Breaking The Cycle of Trauma Caused Substance Abuse

My work is with very traumatized people who end up using drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with the trauma usually occurring early in their life.   As I may have mentioned before people don’t become addicts because they want to or lack willpower, they become addicts in an attempt to bury something inside.  Yes there is a disease model for addictions but I see the disease as primarily emotional and mental.

Trauma is a part of many people’s lives from abuse and neglect as a child, to car accidents, to war, to rape, and so much more.  This is all trauma and trauma continues to reside in the body unless it is released.  I regularly work with clients who have been so traumatized as a child that they are unable to close their eyes in the company of others even briefly to try different mindfulness practices. 

A client I talked with lately was threatened when a male jumped her on the way home at night from work and he stole her purse and said he knows where she lives now so don’t call the police because he would come and get her if she did.  This trauma was on top of her past abuse history and it pushed her over the edge and she felt she had to go drink to deal with all the fear that haunted her thoughts.

Weeks later she ends up in Detox because once she starts drinking she drinks to not feel anything.  This is not a death wish but a numbing wish.  She has been through a number of treatments but inevitably the trauma that resides in her pushes her back to drinking.  She gets crazy angry in her drinking and it is no wonder why.  She says she is finally ready to dig through the remains of that past abuse because she now sees clearly that if she doesn’t the cycle of drinking to numb will not go away.  This story fits for so many of those who end up with addictions

Breaking the cycle of trauma that sabotages a person’s life is essential but not easy.  There are some techniques in my field of mental health that can be useful and there are therapies that are more body release centered rather than focused on talk therapy.  I just put on hold a bunch of books (got Waking The Tiger by Peter Levine last night) on therapy for trauma because I feel there is more to do to help these clients than is usually done.  There is no magic approach so I am going to read and explore what others have used that can be helpful. What I find myself searching for is a few techniques that offer the greatest potential for healing.

If you have been traumatized and have successfully recovered from these events, please let me know what has worked well for you.  Over the next few weeks I am going to read everything I can get my hands on to explore what has been successful so far in relieving and releasing the impact of trauma.

If you have been traumatized in your life, there is hope through healthy release and there are people in most communities that are like me, searching for the best ways to help you heal.  Usually there healing professionals can be found in mental health and addiction agencies as well as private practice.  A good counselor is kind, compassionate, active in their listening, patient and supportive.  This work can take come time so find someone you trust and feel confident in.