Visit the living room of the average family that is “living with,” or should I say “drowning in,” addiction and you are likely to find a family that is functioning in emotional extremes. Where feelings can explode and get very big, very fast or implode and disappear into “nowhere” with equal velocity. Where what doesn’t matter can get unusual focus while what does matter can be routinely swept under the rug. A family in which small, fairly insignificant behaviors can be blown way out of proportion while outrageous or even abusive ones can go entirely ignored and unidentified. Where things don’t really get talked about but instead become shelved, circumvented or downright denied.
When Current Events Trigger Your Past Trauma
By Dr. Georgia Fourlas, LCSW, LISAC, CSAT-S
Clinical Director of Workshops
Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows
Most people have dealt with some form of trauma in their lifetime. Some have sought professional help while other people relied on their support system of family and friends to assist them through healing. Others may have never dealt with their trauma at all. They may have found a way to numb out their reactions to their trauma (e.g. substance use, intimacy disorders, overworking, eating disorders, etc.). Or they may have forgotten memories of the traumatic event...
While building a tribe can be scary at times, like other things in recovery, it can also be exciting. Our best friends were once strangers, ones we probably met because we weren’t staring at our screens. Now, go: put your phone down (unless you’re attending an online meeting), and build your village. That’s what it takes to heal. And, healing, by the way, can and does happen.
Our capacity for empathy and closeness is formed and strengthened through the quality of our childhood relationships. From conception onwards, we resonate in tune or out of tune with those who bring us into this world. Our nervous systems are fashioned by nature to resonate with the nervous systems of others to achieve a sense of balance and connection (Schore, 1999) and these early interactions become the neurological templates upon which later interactions are built. Did we feel safe and held in our parents arms? How did we experience their touch? Were they interested and able to read our little signals and our attempts to communicate with them and did they respond in an attuned and caring manner? Or did we feel dismissed or even as if we were a burden or somehow a disappointment? A combination of both? Could we put a smile on their faces just by being part of their lives? These early expereinces knit themselves into the very fabric of our mind/body system and pattern our capacity for intimacy.
Addiction encourages trauma and trauma can encourage addiction. This process becomes a vicious circle or negative feedback loop, with trauma contributing to addiction, which in turn fuels more trauma, which encourages still more addiction, and so on and so on. The Claudia Black Young Adult Center treats substance and process addictions, recognizing them to be primary disorders which reinforce each other and are often fueled by traumatic experiences. Here are some examples of how this process plays out:
My therapist prescribed me to drink more alcohol. I had described symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet once again, the diagnosis was completely missed. Even worse, this uniformed therapist suggested that I drink wine “medicinally,” beginning in the morning, to help cope with what he said was high anxiety. What makes this horrible advice even more dangerous is the fact that upward of fifty percent of those with PTSD also battle substance use disorder.
When you think of management of your mental health, what comes to mind? Maybe you meditate or take yoga, perhaps you participate in group activities to stay connected to others, or maybe you focus on getting enough sleep. Do you ever think of the role food plays in all of this? You should. That’s because studies show that the foods you choose to consume play a big role in your mental health status. Here’s what to choose, and what to lose.
Love Addiction • Innovative Experiential Therapy • 12-Step Program