Addiction, Trauma, and The ‘Why Me’ Syndrome

childhood trauma

2 out of every 3 addicts has undergone some form of significant childhood trauma.

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “Why am I an addict – why me?” It may sometimes seem like life has dealt you an unfair hand for no apparent reason. It may seem as if there is no true cause for your faulty internal workings, you were simply born ill-equipped to deal with reality. These feelings of inadequacy and inequity may be overwhelming, leaving you in an ultimate state of resentment and seclusion. Despite constantly hearing others say, “You are not alone,” you certainly feel as if you are – as if no one gets it, no one wants to, and you are going to die a harshly misunderstood and under-appreciated addict.

As addicts and alcoholics, wallowing in a bitter morass of self-pity is one of our favorite pastimes. Rather than actively seek a definitive solution to our problems, we much prefer to hide alone in a self-created cave of misery and bitter defeatism, replaying past harms and feeling sorry for ourselves. Rather than delve deep into the core of our problems and face our past experiences head-on, we spend years of our lives incessantly numbing the pain, shame, and fear. Fortunately, this impractical pattern of avoidance can be reversed, and we can learn to lead the healthy, fulfilled, and meaningful lives we so deserve – and have always been capable of obtaining.

Addiction – Root Causes

Addiction is a complex disease, and is the causes of initial development are constantly being studied. It has become increasingly clear that the vast majority of substance dependency cases are linked to trauma – specifically traumatic experiences that occurred during early childhood. Early experiences influence the development of the brain even more than genetics and biology. The human brain comes equipped with the innate ability to adapt to environmental stimulation – this ability is known as plasticity. The brain begins to mature and grow during childhood, and as it does, it creates, strengthens, and disposes of neural connections, resulting in a vast network of active neurons that allow the brain to effectively function. Certain experiences will affect the relationship between certain neurons, causing their relationships to strengthen or grow weaker.

Essentially, every experience we have while our brains are developing will affect us significantly. If we undergo negative experiences, healthy development is liable to be harshly stunted. If we experience trauma in early childhood, or if we are raised in social environments that are neglectful, unstable, or unsupportive, we become more prone to certain anomalies within the brain structure. Childhood trauma leads to cognitive, behavioral, and social impairments. This has been studied extensively, and is scientifically supported. One of the most common impairments amongst trauma sufferers is substance dependency. And seeing that two out of every three addicts have been found to have suffered significant childhood trauma, the correlation is undeniable.

What is Childhood Trauma?

Many will associate the term ‘childhood trauma’ with overt forms of abuse, such as physical and sexual. But trauma refers to a wide range of stress-inducing and emotionally damaging circumstances. Traumatic experiences include the witnessing of domestic abuse or infidelity, neglect (intentional or unintentional), the loss of a parent, abandonment, or living with an unfit caregiver (such as a parent who struggles with an undiagnosed mental disorder or untreated alcoholism). Individuals who undergo such experiences in childhood are far more likely to develop substance dependency disorders, and are far more likely to engage in behavioral addictions such as compulsive overeating and compulsive sexual behavior. In many cases, these individuals begin using drugs and alcohol to excess as a form of self-medicating unresolved emotional pain. This inclination towards self-medication can also be learned, and passed down through generations. Of course, attempting to drown out past harms will only cause issues in the present and the future – this is why comprehensive, trauma treatment is so vital to long-term addiction recovery.

If you have been asking yourself “why me” on a regular basis, the answer may be more scientific and rational than you originally assumed. No, you were not dealt a short hand. No, God does not hate you. In all likelihood, you underwent some form of significant trauma during early childhood – trauma which has remained unresolved, and has lead to a host of associated disorders. For more information on our unique and comprehensive program of trauma recovery, please feel free to contact us today.