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How Can PTSD Interfere with Our Addiction Recovery?

If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

As we’re working to recover from our addictions, we need a certain level of inner peace, emotional stability, and overall balance if we’re going to be able to defeat the many challenges that come with recovery, from the addictive urges and temptation we experience, to our overwhelming feelings of defeat and disappointment. If we haven’t yet achieved this peace within ourselves, we continue to be vulnerable to our addictive patterns and all of the mental health issues we struggle with. One of the factors that can most block our recovery because it robs us of our peace is the chronic trauma-related condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD causes us to experience any kind of rehashing of our past traumas that causes us mental and emotional disturbance. We might be constantly preoccupied with the past, constantly replaying the traumatic incidents we’ve experienced, over and over again in our minds and hearts. We might continue to have recurring memories, flashbacks, visions, and nightmares.

Constant Retriggering

When we’re living with PTSD, many of us are routinely triggered, often by things that are out of our control. We’re hypersensitive to things people say, things we see or hear, even conversations, items in our home, or people we know. We’re constantly being reminded of the pain we endured. When we’re constantly being triggered, when we never feel comfortable and at ease within ourselves, we’re also often quite vulnerable to the many effects of our mental illnesses,  such as our drastic changes in mood, our severe episodes of depression, crippling anxiety attacks, insomnia, self-isolation, etc. All of these contribute to our unwellness, and for those of us struggling with addiction, it is usually our drugs of choice that we use to self-medicate rather than seek true healing.

Emotional Responses

When we’re trapped in the past, we’re also trapped in our emotional reactions to the past. This means that any time we remember something about our trauma or are triggered in some way, we’re perpetuating the same emotional patterns that we did when we were first traumatized. Our emotional responses might include panic, anger, shame or sadness. We feel the energies of our grief and fear not only mentally and emotionally but also through the illnesses they can create in our bodies, such as chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia which many believe to be trauma-related. Constantly repeating the same emotional patterns keeps that emotional information locked in our subconscious minds, where it then governs the vast majority of our daily life, how we think and feel, how we behave, what choices we make, how we relate to other people, and how we look at the world. This translates to our trauma informing everything about our lives. So not only are our emotional patterns locked in the pain of our trauma, but our behavioral patterns and choices are as well.

Addictive Patterns

Our trauma-informed behaviors can very often lead to addictive patterns. They can contribute to being compulsive, dangerously impulsive, and reckless with our health. We struggle with dependence issues and with feeling as though we’re out of control. We experience strong neediness and attachment, both for our drugs of choice and in our relationships. Our behavioral patterns are being directed by the pain of our trauma, so we’re making choices, choosing relationships and living our everyday lives through the lens of that pain. For many of us, this means we become self-destructive and self-harming. We may even become suicidal. We feel haunted by our trauma, and we feel powerless to stop it from controlling our lives.

Ways of Thinking

Trauma taints our thoughts and feelings, everything we do, every decision we ponder, every relationship and interpersonal dynamic we have, our perception of ourselves, others, and the world. For many of us this can cause our ways of thinking to be impacted negatively. Our thought patterns become increasingly pessimistic, cynical, skeptical, negative and closedminded. We catastrophize and think in terms of worst-case scenarios. We have a hard time finding solutions and focus instead on problems. We might develop a victim mentality. We might experience what are considered to be personality disorders and/or anxiety disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Our Relationship to Our Trauma

When we are unable to release our trauma, and when we still have a strong attachment to our pain, we’re keeping ourselves from being able to do the healing work necessary to make progress in our recovery. We trap ourselves in recurring cycles of intrusive thoughts, causing ourselves more anguish, in ways that can be unintentionally self-abusive. Most of us have experienced trauma of some kind, but it is not our trauma blocking our healing, it is our relationship to it. We have a relationship with our pain that is based on strong attachment and self-destructiveness. We’re self-punishing in how we treat ourselves, both consciously and unconsciously. We don’t forgive ourselves for our trauma, even when we weren’t to blame for it. Constantly being retriggered by our trauma keeps us trapped in it. When we’re in this place, when we’re living with this problematic relationship to our trauma, freeing ourselves from our addictions can feel virtually impossible. Many of us feel we need our drugs of choice just to cope.

Finding Healing

Part of our recovery from our addictions entails making peace with our trauma and finding ways to heal from it. Each of our healing journeys is unique, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. We can try therapy, energy healing such as Reiki and Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), yoga and meditation. We can use wellness tools such as journaling and creative self-expression to process, express and communicate our trauma. We can join support groups and find comfort in solidarity. We might want to try a combination of any of these things, and add any that we experiment with and have luck with. We have it within our power to heal from our PTSD and keep it from continuing to interfere with our addiction recovery.

At The Guest House Ocala, we are uniquely equipped to help our guests heal from trauma-induced substance abuse, process addiction, anxiety and depression in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting.

Call 855-483-7800 today for more information on our treatment programs.

3230 Northeast 55th Avenue Silver Springs, FL 34488