Renaissance Ranch

Dealing With Past Trauma Improves Recovery

Feb 20, 2022

The past doesn’t determine the future. The decision to repeat the past or learn how to cope with traumatic experiences is personal. However, the choice to work on processing and releasing yourself from the past can change your life.

What Is Trauma?

Like depression or anxiety, trauma is an emotional response to a frightening event. Many people will experience trauma during their lifetime. Whether they experience neglect, physical or sexual abuse, or a disaster like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or a fire, they will have something life-altering occur. 

No one can protect themselves against a traumatic event because, unlike other events, traumatic events happen without warning. Because of the threat to your well-being, you can feel out of control during a severe event. 

The lack of control can affect your feeling of safety in your environment, and you can question if you are ever safe from something terrible happening to you again. To help you heal, you must understand the type of trauma and build coping skills.

Types of Trauma

Past traumatic experiences can occur once, repeatedly, or by witnessing others’ trauma. While specific traumatic experiences form short-term responses, others generate long-term life-altering reactions.

Types of trauma include:

  • Acute Trauma is extreme distress after a single event like sexual assault, a car crash, or the death of a loved one. Your response is short-term.
  • Chronic trauma occurs when an event or events repeatedly happen over time. Some examples of repeated trauma are domestic violence, bullying, neglect, or any form of abuse.
  • Complex trauma is when you experience multiple or repeated traumatic events that you can’t escape from. As a result, you feel trapped in the situation, and your sense of safety is lost — the loss of feeling safe carries into your relationships and environment.
  • Vicarious trauma doesn’t happen to you. However, if you’re in law enforcement, a first responder, nurse, or doctor, you can experience vicarious trauma.

How Trauma Affects You

Fearsome events trigger your flight, fight, or freeze response. People have short-term reactions like anger, anxiety, or shock. After a while, those feelings will go away, but you can continue to feel those emotions in some cases. The feelings can spill over and interfere with your daily life.

Long-term trauma can cause mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because your brain is hypervigilant, you react to the slightest situations. The release of stress hormones will affect your behaviors, sleep patterns, relationships, or health. You may begin to doubt yourself and your self-worth. 

Trauma and Substance Use Disorder

When your body and mind constantly watch for harmful events, you can become weary and seek ways to help you relax or cope with your emotions. The search for a respite can lead to developing substance use disorder (SUD). Alcohol or drugs provide a short-term break from depression, PTSD, or anxiety but ultimately create long-term problems. Alcohol or drugs use, abuse or addiction add to your existing feelings of depression, anxiety, or PTSD. By drinking or using drugs, you haven’t addressed your trauma. Instead of numbing or temporarily forgetting your pain, you can increase harmful feelings. 

When left alone or ignored, trauma can seep in, undermine your relationships, and create havoc in all corners of your personal and professional life. However, you don’t have to live with the effects of a traumatic experience. When you seek help to understand and process your experience, you can begin to heal.

How you view yourself makes a difference. Therapy in an addiction treatment center can guide you to a healthier life. A treatment program aids you in acknowledging you have difficulties. Intensive individual and group sessions replace feelings of being a victim with being a survivor. This is important because you build a strong foundation for transformation when you change your thought patterns and define yourself. 

Treating Trauma

Addiction treatment provides a path to recovery. While you’re in a treatment program, you grow and develop resilience, healthy coping skills, and a sense of self-worth. Maybe you build stronger relationships with your loved ones, rethink relationships, or find spiritual purpose. Any of these changes can give you and your life a more profound sense of meaning or appreciation of your life.

Therapy helps you address unresolved feelings like past trauma. Your therapist can guide you to remove any obstacles that prevent you from processing trauma. There are two types of therapies for trauma:

  • Trauma-informed care considers the whole person. You can learn to recognize your past trauma and the dangerous coping mechanisms to survive the experience and your emotions during your sessions.
  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy addresses early trauma by focusing on your destructive behaviors. If you have PTSD or a mental health disorder resulting from prolonged grief or abuse, this form of treatment is usually effective.

Your past trauma does influence your current behaviors. If you are struggling with SUD, addiction treatment is vital to a healthy recovery.

Your past trauma can lead to a substance use disorder if you haven’t addressed the fearsome event you experienced. In addition, mental health disorders like depression, PTSD, or anxiety can heighten your sense of vigilance, eventually damaging relationships and well-being. The urge to escape from your past and emotions by drinking alcohol or using drugs can seem like a good choice. However, substances are a temporary escape that harms your mind and body. To find answers and begin to heal, you need to decide to help yourself. An addiction treatment program like those offered at Renaissance Ranch Treatment Centers can guide you to understand and process your past trauma. Once you know how emotions stemming from past trauma affect your behavior, you can transition from living a life of hurtful responses to a life of mental, physical, or spiritual fulfillment. Your recovery rests on acknowledging your past and accepting the help provided. Call (801) 308-8898 today.