Trauma and Addiction
Working Towards Understanding and Empathy
“creates the perfect storm”Oftentimes we view trauma as something dramatic and in your face. We conjure up images of war, death and violent assaults. But the reality is that the majority of trauma is much more insidious and understated. Having a parent who sent you the message that nothing you did was ever good enough. Never feeling like you really fit in growing up. The loss of a serious romantic relationship. I’ve heard trauma described as “anything less than nurturing”. If that is true, we have all experienced trauma at some point in our lives. And if this trauma hasn’t been processed, we are walking around with an open wound.
“Addiction can be understood as an attempt to cope with the discomfort of trauma”In my experience, the first step towards healing from trauma is to recognize and validate our own traumatic experiences. We have a tendency of comparing, minimizing and invalidating our experiences in an attempt to avoid being labeled “whiney “or “dramatic”. Typically this fear of being perceived as whiney and dramatic stems from some external source of invalidation and keeps us from being able to recognize and express our universal emotional experiences and needs. The second step in healing is to allow ourselves to grieve the losses inherent in traumatic encounters. Grieving is painful and as humans, we tend to avoid painful emotions at all costs, which lessens our ability to manage pain without a substance or compulsion to numb. The last step is to understand how our trauma influences our beliefs and behaviors with the intent to identify new ways of relating to our trauma and being more mindful in decisions of how we treat ourselves and others.
“Healing from trauma is possible!“At Brighton, we address trauma using multiple approaches. I have the privilege of running Healing the Past, which is a group in which we process trauma through many modalities including story telling, psychodrama and other experiential exercises. Individual therapy is also a safe place to work through traumatic experiences, as Brighton’s team is trained in modalities proven to be effective in treating trauma including EMDR. Recreation therapy is also an empowering intervention that allows us to challenge old narratives and behaviors that are no longer serving us through physical activity.
Healing from trauma is possible! It takes time. It is a process. Healing requires willingness to sit with pain and loss. It requires an understanding that there are traumas that will never be fully “resolved”, but if we are doing the hard work our ability to process and move through these painful feelings will improve over time. And with that a resolve to nurture and heal instead of abuse and avoid.