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How Trauma Reenactment Can Influence Addiction

trauma-influence-addictionTrauma can be experienced at any phase of life, but it often relates back to childhood experiences. Physical and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, a parent’s struggle with substance abuse and mental illness and other traumatic experiences leave a lasting impact on our lives and how we see the world. Throughout childhood and into adulthood, trauma survivors are often subconsciously compelled to seek out specific experiences and types of people to reenact traumatic childhood experiences, also known as trauma reenactment. Trauma reenactment is a chronic condition that can manifest in a number of ways and, given its subconscious nature, can have severe consequences on a person’s well-being if trauma goes unaddressed. Many people go through life unaware of the influence trauma has on their lives and continuously find themselves in the same situations with the same types of people. Even if someone is aware of their unhealthy behavior patterns, they may try to suppress their feelings with substance use or other addictive behaviors. Going through a traumatic experience doesn’t automatically lead to addiction, but research shows a definitive correlation between trauma as a source of addictive behavior. How Addiction Begins No one decides to become an addict. Instead, addiction is awakened by the subconscious or even conscious desire for control, safety and feeling better–something all trauma survivors want. Examining addiction through this lens–understanding why a trauma survivor engages in harmful behavior–is instrumental in undoing the damage.

Addiction can be driven by the desire to:

  • Feel safe. After trauma the mind can feel like a dangerous place to be. Addiction helps you escape your thoughts and experience a new headspace.
  • Escape memories. No matter how much you try to escape them, unpleasant memories are unavoidable. Addiction suppresses them.
  • Ease the pain. Trauma is still painful years later, but the adrenaline rush addictive behaviors provide releases endorphins into the body that make you feel euphoric and happy.
  • Have control. Engaging in addictive behaviors provides an outlet where you can feel strong, empowered and in control, something that can be incredibly enticing if you’re struggling with past trauma.
  • Treat yourself the way you think you deserve to be treated. Trauma often leaves you feeling worthless, damaged and full of despair. Sometimes engaging in addictive behaviors makes you feel like your treatment of yourself is in line with who you really are.

Healing Is Possible

Fear is the common thread among all trauma survivors, so recovery must address resolving those feelings. Trauma drives addiction, but it can be reversed. Everyone has healing potential; you just have to learn how to access it. Evidenced-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and alternative methods such as meditation can help rebalance the mind and body, heal pain and break free from addiction. Spearhead Lodge’s clinical services help our residents recover from trauma. The therapeutic modalities we employ equip residents with the tools they need to address the trauma and life experiences that contributed to their addiction. For more information about our recovery services or to verify your insurance benefits, contact a Spearhead Recovery Specialist at 1.866.905.4550.