“According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 24.5 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 9.4% of the population) had used an illicit drug in the past month. Additionally, an estimated 20.4 million people (or 7.8% of the population) had a substance use disorder in the past year.” (S.A.M.H.S.A, 2022)
- Substance use disorders are addictive behaviors that include one, or a combination of, the following classifications of drugs:
- Sedatives and Anxiolytics
- Other/Unknown Substances
Although some of these types seem about as harmless as a BB gun, in comparison to a Bazooka, in reality, caffeine and nicotine addiction can be as debilitating as a dependency to one of the more dangerous classes of drugs.
Believe me, on those days where I can feel a migraine, just chilling on the sidelines, begging the Coach to put’em in the game—I know I didn’t have my morning coffee, Dr. Pepper brunch, or the ever-nutritious Marlboro and Blueberry Redbull lunch.
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Oh, I know….”Those things are bad for you.” “Nothing but pure sugar.” And my personal favorite—”You’ll get hooked on them energy drinks.”
Yea, I know, they’re bad…Blah blah blah. Gimme a little break here, please. I’m a writer. I stay fueled on caffeine and cuss words.
The way I see it, at this point in my life, an energy drink and a cigarette is so much better than it could be, so if that’s my worry-hell, I’m doing 👌 A-okay.
The truth is I’ve lived the biggest part of my life bound by the enslavement of my addictive nature. For several years, the first thing I’d grab when I woke up was my spoon—and it wasn’t for my Fruity Pebbles either.
Not something I’m particularly proud of, but such is life, my friends. Everything I did then, good or bad, just paved the way for who I am today.
As a normal teenager, growing up in Northeastern Arkansas, in the 90s, I was actually a lot more chill than most of my friends. My two-and-a-half-decade struggle with nicotine dependency started at age fourteen. I would either steal smokes out of my Granny’s pack, or buy a pack from a friend, who stole them from her step-dad.
One year later, I discovered my love of marijuana, and out of everything I’ve ever stopped, that has by far been the worst for me.
In high school, I would drink at parties, but for me, alcohol was always just a social “habit” – not a “have to have it”.
Even years later, I had a couple of spells of hardcore benders; but alcohol was never my “go-to” so I was always able to set the bottles down with relative ease.
But where does it go from here?!?
At eighteen, I was introduced to crank for the first time. Meth in its glory days, or so we all thought at the time. Growing up in the hills, there was never a shortage of buddies asking if you wanted to float a boat cause they had just finished up a batch.
During this period of my life, I started learning, or I guess I should say realizing, some things about situations I went through as a kid, plus some issues that I was regularly facing.
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All that, and dealing with the consequences of my actions at the time—mostly due to my growing downhill spiral of addictions, (which coincidentally continued escalating with every new substance I would try).
I started to hate my life, and the only way I knew to escape it was to get high. Every time I would start to come down though, the culmination of what I had been avoiding would slap me in the face even harder. So, then I just managed to maintain a constant level of comfortably numb.
As if meth wasn’t enough, I had now begun to shoot pills. Opioids were perfect for my IDGAF attitude. I was on a downhill rollercoaster with my life and I didn’t care.
…The Magazine Article that Literally Changed My Perspective…
One day I went with my Granny to her doctor’s appointment. Afterward, she was taking me to my Father’s house.
The police had stopped by my Granny’s the day before, looking for me. I was asleep and Granny and my PA told them that they haven’t heard from me in a while, so they weren’t sure where I was at—so now it was time for me to make different accommodations.
Sitting in the waiting room, I started mindlessly flipping through random magazines. To this day I can’t tell you the name of the article, or what magazine it was in for that matter, but it changed everything for me then.
The concept of the article was the connection between trauma and substance abuse and addiction. Adverse Childhood Experiences (causes of trauma in small children) are mainly due to these four principal reasons:
● Physical abuse and neglect
● Emotional abuse and neglect
● Sexual abuse
● Household Dysfunction
The article ascertained that traumatic experiences, even from several years prior, are still possible to serve as triggers for substance abuse.
Hmmm…..so I said to myself, “Self, household dysfunction? Guess we’ve been fckd from the start.” I have memories from maybe three or four years old, being locked in my bedroom with the new storybook I had just gotten for my birthday. Why I was locked in my room or for how long, I can’t say, but in retrospect of the whole situation, I really don’t think it matters.
I have several messed up memories from before my grandparents obtained guardianship of me when I was six. To be honest, I’m sure there are a lot more memories like that (or worse) in the back of
my head where I managed to repress them all those years ago.
They can stay where they are—even though I have made enormous progress with my life and mental health, I’m still not emotionally stable enough to be dredging up what may be.
The Oxford Dictionary defines trauma as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Trauma, itself, can affect the brain in so many ways regarding not only the physical structure but also the chemistry within. The brain, (as a method of self-preservation) shuts down all non-essential systems and also
blocks regions of itself that govern emotions, fear, and stress responses.
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These involuntary actions of the brain can lead to the development of numerous mental health disorders including:
- Depression/Anxiety Disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Alcohol/Substance abuse
- Self-harm or Suicide related behaviors
Individuals, who have suffered trauma at some point in their lives–especially emotional trauma–are more likely to experience substance abuse. They use the drugs as a means to self-medicate in order to numb the pain or escape…
Exactly what I had been doing.
The thin line between trauma and addiction actually runs hand in hand. The victim uses drugs to deal with the problem, but more often than not, substance abuse opens up more opportunities for future traumatic experiences. A catch-22 for sure.
The following statistics were gathered by Deena McMahon for the ‘Imprint Youth and Family News’ newsletter in 2018:
1. Nearly two-thirds of IV drug users reported abusive and traumatic childhood experiences.
2. 12-34% of individuals in substance abuse treatment have been diagnosed with PTSD.
3. 97% of homeless women with mental illness report severe physical or sexual abuse.
4. Individuals with three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences have higher rates, not just for alcohol and drug abuse, but also depression, domestic violence, STDs, and heart disease.
THE LONG HARD ROAD OF RECOVERY
I want to personally tell you, no matter what you’re going through or how bad it seems, Recovery is a real possibility, and believe me if I can do it, then I know you can. I’m not saying it’s not going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
The mental anguish, intensity, and the physical pain of it all made me literally cry and pray to just die, but one day it starts to become just a tiny bit manageable. Then, before you know it, you’re telling others your survival story.
Because the line between trauma and substance abuse is so thin, simultaneous treatment is oftentimes more effective. However, this becomes a problem because the majority of drug treatment facilities often treat the trauma as secondary (if they treat it at all), keeping the drug abuse as their
Here’s the problem with that, many individuals who have experienced trauma tend to suffer from post-traumatic stressors, long after the actual abuse.
If a recovering addict endures some of those stressors, they’re now at a much higher risk to relapse.
Therefore, the greatest chance for a full recovery is to treat the underlying cause of the trauma simultaneously with substance abuse treatment.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is just one type of therapy, effective for both trauma and drug treatment. CBT therapists focus primarily on what’s going on in the patient’s daily life—with the most attention being placed on developing effective coping mechanisms which the patient uses to move forward in time.
They work with addicts using different exercises and prompts to teach the patient how to change their own behavior, thinking, and emotions.
You’re not alone….
With a positive support system of family and friends and a positive way to channel my emotions, I have been able to successfully walk on the path of recovery.
If you or someone you know may be in a similar place and in need of help and support, reach out and we can get you the help you need. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (S.A.M.H.S.A) online at SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services …or call their national
hotline number at 1 (800) 662-4357.
Just know that you don’t have to do this alone.