Not Every Traumatized Person Becomes Addicted
But Every Addict Has Once Been Traumatized
I believe all addictions stem from an attempt to regain a level of comfortablility within ourselves. Whether drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex and so on, our discomfort originates from somewhere.
I believe that trauma accelerates addiction in those prone to it. Is discomfort a direct result of trauma? The simple answer would be, of course; but does internal discomfort have to be attached to trauma? No.
Any one of us can feel discomfort in day to day life without having been traumatized. What I’m talking about is addiction in correlation to trauma and I also believe that trauma can span and effect following generations. I wrote about the effects of intergenerational trauma here.
Addiction is only one result of trauma. Don’t get me wrong, trauma shows up in odd ways. Health issues, mental illness, anger and others ~ each of also can affect addiction.
So how do we limit the consequences of addiction while we work through our trauma? For some, it comes down to Harm Reduction.
What is that? Harm reduction meets drug/alcohol abusers where they’re at. Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use, to abstinence.
My belief is that trauma is closely intertwined with addiction. Harm Reduction acknowledges the trauma of your past while also acknowledging the trauma of your use.
Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with addiction.
Harm Reduction is NOT an excuse to use.
Harm Reduction is equally a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs/alcohol.
To take it a step further, I believe it can encompass all areas of addiction. Food. Sex. Gambling. Shopping. Etc.
Wait. … …
Food? Sex? Gambling? Shopping??? Yes. I don’t see much distinction betweens addictions other than degree between one or the other. The thought patterns and behavior of the addict are the same.
And… I’m sorry, but…
Addicts have rights?
Yes. They do.
As a harm reduction advocate I believe that a relapse doesn’t have to be a re-run of your past.
If someone has cancer and they are in pain, but knowing you couldn’t cure their pain, how would you react? What would you do?
You comfort them. Would you say, “I’m not going to help you any more”? Or would you try to ameliorate their pain? The essence of harm reduction is you reduce the harm. You don’t impose abstinence. Along the way, abstinence may be chosen on the terms of the addict, but the choice has to be theirs.
No matter the evidence proving the benefits of harm reduction, it seems to be an unpopular topic.
Like it or not, addiction is not going away anytime soon. Whether legal or illegal drugs, food, gambling and others ~ addiction is hard wired into the brain of an addict. It’s complex and wears many faces.
Yes. Healing is possible! I choose to limit harm instead of ignoring or condemning it. Healing itself is multi-faceted and is a very personal process. There is no cookie cutter program to healing trauma or addiction.
The more shame you put on a person, the worse they will feel about themselves, the lower one’s self esteem, the more often they will isolate, the more often they isolate, the higher risk of repeated behaviors.
We also have to acknowlege outside influences as well as looking at the larger picture of quality of life long-term. Outside influences being mental health, past traumas, social and ecconomic class etc pave the way for how well an individual can handle long term abstinence.
I’m not ignoring the harm addictions cause. I hope to acknowledge the trauma, empathize with the pain and seek coping skills to move past the trauma and into a better life. In not just others, but also myself.
If you find yourself in the weans and wanes of addiction, I hope you’ll share your thoughts. You aren’t alone in this and life can be filled with beautiful experiences while healing.
*Photo Credit gettyimages.com