Addiction Linked to Trauma: Finding Recovery

addiction

People who struggle with drugs and alcohol share many commonalities. While each person’s story is unique, there are many experiences that men and women in the grips of addiction share.

In the rooms of recovery, it is not uncommon for an individual to hear parts of their story when another member shares. This is because the life events that often precipitate chemical dependency have similar effects on each person’s brain. Not always, some people seem naturally equipped to better cope with adverse experiences, particularly adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Still, a large percentage of people who deal with addiction were subject to traumatic events during childhood.

Children will begin using mind-altering substances after they experience trauma 76 percent of the time, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Scientists have found correlations between growing up in a chaotic household or being separated from parents via foster care or adoption and addiction. When a child’s equilibrium is disrupted, or they lose their sense of security, it can leave lasting impressions on their psyches. They may be unable to develop healthy coping skills for dealing with stress, as a result. Such scenarios can lay a foundation for the development of mental and behavioral health problems in adulthood.

The same can be said for emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; such traumatic experiences are part of many alcoholic’s and addict’s stories. When a child lacks the tools to cope or never receives professional help in the wake of abuse, they are at significant risk of looking for unhealthy means of escape.

Lifetime drug and alcohol use is positively associated with exposure to childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse severity, overall trauma exposure, and higher levels of emotional dysregulation, according to the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

From Trauma and Addiction to Recovery

Addiction is a complex disease that develops from many different factors; a combination of nature, nurture, and genetics play vital roles in disease progression. Even when severe trauma isn’t present, it is still possible for a person to develop an alcohol or substance use problem.

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience,” Dr. Gabor Maté wrote in his 2010 bestseller, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. “A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors.”

Fortunately, it is possible to recover from both the lasting effects of trauma and addictive disorders. At PACE Recovery Center, we have worked with many young men over the years who had ACE-related post-traumatic stress and co-occurring substance use disorders. With professional counseling that utilizes evidence-based treatments, each person can achieve lasting recovery.

One young man recently shared about his journey from addiction to healing from trauma and finding recovery. Thrive Global is an organization that helps “individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential. One of their projects is called From Addict to Entrepreneur. As the name suggests, it involves interviewing people who have overcome their addictions to lead successful, healthy, and productive lives in recovery.

Project creator Michael Dash recently spoke with author and adventure coach Aaron Rentfrew about his traumatic past and struggles with addiction.

Dealing WIth Trauma and Finding Recovery

In a lengthy interview, Rentfrew shares about his addiction and then about his path to recovery. He says that he had a mostly normal childhood until a messy divorce left him in foster care for a year. Then he bounced between homes before finally settling with his mother in the 5th grade.

In middle school, he learned that his suspicions were correct about being molested as a child. The confirmation of abuse was the impetus for Aaron withdrawing from friends and family. He would eventually turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with his feelings; substance use helped him escape.

“What drew me deeper and deeper into my addiction was the untreated trauma from my childhood. It was a gaping wound that left me feeling empty and confused. I had trouble feeling normal without being intoxicated, and this cascaded into a life of constant drug use and abuse. I had to be completely wasted to find balance and a sense of normality.”

After years of substance abuse and heartache, Rentfrew reached out for help from a close friend. He was put in touch with other sober people, and he began working a program of recovery. Of equal importance to confronting addiction, Aaron worked on the trauma.

“I had to deal with the trauma around my childhood, which was the spark that started the fire. I did this by having frank and honest discussions with my parents and seeking to understand the full scope of what happened.”

Through dedication and hard work, Aaron was able to put his life back together and now helps others do the same. He believes that helping someone else with a problem you worked through is the cornerstone of recovery.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Treatment

At PACE Recovery Center, our dedicated team of professionals helps adult men who struggle with addiction and mental health conditions. We have created a unique program for clients whose lives are negatively impacted by the trauma that stems from adoption. Please contact us today if you were adopted and are contending with untreated mental or behavioral health issues.

Depression Impacts People Globally

depression

Depression is a subject matter that we frequently cover because the mental illness takes a deadly severe toll on society. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that depressive disorders are the number one cause of disability worldwide. More than 300 million people – of all ages – suffer from depression.

While effective, evidence-based treatment exists, those afflicted by depression struggle to access care. Moreover, fewer than half of those affected in the world receive such therapies, according to the WHO. In some countries, fewer than 10 percent get the help they need.

For those able to reach out for assistance, managing the condition will be a life-long mission. Treatment doesn’t cure depression; it teaches people how to cope with their symptoms healthily. Leading a fulfilling and productive life post-treatment typically involves a combination of medication, ongoing talk therapy, and mutual support groups.

Co-occurring alcohol or substance use disorders can complicate depression recovery. As many as one in three adults who struggle with addiction also suffers from depression, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports. Recovering from either condition hinges on treating both disorders simultaneously.

People living with depression will often use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. While alcohol and substance use may dull the symptoms initially, the practice only serves to worsen matters in the long run. The mental illness can be the impetus for developing a use disorder or, at the very least, a contributing factor.

One of the purposes of treatment is to help clients establish healthy techniques for responding to symptoms and thus minimizing their impact. Since scientists have yet to develop a panacea for depression, encouraging more people to seek care is vital.

Depression and Suicide Among Men: By The Numbers

Over six million men suffer from depression in the United States each year, according to Mental Health America. Women struggle with depression more than men, but they are also more likely to seek assistance. As of 2017, 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Researchers estimate that 15 percent of adults will struggle with depression at some point in their lifetime. Those who do not receive treatment or let up on continued care are at significant risk of self-harm.

Women living with depressive disorders attempt suicide at higher rates than men, but the latter is more likely to succeed. Women attempt suicide more than twice as often as men, but males are four times as likely to die by suicide.

Male suicides have been on the rise over the last two decades; suicide is now the 7th leading cause of death among men.

Men and women living with depression and a use disorder are six times more likely to commit suicide, compared to people who don’t have a co-occurring disease. The link between depression and suicide is clear.

Depression Can Be Deadly

Mental illnesses like depression do not discriminate. A person’s skin color or socioeconomic standing has no impact on who will develop mental health disorders. In recent years, the nation has dealt with the loss of several notable people who struggled with depressive disorders, addiction, or both. While such deaths sent shockwaves of pain across the world and raise many questions in their wake, they are each a deadly reminder of mental illnesses’ seriousness.

The list of famous people who took their own lives following battles with mental illness and addiction is lengthy. Too long to recount in one post or give each case proper attention.

  • David Foster Wallace (2008), American author (Infinite Jest), suffered from depression for more than 20 years.
  • Robin Williams (2014), American comedian and actor, struggled with severe depression before his death.
  • Chester Bennington (2017), American singer and songwriter (Linkin Park), had suffered from addiction and depression.
  • David Berman (2019), American singer and songwriter (Silver Jews) and poet (Actual Air), committed suicide one week ago today after a protracted fight with depression.

David Berman, like David Foster Wallace before him, was known for his ability to write about the pain that accompanies depression. Both his songs and poetry touched countless people who had similar issues. As Sarah Larson writes:

Berman’s music seemed to alchemize pain; by the time it reached us, it had become beauty, wisdom, even humor...He had a gift for articulating profound loneliness in ways that felt deeply familiar, which in turn made you feel less alone.”

Mere days before going on tour to promote his first album in more than a decade, Purple Mountains, Berman took his life.

Depression Recovery Services for Men

You can’t change the feeling, but you can change the feeling about the feeling.” —David Berman

Berman’s fans were fully aware that David had dealt with addiction and depression over the years. However, such knowledge hardly prepared anyone for the troubling news. Hopefully, those who relate with Berman’s issues with mental illness will use this opportunity to seek help or to double down on their current efforts to manage symptoms. If you are unfamiliar with the late poet’s body of work, there is a plethora of material online.

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you would like to begin the journey of recovery. Our Huntington Beach Mental Health Program for men offers evidence-based therapies and clinical treatments that can help you heal. Our team of dedicated, mental health professionals will help you identify specific recovery goals and achieve these goals while preparing for productive, independent living.

Recovery in College: Protecting Your Program

recovery

Many young men in recovery are preparing to head off to college in the coming days and weeks. Steps must be taken now to ensure one's program stays intact in the face of collegiate stressors. Attending classes and studying for exams, week after week, can take a toll on individuals; this is especially true for young men in recovery.

University life can be a lot of fun for clean and sober people, provided that actions are taken to avoid high-risk situations. Parties, football games and tailgating, and Greek life are all synonymous with heavy alcohol consumption. While there isn't a rule mandating that people in recovery can't attend events that involve drinking, such individuals must be extremely cautious.

If your program is secure and you prioritize your recovery, then there are ostensibly not any situations that you can't handle. However, think carefully before attending any event that could involve drugs and alcohol. Relapse can sneak up on you if you're not honest with yourself.

Sticking close to one's support network is a good rule for young men in recovery while away at school. Others who work a program are going to be the individuals who help you stave off temptations to use. The collegiate environment is riddled with people and things that may trigger a desire to use, and sometimes it may be impossible to avoid exposure. Those who put their recovery first in every aspect of life will be able to counter the urges to use when they arise.

If you are going off to college for the first time, then it means that everything you are about to experience is novel. Some of you are returning for another year, which means you have some experience with maintaining sobriety in the face of college stress.

Building a Recovery Deep Bench in College

College first-year students must link up with students in recovery who have experience navigating the perils of college life. If you are a returning student, then you probably have a support network in place already, and a schedule of meetings to attend.

Hopefully, first-year students are already reaching out for recovery resources to utilize upon arrival. The first week at university can be chaotic and anxiety-inducing; there is an excellent chance that first-year students will require support. Knowing right away where one can find a meeting is essential. Attending a meeting is one of the first things you should do after settling into your dorm.

Showing up early to a meeting that is close to campus will provide you with an opportunity to introduce yourself to the group. It may be best to look for a temporary sponsor for while you are at college, depending on how far your school is from your hometown. If you are not able to see your current sponsor regularly while attending classes, then strongly consider finding somebody new.

Achieving long-term recovery hinges on accountability. Having a sponsor is one way to remain accountable to your sobriety. Check-in phone calls and texts, being seen at meetings, and working the steps will all help you manage the stressors of college life.

Spend some time fostering relationships with some of the other young people you meet at meetings. There's an excellent chance that they are attending your school too. Those same people may be great candidates for your deep bench: the men you'll turn to if you can't reach your sponsor. Your deep bench will also include the people who you have fun with while away at school. College life in recovery isn't just program and studying; sober people can have fun too.

Addiction Program for College Students

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you are a young man who would like to attend college but are currently unable to due to alcohol or substance use disorder. Our team can help you break the cycle of addiction and help you prepare for maintaining sobriety while working on your secondary education. Our treatment center can help you achieve your academic and professional dreams.

Addiction Treatment: Asking for Help

addiction

When someone is battling active addiction, long-term recovery can seem like an impossible task. Many people living with alcohol and substance use disorders resign themselves to the belief that there is no hope. It's easy to come to that determination, especially if one is in a state of despair.

A person's belief that all hope may be lost is reaffirmed by each successive, unsuccessful attempt at getting clean and sober. Addicts and alcoholics are predisposed to self-defeating mindsets, so it is easy to see why some might think they are destined to succumb to their disorder. A relapse in early recovery is the fuel on the fire of doubt. At a certain point, one starts to wonder, 'why even bother trying to heal?'

Negativity also is pervasive among individuals who struggle with alcohol and substance use disorders. This is especially true when a person is contending with a co-occurring mental illness like depression; more than half of people living with addiction meets the criteria for a dual diagnosis.

More often than not, addicts and alcoholics first attempt to get clean and sober on their own. It is natural to think that such problems can be managed without assistance. Some will try to moderate or taper off consumption, while others will decide to go for recovery cold turkey. Neither scenarios result in successful outcomes, typically.

Even when outside assistance is within reach, many will opt to avoid seeking help. The desire to make a stab at recovery alone partly stems from the stigma of addiction and the accompanying shame that is its byproduct. Nobody wants to concede to others that they have a problem.

The Inspiration to Seek Help for Addiction and Recover

Asking for help is the most effective approach to addressing addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. When a person concedes that they have an illness that requires seeking professional assistance to heal from, then they are ready to surrender. Some will make this decision in their early twenties, whereas others will hold out longer and choose to get help after several decades of active use.

In every individual case, there is an impetus that leads a person to ask for help. Sometimes it's an intervention; friends and family often come together to encourage their loved one to seek support. Many people find their way into treatment through the criminal justice system, which is another form of intervention. Sir Elton John found the courage to seek treatment in the wake of Ryan White’s funeral (a hemophiliac who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion).

In 2008, Elton told Larry King that his life was spiraling out of control around that time, the result of 16 years of addiction. At the apex of his unhappiness and poor health, he finally decided to go to rehab. In 1990, he checked into a hospital in Chicago, which, at the time, was one of the only places in North America that would accept patients with drug, alcohol, and food addiction.

"And as soon as I got my courage to say I need help, I went to a facility in Chicago, which was excellent – it was a hospital," said John. He added that it, "was the best thing I ever did…"

Elton John continues to work a program of recovery. He also helps other men take steps toward living a clean and sober life. This week, Sir Elton John celebrated 29 years of addiction recovery, he posted about it on social media:

29 years ago today, I was a broken man. I finally summoned up the courage to say 3 words that would change my life: "I need help." Thank you to all the selfless people who have helped me on my journey through sobriety. I am eternally grateful. — Elton xo

California Addiction Treatment for Men

If you have followed the news of the pop icon's sobriety over the years, then you know that he pays his recovery forward. He has worked with other celebrities who had a hard time with drugs and alcohol, such as Eminem. His willingness to share with the world about his addiction and long-term recovery is a tremendous source of inspiration for those who think that sobriety isn't possible.

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you need help with and alcohol or substance use disorder. Our evidence-based rehab center for men also specializes in mental health treatment as well. Feel free to reach out to our team at any time of the day to discuss your options and begin the life-changing journey of recovery.

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