One of the most essential tasks in recovery is establishing safety for ourselves. In fact, for those who have struggled with addiction, experiencing safety isn’t always common. Instead, it’s common for recovering addicts to be used to chaos, emotional upheaval, and disorganization.
This is also true for those who have a history of trauma. If, for example, you’ve experienced abuse, domestic violence, suicide among your friends, loss of family members, and/or war, you might be vulnerable to using alcohol and drugs as a means for regulating your emotions. You might end up turning to drinking or drug use as a way to self medicate and escape from the emotions you’re experiencing.
PTSD and Addiction
In fact, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction often go hand in hand. Furthermore, there are many men and women who struggle with addiction but who are unaware that they experience symptoms of PTSD. They might experience symptoms of intense emotions, disturbing thoughts, and perhaps even flashbacks. They might experience these symptoms without knowing that they are struggling with PTSD, and they turn to drugs and alcohol instead.
Because feeling safe is often the first experience that goes out the window with trauma, it’s easy to get used to chaos in life. It’s easy to get accustomed to living under stress. In fact, there are some typical character traits of those who have experienced trauma. These could also be applied to those who grew up with addiction in their family of origin. These character traits are:
- Overreacting – Someone struggling with PTSD and/or living with addiction in their early life may get hyper vigilant of their surroundings and of the behavior and responses of others. Furthermore, they have a tendency to see most events and people in extremes, particularly when under stress or pressure.
- Living in Chaos – He or she might thrive on high levels of adrenaline. He or she is very familiar with chaos.
- Victim Mindset – Often, with addiction and trauma, a person can easily develop a mentality of being a victim, including not feeling connected to his or her own power. Instead, they tend to blame others for their own challenges versus taking responsibility and making the changes they want or need to in life. This frequently contributes to the development of addiction.
- Compulsive Behavior – With this behavior pattern in your family of origin, it is common for an adult child of alcoholism to also develop compulsive behavior towards working, eating, or even alcohol or drugs.
These are a few examples of typical personality traits that are found among those with early trauma and/or those who have struggled with addiction, either personally or within their family of origin.
Staying Safe and Healthy in Your Life
For these reasons, it’s common to be unaware of the importance of safety in your life. And safety includes what you may not think. For instance, the following items are essential in staying safe and healthy in your life:
- Regularly going to the doctor and maintaining your physical health.
- Driving safely, including not driving over the speed limit, not driving with friends who have been drinking, and maintaining your car so that it doesn’t present a dangerous situation while you’re on the road.
- Spending time with those who won’t put you into vulnerable situations such as asking you to drink or get high. Only choosing to spend time with those who are safe.
- Regularly attending support groups so that you feel strong about your ability to curb your cravings.
- Visiting the dentist when you need it.
- Ensuring your psychological health by attending therapy and taking your prescribed medication, if you have any.
Safety is essentially tending to all of your needs and making sure that you have the resources you need to live your life. All too often those who struggle with addiction and those who are used to chaos in life will ignore their own needs. They will disregard the importance of their basic necessities.
In essence, safety is loving yourself, taking good care of yourself so that you can create a happy, stable, and sober life.