It is no secret that trauma and addiction go hand in hand. Trauma is a big part of our addiction treatment program here at Willow Place for Women, and for good reason. Many people, especially women, cope with trauma by turning to drugs and alcohol. To properly treat addiction, or even to prevent it in the first place, traumatic situations need to be addressed, as difficult as it may be. When trauma is suppressed, it leads to a host of problems not just limited to addiction.
How Trauma and Addiction Are Related
A traumatic situation is anything that leaves a deep emotional scar on a person. This can be anything, depending on the individual, but some examples would be:
- Rape or physical assault
- Death of a loved one
- Being a witness to or involved in an accident
- A natural disaster
The severity depends on the individual, as each situation is personal. Regardless of what happened, if a person is emotionally affected, it is essential to get professional help. Way too often, people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate and make negative feelings go away. This may work short-term, but in the long run, it only leads to addiction and abuse. Suppressing negative emotions doesn’t make them go away. It only causes them to keep festering until eventually, they have to boil over.
What Happens When Trauma Goes Unaddressed
As discussed, a very common issue with unaddressed trauma is addiction. Aside from trauma and addiction, keeping feelings inside can cause a person to literally self-implode. This can manifest in the form of a mood disorder like anxiety or depression. Left untreated, people can completely withdraw from their former life and change their personality entirely. These issues also lead to addiction through self-medication. At the worst, it can lead people to contemplate and even act on suicidal tendencies. No matter how bad it gets, leaving trauma alone can lead a person to a very dark and sad place.
If a person has turned to addiction as a result of their trauma, it is often a way for them to keep the negative feelings away. The problem with this is that any time the drugs and/or alcohol run short, the emotions will come flooding back, only ten times worse. This will cause a person to drink or use drugs even more heavily. Thus a cycle begins and continues with no end in sight until the individual hits rock bottom. Unfortunately, rock bottom can mean institutions, jail, and even death.
Treating Trauma and Addiction
Like all of recovery, dealing with trauma and addiction at once is not easy. There will be tears, negative emotions, and feelings of helplessness. In truth, this is all part of the healing process and will get better as time goes on. The key thing to understand that if this hurdle is never crossed, the issue will always be there. Addressing trauma is necessary and unpleasant, kind of like detoxing itself. No one wants to go through it, but in order to have a healthy future, it is necessary.
The best thing to do is to address trauma with the help of a professional. Ideally, it should be done in a treatment center in a medically-supervised setting. This way, when feelings are brought to the surface, the person can’t easily turn to drugs and alcohol. It is safer and better to do things in the care of treatment professionals.
The first step is to admit the issue. Many people just refuse to talk about things like rape, physical assaults, or accidents because they would rather pretend it never happened. In truth, it needs to be talked about. That is the first step. After that, the person’s feelings about the event need to be thoroughly examined so that they can ultimately be released.
In therapy, a person will learn healthy ways to cope with trauma from their past. There is no need to keep reliving it. Like with anything else, with the right combination of treatment, it can be put to rest as a part of the past. A traumatic situation has no business shaping a person’s future, and there are steps that can be taken to ensure that trauma and addiction aren’t a person’s life sentence. At Willow Place for Women, we offer programs to help clients work through both trauma and addiction to ensure that they have a chance at healing. For information on these programs, call 1-888-651-4212.