Trauma Can Lead to Addiction

Many people experience some sort of trauma while journeying on this earth- some in childhood and some as adults.  That trauma, whether you realize it or not, impacts you at an energetic level inside and it may come out as anxiety, the inability to feel your emotions, negative thoughts, and more.  Sure, you may look great from the outside, but inside, you might really be struggling.

Unresolved trauma can really wreak havoc in the life.  What are some types of trauma?

Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
The loss of a loved one
Experiencing a natural disaster
Debilitating illness or surgery
Tough breakup or divorce
Having a family member caught up in addiction or mentally ill
Being neglected

There are other things that can be considered traumatic, but these are fairly common. When experienced as a child, it’s tough to cope with such trauma. How many children know how to cope in a healthy way with trauma?  Not many (if any). So they tend to detach or stuff the feelings associated with it.  What happens down the road, as they enter their teen years or adulthood, is that the trauma and built up energy associated with it, starts to really get agitated.  It’s like a balloon that keeps expanding and expanding until it’s ready to pop at any moment.

After all, emotions are simply energy in motion, so if you don’t actually process and cope with negative emotions, your energy will just grow and grow like air in a balloon until you pop (emotionally breakdown).

Addiction and trauma

Ever feel immense pain and self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, porn, shopping, etc.? Yeah, me too.  Been there, done that and sometimes still find myself reaching for something to soothe inner pain that pops up.  Trauma can certainly cause people to become addicted to certain things, as it’s tough to feel pain. That buried childhood trauma can cause us to do things we might consider insane should we be able to look at it from a different perspective.

Are you suffering from buried childhood trauma?

Are you depressed, addicted to alcohol or drugs, overly anxious, angry a lot, have mood swings, fearful, stuck in a state of grief, fatigued, or emotionally numb?  If you resonate with some of these, you’ve probably got some buried trauma and pain.  It’s there and you know what? It wants you to start digging to finally cope with it and get it resolved and processed. Then it really can just float away. 

Reach out for some help

When I hit my emotional breakdown and could not hold in my emotions anymore (yes, I was a basket case), I finally had to reach out for help. I couldn’t take it anymore and yes, it was hard, but so worth it. There are different options for dealing with emotional pain and trauma. Maybe you can find a good therapist or 12 Step group. Or perhaps you can start educating yourself on trauma and addiction.  Whatever works for you, as each person is different. The key is to begin this inner journey and begin healing old wounds and viewing your life from a different perspective.

You can do it. You can jump on the journey to recover from addiction and trauma one day at a time. 

  • 27 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • 'It's not the situation, but the feelings, that matter'

    I've experienced trauma all through my childhood and early adulthood. My feelings towards those experiences are part of the reason I turn to substances.

    I find it interesting that 2 people could experience the same event yet react differently to it. I have brothers who are fraternal twins. They were adopted together by the same woman and raised, I imagine, pretty simillar. One twin experiences depressive bouts yet is motivated and has worked since he was a teenager. The other has struggled with substance use and been in trouble with the law etc.

    I guess what one person could perceive as a traumatic experience to them may not be viewed as traumatic by another as well. I remember meeting a girl in hospital, about 10 years ago - she was addicted to heroin and had a lot of problems. She told me she had been sexually abused by her brother. When we spoke more, he had attempted to touch her once. At that time, I couldn't believe she was so affected by (in my head) such a 'minor' event. Perhaps having a different life, I would have reacted the same way as I have to the trauma I've experienced - I'll never know. I was quite invalidating of her feelings, but I was comparing her experience to mine, rather than the associated feelings.

    I'm pleased to say I no longer view trauma in that way. I get frustrated now when I hear people, especially 'professionals' telling people, ''it's in the past'. Everything in the past makes up even the tiniest part of who we are now. Individuals who have had safe and happy childhoods aren't expected to 'get over it'.

    People often don't think beyond what they see. They see someone who is homeless and drunk and judge them on that, rather than thinking about how they got there. My sister is extremely judgements in this manner. She slags off drug users, drinkers, overweight people, people who have their children in care (because she's perfect, obviously...). Try and nudge her to think about her views and all hell breaks lose. If I remind her that I fall into all of those categories (I have one son, lives with friends, we have a fantastic relationship :) ), her response is 'but I don't mean you!'. I'm 'ok' to be those things, apparently, because I've suffered ''more' trauma...although I know her true feelings.

    The public don't like to acknowledge that society often fails children, and those children become addicted to substances as adults. We blame the vulnerable, enabling the perpetrators to continue their behaviour. Maybe those judgements come from a place of guilt themselves?

    If it feels traumatic, then that should be validated, regardless of the actual physical experience

    (Just my opinionated ramblings :) )
  • @doobles thank you for sharing and i respect your "ramblings". :)

    i am a fraternal twin and coming from a home with an alcoholic father and depressed mother, my twin brother and i turned out much different, as we coped with neglect and some sexual abuse differently. me? i became a caregiver...just wanting to be loved and doing whatever i could in order to get it and feel loved. later turned into codependency and i abused alcohol to numb.

    my twin?  he became a very angry boy, young man, and man.  he ended up leaving the family by 17 going into the military and cut himself off from the entire family. he carried such anger and still does 25 years later (after moving out). 

    both of us were affected by "trauma"...did not know how to cope, so just did the best we could and coped with it as i guess our ego saw fit.

    it's important not to judge others. i make a practice of non-judgment and to love others where they are on their journey. after all, i've been in some rough spots on my journey and those that loved me unconditonally were quite helpful in helping me through such times.


    i do think we can heal from trauma...over time and with some inner work...various ways too.

    again, thanks for sharing!
  • I have known quite a few addicts who use drugs and alcohol to escape their problems. My ex husband was a very severe non-functioning alcoholic who drank to get out of his own head. I had known his father was an alcoholic and used to abuse my ex and his brothers, but it came to light later in our marriage that he was also sexually abused as a child. I can also relate because after a hard day I might have a drink to 'unwind' and after a hard week I occasionally go out and do more than just unwind a little.

    Drugs and alcohol may have a way of making us forget our problems, but it doesn't make them go away.
  • This is so true. Trauma and mental illness can make a person want to escape and self-medicate. Once they start doing that, it's so easy for them to become dependent on substances...especially if the substances do indeed help them escape their negative feelings. 
  • I can say that is the main reason for my addiction. Trauma is real it does effect who you become as an adult. I hate it when people say move on get over it. Well if only it were that simple. It's easy for those who don't understand how early childhood abuse can destroy a persons self worth. I went through a living hell as a child. It made be a basket case. I drank majorly to forget my screwed up world. Point blank, and simple some people just shouldn't be parents.
  • I’d venture a guess that emotional/mental abuse in my youth contributed to a lot of my issues. Until I taught myself healthier coping skills, I know I found comfort in things I shouldn’t have. On occasion I still do, so I know I’ve still got some stuff to work out. I can say that I don’t want to escape myself and my feelings anymore though, which is serious progress from a few years ago.
  • @karmaskeeper i agree that those who say "just get over it" do not really get it. it's not that easy. it is possible to work through old childhood traumas, but it can take years and years. and some people have "triggers" their entire lives...even counselors!! 

    i have come to accept some of my triggers...and i work on them- first by recognizing that it's MY STUFF to work on and not project it onto others...esp a partner. 

    thanks for sharing!
  • Do you think that growing up, in the middle of nowhere, miles away from anyone, with only one depressed anxious mother as your family and friend, she herself being ostracised from society and neglected by her own family.... Do you think that that can be recovered from, untuil the age of 11 she was the primary/only caregiver... Kind of hard for me to understand but I smoked and took drugs as a teen and had compounds amounts of unsafe sex,,..
  • It just amazes me to listen to all these sad stories here. Yes, we all have a story some worse then others. Still they are all really sad, and to think how many more are out there this very minute going through it. 
  • Trauma is  always a major cause in disorders and mental illnesses, as well as addictions. It can definitely be linked together. It's sad to think about it, since I've also struggled with it but with God I got through it :)
  • Trauma can always be a huge factor why people would resort to drug abuse. It could also lead to depression, social anxiety, paranoia, and other mental health problems. That is why we should never underestimate or overlook the past experiences of other people. If you know someone who is going through/suffering from trauma, never hesitate to offer them help.
  • Trauma is pretty hard to deal with and at a point, it just becomes a part of you. One technique I recently heard about is remembering your traumatic experience - but remembering it backwards, like a movie being rewound. So you end with the memory of the moment things were normal or neutral, instead of remembering the incident ending with the pain and hurt. 

    I tried it for one memory I have and it worked, when I remember the event now I just think of the initial happy moment, instead of the ending painful moment. 
  • @lyralyra  i'm sorry to hear about your childhood...must have been quite difficult for you. thank you for sharing that with us. i do think recovery is possible, though it may take years and years to work through the trauma from childhood.

    how are you doing today?
  • @Diane That’s a super interesting technique, I wouldn’t have thought to try anything like that. I think I need to give it a shot with some of my mental stuff that’s cropping back up lately.
  • I went through a traumatic event as a young teenager and it still affects me today. I'm also an alcoholic and trying to quit. I use it to self medicate. I am working with a counselor. I just want some relief so I don't feel so compelled to drink.
  • People might be surprised to see a divorce or relationship breakdown on the list and classed as a trauma, but having been through two in my life, I can definitely say they should be on the list.

    One divorce, after 10 years of marriage and two children took was a lot for me to get over, and I buried my head in the sand, pushed everybody away and turned to alcohol. After nearly drinking myself into the grave, I got help and managed to get my life back on track, slowly but surely rebuilding my confidence and self esteem.

    While some people might think that a divorce isn't really that traumatic and its something that people do everyday, I thought like that aswell until I went through it, but it does rip your world apart.
  • The worst thing about trauma is that it's often very easily hidden from the public and sometimes even the person themselves are unaware of it so the manifestations often of unaddressed. In my opinion, one of the best ways to combat this or at least alleviate some of the effects is to be honest and communicative, both for the ones with trauma and those around them. I've seen far too many people just ignore their family members who are going through something bad and they only realize it when it's too late.
  • I'm a perfect example of this. I began using to counteract the effects of severe PTSD. Abusing pain pills helped me relax and sleep when my normal sleep was filled with nightmares.
  • my substance abuse and smoking is also linked to my trauma in childhood, thoughts of killing the one who did this to me crosses my mind oftenly.
  • @amin021023 i'm sorry you had to endure such trauma!!!  i bet you are quite angry with the person or people involved!!  i do hope the thoughts of such wane over time.  
  • A Trauma is the result of some of the bad experiences we had in life that affects us emotionally and that sometimes leads us to depression and to have stress and worries in our life. And it is true that there are people who do not have a strong faith within themselves that they can handle their traumas that is why they think trying any toxic substances like drugs will help them to ease the pains and fears they are going through in their life. Although there are medications to treat traumas it is better that you will get out of this in your own ways like forgetting your past experiences  and by having a positive outlook for your present and future life..  
  • Indeed it can. I had a trauma involving an air plane and aftermath of the event and I was in a great shock. I was just okay for first half of the year after the event and then the problems started. Anxiety, panic, tremor, mental instability ... I forgot stuff and I felt like I was loosing my mind. I heard voices, seen people, the whole nine yards.
    At one point I couldn't sleep and I started drinking. It went on for little less than a year but I was already in a big problem. Now I am okay, I guess but we'll see.
  • I think I have a lot buried traumas, but I like to think I am on the road to recovery.   I still have a lot unresolved issues that I need to  dig in order to be able to face them, some that i don't even remember but the more I write in my diary... the more things i remember.  I like to believe doing that is good, because probably my fears and anxieties have an origin there...
  • Yes, some childhood trauma may affect the person and may cause him to turn to drugs. It can be a trigger for some people. But I think that it still depends on the situation and the person himself. Some people who have experienced trauma were able to live a drug free life. 
  • After any kind of trauma the most immediate need and purpose is to find a comfort zone and be at peace. Trauma whether physical or mental pretty much disrupts the very existence of a person and how they would normally expect reality to operate in steps. An addiction can easily creep into the picture because it now soothes and comforts as the person seeks solace and ways to escape the disruption.
  • I think trauma and addiction go hand in hand.  The perception of the trauma is what can make the biggest difference.  Unfortunately, what may start as self-medicating, the attempt to just feel normal, can turn into something self-destructive very quickly.  Reaching out for help is ideal, but the reality is 90% of people with addiction issues don't get help.  So, I think especially in trauma addiction situations sometimes we (as loved ones or concerned friends or whatever you may classify yourself as) should try to empathetically reach in.  
  • @mdforsyth03 ;Hello and welcome to the forum. Thank you for sharing such great Insight. What a great point that we should empathically reach out toward those who are struggling. I'm with you on that!
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