Giving Yourself Credit for Survival

Mar 20, 2022

According to The National Center for PTSD through the US Department of Veterans Affairs: 

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what’s happening, and you may feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.

If you have developed a substance abuse problem, you may have gone through trauma. May you continue to believe yourself to be a victim, instead of a survivor. If you are still alive, you survived. Your use of alcohol and/or other substances has helped you cope with those feelings of fear, anger, and helplessness. You have overcome the tragedy and are still breathing. You are a survivor. 

Pushing Further Into Surviving

Recognizing you have survived is just the first step in recognizing your ability to overcome trauma. Pushing into surviving means choosing life instead of alcohol and/or other substances. You have done well to keep going. Using substances helped, but now, you are wiser and capable of making healthier choices. The time has come to choose life. 

In their book, Struggle Well, Ken Falk and Josh Goldberg explain the concept of “moving forward” as being like driving a car. Your past is in the rearview mirror – you have learned from it and are driving away. Now is the time to watch what is happening currently right in front of you. When you look in the rearview mirror, remember what you want to “drive away from.”

The authors explain how the struggle will continue to come, but you must choose to start living in wellness and wholeness.

Making Decisions to Build Wellness

Making decisions to build wellness requires making some decisions about what you want in your life and being willing to make changes. Try building your life around some compassion, gratitude, and creativity.

Creating Compassion

Compassion is an act of grace, not only with others, but in most cases, with yourself. Loving yourself and providing yourself with forgiveness when you have a bad day will help you move forward. A lack of compassion creates anger and self-hatred. You become hardened toward yourself and others. You lose the ability to love and offer forgiveness. 

In a 12-Step program, you recognize your fallibility, but also recognize how you are loved and worth improving. You learn to forgive yourself and others. You make amends even when making amends seems impossible. Finally, you live with an attitude of grace and mercy toward yourself and others. You walk in compassion.

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is often spoken about these days as a means of improving mood and outlook. Gratitude truly does help you find joy in life. While recovering from trauma and substance use disorder, gratitude may be difficult to cultivate in the beginning stages. Perhaps you can begin by being grateful for your survival. 

Make a list of the many things you have and of the things you want to have. Be grateful for having a list of things to anticipate having. Recovery will bring you closer to the items on your second list. Be grateful for choosing recovery over possible death from your abuse of alcohol and/or other substances. You are alive. You are surviving and that is something for which to practice gratitude.

Make Room for Creativity

So many people in creative fields have gone through trauma or are battling mental illness conditions. Kay Redfield Jamison, a specialist in the treatment of bipolar disorder, has explored how often creative types have backgrounds of mental illness. Trauma has the ability to create a mental illness condition. While creativity does not exist just among those with mental health conditions, many creative persons have their own stories of struggle. 

If you choose to pursue a creative outlet, you may find yourself surrounded by those who are also struggling and expressing their needs for healing through their art. You, too, can find healing in creativity.

Be Open to Possibility

Healing is possible. You must believe that – or at least be open to that belief – when you begin recovery. Start by asking yourself if you want true healing. Ask if you want to move from victim/survivor mode into survivor/thriver mode. As you recognize that you are no longer a victim, but a strong survivor, you may find yourself more capable of fighting urges to use alcohol and/or other substances to numb your pain. You deserve big things. You have come so far. Be open to the possibility of full healing. 

Overcoming trauma may seem impossible without the use of unhealthy comforts. Applaud yourself for surviving, because you have been. Now is the time to choose to live — not just survive, but live that full life you always wanted: a life without numbing yourself with alcohol and/or other substances. Choosing life takes effort and a willingness to love yourself despite what has happened to you in the past. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders, no matter the origins. We believe in your value and your ability to keep moving forward into the life you want. We are a gospel-centered treatment facility that uses 12-Step programming in our services. We offer a wide variety of treatment and therapy options to help you through every step of the recovery process, even after you leave us. Please reach out to Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898 to learn how we can help you heal.