) 435-7449. They can help you take the next steps towards addressing your traumas and start to heal from them.