For those struggling with trauma, substances such as drugs and alcohol can seem to offer a way to cope with emotional pain. It\u2019s a false promise, of course. The numbing effects of the drink or the drug will eventually wear off, and the pain will return in force. And with it often comes a new problem \u2014 addiction. This problem can lead to the question, "Is trauma behind your alcohol or drug use?" Complicating the picture is that people sometimes don\u2019t even realize they\u2019ve been traumatized. \u201cThey may think they\u2019re crazy. They may not understand any of their reactions or associate them with where they came from,\u201d explained Christine A. Courtois, PhD, PLLC, an internationally recognized trauma expert and the author of several books on trauma, including It\u2019s Not You, It\u2019s What Happened to You. \u201cIt\u2019s especially true if it\u2019s childhood trauma and especially if it was treated like this is just the way it is.\u201d These hidden roots can make recovery from problem drug or alcohol use even more complex and relapse more likely. If you drink or use drugs more than you wish you did, it\u2019s worth asking yourself this question: What do get from it? Is it really just a way to socialize, relax or stave off boredom as you may tell yourself? Or could you be seeking something deeper and more complicated \u2014 perhaps an escape from trauma of your own? Is Trauma Behind Your Alcohol or Drug Use? In its most basic form, trauma is an event or experience that is emotionally overwhelming and that can leave its victim feeling powerless, Dr. Courtois explained. This can be anything from everyday occurrences such as humiliations that build up over time \u2014 the small T traumas, they are sometimes called \u2014 to large T events easily recognized as trauma, such as natural disasters, violent assaults, and wartime combat. When the emotions associated with the trauma continue to be experienced even though the threat is past, the result can become debilitating enough to meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One thing that\u2019s often misunderstood, Dr. Courtois said, is that PTSD is not something only servicemen and servicewomen experience, and, conversely, not all troops are traumatized or develop PTSD. \u201cThere are many different types of trauma,\u201d she explained, \u201cand the response to trauma is really highly individualized. Even though we have identified that there are core features of trauma response and PTSD, it really depends on a lot of factors about the trauma itself, how it was experienced, the individual\u2019s personality, how they view it, and whether they got support." Aspects That Contribute to Trauma and Addiction There are many, many different aspects and elements that play into trauma. For example, trauma is likely to be more complex and tougher to recover from in several situations, including: \tTrauma occurred in a person's childhood \tThe trauma occurred repeatedly or was chronic, \tThe trauma became more severe over time, \tOther people blamed or shamed the victim Traumatized children are also more vulnerable to problems with later substance use. In fact, studies have found that up to two-thirds of those in addiction treatment report being sexually, physically or emotionally abused as a child. Such histories also boost the risk of relapse back into drinking or drug use, Dr. Courtois said, meaning addressing the trauma should, in most cases, become an important part of the addiction treatment process. Opening Old Wounds to Heal Them Not everyone agrees that you should revisit painful events from the past in order to overcome addiction, however. Mutual support organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, have traditionally encouraged looking forward rather than back. And some see opening old wounds as further traumatization. There is no single answer for everyone as to whether past trauma should be revisited, Dr. Courtois said, \u201cbut historically what has happened in addiction treatment is there has been far too little attention paid to the role of trauma. For those with active PTSD especially, this means that when they get clean and sober, it\u2019s likely to emerge again and lead to relapse. In these circumstances, the answer is yes, the trauma needs to be acknowledged.\u201d Avoidance of the trauma can also make the post-traumatic reactions more severe, she explained. \u201cSo even though a lot of therapists say, \u2018Well, dealing with it is going to make it worse,\u2019 in reality what has been found is dealing with it is ultimately in the interest of healing it and helping the person have less need for coping mechanisms for something that feels out of their control.\u201d \u2018Healing Is Possible\u2019 For those ready to seek help for their addiction and to explore the issue of trauma, look for treatment programs that offer trauma-informed care or concurrent treatment, Dr. Courtois said. Such programs can help you determine if you\u2019re using substances as a way of self-medicating away intrusive memories or of disconnecting from feelings of anger, guilt or shame, or if your use is perhaps a way of building camaraderie with other users and, in a sense, creating a new family unit to replace a troubled one. Recovery from trauma-based addiction is a process, and one that takes time and effort, she explained, \u201cbut healing is possible.\u201d It\u2019s important to remember that addressing trauma isn\u2019t about finding someone to blame for your addiction, Dr. Courtois noted. It\u2019s about seeking the most effective path to a happier, healthier life. \u201cYou have to be responsible for your behavior and your recovery, but it is also important to look at root causes and to look underneath at what is driving the whole mechanism,\u201d she said. \u201cIt may not be your fault that you have the addiction, but you\u2019ve got to deal with it.\u201d Contact Promises Behavioral Health At Promises Behavioral Health, we can help you answer the question, "Is trauma behind your alcohol or drug use?" Furthermore, with our dual diagnosis treatment program, we can address both conditions simultaneously. Our treatment options include: \tCognitive-behavioral health \tDialectical behavior therapy \tGroup therapy \tIndividual therapy \tYoga therapy To learn more about our treatment programs, contact us today at .