We can’t always control what happens to us – and sometimes we’re caught in unfortunate, devastating, downright traumatic situations that leave marks on us- physically, mentally, or both. In some instances, these traumatic incidents occur during childhood – when we feel helpless and vulnerable. In others, we’re adults – but we still feel the pain of not being able to change what’s happened. Traumatic events happen to so many of us: war, assault, accidents, natural disasters and so much more can make us feel as though we’ll never heal again. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines trauma as when,
“…A person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.”
Trauma and Addiction
In many instances, trauma can leave so many emotional wounds that a person develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be incredibly distressing to endure a variety of symptoms such as: flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, irritability and others. Earlier this year, an individual shared their story of living with PTSD via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA); they explained that after the traumatic incident they experienced, they were never the same. Their PTSD caused them to feel panic in even leaving their apartment – and every time they closed their eyes, they envisioned the traumatic event they survived.
Many people who struggled with addiction have also survived at least one traumatic event. In fact, the aftermath of trauma can leave some individuals abusing substances like drugs or alcohol just to mask some of the distress they’re experiencing. A 2017 study published in the Canadian Journal of Addiction assessed 132 individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse, and discovered links between severity of addiction, severity of life trauma and number of stressful life experiences. This means that trauma does have a significant effect on us, and the greater the severity of this – along with stressful life events like the loss of a loved one, or divorce – the more likely we are to struggle with addiction.
While it may feel like things will never get better, they will. Research is showing that although there are many people battling to overcome the effects of trauma everyday, there are also many people who are pushing past what’s been holding them back – and they’re becoming stronger because of it.
Science of People, a website that provides information on how humans behave, shared some enlightening news related to trauma:
- Many survivors of trauma have reported becoming closer to their friends and family, which has strengthened their relationships.
- While trauma can certainly make a person feel like a victim, there are many people who have come to find added wisdom, personal strength and overall gratitude for the people, places and moments in their lives that have brought them joy.
- Trauma can radically change a person’s life – and many find that because of this change, they’re forced to reassess what they want out of life. When this happens, a person’s life can become even more fulfilling than it was before.
The UNC Charlotte Post-Traumatic Growth Research group defines the term as,
“A positive change experience as a result of a struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event.”
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse surveyed 51 counselors who work with adults seeking help with substance use disorders (SUDs), and found that many counselors were able to witness their clients develop strength, even from the most traumatic of incidents. Does this mean that those who go through post-traumatic growth never feel pain moving forward? Of course not! It simply means that alongside the aftermath of trauma, they were also able to find strength, solidarity and courage to move forward with their lives in the best ways possible.
Applying This To Your Own Life
Not everyone in addiction recovery who has experienced trauma achieves post-traumatic growth, and this due to a number of factors:
- How dedicated a person is to their program
- How hard they work on their mental, physical and spiritual growth
- The work they complete in therapy
- Their attendance and participation in recovery-related activities, such as 12-Step programs (like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous)
- The level of hope they have for the future
- Whether or not they hold onto core negative beliefs or whether they choose to form beliefs that are more beneficial to their happiness and health
- And more
Everyone has the opportunity to achieve post-traumatic growth, but it’s all a matter of how you pursue recovery. Zig Ziglar, an American author, once stated,
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”
Don’t give up on your recovery. Continue working with those who love and support you. If you’re ready to take the leap towards healing and restoration, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today.
Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.