The basic definition of trauma is a “deeply distressing or disturbing event.” However, trauma can be a deeply embedded and continuously unfolding physical, mental, and emotional experience. The way trauma has been studied during the last few decades is tremendously different from how we once acknowledged what trauma is and how it shows up in our life.
So, What Exactly Is Trauma?
Trauma is difficult to define in a few words, as it is truly a multi-dimensional experience. Though the basic definition — a deeply distressing or disturbing event — is the root of what takes place in trauma, it is not the endpoint. Trauma is an event that transforms into an on-going distressing, disturbing, or difficult emotional experience, which creates a perpetual cycle of physical and emotional protection from the experience.
In a person, trauma shows up as a physical and mental response to specific scenarios that may seem completely normal to others, but the brain has deemed it dangerous. This then activates a psychological and physiological response to what is considered a dangerous experience; this can look like a panic attack, a freeze response, or irrational behavior. Trauma shows up differently in everybody, but the similarities are within their roots of emotional anguish and imprinted distress on the individual’s body and mind.
The Trauma and Addiction Connection
Trauma is not only personal, but it is ancestral and connected to some of the deepest parts of who we are and where we come from within our most intimate circles. Addiction, which by definition is “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or thing,” is typically a symptom of a more in-depth condition rather than what we see on the surface. For many people, what turns into addiction typically begins as a subtle cry for help, a need for comfort and connection, or merely a way out of one’s emotional wounding. Sometimes this is conscious, and other times it’s completely unconscious. In other words, what we consider addiction and the disease of the mind is a band-aid for a more profound condition of the mind and emotional body of an individual, and perhaps even an entire family line. This typically stems from trauma or some form of what we now know trauma to be.
Treating Addiction With Trauma in Mind
The way mental health and recovery programs have approached trauma, and the complexities of human consciousness, emotional wounding, and addiction have not always been the most inclusive. As with any form of medicine, there have been trials and errors and miraculous discoveries. The way we are now approaching trauma is one of them.
Before the research that has been done on the brain, PTSD, and the relationship between trauma and a person’s identity, we didn’t have much understanding of this could affect a person on a physical, mental, and emotional level. Men were coming back from the Vietnam war with seemingly normal day-to-day lives, then hearing fireworks and being pulled into an alternate reality that induced immense rage, confusion, and fear. All of this leads to numbing themselves with substances, continuously moving between numbness and anger, and leaving their families in the dark.
At the time, medical professionals couldn’t truly understand what was happening to them, and it left so many veterans drugged or confused for the rest of their life. Fortunately, science has begun to realize why those scenarios were happening with those wounded men and their families, and it has changed the way we view mental health and trauma as a whole. However, there is still room for more understanding and education within recovery circles and how addiction comes from a deeper emotional condition.
Take Responsibility But Have Compassion
Most recovery programs and circles are focused heavily on personal responsibility for a good reason. It is important when we first get sober to understand the power of taking responsibility for our lives and empowering ourselves. It’s also essential that we take responsibility for the harm we may have caused ourselves or others, make amends, forgive ourselves, and move forward from that pain. We must understand the blame game never works. The only way to real transformation is to take responsibility for our lives within the radical space of complete humility and surrender to what is right here.
However, with all of this being said, it is also essential to recognize we are human, living a sometimes very complex experience. Often, our addictive habits came from deep emotional wounding and our pain. This doesn’t give us a “free pass” but allows the space for us to see ourselves in a different light — one that doesn’t make us a monster or a victim, but a human being doing the best they could. With a deeper understanding of those human complexities, support from others around us, and a healthier way of life, it is our responsibility to show up to life as human beings with more profound wisdom, doing the best they can.
Recovery, mental health, and the road of self-development are all intricately tied in with trauma and emotional wounding. It is not until recent years that modern medicine has begun to acknowledge the true depth of trauma and its effects on a person’s life and how this may affect the mental health and addictive qualities in normal day-to-day life. At Hired Power, we understand the complexities of trauma and how it affects recovery, and the importance of support and tools to empower ourselves through the healing process. Hired Power is a dynamic group of recovery professionals that provide an empowering range of services in a compassionate and healing environment that gives people the best opportunity for long-term success and happiness. We believe in you and your ability to transform, and we are here to help you. Our Personal Recovery Assistants encourage and motivate clients to become active participants in their own lives. Contact Hired Power today at (800) 910-9299.