Overcoming Childhood Trauma in Addiction Recovery

Overcoming Childhood Trauma in Addiction Recovery

In author Helen Schucman’s book, Course of Miracles, she states, “All healing is release from the past. It is enough to heal the past and make the future free. It is enough to let the present be accepted as it is.”

Healing from trauma is one of the hardest steps to take, but it is often the effort to heal wounds from the past that we become stronger and gain greater clarity than we ever have before. Many people in addiction recovery have experienced childhood trauma and, for some, these deep-rooted issues are what sparked a long road of substance abuse in an attempt to numb the painful feelings that served as the aftermath of these events.

Prevalence of Childhood Trauma Amongst Those in Addiction Recovery

Several years ago, a study was conducted and published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, and researchers assessed 587 participants with the majority having experienced childhood trauma and having been diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD). This is what they found:

·    High rates of lifetime dependence were found for various substances such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin/opiates and marijuana

·    Levels of cocaine use was strongly correlated with levels of childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Addiction recovery is a vulnerable time, especially as a person experiences sobriety for the first time in a long time; in many cases, these painful thoughts, feelings and memories come back as the individual is no longer numb from abusing substances. Due to the prevalence of trauma amongst those in addiction recovery, trauma-informed care is crucial.

Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for clients who are working towards their addiction recovery; in 2018, Monique Tello, MD, MPH explained to Harvard Health that it’s first and foremost about understanding just how prevalent trauma is amongst those seeking care. Healthcare providers who embrace this approach to treatment will keep in mind the struggles that many people are working through as it relates to child – and adult – traumatic events, which can lead to the development of PTSD. This sensitivity may be displayed to clients in a number of ways:

·    Providing explanations for why certain tests need to be taken

·    Allowing a loved one or trusted friend to join a client who is nervous about receiving information related to their recovery

·    Giving the client permission to stop at any time during sensitive processes related to health and recovery

·    Responding with compassion and working with someone rather than against them

For many in addiction recovery, trauma is incredibly difficult to discuss. Dr. Lincoln, a primary care physician, stated, “Patients often do not volunteer such information about prior experiences, because of guilt or shame.”

With such heavy weight placed upon a person’s shoulders, compassionate care is needed in addiction recovery.

Healing and Moving Forward

There are many incredibly effective techniques to treatment that can be used for a variety of PTSD symptoms, and therapy approaches that can help a person find clarity amidst the chaos they feel in their mind and heart. Just last year, a woman shared her experience with pushing past childhood trauma by writing about her memories, her pain, and her past – so that she could get that pent-up energy out of her body and onto paper. She stated on The Fix in 2018, “Key memories can flow when pen is put to paper, and the documentation of these truths can be useful later on. Writing is also a good way to get in touch with deep-seated feelings about what happened.”

In addition to writing, clients can engage in a number of other holistic practices to restore their mind, body and spirit, such as: meditation, yoga, massage therapy, chiropractic services, music therapy, nature therapy and more. Medication may also be part of a sustainable path to healing – some medications do not have addictive properties and may help a person lessen the intensity of the symptoms their experiencing from anxiety, depression, PTSD and more.

Pam Butler, author of Return to Life and writer for Mind Body Green, stated that when she began focusing on her nutrition, along with her physical health and incorporation of holistic practices like yoga combined with meditation, she found dramatic results in healing from trauma that had plagued her for many years. No matter what your treatment regime holds, a comprehensive assessment can help you determine which paths may be most conducive for you to take.

Seek the Help You Need

Childhood trauma does not have to define you. The symptoms that you’ve been experiencing do not have to last forever, and healing and restoration is possible. Co-occurring disorders such as SUDs and PTSD are best taken care of through integrated treatment, which means that both are treated at the same time rather than one being treated over the other. Don’t wait any longer to seek the help you need – it’s time to get your life back.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-924-0780.

Saving Lives; Healing Families.


Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.