Claudia Black, Ph.D., one of the world-renown Senior Fellows at The Meadows, spent this spring traveling and speaking across the country, frequently discussing what it is The Meadows and their sister programs treat, and that is trauma and addictions.
Here is a snippet of Dr. Black’s message:
Christopher says he remembers his first drink so well. He got sick as a dog; his head was spinning, and it was oblivion. He was 12, and he loved it. He was in his own bubble, and no one was ever going to hurt him again. No one was ever going to have the power to make him feel bad about himself. No one could ever get close enough to him for them to make a difference in his life. Alcohol and other drugs became his protector.
Deanna says she had loving parents, but at school, the kids began to pick on her, and she was bullied throughout the following years. She didn’t tell anyone, and in high school she began cutting on herself and then found her parents’ pills. She didn’t know why they had meds, but that didn’t matter to her − they just helped to dull her pain.
Jason was a first responder, an EMT and a firefighter. He had spent ten years, responding to people in crisis, and he was in his fourth year of work when he was the only one of his team of six to make it out of a burning building alive after being trapped for several hours. Until that time, he would have considered himself a normal drinker, in fact, a light drinker. Today, he can’t seem to get enough.
Chris, Deanna, and Jason are addicted, and each is a trauma survivor.
- Addiction increases the likelihood of trauma. While under the influence, you are more apt to experience humanly caused tragedies such as car accidents, burning home, or be subject to violence, physical and sexual.
- Trauma increases the likelihood of addiction.
Definition of trauma: the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in your feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable.
Not that long ago when we thought of trauma we thought of natural disasters—fires that rampage acres, hurricanes and tornadoes, or shootings on our college campuses, movie theatres, elementary schools, or acts of terrorism. It may come with the experience of war, rape, a car accident or the burning of the family home.
These are thought of as Big T traumas. They are very horrific situations that frequently lead to trauma responses, some as severe as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But of all the people who experience trauma only 30% have PTSD, but nonetheless they may still suffer other trauma responses.
Little t traumas can be just as damaging as a Big T trauma, especially because they tend to occur over time and build upon each other. Examples would be ongoing emotional abuse or neglect, experiences of shame, humiliation, being left out, bullied or ridiculed and feeling not cared for.
The trauma that occurs in the family system can be both blatant and subtle. What is most significant is that it is chronic. It can include both Big T, and little T traumas Psychological effects are most likely to be most severe if the trauma is:
- Human caused
- Undergone in childhood
- Perpetrated by a caregiver. Sadly this often means growing up in an addicted home, a rageful home, or simply a chronically impaired family system.
We know the impact can be ameliorated by existence of a support system at the time of the trauma. This is why we see some children show greater resilience than others. Even within the same family system, some children more than others are able to garner support and experience greater protection.
It’s common for someone to minimize their experience because someone else has a greater horror story. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event and the subsequent beliefs you internalize about yourself and the world. Your experience is not negated by someone else’s experience. They have theirs, and you have yours. Whether or not the trauma is acute or chronic, Big T or Little t, within the family system or not, the defenses developed are often what we are addressing when confronted with addictions, codependency, repetitive hurtful relationships, anxiety and depression.
The Meadows Can Help
For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.
The trauma treatment program at The Meadows can help you create a life of recovery, peace and healing. We have helped over 45,000 clients to date, through workshops and inpatient treatment programs. To learn more about the trauma workshops and treatment programs at The Meadows, call us at 800-244-4949 or visit this page for more information.