Addiction doesn’t arise in a vacuum, independent of everything else going on in your life. Situations and events in your life, worries and stresses, and the degree to which you feel confident and connected in your environment can all play a role in contributing to an addiction or aiding in recovery.The lingering trauma from a stressful, abusive, or neglected childhood can be an especially powerful factor leading to an additive lifestyle.
In a 1998 study led by Dr. Vincent Felitti, it was discovered that people who had experienced multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.) such as abuse, neglect, or death of a parent, were as much as five times more likely to have a substance abuse problem. This also means that the work of recovery from addiction can provide a unique opportunity to pursue the healing from trauma that must take place to move from being a victim, to a survivor, to a thriver.
Effects of a hard childhood
Children are constantly learning how to be a part of the world around them. Therefore, they will be powerfully impacted by their environment. In a safe and secure nurturing environment, where a child’s needs are met and he or she feels protected, loved, and free to explore, the child gains confidence and the tools needed to thrive.
However, if the environment is unpredictable, stressful, scary, or painful, it creates powerful feelings of chaos and anxiety that can be immobilizing and disempowering. A childhood filled with fear, humiliation, shame or neglect is a deeply abnormal situation, that can leave residual scars that can take a long time to heal.
From trauma to addiction
In such an overwhelming mental state, it can seem reasonable to reach out to anything that can seem to soothe the pain and make yourself feel better. Drugs and alcohol can provide a way to self-medicate your way out of trauma, creating a sense of feeling “out of it” that may feel better than your own internal storm.
The only problem with this is that it doesn’t last, and over the long term leaves you feeling worse, leading you to seek out more of the substance, further burying the true cause of your pain deeper inside. That’s how an addictive pattern develops. That is not to say that everyone with a traumatic childhood becomes addicted, but it does explain how unresolved pain can lead to addictive patterns.
Making healing part of recovery
Simply stopping the substance abuse without dealing with the root causes is not real recovery. If you endured a hard childhood, it is very important to discuss and deal with these unresolved traumatic issues as part of your recovery.
Taking away numbing substances will make these feelings come to you stronger than ever before, and so finding new ways to resolve your past and deal with fearful or shameful thought patterns can help you remain sober. Therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and support groups of abuse survivors can help you pursue the type of healing that must be alongside recovery from your addiction.
In the end, each person must find a holistic path towards healing all of the different aspects of his or her unique situation of trauma and recovery. However, one important coping mechanism can support both recovery from addiction and resiliency in the face of a hard childhood. That is social support.
Connecting with supportive friends and loved ones can hear your story, encourage you, and give you a chance to trust someone and feel safe. Healing from these different issues can be a lot of work and take a lot of time, but it’s important to be patient with yourself and honor each step towards progress, finally giving your inner child the love, acceptance, and security it needs.