September 11, 2019
This week marks the 18th Anniversary of 9/11- an unforgettable and traumatic date for so many. It reminds us that even though time passes, wounds can be reopened as anniversary dates come to pass and memories surface. The word “trauma” can imply a terrifying and cosmic event that occurs in a person’s life. However, traumatic events can come is so many forms-some subtle- and are proportionate in terms of their impact on an individual. What may be traumatic for one person many not be for another.
Trauma can be defined as experiencing, witnessing or being threatening with an event that involves actual serious injury, a threat if physical harm or possible death. It can also include events that emotionally impact a person but may not be as obvious. The number of people who experience trauma and the connection to substance use disorders is staggering. The National Institute of Health found that 7-8 out of every 100 people will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms at some point in their lives. According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, one-quarter to three-quarters of individuals who have survived abusive or violent traumatic events report problematic alcohol usage. 70% of adolescents seeking treatment for substance abuse had experienced some form of trauma exposure. While some stigma still remains, there has also been an increase in awareness and care for military veterans experiencing PTSD symptoms as well as co-occurring substance use disorders.
When individuals who have a trauma history or PTSD get sober, they must learn coping and grounding skills to deal with their symptoms or they have a higher chance of relapse. While alcohol and substance use may be used to self-medicate, it is crucial to support an individual in finding healthy strategies to deal with their underlying mental health symptoms.
For some individuals there are stressful events that occurred in particular seasons that can surface each year around that date or season- 9/11 being an example. For others, they experience symptoms that feel almost random at times. The In-Home Addiction Treatment Institute is able to train clinicians to provide trauma-informed care and to connect clients with local clinical and community based resources to address their needs. Addressing trauma symptoms in early recovery is a delicate process and requires specialized services. The IHAT model allows individuals to live in their home environment and address their trauma and substance use issues as they arise in real time. The year long program also allows individuals to gain stability in their recovery, which can therefore allow them to address their underlying trauma symptoms in a comprehensive way.
By Sarah Allen Benton, LMHC, LPC