Home Overcoming childhood trauma during addiction recovery.

Overcoming childhood trauma during addiction recovery.

by Matt Pappas

There are many different paths that can lead a person to addiction. For some, addiction is the consequence of being in a social circle that consists mostly of substance abusers. As well, there are individuals who inadvertently become addicted to the substances they’re prescribed for legitimate medical purposes. However, one of the most common routes to addiction is through the use of mind-altering chemical substances as a means of coping. This type of substance use has become extremely common — and perhaps most characteristic — of people who suffered from some type of trauma during their childhood years. Over time as these individuals use alcohol and drugs to cope, they realize too late that the substances they’ve used to cope have become addictions.

Of course, when a person becomes addicted, he or she often requires treatment to regain his or her sobriety. In particular, inpatient rehab may be suggested since inpatient-style programs are widely viewed as the most effective form of treatment with the highest rates of success. Unfortunately, substance abuse treatment will only help the individual to get sober; meanwhile, the underlying issue that led to the addiction — specifically, the pain he or she carries that’s related to experiences of childhood trauma — are unaddressed, leaving hiim or her vulnerable to relapse in the future. It’s this very situation that many individuals who have been unsuccessful in recovery find themselves in, which prompts an important question: How do you overcome childhood trauma when you’re in recovery?

Childhood trauma and addiction

Over the course of decades of research, there have been a number of studies to assess whether a relationship exists between the development of an addiction and one’s childhood experiences. The fact of the matter is that a child’s experiences play a very major role in his or her neurological development; therefore, physical or even psychological stimuli can inhibit neurological development, causing socioemotional instability, relationship issues during adulthood, and increased susceptibility to substance abuse.

According to estimates, approximately two-thirds of all adult addicts were victims of maltreatment during their childhoods. Further, numerous studies have found that the high stress and emotional distress that victims of childhood maltreatment experience leave them vulnerable to social, emotional, and psychological anomalies. For instance, it’s been found that individuals who had been victimized during childhood often have issues relating to their impulse control; meanwhile, impulse control problems are known to be a major contributor to substance abuse disorders. Additionally, the experience of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse can evoke abandonment issues, intimacy issues, and other emotional problems that persist even throughout adulthood, possibly resulting in self-medication with alcohol and drugs.

Addressing past trauma during recovery

 Since self-medication with alcohol and drugs is extremely common among victims of childhood abuse and trauma, these individuals exhibit high risk of addiction. However, overcoming a substance abuse problem doesn’t address the underlying cause of the substance abuse problem, which is the lasting psychological damage that the childhood abuse has caused. Therefore, an addict may overcome the addiction through treatment, but he or she must address the pain that results from being a victim of childhood abuse in order to safeguard himself or herself from relapse and addiction in the future.

Fortunately, psychotherapy and counseling are a major part of most addiction treatment programs. The idea behind psychotherapy being the foundation of an addiction treatment program is that it affords those in recovery with a means of discovering the root causes of their substance abuse problems so that they can take steps to overcome their effects. In the case of individuals who suffered from trauma during childhood, it would be the ongoing pain from those experiences that serves as a primary contributor to their substance abuse problems. While psychotherapy may help to bring these factors to light, it’s not always enough to actually address the problem, meaning that additional resources may be necessary.

More and more addiction treatment programs are offering trauma recovery and similar psychotherapeutic resources. Although these program elements are required of all patients, they’re made available for those who may need help with addressing the lingering effects of past trauma in order to safeguard their recovery in the future. As well, many addiction treatment facilities will outsource needed resources by connecting patients to nearby specialists, which might include a psychotherapist who specializes in treating victims of childhood abuse. Family therapy is another possibility because it gives patients the option and opportunity to communicate with their abusers or other loved ones, perhaps even allowing them to heal old wounds as they progress into more advanced stages of the rehabilitation process.

Once a patient has begun to address the effects of previous trauma, it’s typically encouraged that he or she continue to see a therapist for those issues, even after completing an addiction treatment program. Again, once the individual has achieved sobriety, ensuring that childhood trauma doesn’t incite another episode of active addiction becomes the primary concern.

-Luke Pool

Luke Pool is a grateful member of the Recovery community. He has found his purpose in life by helping those who suffer from the diseases of addiction. He uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about this epidemic, affecting every part of this country. Now working for Stodzy internet marketing, he is able to pursue his passion by informing as many people as possible about addiction. Originally from Austin, Texas he now lives in South Florida.