Working through addiction can be challenging. However, if some form of trauma lies beneath your addiction, recovery often presents additional challenges. In these instances, developing coping strategies to address trauma becomes as essential as dealing with the primary substance abuse issue. If trauma is the underlying cause, addressing your addiction while ignoring past trauma or pain will compromise your recovery outcome.
What Exactly Is Trauma?
Trauma is anything that has caused a disruption or shock—typically unwanted—to our mental and physical selves. We may be traumatized as a victim or witness to a violent crime. Those who work as military personnel or as first responders may even be traumatized due to their jobs.
In some cases, individuals may present signs of shock and trauma in the immediate aftermath of an event. In other situations, trauma may not present itself for weeks, months, and even years later. When it does, it may surface as self-harm, addiction, depression, or anxiety.
Today, trauma is commonly referred to as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatrists and mental health practitioners specialize in this field, making it possible for people to receive specific, targeted treatment for their situation.
Emotions in the Aftershock of an Event
Recovering from trauma can be an emotional experience. Reliving traumatic events means addressing memories, that may be suppressed until recalled. Without quality support from continued counseling, triggers from dealing with the trauma may cause a person to relapse.
You may have noticed physical symptoms such as getting a headache, having shortness of breath, feeling dizzy, or breaking into a cold sweat when re-telling a story about a traumatic experience. Our mind, conjuring up emotions such as the shock and disbelief connected to the event, does not distinguish between the memory and the event itself. Essentially, those same “fight or flight” feelings we had during the events are reactivated.
Some of us may not experience symptoms similar to shock until after the event. In early childhood abuse cases, for example, buried trauma often manifests in adult life, showing up as old wounds and creating disruptive, often harmful behaviors such as addiction and the inability to fully connect in intimate relationships. Regardless of whether symptoms surface days or years after an event, the trauma is real and should never be minimized.
Developing New Habits
When working through our addictions, developing new, healthy habits can substitute for the negative coping skills that led us into abusing substances. Professional mental health counseling, specifically in the field of PTSD, can provide valuable guidance and tools to help us cope when we feel challenged or triggered by memories and associated thoughts.
The Benefits of Journaling
Journaling can also be helpful. It may seem that just about every wellness post recommends a journal; however, journaling is more than a cliche at the end of a blog post. Journaling can help bring perspective into our lives. The act of writing about something that happened to us can be a powerful ally in recovery.
In today’s busy world, journaling makes us sit and think. Where many of us are used to typing on a computer, the act of picking up a pen and paper and physically engaging in the act of writing compels us to slow down.
The act of writing can also make us think less in a linear manner. When we write about our experiences, it opens us up to remembering other aspects of a certain time in our lives, to include positive outcomes, such as how we coped and managed to survive. In those instances, we realize we are stronger than we may have given ourselves credit for.
Ultimately, trauma is rarely pleasant to relive or deal with; however, being courageous and working through it can positively affect our journeys to free ourselves of substance abuse.
Developing coping strategies in order to address trauma is essential for substance abuse treatment. If trauma is the underlying cause, addressing our addictions while ignoring the past will compromise our recovery outcomes. Professional mental health counseling, specifically in the field of PTSD, can provide us with valuable guidance and the tools we need to cope with triggering feelings, memories, and associated thoughts. With guidance, it is possible to develop healthy habits intended to replace behaviors that enable our addiction. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains’ inspiring landscape, the Detox Center of Colorado offers a solution-based transitional residence program aimed at accountability and recovery. We look forward to helping you explore the range of supportive treatment and aftercare options available to you. Call the Detox Center of Colorado at (303) 952-5035. It may be the best thing you do for yourself today.