When it comes to substance use, the number one question to ask yourself is why?
Why are you having that drink? Why do you need that pill? Why are you harming your body to feel a temporary sense of relief?
If you take a good look at the answers, you may start to realize your answers are actually excuses.
“I had a hard day.”
“I’m just so upset that (fill in the blank) did (fill in the blank).”
“I feel sad about (fill in the blank).”
“I feel anxious about (fill in the blank).”
These answers are valid, but they are superficial. On the surface, they may be true. Work could be stressing you out, a health issue could be consuming your life, or you have a valid reason to be upset with a situation or person, but there is more than meets the eye with these responses. Addiction issues aren’t random; they have an origin story just like we do.
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that exceeds one’s ability to cope. When a person can’t cope with a certain occurrence, a few things can happen.
The person can be faced with anxiety and depression due to the event(s) in question. They can gain irrational fears and or the fear of whatever caused the trauma in the first place.
If the experience is particularly traumatic, the person may repress it all together, forgetting it even occurred.
Trauma sits in the body and the recesses of the mind. Oftentimes, a person doesn’t even realize they are experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
When trauma goes untreated, the person will learn to cope in whatever way they can. This could include maladaptive behaviors, withdrawal from normal activities, or substance use.
The longer the trauma goes untreated, the more coping mechanisms the person will acquire. They feel like they are living, but in reality, they are simply trying to survive.
This is where addiction can step in and feel like it’s saving the day. That daily drink or daily fix becomes a savior relieving the repressed tension that continues to be exacerbated by daily stressors.
If we continue to use the substance, we suppress our negative feelings and never get to the bottom of our pain. We ignore the warning signs and triggers that are acting as a catalyst for the stressor. So the question then becomes, what IS at the root of your pain?
The Depth of Childhood Trauma
Whether we want to believe it or not, our childhoods shape the person we are today. The experiences we had growing up, the people around us, and the scenes we witnessed are a part of our minds, bodies, and souls.
As we grow, we begin to uncover the wounds we accrued, but if we aren’t cognizant of the symptoms of these wounds as we are unpacking them, our behaviors can show through negative coping mechanisms.
There is more evidence to suggest that a lot of underlying addiction and substance issues stem from unresolved trauma, which typically occurs in childhood. When we are in pain, especially if we don’t know why, we tend to look for ways to self-soothe, just like when we are babies/kids.
We look for the thing to stop the pain and suffering we are facing. When we have unresolved trauma, it’s almost as if there’s an itch we can’t scratch — it’s on the one part of our back we simply can’t reach, and instead of asking for help, we medicate to avoid the pain and annoyance it’s causing.
Once these experiences seep into our bodies, the negative behaviors become a part of our everyday lives; they become the norm. We might see these behaviors in things like excessive drinking, daily/weekly drug use, toxic relationships, abusive communication, and self-harm.
If we don’t know any differently, we assume this is the way everyone lives, but these are the lies addiction and trauma will weave to keep you in a state of survival, ultimately removing the ability to thrive.
Unpacking Trauma and Combating Addiction
Once we can acknowledge that there are things hidden inside of us causing us pain, we can unpack them in a safe space. Think about it like spring cleaning.
Sometimes we have to dig deep into our closets, into our possessions, and realize we are holding onto things we don’t need; many of them we may have even forgotten about over time. Trauma is the same way.
We need to get those painful experiences out of our minds and bodies so we can learn to create positive coping mechanisms when things become difficult.
Once we clean out the closet and remove the things that no longer serve us, we physically feel better in our space. The same is true for unearthing past hurts.
Acknowledging and releasing the memories gives us room to create new experiences that can have a positive impact on our lives. By doing so, we begin to remove the need for substance as a distraction from our pain because the pain is beginning to dissipate.
We can now create the life we’ve always wanted, free from substance and free from the depths of our trauma.
Unearthing our pain is not an easy feat, especially if you’ve been struggling with a substance. If this post hits home, reach out to the Burning Tree Ranch for help today.
Our facility works with recovering addicts who are suffering from the inside out. With our clinical approach and individual treatment options, we will provide a safe space to get clean, sober, and emotionally healthy. Call today to learn about our 30 and 90-day treatment options: (855) 458-2797