Abuse comes in so many forms. The most commonly known forms are physical, sexual and emotional. However, abuse also comes in the form of psychological, financial, exploitation and neglect. All these forms of abuse can come from any source at any age or stage in life. Surviving abuse can be difficult for even the strongest person. There are many ways people cope with the pain and trauma from abuse, including turning to substances to numb the pain. When numbing turns to addiction, it is time to find your resilience in drug and alcohol addiction recovery.
Why Does the Abuse Still Hurt?
When the bruises heal, when your abuser is gone, when justice has been served, why do you still feel pain surrounding your abuse? Abuse can cause overwhelming feelings of fear, helplessness, insecurity, guilt, self-blame and more. Long after any physical healing occurs, your brain may still be trying to process what happened to you and why. Your self-esteem may also be affected; in many cases, the shame or embarrassment you feel can prevent you from talking about the abuse with anyone.
When you think of abuse like a splinter, it makes sense. A splinter embedded in your skin hurts; it will fester and possibly get infected as your body tries to heal itself and push the splinter out. In this scenario, the pain actually increases, long after the splinter entered your body. Sometimes, your body will simply build up extra skin around the splinter to protect you from the foreign object, and maybe you forget it is even there. But the splinter is still there, just like the abuse you suffered.
Can Abuse from Childhood Still Impact Your Life?
The brain is an amazing organ that records everything that happens. Just like how you remember the good things that happened in childhood, the memories of abuse are stored there, too. Sometimes, you may intentionally suppress your memories, good or bad. It is not uncommon for memories of childhood abuse to be repressed, a common defense mechanism when an experience is too overwhelming to process at the time.
Either way, much like the splinter, the abuse is still there. Until you have learned to process all the emotions that you have surrounding the abuse, events from your childhood can still impact your life years after the fact. Sights, sounds, people, memories and more can bring those memories back to the surface. In some cases, your mind and body may believe that they are happening in the present.
Are Trauma and Abuse the Same?
Many people use the words trauma and abuse interchangeably, but they are not the same. Abuse is the actual harmful act that causes pain. Trauma, on the other hand, is the response to that abuse and pain. Trauma is a response of the mind and body. You may think that you have long forgotten abuse, but the pain can be stored in your body, too, and have long-lasting consequences on your physical and emotional health.
Why Does Abuse Beget Substance Use?
The emotional pain is what usually hurts the most and can be the longest lasting consequence of abuse. Most people do not know how to access that pain, let alone how to process the pain and heal on their own, which is why therapy can be so powerful in healing. Trapped with the pain in your body, you may have turned to substances. The sensations from various substances can give a short-term sense of relief. Unfortunately, seeking that relief also creates an addiction in both the brain and the body. The abuse you suffered has turned into your substance abuse.
How Can Healing from Abuse Help Your Addiction Recovery?
When abuse or the resulting trauma is the source of your addiction, then addressing the abuse, processing the emotions and healing from the abuse will also help you recover from substance use. In fact, you may struggle to maintain sobriety if you do not address the original source of your pain because you may still have pain that you may want to numb. The process of healing from abuse can give you increased resilience to prevent a relapse in your alcohol addiction recovery.
Finding Resilience in Your Healing
Abuse can create deep scars that feel difficult to heal from. One of the benefits of treatment for drug or alcohol use is that you can learn resilience. Through therapy and other outlets such as practicing yoga, meditation, and more, your brain actually develops greater strength to resist triggers and prevent relapse. These and other skills learned in treatment also help you face difficult situations in the future with the ability to successfully navigate through strong emotions. You may also find that you are more assertive and better able to protect yourself.
Being a survivor of abuse may have long-term consequences. Even abuse that happened as a child can resurface and impact your life years later. The resulting trauma from your abuse can cause you to seek out substances to numb the pain. You can begin your healing at DiscoveryMD, where we treat drug and alcohol use with counseling, specialized groups, 12-step philosophies and more. Our rehab treatment center offers all the services you need under one roof. Contact us today to find our compassionate staff and a safe place to talk about and heal from your abuse while freeing yourself from substance abuse, too. With treatment, you can become stronger than before.