Trauma is, tragically, a part of life for many people. About a tenth of the population experiences a trauma so severe that it leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma tears down coping skills, so it is no wonder that many people who have been raped, suffered abuse, or engaged in military combat turn to alcohol and drugs to deaden the pain. Between a quarter and half of all trauma survivors develop a substance abuse problem. Among military veterans, the figure is a staggering 75%.
If you have experienced trauma, we applaud the courage it took you to survive. Our job is to help you find a rehab facility that address your trauma as part of your recovery. Many trauma survivors fear the implications of quitting drugs or alcohol, but with the help of a rehab program, you can find a path out of addiction as you heal from the trauma.
Why Does Trauma Often Lead to Addiction?
When you experience a trauma, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. While this helps you survive in the moment, many trauma survivors become trapped in a permanent state of fight-or-flight. Not only does this change how your brain functions, it can affect your physical health, leading to chronic illnesses, unexplained aches and pains, sleep difficulties, and a host of other challenges.
Trauma survivors who develop PTSD often experience intrusive memories, known as flashbacks, during which they relive the traumatic experience. Many struggle with anger, depression, and anxiety. Most take great pains to avoid people and places that remind them of the trauma, and some develop life-altering phobias. For instance, a woman who was cut by an attacker might develop a fear of sharp objects. This could interfere with her ability to cook using knives, get blood drawn at the doctor’s office, or even do craft projects with her children.
These challenges can make life feel impossibly overwhelming. Many trauma survivors turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the pain. At first, this strategy can work: there is no denying the power of alcohol to numb your inhibitions or the ability of opioids to help you feel euphoric. Over time, theough, addiction can overtake your life, and the high you once experienced will rapidly diminish.
Eventually, many addicts find that they cannot cope with their traumatic memories without the assistance of the same drugs and alcohol that leave them feeling powerless and out of control. It is easy to feel trapped when you reach this point, and feelings of entrapment are especially damaging to trauma survivors. But these sensations are the product of addiction. They are not something you have to permanently live with.
What is Trauma-Sensitive Care?
Trauma survivors face challenges that other people don’t. A soldier may find fireworks terrifying, while a rape victim might be fearful around men. Trauma-sensitive care is mindful of the concerns that trauma survivors commonly face. Rather than re-traumatizing survivors, this approach helps you get clean and sober while directly addressing the effects of your trauma. Some of the skills you can master with a trauma resolution program include the following:
- Accepting that what happened to you is not your fault
- Talking about what happened to you
- Finding new coping skills to deal with the lingering effects of your trauma
- Managing life without the assistance of drugs or alcohol
- Coping with the symptoms of withdrawal without allowing them to re-trigger your trauma history
Recovering From Trauma Without Drugs or Alcohol
Addiction changes the way your brain works, steadily convincing you that you need drugs and alcohol to survive. When you are a trauma survivor, your brain further tricks you into thinking that you cannot face your history without drugs or alcohol.
In reality, you cannot recover from trauma while you are in the throes of addiction. The journey to sobriety might not always be easy, but it is most assuredly worth it. Toronto Addiction Centres will refer you to a facility that can show you how to overcome your addiction and thrive even in the face of world-shattering traumatic memories.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Trauma & Substance Abuse (PDF)
Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population
Boston University: Identifying Trauma & Substance Abuse in Adolescents (PDF)
PTSD & Substance Abuse in Veterans