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Understanding the Relationship between Addiction and Trauma





I am frequently asked the question, “how did I become an alcoholic or addict?”

It is certainly a frustrating question but one that if answered can certainly help with the healing process. Recovery involves many things and identifying the core or root of our dependency is critical to moving on.

I answer, “trauma.”  Now, this is a huge word that covers so many things and creates confusion on the part of most people. But to understand what trauma is we must first define it in general and then search our own life for where it happened.

Trauma is a psychological wound that is based on events in your childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, that makes it difficult for you to grow and become the person you would like to be. It creates pain and that pain causes us to behave in a way that is inconsistent with our understanding of normal behavior. The pain becomes so severe that we may seek out ways to numb the feelings we get from the trauma. We may turn to alcohol, narcotics, prescription medications, pornography, gambling, or other obsessive behaviors to find a way to distract our minds from the pain we are feeling.

Without understanding what the trauma was, we find it difficult to overcome the negative feelings. We just continue to experience them and find unhealthy ways to deal with them. This is why working on these issues in treatment is so critical.  It is time-consuming; it is emotionally difficult to work on, it creates fear that we may not be able to discover the trauma. But failure to discover them is rare. Once we understand their source, we can put them in a historical perspective – these are things that hurt us emotionally at an earlier time in our life. The people that perpetrated these actions are not here to damage us further today. The only person that can continue to inflict the damage and the pain today is ourselves.

In treatment, we explore these traumas and the effect they have on us.  We explore how and when they happened, why they are still affecting us, and how we can learn to not be overwhelmed by these events.  It is difficult, but the time is worth it to rid ourselves of negative feelings that cause us to continue to suffer.


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