Understanding addictions in Covid-19

 

Like me , I am sure you have an opinion about the reinstatement of alcohol in Level 3. I celebrate the return of some of our freedom, mostly the freedom to trade and boost the economy.

Like most freedoms, this comes with a cost. And the cost of alcohol is high on the health and safety of people.

Covid-19 is a collective trauma, a shocking experience for people globally. Most everyone feels symptoms of this collective trauma: anxiety, depression, fear, anger, aggression, collapse, numbness.

Consider how you have managed your own covid-19 symptoms for the last 3 months. You seek relief from the pain of your symptoms. However many of your usual ways of managing your pre -covid-19 regular daily stress, were taken away from you, right ?!  No cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drugs, gym, work, running , socializing. You have suffered.

 However if you are an addict , in other words, if you have a history of childhood trauma, you really have suffered.

What is trauma?

Trauma is a separation from the Self. Trauma is the “unhealed wound”. Literally in Greek, trauma is “wound”.

It is raw open wound so when something touches you on your wound , you are in pain. Something happened in the past that hurts you in the present. Anything resembling this  pain in the present reactivates the pain , Easy to see how Covid-19 exacerbates any trauma/wound. Think about what a “wound” is . It becomes covered with scar tissue, it is hard, has no feelings  , there is no ending to this scar, it is inflexible. Your scar is all your suppressed feelings with which you have not yet dealt.

Trauma shatters your cognitive sense of who you are. Perhaps you recognise some of these thoughts:

” I feel dead inside’, “I am bad”, “I font deserve to live”, “I cant stand who I am “, “I live in a body that is disgusting “.

Trauma also shatters your somatic sense of who you are. Perhaps you recognise some of these sensations:

distance from your own body, physical symptoms that include pain in your jaw, front of ear, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, disassociation from your own body :”When I look in the mirror I see a monster. (if you can even look at yourself ). In general a  difficulty to experience pleasure.

Most significantly trauma disrupts your ability to connect. Covid-19 insists that we disconnect from touch, intimacy, physical connection with others. Your body is once again getting cues that you are not safe. And the healing of trauma is through connection – connection to self and connection to others who  we perceive as safe and secure. The nervous system craves certainty as then it is not in a  defence state.

Childhood Developmental Trauma has been pioneered by Dr Bessel van der Kolk  

He is a neuropsychiatrist who has spent his life studying the impact of trauma on children and adults, and created outstanding interventions for the management of trauma. Childhood Developmental Trauma relates to children who suffered abuse of all kinds, neglect or abandonment in childhood. As a result of this, their brains are wired to fire up , consistently and regularly, thus releasing  stress hormones which causes body inflammation  and consequent  mental and physical  diseases.

it is important to know that Trauma is not the Event. It is what happens inside you .And most profoundly it is when no one was there for you.  When you are wounded as a child, you are too   small to feel that pain . So you separate from those feelings . You separate from that fundamental wound. And you seek other means of soothing.

Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with Addictions ?!

Trauma and addictions are 80% correlated. And thus both have to be addressed simultaneously.

Two thirds of addicts were abused as children. “Addicts” do not become addicts by choice nor do genetics prescribe addiction. And addicts do not have  medical brain diseases.

If you are struggling with an addiction , consider:

  • what were my social/economic /historical and cultural childhood circumstances?
  • do you have underlying rage and aggression ?
  • does your body tell you :”don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel “?
  • do you feel helpless?

Dr Gabor Mate, renowned addiction expert, calls for a Compassionate approach toward addictions. He, like many other specialists and researchers, believes that the source of addictions is not to be found in genes but in the early childhood environment. Read more about Dr Mate here : https://drgabormate.com

His definition of addiction goes like this : ” it is a complex process involving psyche, body and brain . Addiction is manifested in any behaviour vior that a person finds temporary pleasureful and craves and finds relief in the short term. But it causes negative consequences and in the long term you have trouble giving it up.

The purpose of addictions are a way of avoiding  pain and emotional distress. They are tremendous pain relievers. They are a way of coping , a coping mechanism. Your addiction may feel as if it is your only  way to survive.

Your whole life you have courageously sought relief from the pain of your childhood trauma by medicating it away : alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, gambling, overwork, eating, self cutting, sexual acting out. 

MANAGE YOUR ADDICTION PAIN:

People who have experienced childhood developmental trauma want cues of safety, loving interactions , knowing that people are there and can support them.

  1. Accept and acknowledge that Covid-19 kicks up your anxiety/depression
  2. Accept and acknowledge that your need to seek relief from these emotions and sensations drives you into your addiction
  3.  Withhold judgment & criticism of yourself
  4. Practice daily self care : journal, be in nature, with animals, meditation, music, movement
  5. Work with self compassion: mindfulness, kindness
  6. Mostly connect with people who support and care for you
  7. Sign up for trauma work with a therapist – evidence proves this to be the most effective way of managing your addiction.
  8. Put on your super hero T shirt and express gratitude to yourself for having survived a traumatic childhood.  

 

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