15 May How Can I Heal From Family Issues in Recovery?
The causes of addiction can vary greatly. Everyone has their own story behind what led them to their addiction. Some people turn to addictive substances to try to cope with mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. Other causes can include genetics, issues with gender identity, or a history of family trauma.
Family trauma is often an underlying cause of addiction. The roots of family trauma can run deep, which is why speaking with a mental health professional about it is so important. Finding support, exploring emotions, learning new skills, and taking the right steps to forgive oneself and others can open up new doors to peace and healing.
Family Trauma Linked With Addiction
An article in the journal Depression and Anxiety states that exposure to traumatic events, such as a negative childhood upbringing, has been linked to substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is also known to be highly correlated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co-occurring psychiatric conditions.
As stated in the journal article, trauma such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect is extremely common. These are major health concerns in the United States. Although many people who have been exposed to childhood trauma live successful lives and are mentally stable, ample evidence shows that early exposure to family trauma significantly increases the risk for various mental health conditions in adulthood.
According to the aforementioned Depression and Anxiety report, approximately 70% of adolescents who were receiving addiction treatment for SUD had a history of family trauma. Childhood trauma can negatively affect a person’s neural structure and cognitive function. This makes an individual more susceptible to cognitive deficits and co-occurring psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
Healing From Family Problems
Moving forward from family trauma while in recovery can be a difficult process. First, an individual has to recognize the problem. Only then can they begin to treat the mental health symptoms caused by early exposure to trauma.
As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the onset of childhood trauma may occur when dangerous events disrupt a child’s ability to function.
These events may include exposure to:
- Physical, psychological, sexual abuse or neglect
- Terrorism, natural disasters, or community violence
- Witnessing violence between intimate partners
- Serious accidents
- Life-threatening health conditions
- Violent loss of a loved one
- Refugee experiences
- Parental military deployment, injury, or loss
Steps to Forgiveness
A major part of any successful healing process is practicing the power of forgiveness. Forgiving oneself and others provides major mental health benefits. Learning to forgive can significantly decrease symptoms associated with specific mental health disorders. Forgiveness can also greatly increase a person’s self-esteem and allow them to live a better quality of life.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, choosing to forgive has to come from within. No one else can make that decision for a person. It may take time to reclaim the stages in life that were negatively affected. Part of moving past trauma is facing the remembrance of certain events. That can be very painful.
Phases of forgiveness can consist of:
- Uncovering: Reflecting on the past and discussing how it hurt them
- Decision: Understanding how holding a grudge has cost them and exploring the benefits of forgiveness and committing to treatment
- Effort: Working to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, the offender, and the relationship or cause behind the event
- Deepening: Recognizing that they are not alone, as facing challenges with trauma is a problem for many people worldwide
Additional Support Options
Family trauma (and trauma in general) is often linked with addiction. Recognizing the symptoms caused by trauma, taking time to reflect on one’s history, and going through the phases of forgiveness toward oneself and others are essential parts of healing while in recovery.
This process is not always easy, but deciding to reach out to a mental healthcare professional can provide support in moving forward. Sometimes when a person is impacted by trauma, it can affect one’s ability to function in work settings, maintain healthy relationships, or even tackle day-to-day tasks. Depending on which professional a person decides to work with, they can develop an individualized treatment plan to learn the skills needed to overcome their struggle with mental health.
Everyone deals with trauma differently. Depending on a person’s condition, different kinds of therapy can help. In this case, family therapy may be a great choice. Group therapy with peers who have also experienced childhood trauma and addiction can be helpful. Individualized therapy can give a person the ability to speak freely with a counselor or therapist. Most importantly, individual therapy allows for pure confidentiality. Then a person can open up without fear of judgment, criticism, or further damage. Any of these options are wonderful ways to heal from family trauma and move forward into a better life.