Being a recovering addict with more than 16 years clean, my understanding of addiction and trauma has drastically changed from my first 12-step meeting in January 2001.
First, addiction’s simplest definition is a behaviour or action that is causing harm to the person or those around them. Yes, addiction is hereditary, but that does not fully answer the question as to why it impacts some and not others. There are other questions I receive in my practice regarding addiction. Why does a person with no real addiction in their family start a behaviour that causes them or others harm? Why does someone find recovery from one addictive behaviour only to find another behaviour that sends them deeper into despair?
The simple answer is trauma. Society has just begun broadening the definition of trauma. In the beginning if you had not been in a war zone what could you know about trauma? What we are learning is that trauma is everywhere and it is different for everyone. Our ability to be resilient is not always ingrained and each person has a different threshold.
Trauma can come in many forms. There are accidents, some can be completely immobilized by the television news, there is generational trauma or those things that get passed down through the generations and we have developmental trauma. According to Dr. Ester Perel we all require six things to be happy and healthy: security, predictability, safety, dependability, reliability and permanence. Missing any of these (real or perceived) during childhood can impact development and cause unseen issues also known as Developmental Trauma.
While attending a conference on the impacts of generational trauma led by Dr. Gabor Mate many things resonated with me; however, what resonated the most was that “no two children have the same parents.” (Mate, 2016) The impacts of addiction in one family may have many effects, just think of the last time you heard the comparison “I am not sure what happened, we grew up in the same house even though you would never know it.”
“Not all people who suffer trauma have addictions but all people who have addictions have suffered trauma.”