Some childhood memories are filled with warmth and love and help you feel safe and loved. Others were awkward, embarrassing, or even sad. Still, others were terrifying, and perhaps you don’t even remember them. The last category sometimes falls into the category of trauma. Something that happened to you as a child was too overwhelming for you to process. Can it be possible that something that happened so long ago is still impacting you now? Why does childhood trauma still affect you?
When Something Traumatic Happens
Whether it be a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, witnessing violence in the home, school, or community, or abuse or assault that happens directly to you, some events experienced in childhood can overwhelm your ability to process them. So much fear, terror, or other unknowns can overpower your normal level of emotions and how you deal with them.
Some trauma creates shame or guilt, and children especially will blame themselves for something terrible that happened to them or someone else. All of this overwhelming emotion gets attached to the event and can spread to influence your views of other events as well. For example, if you blamed yourself for a traumatic experience as a child, you are more likely to continue to blame yourself for anything wrong that happens going forward. That is a lot of weight to carry around.
Why Childhood Trauma Stays Even When You Leave Childhood Behind
When trauma happens to you as a child, it leaves more than just emotional scars. Trauma can actually rewire the brain in different ways to affect your nervous system and body long-term. Trauma triggers the body’s stress response system, increasing cortisol levels in your body. This is the “flight or fight” response meant to stimulate your body in the case of an emergency. Your body is not programmed to function like that all of the time.
Trauma also affects the nervous system and can change the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. All of these factors change how the brain functions and can have an impact on brain development. Trauma also stays in the body and can cause long-term chronic illness and disease.
How Past Trauma Contributes to Future Substance Abuse
Because childhood trauma gets stuck in the brain and in the body, it causes long-term physical symptoms as well as emotional pain. Whether or not you even remember the traumatic experience, the pain, and other side effects stay. This often leads people to begin using substances as a coping method to deal with the pain and other symptoms.
Substances used consistently obviously can become addictive. Therefore, something that happened to you in the past, even in childhood, could have influenced you to abuse substances. In order to heal from substance abuse, you need to recover from the trauma as well.
How Can I Address the Trauma?
Trauma left alone only gets worse, and substance abuse treated without treating the trauma is more likely to cause a relapse. So, when you go to treatment, it is essential to look at both at the same time. Trying to heal one without the other can actually make things worse.
Some of the most effective ways to treat both simultaneously are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT.) Both of these are evidence-based therapeutic modalities or types of therapy. Within therapy, you will look at how your thought patterns affect your actions. You will be able to address both trauma and substance abuse and change your thinking around them, allowing you to heal. You will also learn the tools and skills to help you move forward, as well.
Moving on From Trauma and Addiction
While it may be difficult to imagine leaving addiction or your childhood trauma behind, for that matter, both are possible. You have carried this weight around long enough, and you have tried to cope in the only ways you knew how. Now you have this fantastic opportunity to move on and leave everything weighing you down behind.
You cannot change the past, and you cannot change what happened when you were a child. You do not need to condone anything wrong that happened or the people who hurt you. But you also do not need to carry that pain around and allow it to run or ruin your life any further. You are worth healing. You deserve to be free of the shackles of childhood trauma and addiction. You do not need to let trauma affect you anymore.
Why does childhood trauma still affect you? Trauma gets stuck in the brain and the body and triggers your body’s reactions to create a constant state of stress. Often, this also causes you to start using substances and eventually become addicted. You can free yourself of the pain from both the trauma and the addiction at The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women. Our program uses trauma-informed practices because we understand childhood trauma and how it can impact you all of these years later. We are a residential facility for the treatment of addiction that is specifically designed for women and their specific needs. We are located in Costa Mesa, California, between the mountains and the beach, and offer a peaceful, beautiful healing opportunity. We believe in education as the pillar for healing because we know that learning brings self-awareness. Contact us today for more information at (714) 581-3974.