We are at the end of September which is National Recovery Month. This month I got to spend some time with women who I wrote my last article about, Finding a new life instead of rebuilding the old. As I was sitting in a room of 12 brilliant and honest women listening to them share their fears and struggles I was once again reminded of the stark reality that these women were facing on the other side of the door they would all be walking out of someday in the near future. While each of these women were different in so many ways they each shared two points of reference. Addiction and past trauma ranging from sexual assault to partner abuse. Unaddressed trauma manifests itself in many ways.
Codependency. Codependency can be a way that many women try to keep themselves safe. We attach ourselves to another person hoping to get from them the things we haven’t been able to achieve or provide for ourselves because of lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. We have an empty spot inside of ourselves that we should be able to fill with healthy things. Because of a poorly developed sense of self we cling to someone else to provide our sense of self for us. This can lead to us accepting abuse because we usually are in relationships that have lopsided power dynamics. Co-dependents are so caught up in fear that they will stay in incredibly unhealthy situations to avoid being on their own. Because of the nature of abusive personalities and co-dependent’s they often wind up in relationships together.
Borderline personality disorder. While no single factor causes this mental disorder one of the contributing factors is past trauma and abuse. Statistics show one to two percent of the population has Borderline Personality Disorder. Genetics and neurobiology also contribute to borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD is an extremely difficult disorder to treat. It is characterized by suicidal thoughts and behaviors, self-harm, chaotic interpersonal relationships, frantic attempts to avoid abandonment, unstable sense of self (they may drastically change their goals, values, jobs, sexual orientation etc.), impulsivity displayed by excessive shopping, gambling, sex etc. If you have ever been involved with someone with BPD you know that pain, anger, and confusion that can come from trying to understand these people. People with BPD aren’t evil people. As miserable as they can make the ones who live with them, they themselves live in terrible emotional pain.
Depression. Multiple factors contribute to the illness of depression. One in five women and one in ten men will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization characterizes depression as one of the most disabling disorders in the world. It’s easy to see why when you consider the symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, moodiness, angry outbursts, and loss of interest in taking part in things that used to be enjoyable. Couple these symptoms with the difficulty of making decisions, trouble remembering, and difficulty of concentrating. It’s no wonder it can be debilitating.
Alcohol and other drug abuse. Alcohol and other drugs can be used as inappropriate tools to manage the feelings around the trauma as well as codependency, abuse, borderline personality disorder, and depression. As I have stated before this is cycle that is circular by nature. The event of trauma causes depression, codependency, borderline personality disorder, and depression. The need to self-medicate arises from those issues, and then the alcohol and other drug abuse leads to more trauma, guilt, remorse, shame, and possibly addiction. And the cycle will keep repeating itself until an outside force interrupts it. Hopefully the outside force will be recovery instead of death.
The good news is that there are resources out there to help recover from trauma and addiction. It is truly never too late. Support is available.
There are numerous hotlines to call as a starting point. Any of the following hotlines can help you to find resources in your area.
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233
- National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-825
- Alcohol/Drug Abuse Hotline 1-800-662-HELP
- Alanon Family groups (for those who are affected by someone else’s drinking) 1-888-425-2666
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) 1-800-950-NAMI
As we become brave enough to start taking the steps to heal and face our issues we gain strength and move towards being happy, healthy, and sane. We do NOT need to stay stuck in the cycle. Recovery IS POSSIBLE. Here is to making EVERY month National Recovery Month, not just September.