Trauma and Addiction


When I was 5, I experienced a tragedy. I lost my best friend, Sarah.  She died in a house fire with her entire family. I never got over it. I thought I had moved on though.

The years passed. I went through the seasons in life. I aged, met friends, lovers, celebrated with family. I celebrated milestones. Marriage, first jobs, divorces, 2 babies, accomplishments, success, failures, life was full of everything imaginable.

The only thing constant that we can rely on, is that as time passes things change. To cope with all the change, and the trauma I had not dealt with, I drank.

Trauma and Addiction

I drank so much that it seemed normal. I was a functional drunk. I drank and got messed up just enough to get by. It wasn’t easy.

I could not handle hangovers, so I often drank to cure them. I spent most of the first half of my life like this. Drinking every opportunity, I had. Finally, I hit rock bottom. One night I was out drinking, and I drove home.

I made it home somehow, but I passed out on the floor in the kitchen throwing up. The next morning my 10-year-old daughter found me covered in vomit, passed out. She was so scared that she called 911.

It was time to get help. I didn’t have a choice. It was either help, or losing my job, kids, partner, everything I knew. As I entered recovery, we started to unearth all the feelings that led to my drinking. Sarah was a big reason.

I had not dealt with her, and my repressed emotions had played out in the booze that I downed.   The definition of Traumatic event according to the NIH is “an event that is shocking, scary, or dangerous that can affect someone emotionally of physically.

Sarah dying was scary, shocking, and it filled me with fear and anxiety. I never talked to anyone about these feelings. I drowned the feelings in booze.

I feared dealing with my emotions because oddly, being scared is where I felt safe. I was terrified of change. Every change that came my way I would drink. Drinking helped numb my emotions.

I was so scared of change and reaching my full potential, or dealing with the past, that I drank to cure my pain. I didn’t realize that I needed booze as much as I did until my daughter found me passed out on the floor. I wasn’t scared of going through recovery, I feared facing my trauma.

As I passed through recovery dealing with my trauma almost always seemed the most overwhelming part. Everything you once knew as familiar is different, or sometimes gone.

You are walking away from the fear and anxiety and facing it. I A study by the NIH shows that addiction can rewire the brain. You need to change your brain back to normal.

The new life I built would be full of new people, new experiences, and maybe even in a new place. I felt resistant to change because I feared the unknown.  I feared forgetting Sarah, and my past life.

We can get stuck in one place, or even regress back to where we were before through trauma.  In recovery we must make sure that we move forward from trauma. We have to do this for ourselves no matter what or who we lose in the process. Because it’s the only way to go.


Forwards or Backwards

Maybe you are someone who is stuck in trauma. Trauma can happen to anyone. You are scared because becoming sober will mean that you will lose everything you are familiar with.

You will lose all your friends, your partner, the places you hang out at, the events you go to. You are giving up the common denominator that you shared with all the people around you, the thing that got you to this place.

The place where you knew you couldn’t go on any further because you were harming yourself. The place where you couldn’t go any further because you hit rock bottom.

Maybe you decided that you needed to change because you have others that are counting on you and you let them down.

Whatever your reason is for thinking that you need rehab, whatever your reason is for wanting to be sober, you need to grab onto it and never look back. There is nothing left for you where you came from.  That is the number one thing I learned in recovery.

There is nothing new to be learned, nobody new to meet, no places to see, no room to grow by staying stuck in your addiction. You’ve already walked the walk and talked the talk.

You will find no new information by going backwards. You need to take what you learned and go forwards. There are new people there. People wanting to challenge you, people that will stimulate you, people that will love you for who you are and not what you pretend to be while high.

Trauma and addiction are now addressed in recovery programs. According to the NIH, treatment approaches for addiction are rapidly realizing the need to treat for co-occurring disorders.

People who enter recovery programs most likely will face a dual diagnosis. Often the underlying trauma is creating the symptoms that the addiction covers up.

The hardest part during rehab is that you must move forward from trauma. But the thing is, rehab will set you up for positive change. A study defining the stages of rehab by the NIH said one of the early processes of rehab is instilling hope into the person.

Hope helps you shed a skin and grow a new one. It’s changing negative thought patterns. It’s changing all of your thought patterns. The patterns that you developed craving your drug of choice, getting it, and then doing it. The chase of the drug that led you to dark places.

Places where you met people who did not care about you. People who would use you. People who would throw you under the bus in a second if it meant feeding their addiction.

When you think of all the negative things it may seem like change is the obvious thing to do. Yet, when we must face our trauma, we often feel so scared that we retreat. We fear what we will find. We are scared that what we don’t know will hurt worse than what we know.

Right now, I am sober. I made the commitment to sobriety. I made a commitment to go through a rehab program. I learned to face my trauma, knowing there is a light.

My treatment center focused on my trauma as a catalyst to drinking. In the stead of drinking, I was taught a lot of coping mechanisms. It seemed difficult at first.

As I progressed it became easier. In the beginning I focused on one breath at a time. I felt empty in the beginning. But the best part of feeling empty is that I was ready to fuel up on whatever came my way.

I dropped a huge load off that was dragging me down, pushing me to be the worst version of myself. Now that you are sober and recovering you can focus on becoming the best version of yourself or figuring out what that even means.

Recovery from Trauma and Addiction

Little by Little

You can rip the band aid off and start anew or delay the inevitable. Change will come your way whether you want it to or not. We see change all around us. If you live in the northern hemisphere you experience seasons.

The only thing that remains the same is change. One day you are summer. Warm, golden, and full of life, the next you are fall, bright, beautiful and slowly shedding to nothing. It’s better not to resist change.

Would mother nature stop the ground from thawing in spring? Would mother nature stop the trees from changing in the fall? Change brings beauty.

While in recovery, resistance to dealing with your trauma happens. It happened to me. Change can hurt. It can feel uncomfortable. It is ok because those feelings will pass. They did for me.

I went on to shed several skins. All of them will taught me something about myself. My life moved in the direction it should be while in recovery. Each day is a gift, especially with my new sober life. A study by the NIH says that fear of the unknown is one of the common causes of relapse.

The fear of the unknown will always be there. Recovery helped heal and spark a realization that no matter what happens I will be ok. My addiction had a grip on me until I faced my trauma. Trauma happens, but it doesn’t have to rule my life.