Treating Addiction Without Treating Trauma Often Leads to Relapse
Treatment specialists stress that in order for patients to completely pull away from an addiction, any underlying trauma in the patient must first be identified and healed. If the patient has no other means of coping with the trauma than with drugs or alcohol, than the cycle repeats itself, sometimes even years after a person has overcome their addiction.
Trauma’s Lifelong Impact
For some individuals, trauma experienced as a child may lie dormant for years and resurface when they are an adult. This reappearance of painful chaotic emotions may cause the individual to feel helpless about their future.
Traumatic experiences can be either physical or emotional. The seeds of trauma are planted when harmful experiences or stresses happen in a place or situation in which the person cannot remove themself. Sexual or verbal abuse, witnessing violence, and chronic stressful lifestyles as a child are just a few of the situations that may lead to trauma.
Victims often turn to addiction to mask this pain as it resurfaces. Alcohol, drug, and sex addiction, along with eating disorders are some of the addictions that trauma victims form.
Re-Opening The Wound to Heal It
British psychoanalyst, Jonathon Bowlby, states that most traumatic memories are suppressed and even forgotten by the mind, but not the body. He believes that this disjunction must be healed. The memories must be brought forth and reconciled with in order for the entire person to heal. Remembering will bring change.
Bowlby believes that psychodramatic role-play allows victims to open up and speak freely about their feelings, which will help them make meaning of them so that healing can begin.
Judy Crane, founder and executive director of The Refuge, A Healing Place, in Ocklawaha, Florida, asserts that in order to prevent relapses, those who have suffered trauma must be taught how to cope with uncomfortable feelings. She has seen several friends successfully overcome a substance abuse addiction, only to commit suicide years later. Once they gave up alcohol or drugs, they no longer had any coping mechanisms for their suppressed emotions.
Removing harmful coping mechanisms like alcohol and drugs is one step in the recovery process, but these patients must be helped in finding alternative coping strategies they can use throughout the rest of their lives.
Training For Trauma
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), encourages service providers to screen each patient for signs of trauma. While some addiction specialists are trained to help trauma victims, others are just learning about the importance of addressing this need. Until then, all providers can do one thing to help their patients-provide a private, safe place to talk. Once the walls are torn down, the victim can open up and begin the healing process.
Overcoming an addiction is a difficult task not desired to be undone. To prevent relapse, patients should be screened and treated for any underlying trauma once experienced in their lives before addiction treatment begins. The pain and stress of trauma lies deep within. Once pulled to the surface, the person needs to find healthy coping strategies to calm their mind and body.
In order for the person to forever move forward in a healthy life, they need to be healed holistically-mentally and physically, addressing all the stresses that contribute to addiction.