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Seeing Addiction through the Lens of Trauma

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If you haven’t yet seen Gabor Maté’s film “The Wisdom of Trauma”, then we highly recommend you do. The viral film is a real eye-opener in terms of how trauma impacts us as individuals and the role it plays in the challenges we face as a society.

In the film, Maté explains trauma in simple-yet-profound terms: “Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma is that scarring that makes you less flexible, more rigid, less feeling, and more defended.”

It’s powerful stuff.

What Maté is saying is that trauma changes who we are and how we deal with the world. It causes scarring and pain that we unwittingly carry with us.

Few of us actually deal with the trauma. Instead, most of us simply try to suppress it.

But when the trauma is too extreme, and the pain is too great, it can take over our lives. At that point, we only look for one thing: escape.

And it’s that need for escape that can open the door to addiction.

Why You Can’t Just “Get Over It”

Trauma isn’t something we can just get over. For many survivors, it creates a constant state of profound emptiness and pain. No matter how resilient you think you are, it’s just not sustainable.

The fact is, that level of sustained suffering requires some sort of relief. And when you’re desperate enough for relief, you’ll take it wherever you can find it.

When you understand the desperation that comes with trauma, it’s much easier to see that addiction isn’t a choice; it’s a solution to a problem when all else has failed.

Exploring the Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

We all agree that many things are traumatic—sustained physical or emotional abuse or the loss of a parent or loved one, for example. We wouldn’t wish these on anyone.

But trauma is a lot like addiction itself; sometimes, it’s there even though we don’t recognize it.

It doesn’t always stem from some extreme, violent event. Sometimes it can be caused by events that are far less insidious. It’s not about severity, it’s about how it’s dealt with.

Secrecy and shame make a bad situation worse.

Trauma is Often the Root of Addiction

Nearly everyone who’s entered our doors has had an event in their lives that’s caused them continued pain and emotional scarring.

Whether acknowledged or not, trauma is often the root cause of addiction.

Sometimes people are aware of the trauma’s origin. Other times it takes work to unearth it.

In either case, the act of being witnessed (having your story and truth heard and acknowledged) is critical to a patient’s recovery. Only through witnessing can you move through shame and escape the grip of secrecy.

You can’t just treat the disease; you must treat the person.

It’s the only way to truly move forward.

We Can Help You Navigate Addiction and Trauma

Whether you want to seek treatment near home, farther afield, or online, you have plenty of options with EHN Canada. We make care accessible with facilities all over Canada.

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