Men, Trauma and Healing in Recovery
Men in recovery from addiction often have a high prevalence of trauma in their past. Distressing events can vary, from physical abuse to the sudden loss of a loved one from gun violence. Incidents like these can be a contributing factor to the development of addiction and can also complicate the recovery process. Studies suggest that many individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders have experienced traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, combat-related incidents, accidents, or other life-threatening experiences.
Healing from these experiences and addressing co-occurring conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is crucial for men in recovery. When these things go untreated, men in recovery – even long-term recovery –may struggle with depression, anger, and issues with relationships.
How Trauma Impacts a Man's Relationships
The aftermath of abuse, neglect, or other life-threatening experiences can significantly impact a man's relationships, influencing their interactions and emotional well-being. Here are some ways in which it can affect a man's relationships:
- Trust issues: It can lead to difficulties trusting others, including romantic partners, friends, and family members. Past traumatic experiences can make it challenging for a man to believe in the intentions and sincerity of others, which can strain relationships.
- Emotional distance: Men who have lived through painful or frightening experiences, such as childhood abuse, may struggle with expressing their emotions and forming intimate connections. They may become emotionally guarded or detached as a protective mechanism, leading to distance in their relationships.
- Communication difficulties: Many men don't know how to talk about their feelings, and the emotional pain caused by traumatic experiences can hinder effective communication. Men may struggle to articulate their thoughts or avoid discussing upsetting events altogether. This lack of communication can create misunderstandings, resentment, and strained relationships.
- Intimacy challenges: It can impact a man's ability to engage in intimate relationships, both emotionally and physically. Men often fear vulnerability or have difficulties forming close emotional bonds with others.
- Emotional/Angry Outbursts: Many men who have experienced distressing incidents have issues regulating their emotions, making them prone to angry outbursts, anxiety, and other emotional storms.
Trauma has a lasting effect on its victims. People with substance use disorder often use drugs to numb the pain from these lasting effects. You're not alone if you're living like this, but there's a way through this by getting help and getting sober.
Men, Trauma, and the Justice System
Studies consistently indicate a high trauma and substance use prevalence among incarcerated individuals, especially men.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 75% of male inmates in the United States have a history of substance abuse or dependence. Additionally, studies have shown that many incarcerated men lived through traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. In some studies, the rates of experiences among incarcerated men can be as high as 70-90%, with many also experiencing substance use disorders.
These statistics highlight the complex relationship between trauma, substance use, and incarceration. Consequently, there is a great need for more trauma-informed approaches and comprehensive interventions within correctional systems to address these underlying issues contributing to criminal behavior.
For many men, the stigma of seeking help independently is a barrier to treatment. As a result, treatment centers often refer them to therapy when they get help for substance abuse.
Getting Help for Trauma in Recovery
Therapy can help you learn to cope with addiction triggers that result from your traumatic experiences. You may need to learn new coping skills and work on bigger issues that result from your experiences.
Trauma-informed therapy is an approach that recognizes the impact of it on an individual's life and focuses on creating a safe and supportive therapeutic environment. It emphasizes empowerment, choice, collaboration, and sensitivity to potential triggers or re-traumatization. Therapists can provide a safe space for individuals to explore their experiences and work toward healing. A therapist can also recommend group therapy if you're a good fit.
Recovering From Trauma Is Possible
Healing from painful experiences is a personal and unique process. You won't recover overnight. Recovery is a lifelong process, and that's not a bad thing! You are healing your past and injured self and learning to care for and nurture your current being. Being patient and gentle with yourself is essential, allowing time for healing and seeking support when needed.
Recovery is possible, and with the right resources and help, individuals can regain control of their lives and begin to work on long-term healing.
If you have access, consider complementary and alternative therapies that complement traditional treatment, such as yoga, acupuncture, or art therapy. These approaches can help you process trauma, regulate emotions, and enhance your well-being.
You can also use self-care activities that promote relaxation and emotional well-being. This includes exercise, mindfulness or meditation, and journaling. For example, you may want to draw a bath on a lousy day or take a bike ride. Self-care includes activities that nourish your body, mind, or spirit and do not cause harm.
Try Sober Living In San Diego
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Relapse is common for people early in recovery. Emotions are raw, new feelings and experiences may be intimidating, and some triggers may make people feel like using. It’s well known that addiction is common among people who have experienced trauma. When this trauma, such as early childhood abuse or sexual assault, goes unaddressed, it causes a wound that can affect a person’s entire life.
Unaddressed trauma is a well-known relapse trigger for people who struggle with a substance use disorder. It’s common for people in early recovery to have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or even PTSD when they get sober. Research shows that people who have been diagnosed with PTSD are more likely to relapse when they experience symptoms of the disorder.
Why Is Trauma A Relapse Trigger?
When you have experienced trauma, either in your childhood or as an adult, you probably adapted your life to survive. Some people shut down and go numb in the face of anxiety, while others self-medicate to make themselves feel numb. The emotions, physical sensations, and even dreams surrounding the trauma can make a person feel like they are reliving it repeatedly.
Newcomers to recovery feel a roller coaster of emotions during and after detox. These emotions may be related to things that happened today or long ago. Trauma, hurt, and shame often rears their head in people who live with PTSD. Angry and frightened outbursts can also occur occasionally when people feel like they’re in the grip of a traumatic situation again.
The intense emotions surrounding trauma can make a person want to do anything to escape their feelings, quickly leading to using their drug of choice again.
Working On Understanding Trauma
Trauma is something that people in the addiction profession watch for in addicted persons. Therapy, medication, if needed, and self-care are all important ways to begin healing from the pain of past trauma. In treatment and therapy, you will start new relationships and practice trusting yourself and others again.
Being reminded of trauma may make you feel shameful or afraid. Trauma is nothing to be ashamed of; if somebody hurt you or something happened to you, it’s not your fault. Acknowledging the pain and hurt is essential to recovery. Shame is a normal reaction, but as you will learn, feelings aren’t facts.
In recovery, you will learn to love yourself and feel comfortable in your skin again. Healing from the trauma of the past takes time and willingness. Treatment can offer a safe space for you to begin the healing journey. The journey starts with deciding to stay clean.
Staying clean will mean learning to love yourself again and working on healing your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Working through the trauma will help you understand how it affects you today. If you need help getting help for your trauma, reach out and ask.
Sober Living Options
Trauma-informed therapy and recovery can help you thrive even when you feel your past traumas are overwhelming.
Recovery is available to everyone! Sober living offers a safe, structured environment to continue your healing journey and focus on recovery. Learn more about what we offer by calling us at 760-216-2077.
With psychedelic induced therapies become more evident as well as researched, there is a controversial rebirth of interest to its attending PTSD as well as other mental health disorders. The substance use disorder field seems to push backwards, with strong sentiments against the abstinence based mindset overheard from 12 step programs. What are your thoughts and experience? I personally have seen youth recovery from substance use disorders being open to trying it as a detox and have rarely seen that interest in regular treatment. It seems to be uncovering an element of willingness, and the variable is one that seems more looking into. All comments are highly appreciated for we cannot stand with a mindset of 'We know it all' or 'This is how it is", with an epidemic running rampant and a need for all best practices to be shared and research to show what the true underlying variables to recovery are.