Many women who have a drug or alcohol addiction have suffered traumatic experiences. These experiences affect the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. Using substances may have begun as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety surrounding your trauma, but now stands as a problem on its own. After experiencing trauma, you may find it challenging to feel safe. Learning to trust again and feel safe can seem unobtainable, but it is not. Healing from trauma is an integral part of the recovery process.
What Is the Difference Between Trauma and a Bad Experience?
There are not always clear lines between what is considered trauma and just a bad experience. Everyone reacts to traumatic experiences differently. Some people can endure the same experience without lasting emotional or physical symptoms, while the situation causes long-term effects for others.
Trauma occurs from an experience that is disturbing or seriously distressing. For some people who have had a traumatic experience, even small things can trigger those memories and be traumatic. Trauma comes in many different forms, including something that happened to you directly or something that you witnessed. Many of them are well-defined and include:
- Abuse, including verbal, physical, and sexual
- Bullying, including cyberbullying
- Natural disasters
- Losing a loved one
- Serious illness or surgery
- Physical neglect or abandonment
- Suicide attempt or psychiatric hospitalization
- Poverty or becoming a refugee
- Violence or witnessing violence
- War or terrorism
- Kidnapping or sex trafficking
Trauma Affects the Whole Person
When you experience physical trauma, it is not just the physical symptoms. There are also emotional and spiritual side effects. Likewise, an emotionally traumatic experience can have a lasting impact spiritually and physically. There is an excellent book entitled The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., which discusses and outlines the lesser-known long-term physical effects of trauma, including those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many chronic illnesses are actually caused by unprocessed or repeated trauma.
Trauma truly affects the whole person. One of the ways that people cope with the symptoms of lasting trauma is by using substances. In trying to numb the pain or escape from the physical, emotional, or spiritual symptoms, you can become addicted to those substances.
How Can I Heal From Trauma?
Therapy is one of the best ways to heal from trauma. Using evidence-based techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you can learn to process the emotions surrounding your trauma and change your thinking about them.
Another evidence-based therapeutic technique commonly used with severe trauma or PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The therapist uses a physical distraction, such as following something with your eyes or tapping your hand. At the same time, you are guided through traumatic experiences to reprocess them, so they are no longer traumatic. This approach can bring healing very quickly.
Neurofeedback is a complementary therapeutic technique that identifies the parts of the brain where there is abnormal activity and provides audio or video feedback to help heal them. This type of therapy can help heal both trauma and addiction.
Feeling Safe After Abuse or Sexual Trauma
Feeling safe and learning to trust again after abuse or sexual trauma can be very difficult, particularly for repeated or long-term physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. For example, a woman who experienced sexual trauma such as rape, incest, or other sexual assaults may have difficulty trusting or being around men. These and different types of trauma or abuse can be triggered by sights, sounds, smells, or anything else associated with the trauma.
Because trauma invokes the “fight or flight” response in the brain, severe trauma can cause your brain to stay in that mode or quickly return to that place of fear when anything triggers it. By using therapy, exercise or movement, and other techniques to release, reprocess, and heal from your trauma, you can stop that response and feel safe again, even after life-altering trauma.
Why Do I Need to Heal From Trauma in Recovery?
Recovery does not just involve becoming sober or even your initial treatment. Recovery entails healing your body, mind, and spirit from the pain beneath the addiction— including healing from trauma. When your trauma or pain remains unresolved, you are at increased risk of relapse and abusing substances again. If you still feel unsafe or are easily triggered by things associated with your trauma, you are also at risk for relapse. By using therapeutic techniques to heal from your trauma, you can feel safe again and recover from addiction.
Trauma impacts the whole person – physically, mentally, and spiritually, leaving you feeling unsafe. Many people who have experienced trauma have turned to substances, creating an addiction. When you use treatment and therapy to heal your trauma, you can feel safe again and recover from your addiction. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women uses trauma-informed care to treat women with trauma and addiction. Women who have experienced trauma have particular needs, so we have created a calm, safe refuge for healing. We understand trauma and the connection it has with addiction. We use CBT, EMDR, and neurofeedback in addition to other therapeutic techniques to heal your trauma and treat substance abuse. Our goal is for you to feel safe again, to learn about addiction, and be able to recover your mind, body, and spirit. Contact our Costa Mesa, California facility at (714) 581-3974 to begin your healing journey.