Want to figure out what this addiction thing is all about? To start, a major challenge for traumatized people is to figure out how to manage strong emotions. Trying to dampen ‘negative’ emotions like anger, shame, sadness, despair, anxiety, or trying to feel positive things and get some sleep often top the list. Everyone knows that taking substances into our bodies work; some better than others and some more predictably than others. But food, sex, booze, drugs, gambling or whatever, used compulsively, often stop working or create other major problems. So, how to figure this out and not feel like some kind of degenerate? The unfortunate leftover from mind-body dualism and its explanation of mental issues, including addiction, was the belief that it was a biologically-based illness. The good news is that attention to issues like emotional regulation, attachment, and trauma histories has given us a more realistic understanding of addiction. Namely, that it usually operates to help people manage troubling emotions linked with trauma memories. Having worked with people with addiction problems for nearly 30 years, I can say that almost without exception that unresolved trauma was the engine that drove their addiction. Addiction and trauma are intimately linked, especially in cases of PTSD.
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.