TRAUMA AND ADDICTION
Addiction to alcohol and/or drugs is now recognized as a frequent outcome of a traumatic experience or experiences. Sexual trauma, and cult-abuse trauma are important activators of addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.
The human body tends to remember the event or events although conscious memory may not. Whenever either a conscious or unconscious traumatic memory is triggered, an individual may try desperately to shortcircuit the emotional and spiritual pain by numbing it with readily available alcohol and drugs. Many become physically addicted to their drug of choice. Until an individual receives informed help, however, he or she may not even remember, much less recognize or be able to address, the underlying traumatic processes adversely affecting one’s whole life.
Because severe addiction to alcohol or drugs eventually becomes so obvious to both the individual and those around him or her, treatment for addictive disease is often the entry point in the healing process for trauma as well. Even then, it may take months or years before the traumatic memories surface and the person is psychically and spiritually strong enough to address them with the help of knowledgeable counseling. Often with such individuals, there are periods of relapse into renewed or occasional alcohol or drug use, simply to relieve the memories.
Addictive disease is chronic but controllable as long as the person doesn’t drink, or use non-prescribed psychoactive drugs. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar 12-Step groups are the major avenue for long-term recovery. AA has a proven, 70-year record in helping people recover from addictive disease.
In recent years AA members began to learn that a substantial majority of their women members had experienced sexual trauma, frequently in childhood. It is now known that addicted men have not escaped similar traumas, though probably not in such large numbers.
Fortuitously, AA offers a unique environment for healing from both addictive disease and trauma. AA’s 12-Step program recognizes that recovery is behavioral (physical, mental, and emotional) as well as spiritual. The same recovery principles apply to trauma. People in 12-Step recovery learn they are no longer victims, that they have choices and the capacity for mature responsibility. They discover the relief of being able to share their experiences and thus draw strength and hope from others. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, they find a healthy spiritual path that will sustain and strengthen them. It is especially important that a deeply-embedded experience of an evil, punishing, all-powerful God be replaced in time with a personal Higher Power of love, justice, and compassion.