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There are as many types of traumatic events as there are people who experience them. Trauma can be physical, emotional or psychological. Trauma can arise from: a terrible accident, violence, neglect, rape, grief, assault, witness to a trauma, physical abuse, war, bullying, a serious illness, crime, and catastrophic acts of nature like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes. Trauma can hide away in a memory that hasn’t yet surfaced, too.

Research shows people who suffer from trauma are candidates for addiction. The research doesn’t mean everyone who experiences a traumatic event will become become addicted. There is no blame if someone becomes addicted. They are simply doing the best they can. They want to feel better.

After a traumatic event the mind and body find ways to cope. Trauma influences addiction by how well a person is able to cope. There is no judgement here. Trauma can wreck havoc on the body and cause a variety of difficult conditions such as anxiety, helplessness, anger, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and panic attacks. Reaching for a substance like alcohol to relieve psychological or physical pain is a common way to cope. A person wants the substance to alter their feelings, which can be overwhelming and scary.

One problem is alcohol is a depressant. Like other substances, it may offer relief in the moment. Consuming more adds to progression and even, or eventually, addiction. The tendency to want more of an altering substance is understandable. A person wants and needs the horrible feelings to go away, and go away now!

A traumatic event leading to addiction is a double-fold tragedy. Recovery takes precious time. Fortunately there are many helpful coping strategies that can ward off the desire for instant relief and subsequently addiction.

Talk to a friend willing to listen to your story. First, be careful to find the right friend. There is a saying, “Tell a wise person, or tell no one.” Unknowingly friends can be insensitive to your situation. They may not understand the severity of your trauma. They may be more interested in telling you something awful that happened to them.

Other ways to avoid addiction are to join a group, take up yoga, play with your animals, seek professional help, go on long walks, learn something new. Finding coping strategies is not about avoidance, denial or escaping your feelings. Rather, it is about allowing the pain to move through you and not get stuck.