Broken and Bleeding: Emotional Trauma and Substance Use Disorder


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Trauma is an unfortunate reality that occurs at various levels at some point in everyone’s lives. In physical trauma, such as broken bones or lacerations, most people are well aware of the need for immediate medical care. Most individuals are also patient with recovery as they expect and understand the amount of time necessary to heal the body. In emotional trauma, however, not everyone is as knowledgeable or compassionate toward themselves or others when it comes to its equally significant recovery process.

When the topic of physical trauma surfaces, most people consider car accidents, falls, burns, and other unforeseen events. Of course, there are also extreme situations in which the trauma is deliberately inflicted by other people. Emotional trauma is particularly akin to the latter.

In adulthood, it is necessary to become empowered and take the necessary steps to treat these unhealed emotional breaks and lacerations.

Emotional trauma typically occurs within abusive relationships. Individuals who identify as being children or adult children of addicts often report abuse—physical, spiritual, and emotional—abandonment and neglect. Each of these contributes to a long list of emotional traumas.

Dealing With Childhood Trauma as an Adult

As with car accidents that often result in physical trauma, the addicted individual doesn’t necessarily intend to harm their children. Just as personal choices—including intoxication—lapses in attention or lack of good judgment are to blame for automotive crashes, much of the same can be said for emotional traumas inflicted by parents. More often than not, they are simply employing dysfunctional defense mechanisms to protect their addiction.

Nonetheless, just as with drunk driving incidents, accountability still lies with the intoxicated party. Children and adult children of addicts are not to blame for the pain intentionally or unintentionally inflicted by their parents or other family members. Yet most of the time, because the emotional trauma occurs when there is no immediacy of care, no acknowledgment and a great deal of helplessness on the part of the child, the adult victims later in life must assume the responsibility of seeking adequate treatment and allowing themselves into a stage of recovery.

Although emotional trauma can also occur in families and relationships without substance use or addiction, untreated emotional trauma can easily cause both. In the same way, such unresolved pain can cause a recovering person to slip into relapse. Therefore, it is vital to sobriety, sanity, and personal serenity to take an emotional inventory of painful events that have occurred throughout one’s life and become proactive in acquiring appropriate care and recovery.

Regardless of where the trauma originated, it is best to act swiftly and triage the situation with a level of crisis intervention appropriate for the circumstance. In adulthood, it is necessary to become empowered and take the necessary steps to treat these unhealed emotional breaks and lacerations.

Through various counseling, life coaching, self-help books, workshops, and other readily available therapeutic tools, emotional healing is possible. The adult child must do the necessary online research to determine the best fit for them, read reviews, and assess affordability. If one approach isn’t effective, it’s important to try and seek healing in another.

Facing the Pain

Like physical trauma, painful procedures are typically performed in an effort to promote healing. Therapy of any kind typically suggests people revisit emotionally traumatic past events in an effort to heal. Even self-help books and workshops often require individuals to re-open and methodically clean deep, festering emotional wounds.

These therapeutic techniques and processes which resurface suppressed emotion resulting from emotionally traumatic events can be extremely distressing. Yet, unlike the detrimental suffering experienced in the past, the temporary discomfort necessary for healing and growth results in a permanently changed perspective, personal empowerment, and self-actualization—a powerful trifecta that prevents addiction, relapse, and codependency.

Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

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