This is Rose Lockinger’s second guest post on The Sunny Shadow! Check out Rose’s first guest post, My Journey.
Looking at my life, trauma is a big part of my story. Addiction plays a large role as well.
I spent many years using the excuse of my painful experiences to rationalize away my addiction. For a long time this worked, I embraced the role of victim and lived it. It defined who I was. I survived multiple incidents of sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence in my marriage. Like a venom it poisons the mind, body, and soul. Addiction mirrors trauma in this manner.
For me addiction has manifested itself in many forms, like a hydra it always rose its ugly head again. Behaviors or actions they are all the same. I ‘used’ to take away the emotions and make me numb. If I wasn’t feeling anything then I could function. I was terrified of them, if they were to surface I knew like a hurricane they would destroy me. Looking back this response is pretty accurate, I had no experience in feeling my emotions.
I was in my early 30’s by the time I decided that I was done, I had nothing left. Seventeen years of active addiction had taken everything from me. I was a broken wretched person. Painkillers and Benzos quickly delivered the coup de grac, breaking me and forcing the point. I needed help. In treatment I had to face all of the emotions I had spent the last seventeen years running away from.
To say that this was overwhelming is to minimize this experience. I cried and cried and cried. I was told that one day I cried for 8 hours straight, when I was told about this I was shocked. How could this happen? This is when my therapist sat me down and explained to me that I had PTSD. She went on to explain that I was being diagnosed with severe PTSD and placed in intensive therapy, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and two individual sessions per week.
Trauma and Addiction
I decided to find out as much as I could about PTSD. I found out that in people who abuse substances nearly 80% have some type of trauma. Types of abuse responsible for trauma include physical, emotional and sexual abuse during childhood as well as neglect. It is not only limited to children as adults may experience it as result of a traumatic event or experience. Other reasons include combat in war and surviving a natural disaster.
Simply put, using substances is a prevalent coping mechanism for dealing with stressors in many people. This becomes a problem when the substance or behavior is your only tool. This is where the addict is different from normal people.
In the case of the addict, substance use is the only tool they have for dealing with stressors. Children who have experienced any type of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse as well as neglect have a hard time soothing themselves. Trauma leaves them unable to face the challenges and disappointments that happen in life. This is a direct result of never learning coping skills or how to self-soothe. Many addicts experience flashbacks as well as overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, fear and anger and drugs or alcohol provide an escape. In other words, substances help them numb the pain and escape the reality of their lives.
Treatment success rates are hard to measure as there is no current method of tracking outcomes. However a 30 to 60 day stay in treatment does not adequately address trauma. The time needed to treat trauma varies and is based on the severity and willingness of the individual to face their pain. Unfortunately, the current length of treatment does little to prevent relapse from happening. Individuals who relapse are not only overcome by cravings from the disease but the other symptoms from PTSD: flashbacks, shame, and guilt that untreated trauma leave behind.
Traditional addiction treatment focuses on breaking the cycle of craving, educating the addicted person, teaching them to be accountable and honest, giving them basic tools to deal with cravings and helping them learn some healthy life skills. This all sounds great but in reality treatment should be longer. For me six months of inpatient care changed my life and started the lengthy road of healing.
I left treatment and was petrified of the thought of having to return to the emotional hell my life had been while using. No one wants to live in active addiction and, if they are honest, they know that 30, even 60 days, doesn’t even scratch the surface for addressing addiction. When the trauma and pain would surface I had no idea how to handle them and it was only through the help of staff that I was able to talk about and work through the pain. I have had flashbacks in sobriety and they can be crippling, the sense of sheer panic is debilitating to say the least. Initially I did not realize what was happening and I had to learn specific techniques to help me cope with the experience and bring me back to the present.
As time progressed and I continued intensive therapy I began to heal. The flashbacks became fewer and the intensity lessened. The shame and guilt started to decrease as I learned to see what had happened to me was not my fault. I was not responsible for what others had done to me. I learned to see my experiences in a different perspective. I cannot really put into words how much my life has improved after I sought treatment for the trauma I had been through.
Honestly it brings tears to my eyes thinking about what it’s like to live without continuous emotional pain. For the first time in my life I can breathe again, I don’t need to know who is behind me, I am not hyper vigilant to my surroundings. I actually want people to be physically affectionate. Hugs don’t freak me out anymore. I hope that as insurance companies are required to cover treatments that trauma diagnoses will be one of those that automatically qualify for lengthier stays. For me this made the difference between life and death.
» » » » Meet Rose
Rose is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children, she has learned that parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Rose is currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.