Growing up with Addiction Trauma
Trauma from living with an addicted parent or other caregiver in childhood can have serious affects on the development of a healthy self. Infants come into the world hardwired by genetics, but the environment and our relationships with primary caregivers finalizes that “wiring.” If learned expectations of how to function are chaotic or disrupted, then the broader world does not make sense.
Early childhood experiences in relationships become a powerful part of what is most core to us, and to our sense of self. The relational environment shapes our beliefs about ourselves, and of the world around us. If children do not have a rational, safe, and secure caregiver who is able to provide, model and teach the skills of emotional regulation and appropriate self-soothing, the child may not develop the capacity to assess and understand what is happening in traumatic situations. This leads to inaccurate navigation of life-events and relationships.
Some of The Characteristics of Adult Children of Addicts
- Depression:Unexpressed and unfelt emotion can lead to a hypoactive internal world.
2. Anxiety: Unregulated or unidentified pain can cause hyperactive, agitated or anxious defense against feeling internal pain.
3. Emotional Constriction: Numbness and signs of shutting down as a defense against overwhelming pain; restricted range of “affect” or lack of authentic expression of emotion.
4. Hypervigilance: Anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop – constantly scanning environment and relationships for signs of potential danger or repeated rupture.
5. Easily Triggered and hyper-reactive: Associations of trauma, e.g., yelling, loud noises, criticism, or gunfire, trigger a person into shutting down, acting out or intense emotional states. This may be accompanied by changes in eye expression, physical posture or feeling humiliated.
6. Development of Rigid Psychological Defenses: Dissociation, denial, splitting, repression, minimization, intellectualization, projection, or developing a rather impenetrable “character armor”.
7. Problems with Self Regulation: The deregulated limbic system can manifest in problems with regulating many areas of the “self-system,” such as thinking, feeling and behavior. The tendency to emotionally go from 0 to 10 or 10 to 0 without intermediate stages, black and white thinking, feeling and behavior, or no recognition of shades of gray as a result of trauma’s “numbing” or “hi-affect” influences.
8. Learned Helplessness: The feeling that they can’t affect or change what’s happening to them. They give up and become “helpless”.
9. Distorted Reasoning: Convoluted attempts to make sense and meaning out of chaotic, confusing, frightening or painful experiences. Interpreting an event with a “magical” childhood meaning due to the developmental level a child is at when painful or confusing circumstances occur.
10. Loss of Trust and Faith: Due to deep ruptures in primary, dependency relationships and breakdown of an orderly world.
11. Loss of Ability to Take in Caring and Support: Due to trauma’s inherent numbness and shutdown along with fears of trusting and being let down all over again.
12. High Risk Behaviors: Speeding, sexual acting out, spending, fighting or other behaviors done in a way that puts one at risk. Misguided attempts to jump start a “numb” inner world or act out pain from an intense pain filled inner world.
13. Desire to Self-Medicate: Attempts to quiet and control a turbulent, troubled inner world through the use of drugs and alcohol or behavioral addictions (Dayton, 2000; van der Kolk, 1987; Krystal 1968).
14. Survival Guilt: From witnessing abuse and trauma and surviving, or from “getting out” of an unhealthy family system while others remain mired within it.
15. Cycles of Reenactment: Unconscious repetition of pain-filled dynamics, the continual recreation of dysfunctional dynamics from the past.
16. Relationship Issues: Difficulty in being present in a balanced manner; a tendency to over or under engage, explode or withdraw or be emotionally hot and cold. Problems with trusting, staying engaged, or taking in love and caring from others.
Treating Trauma at Milestones
At Milestones at Onsite, we want you to know that we stand behind you one hundred percent. We want to support you and walk with you into your recovery. We believe in unconditional love and provide a safe environment for you to do the work that has been needed for a long time. We are here to help and we’d be honored to have the opportunity to show up for you and help you discover joy in your life.