Stress attacks us all, no matter the time of year. While stress and trauma do not seem helpful, these two forces in our lives are not in opposition to recovery. You can live a full life despite stress and a possible history of trauma.
One does not “get over it” when faced with grief or trauma but must learn to wade through. The only way to move forward is to accept and learn from these events in our lives.
Histories of Trauma Make Us More Susceptible to Substance Use
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 40.3 million people struggled with substance use disorder in 2020. According to Depression and Anxiety from the Wiley Online Library, 70% of teens assessed had a history of trauma. Trauma makes us more susceptible to making poor coping decisions and more likely to experience some form of mental illness in our lifetimes. However, trauma cannot keep us from living a full life.
Importance of Thriving in the Face of Stress and Trauma
Stress and trauma are not life-ending. Instead, stress and trauma teach us resilience. Accessing this resilience requires focusing on learning how to cope and move forward, not on.
As we move forward, there are triggers with which we need to cope. One major trigger is our internal critic. Those of us with a history of trauma often find ourselves criticizing every aspect of our lives. However, as Pete Walker explains in his book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, overcoming the inner critic is possible.
The inner critic is present in most people, whether or not you have a history of trauma. This inner critic harshly judges you and the world around you, making life difficult. When life is difficult, turning to alcohol and/or other substances is much easier than facing the stressors of your life. However, we must face the fact: alcohol and/or other substances never fix the problem.
Instead, we must take steps to thrive in the midst of impossible situations.
Reacting to Stress and Trauma
How one copes with stress and trauma is not a result of genetics. While genetics make us more prone to certain disorders, our responses to stress are completely environmental. Our responses are not a failure of character but learned through various experiences in our lives.
The good news about this concept is that if you learned this behavior, it is not innate. This means you can change your behavior and start living a better life. Your problems with alcohol and/or other substances are not inborn; you can change your life.
Do not let shame about how you coped with the stress and the trauma of your past define your future. Learn from those stressors and move forward.
Two Steps to Moving Forward
While there are many methods of moving forward, here are two steps that might prove helpful as you move into recovery.
#1. Develop an Intention for Recovery
Wanting a safe and happy life is normal, and having a safe and happy life is also possible. As you begin recovery, identifying what you want in your life is key to your success. You may wish to experience peace. Perhaps you want a better relationship with your family. You want your children to grow up and have strong and healthy lives. All of these wants are possible. You also can have more than one intention. You can bring a purpose to every day.
Bring a small goal to the beginning of every day. A small plan for each day will bring you closer to recovery as you learn how to live “one day at a time.” We cannot control our lives, but we can begin to shift our lives closer to what we want by making small decisions and shaping our days into experiences of which we can be more proud.
#2. Develop a Sense of Gratitude
Gratitude keeps coming up into today’s treatment world. Why? Gratitude has been shown repeatedly to foster resilience and an openness to our lives. Having gratitude allows us to tackle our days with a better sense of who we want to be. Gratitude also makes us believe in the good of the world and gets us unstuck from our stressors.
We can also have gratitude for our stress and trauma. Gratitude for stress and trauma does not mean being grateful for horrible things that have happened to you. Instead, practice gratitude for how those experiences made you the amazing and resilient person you are.
Things to Remember
We do not exist in a vacuum, nor are we defined by our stress and trauma. Naming ourselves as victims of our lives creates powerlessness and an unwillingness to see a way through our lives. According to some practitioners, there are three stages to overcoming trauma: victim → survivor → thriver. We can continue to claim victimhood to our stress and trauma, making no change, or we can start making small changes and one day find ourselves thriving.
Our lives are full of stress, and some have experienced unspeakable traumas; however, we need not let those experiences define who we are or how we react to life. Our reactions to stress are not character flaws but a result of environmental experiences. At Renaissance Ranch, we recognize you for who you are and are willing to help you transition from victim to thriver. You deserve hope and healing. You can overcome the battle of substance use disorder and move into recovery. We are here to help. If you or someone you know needs help overcoming his use of alcohol and/or other substances, help is available. You do not have to struggle alone. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer services for every step of the treatment process, including detoxification, residential, and outpatient. We know how hard life can be and want to help you move forward. Reach out to us today at (801) 308-8898 and learn how we can help.