Archive for November 1st, 2007

(c) Lynda Bernhardt

Many adult survivors of childhood abuse struggle with some form of substance abuse. Whether they turn to alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs, they are using a substance to help manage their emotional pain. Even smoking cigarettes can be viewed as substance abuse.

Children who are abused are forced to repress their emotions in order to survive. As they grow into adults, those painful feelings are still festering inside. As adults (or even while in their teens), they come across a substance that temporarily removes the pain, and they use that substance to drown out their emotions. The more powerfully the emotions rage inside, the more they rely on that substance to silence them.

Substance abuse is a symptom, not the cause. This is why so many people who go through rehab return to using their substance of choice again. Unless you heal the cause of the underlying pain that is fueling the symptom, you will stay vulnerable to “falling off the wagon.”

Substance abuse differs from other forms negative coping tools because they can also have a physically addictive component that makes it even harder to break away. Even when the survivor decides to stop using a substance, his body might cry out for more, which is why getting help for the physical component and the emotional component is the best formula for success.

The more you can lean on more positive coping tools, the less you will need to lean on a substance to manage your pain. See Positive Coping Tools for Healing from Childhood Abuse for a list of positive coping tools.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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