I believe there is a purpose for everything…finding that purpose is another thing. When the topic is addiction, what if the very thing that eventually will kill you saved your life at one point? This can be a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended), especially if you are currently addicted or you are someone who loves and is slowly watching an addict die.
For the last couple of years, I had the privilege of working with homeless, addicted veterans, many who were diagnosed with PTSD (trauma)…mostly from combat, childhood abuse or sexual abuse.
As a retired veteran myself, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Since all of these veterans had PTSD with co-occurring addiction, integrating the role that addiction played became necessary for these veterans to quit shaming themselves and to start taking their lives back.
Addiction is one form of “numbing out” or “escapism.”
It suppresses feelings and emotions, many of which are connected to the trauma the addict is trying to avoid…and for good reason. Trauma is scary, confusing, and painful. No one wants to have flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and the other negative symptoms associated with trauma. Numb appears the better option…until numb doesn’t work anymore. A time will appear when the addiction is now killing the person and there remain two options: Get clean and survive or remain in the addiction and slowly die.
So, why do I think addiction might temporarily serve a purpose?
Glad you asked. Sometimes “feeling” is too much, too painful, scary, and overwhelming and immediately processing trauma might be too much too soon. In immediately reliving trauma, many don’t make it, as the horrible veteran suicide statistics will confirm. Their traumas were too much, which created the need to “numb out,” which then led them down the path to addiction.
For a temporary time, their addiction kept them alive (barely) until they found the will to survive and regain their lives. At some point, if they don’t get the addiction under control, they will eventually die from it…it temporarily saves by numbing and then eventually turns and starts killing the addict.
Obviously, the “healthy choice” is to process traumas, emotions, negative experiences, and how we react to those things as soon as possible…without addiction. My hope is that those suffering with trauma could immediately start the emotional healing process to regain their joy, peace, happiness and freedom. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. It takes time and compassion…segmenting the trauma and learning new coping skills to find peace and, all too often, addiction becomes a part of that journey.
If you believe you might be an addict, start with getting help with your addiction.
When you’re clean from drugs and alcohol, you will gain liberation not possible when you numb. You will naturally process your trauma at your pace. Recovery is a daily beautiful journey. Promise.
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