Few days go by without some news headline about a celebrity or politician struggling with addiction. There are countless news stories about dangerous drug trends or the lack of resources to deal with the ever-growing problem of substance abuse. And what about the many heart-breaking experiences of those we work with: a relationship ends because of alcoholism, someone dies from an overdose, or a parent loses access to their child because of substance abuse. As a counsellor or a professional who works with those dealing with addiction, you have witnessed the chaos, confusion, fear, and hopelessness that addiction causes.
Often, we view addiction as a “choice” – those who are addicted “choose” to use. Most counsellors have few clients living in the chaos of dependency who want to be there. It isn’t that they want to abuse substances – they likely do not know how not to use. But what exactly creates the move into addictive patterns of substance use? What causes the compulsive engagement in a particular unhealthy or life-threatening behaviour? The explosion of scientific discoveries based on neuroscience has made a profound contribution to our understanding of trauma as well as the impacts trauma has on the development of addiction and how people recover.
I am passionately engaged in the process of learning about the complexity of the human brain as it relates to the impacts of trauma and the journey into addiction. Almost 20 years ago, I began my clinical work in a trauma treatment program for children and their families. Then I shifted my focus when I began working in a private residential addiction treatment centre over ten years ago. During my time there I heard the stories of hundreds of people struggling with addiction. I saw how often trauma was an underlying cause for most of those who sought out addiction treatment.
I am also interested in the human nervous system, how it functions, and how people can move towards health and recovery through our understanding of these things. I am passionate about incorporating these new insights into my work – whether it is in my role as a clinician, a trainer, or as a writer.
ABOUT MY BLOG:
This blog for clinicians and counsellors is about making sense of the behaviours and consequences of addiction. But it is also about making sense of trauma – because trauma and adverse life experiences often pave the way for a person to use substances or compulsive behaviours as a way of self-medicating. If we have a better understanding of why addiction happens and the significant contribution trauma makes to the development of addiction, then we can develop better tools to support people who want to live in recovery.
There is a large body of research demonstrating that a person with a history of trauma has a greater likelihood of struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Current research shows the importance of identifying and addressing trauma as part of the treatment plan for those experiencing addiction. Understanding the connection between trauma and addiction is vital to the process of healing and recovery for our clients.
INTRODUCING A 4-PART SERIES
I am launching my blog with a 4-part series written for those working in the field of mental health and substance abuse. The title of this series is “Trauma and Addiction: The Link We Can’t Ignore”. The next post in the series is "The Problem is the Problem".
Here are some of the topics I will cover in the coming instalments:
Statistics demonstrating the co-occurrence of trauma and addiction
Negative impact of not addressing trauma when treating substance abuse
Why trauma and addiction occur together
How substance abuse "manages" many common symptoms of trauma
Exploring how to address both issues in the process of treatment
My hope is that you discover something to help you make better sense of the connection between trauma and addiction. I also hope you find something that helps your clients on their journey of recovery.