Are you someone who suffered trauma in your early years and wound up developing an addiction afterwards? Have you felt like you needed a substance to damp down the emotional pain and fear from some earlier life event? If this is what’s happened to you, you’ve found one way of coping with your problems; but have wound up with another problem of equal or greater size in doing so. It’s alot like dealing with a two-headed monster that you may have seen on Sesame Street as a child or read about in ancient fiction. If one of them doesn’t get you, the other will.
Trauma and Addiction Often Go Together
If you think that you are weird for having addiction and trauma together, forget it! At least one study in the last 10 years found a major overlap in alcohol and other substance use disorder and trauma. In addition to this, an older research study of 17,000 adults found a strong connection between negative life events as children and negative health outcomes of all sorts. Alot of these were related to addiction and dependency of all sorts. So if you have trauma issues and have become addicted to a substance or behavior on top of that, you have lots of company...that’s for sure!
So What Am I Supposed To Do About It?
By reading this post you probably now realize you have a problem with either addiction or trauma, or both. The typical starting point is to try to stop the addictive behavior, or to at least cut down on use of whatever substance of behavior you feel addicted to. Many people do this by joining a support group or getting into treatment program. If you don’t have alot of money or good health insurance you can try a support group that will help you start to depend on other people instead of an addiction. The next thing to work on is treating the trauma (see my previous blog post last month for info on this). Some people can work on both their addiction and trauma at the same time. Sometimes there is a traumatic experience at the heart of an addiction, but not always. Whatever the case, you need to work on stopping the addictive behavior; and most of the time getting the support of others is a key to stopping it.
A Chicken or Egg Thing
The main thing to understand is that the trauma came first, and one way or the other any effective treatment needs to address this. Stopping, or at least slowing down an addictive behavior helps make it possible to treat the trauma. You may not think it is possible to stop the addictive behavior, but one or more of the ways I talk about in this blog post are bound to have some benefit if they are pursued with concerted effort. Trying something and expecting instant results is probably going to lead to disappointment and more feelings of futility (which you’ve probably already experienced enough of by now!).
What I Know About It
I’ve made studying addiction and trauma a primary focus of mine for the entirety of my professional career. I’ve also worked with friends who have had similar struggles in trying to overcome addictions and trauma of their own. What I know without a doubt is that overcoming this two-headed hydra is possible, and that you can live a reasonably happy and productive life despite these. My own life experiences are testament to this. It’s not an overnight thing, and that may go against addictive thinking that there might be some ‘magic’ solution to all of it that will make it go away. Devoting oneself to a process of recovery from these potential twin killers is the way out, and looking into solutions that give you helpful information without trying to sell you a ‘miracle cure’ are the most likely beneficial paths to take. If you want to find out whether I can help you in your situation, I encourage you to give me a call at 512-374-0100, email me at email@example.com, or just put your information into the form below to get a reply from me. As an added bonus, if you sign up for my mailing list below I will send you a link to a guided meditation that can help you cope with the emotions that often go with trauma. Whatever the case, you owe it to yourself to get some help. If your foe has two heads, then you need at least as many to help you deal with it!
About the author: Scott Kampschaefer, LCSW is a private practice therapist in Austin, Texas. He has an extensive background in working with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder at a clinic for older adults with these disorders in Austin. He now works with adults and adolescents of all ages in private practice.