Dealing with Trauma in Recovery

Willow Place on March 6, 2017
Dealing with Trauma in Recovery

It can’t be overstated how important it is for people who are dealing with drug or alcohol addiction to confront trauma in recovery. Trauma can resurface in recovery if it isn’t treated correctly, which can, unfortunately, lead to a relapse and other difficulties. Trauma comes in many different forms and can mean something different for everyone. The important thing to do is bring it to light during treatment, go through the painful process of talking about it, and learn how to begin to heal without the aid of drugs and alcohol.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is different for everyone who has experienced it. Generally, trauma stems from one (or more) of these things:

  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • A death of a loved one
  • Witnessing a bad accident or event, like a natural disaster
  • Going through intense emotional pain, like divorce
  • Getting assaulted – sexually or physically

Basically, it is any event that a person goes through that is so disturbing they can’t forget about it. Thinking about it often brings back memories, and to drown them out, some people will turn to drugs or alcohol. In the end, continuing down that path will only lead to more destruction, mayhem, fear, and sadness.

Symptoms of Trauma

People who have gone through trauma often suffer from various symptoms, both emotionally and physically. Above and beyond turning to drugs and alcohol, here are some symptoms that are indicative of a traumatic event:


  • Shock and denial
  • Anger and mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • The need to withdraw from people and activities
  • Self-blame
  • A feeling of hopelessness for the future
  • Flashbacks and nightmares


  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Getting scared easily
  • A racing heartbeat and unwarranted fight-or-flight response
  • Agitation
  • Headaches and other pains
  • Muscle tension

Many people get through these symptoms within a matter of weeks or months, often with the help of therapy. Others, unfortunately, turn to abusing their substance of choice. For those who make it to rehab for help, identifying trauma and dealing with it is completely essential to recovery.

Dealing With Trauma in Recovery

Like grief – which can be a part of trauma – there can be multiple stages of working through trauma in recovery. Many people use drugs and alcohol as a crutch to deny that certain events happened, and sobering up can bring memories rushing back in an overwhelming way.

No matter whether something happened in a person’s childhood or within the past year, working through these feelings sober, in the presence of a trained therapist, will help them learn healthy coping tools. Drugs and alcohol only delay the inevitable. While they may seem like a “cure” for anxiety or depression caused by certain events, when the individual comes down or wakes up hung-over, the negative thoughts and feelings will be right back there to haunt them. Only this time, they are even worse.

Using the time spent in rehab to work through past trauma is incredibly important because you will be in a safe place. If attempted alone, it is much easier to turn to drugs and alcohol instead of facing what is necessary in order to get to the next step of healing. A therapist will address what the patient went through and make a plan with them regarding how to continue to move forward in sobriety, working with them every step of the way. Also, they will help to monitor progress and adjust the person’s individual program as necessary.

Treating Trauma

Aside from therapy, different elements are sometimes used to assist in healing from trauma. Cognitive behavior therapy, trauma education, and group and one-on-one therapy are all part of the package in treating trauma in recovery.

After rehab, it is still important to be aware that trauma can always resurface and that everyone needs to continue to work on their healthy approaches to dealing with it. It is highly recommended that everyone leaving rehab has an extended care plan, especially if they are dealing with past trauma.

Extended care may include things like an outpatient program, therapy, living in a sober home, and attending AA or NA meetings. Whatever a patient decides to do, as long as they keep themselves equipped with the tools they can use to handle trauma, they have the ability to get through it. If recovery is done correctly, alcohol and drugs can be a thing of the past as the individual keeps moving towards healthy and sustained recovery, no matter what kind of trauma they have been through. If you are looking for a treatment center that can help you to deal with trauma in recovery, call Willow Place today at 1-888-651-4212.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

Note: Your details are kept strictly confidential.