06 Jun The Cyclical Cycle of Trauma and Abuse
There is a vicious cycle involving substance abuse and the trauma of violence in the home or community. Using substances leads to violence, and witnessing or being the victim of violence can lead to substance abuse. The cycle is very difficult to live in and very difficult to break.
When Substance Abuse Turns to Violence
One of the most frightening side effects of substance abuse is when actions escalate into violence. Even when someone becomes verbally abusive or is screaming or yelling, people in the vicinity are alarmed. Far more terrifying is when the person becomes physically abusive. This violence could occur within the family, the neighborhood, or the community.
Too often, violence occurs within the family. Physical and sexual violence become common, although traumatic experiences for children and partners within the home, whether witnessed or directly experienced. This sets off another sub-cycle of shame and regret within the abuser, which often leads to more substance abuse, which ironically then leads to more violence. Truly, it is a very vicious cycle for all involved.
Who Gets Harmed by Substance Abuse?
The most obviously harmed in this cycle of abuse would be the victims of violence. Whether it be a partner or child, or someone in the neighborhood or community, the victim of violence is directly traumatized and harmed by physical or sexual violence.
However, the direct victims are not the only ones harmed in this cycle. Also harmed are all of the family members, neighbors, or community members who witness the violence, whether they see it or simply hear the results of the violence through closed doors. All exposure to violence can cause trauma, particularly when it is repeated.
The victim that no one wants to acknowledge is the perpetrator. Someone who is only violent when under the influence of substances is likely also a victim of their violence and likely to be traumatized by their actions. The answer to who gets harmed by substance abuse is everyone who is touched by it.
Coping With Violence by Using Substances
Those who witness or are victims of violence due to substance abuse are more likely to turn to substance abuse to cope with their trauma. While it seems ironic, and it is rather tragic, substance use is the only coping skill they may have. Substance abuse is what they have seen and what they know.
Trauma often overwhelms the mind with emotions that the brain simply cannot process, leaving those emotions there, unable to process them. This leaves that pain sitting there, festering like a splinter. Not knowing how to deal with the pain, many people turn to drugs or alcohol to try to cope with it. This is particularly true of trauma that may be repeated, such as in the case of child or domestic abuse. When the trauma was caused by substance abuse, the chance of using substances to cope with the pain increase as drinking or using drugs is a learned habit.
Continuing the Cycle or Breaking the Cycle
If you are someone who was raised in a cycle of substance abuse and violence, you have the choice to continue the cycle or break the cycle. Continuing the cycle is difficult to live with, especially knowing that you will pass the cycle on to the next generation. By continuing the cycle, you do not know how much damage you will cause or how many more generations the cycle will continue.
Breaking the cycle is very difficult to do, and is hard work, but also carries the reward of creating a new generation that is free of both substance abuse and violence. Seeking treatment and therapy for both addiction and anger management or violent behavior can help you change your life and also the trajectory of your entire family going forward. You can create a new cycle of mental wellness and family members who do not live in fear.
How to Get Help for Victims of Abuse
If you or someone you know has been abused or is currently being abused, there are many resources to help them get help. In the Huntington Beach, California, area, victims of domestic violence can access this resource guide. Outside of the area, contact local law enforcement, child social services, or adult protective services for your safety. There is always a way out; there is always help available. If you were abused in the past, you can seek therapy to find healing. Trauma does not need to keep hurting you forever. You can free yourself from the abuse and move forward with your life.