Trauma and addiction go hand-in-hand. Recently, researchers began looking at the ACE's or Adverse Childhood Experiences, stressful or traumatic events that occur in one's childhood on a range of household dysfunction. ACE's include things like abuse and neglect, the incarceration of a parent, and mental illness. (See the actual ACE Questionnaire here)
Researchers have been studying ACE's for 15 years with up to 17,000 participants. That is a lot of data about the impact of these experiences on a range of issues from physical health to substance abuse. After reviewing all this data they concluded that the ACE's have a dose-relationship response with a myriad of issues including addiction.
This means that the more of these Adverse Childhood Experiences that you had growing up the more likely you are to have a substance abuse issue. Childhood trauma impacts your adult functioning on a range of issues including your substance use. You can read the official SAMHSA report here for more information.
In my experience, every client I've met has a story which outlines their path to addiction. All of them make sense inside the unique context of each individual and their experiences. Therapy can help you to explore this story and develop healthier, more productive behaviors.
the trauma of addiction
The process of becoming addicted and being addicted is a trauma that often goes unaddressed. Addiction is not something any of us plan and it's entry into our lives can traumatize not only us but our families. The things we experience, the depths we go to, all exacerbate old issues and create new ones.
Addiction also robs us of our positive social network. The obsession and compulsion lead us away from healthy people and into unhealthy social networks centered around our drug-of-choice. The behaviors that often accompany addiction like lying, stealing, or irritability also put a strain on our family and friends. This lack of social support only exacerbates symptoms of trauma.
You can heal
Traumatized people often struggle with the three hallmarks of trauma: re-experiencing the trauma (intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares), restricting our life to avoid triggers, and attempts to avoid these symptoms which is where the substance use disorder often fits in. Those recovering from both trauma and substance abuse often find that when the addiction symptoms have decreased, the symptoms from the trauma start to rise.
Healing from trauma in recovery can be a process that takes years. The good news is that recovery is possible. Working with a therapist can help you prevent relapse through unmanaged trauma-related symptoms. You don't have to struggle alone.