Abuse as an Underlying Cause of Chemical Dependency (CD) or Addiction
Substance abuse is a complex disorder and it isn’t easy to understand why some people become addicted while others don’t. However, most CD-professionals agree there are several factors associated with addiction, including genetics, chemical deficiencies, individual personality characteristics, personal beliefs and thoughts, the presence of an underlying mental illness and of course, the social setting which contributes to the availability of a substance.
Often, addiction is a response to the childhood environment. Many research studies over the years have proven there is a plausible connection between abuse and addiction.
Childhood Abuse and neglect
Childhood abuse is extremely painful and difficult to cope with. As a result, victims tend to feel alone and alienated from the most important people in their lives – the people who are responsible for their care and safety. Research indicates that adults who experience recurring physical, emotional, material or sexual abuse are more likely to become addicted than people who weren’t abused as children.
Emotional neglect by parental emotional unavailability often leaves a huge void in a child's soul, which "is being filled" by a substance.
Shame is a huge factor for victims of childhood sexual abuse – believed to be the harshest and most damaging form of trauma. Often, victims keep the experienced buried for years. The result is often drug or alcohol addiction, and to various sexual addictions and disorders.
Substance abuse is a logical and powerful tool for victims of childhood abuse. It serves an important function that helps victims numb painful feelings and block frightening memories. Drugs and alcohol also relieve stress and tension, which helps control sleep disturbances such as insomnia and nightmares.
A study conducted by Yale School of Medicine indicates that abuse results in very real changes in the brain, particularly the areas associated with learning, memory and emotion. Innocence is disrupted and normal development of a healthy self-image is blocked. As a result, addiction is difficult to treat and the risk of relapse is high.
Although addiction is often linked to childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, adults can also be victims of abuse that take place at the hands of another adult, a parent or step-parent, teacher, sibling etc. This person has a narcissistic personality disorder. People affected by narcissism make life intolerable for partners, family members and close friends. Narcissists tend to be manipulative individuals who control their victims by using tactics such as blaming, ignoring, shunning, withholding affection or criticizing in front of other people. Their exaggerated sense of self-importance and total lack of empathy for other people makes victims feel weak, inferior, isolated, rejected and useless. Victims of narcissistic abuse often experience lives riddled with constant fear, stress, sleepless nights, confusion and exhaustion. Low self-esteem, the eradication of any sense of self, depression, physical illnesses, chronic fatigue, severe co-dependency and chemical dependency are common responses. More on narcissistic abuse here.
Recovery is Possible
Successful recovery from addiction and the underlying trauma of abuse and neglect involves working with skilled counselors and therapists who can help victims learn to express and work through painful memories and emotions in a safe, nonjudgmental and supportive environment. If you are sure you have suffered from trauma, insist on being properly diagnosed. We believe that every human being has intrinsic value and hope is always there.
If you are a victim of abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible, life can only get better. Most importantly, remember – you are not to blame! Unhealthy ways of dealing with trauma can be replaced with healthy and effective coping strategies for good.