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Healing the Trauma of Addiction

Studies show that most people will experience some form of trauma during their lifetime. Unfortunately, trauma and addiction go hand in hand. While a lot of conversation centers around how traumatic events drive people to addiction, that’s not the full story. Today, we’ll discuss how addiction itself is a traumatic experience that must be overcome.  

Addiction is Traumatic

Psychological trauma is broadly defined as a disturbing or distressing event that overwhelms one’s ability to cope and causes feelings of helplessness. Generally, circumstances involve betrayal, loss of control, pain, confusion, abuse of power, and loss. With those factors laid out, it’s easy to see how the experience of addiction could be considered traumatic. Helplessness and loss of control are characteristic of nearly all stories of substance use. What may begin with a doctor’s prescription or a friend’s urging can spiral into an uncontrollable craving for that substance. Addiction can also be the catalyst for loss – friends overdose, relationships end, and careers grind to a halt, all in the pursuit of drugs or alcohol. When left unchecked, shame and guilt from one’s using days can sabotage one’s sobriety. For this reason, it’s vital to focus on complete healing while in treatment and early recovery.  

Signs & Symptoms of Trauma

No two people experience trauma in the exact same way, meaning that the symptoms of this ailment are varied. Some people may seem completely normal, while others fail to function. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the below signs of trauma, we encourage you to reach out for support.

  • Intrusive thoughts or mental images of the event
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Anxiety, fear, or panic attacks
  • Guilt and shame
  • Depression or other signs of low mood
  • Extreme alertness and reactivity (being easily startled)
  • Edginess, irritability, and being easily angered
  • Sleep problems (insomnia, nightmares)
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Becoming withdrawn from others
  • Physical aches and pains with no apparent cause


Treating Trauma

Trauma itself requires a very specific approach to patient care. When it is related to addiction, it’s vital to participate in a treatment plan that enables you to discuss experiences with a licensed therapist. Whether you opt for CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), the important thing is that you work with a professional to unpack the mental bagging from the days of active addiction. By meeting these thoughts head-on instead of suppressing them, you’re much more likely to overcome them, adjust, and move on in a healthy way. Another critical component of trauma treatment is group therapy. Many addiction treatment facilities understand the importance of group, and for good reason. Being able to tell your stories to people who have been there too is an incredibly empowering experience. Hearing what they’ve been through may also provide a different viewpoint for your current situation. Discussing these topics takes away a large portion of addiction’s stigma and power, which enables you to understand that you are not alone, and that recovery is possible. Finally, it’s important to continue care after you leave residential addiction treatment. Your treatment center may have options for aftercare – for example, Segue Recovery offers sober transport and sober living accommodations for those in early recovery. Be sure to take advantage of these to protect your sobriety and ease your transition back into your day-to-day life. Your center should also have information for local therapists, healthcare professionals, and 12-step meetings that you should contact after treatment. By continuing to work on your mental and physical health, you’ll make great strides to overcome addiction.  

Long-Term Care for Addiction Recovery

Segue Recovery offers a variety of services to help those in recovery to bridge the gap from treatment to independence. Case management, recovery coaching, monitoring, and accountability services are all vital components of continued sobriety. If you or a loved one could use additional support in recovery, call 1-833-485-0789 today.