Addiction and Trauma


Recently, I participated in a research study looking at symptom clusters with particular diagnoses. There really wasn't a working hypothesis for the research because the aim is to create a data set that could be used and interpreted by other researchers. During the interview, I began to realize how many symptoms I've demonstrated from other diagnoses throughout my life. Additionally, I've manifested addiction in one form or another starting from the 5th grade onward. It seems as though my addiction struggles began almost immediately after my first encounter with my music teacher. I'm curious to know how many others have struggled with addiction and if you feel it's related to your own trauma history. For me, addiction may present in drugs and/or alcohol, and it could also be things like food, sex, or behaviors (gambling, etc.). Anything you may feel like sharing is appreciated.


I started to drink alcohol before ten and by 11 and by 12 I was getting drunk and then drugs came into the picture, The hard drugs left me when I was 17 and I continued to drink in excess until I was 45 and my Doctor told me he would help me with the pain and try to get me help to sleep. it was many health problems and mental health. I stopped drinking for 5 years or close to that and then would have the odd drink that led to a drink a day. Now the last drink I had was last year and the one before that was probably a couple of years before that. I contribute all my addiction issues to abuse Violence and other trauma's. The only time I did not drink to pass out at night was when I was a sea working. Really tired long hard days and only usually set for 3 hours or that was how long you had in your bunk.


Staff member
food, sex, or behaviors (gambling, etc.
Great topic MM. Speaking only for myself - I have had compulsive behaviours binging on things such as food and sex. I also have physical ailments such as hyper tension, and migraines that manifested at approximately the same time as the abuse (pre and early teens) along with others such as asthma and a heart blood clot that occurred much later but statistically occur among survivors at much higher frequencies than the general population.

However, from my experience, and from the information given me by three Phd Therapists, research and reading I have done on my own - I struggle with the term "addiction" as many of my behaviours and I believe many others are truly coping mechanisms, stress relieving behaviours and escapist forms of dissociation rather than true addiction; Most if not all my physical ailments can trace their source back to the stress of hiding the abuse and carrying the perp's guilt and shame as my own for four decades.

The Phd Psychologist who diagnosed me as a "sex addict" and told me "what happened to you as a child over forty years ago is too ancient to cause any effect on your behaviour today" was a "Certified Sex Addiction". Only after I almost went bankrupt trying to meet her requirements for "help" none of which were covered by any insurance and broke away to find true help did I learn her "certification" came from her partner in the practice and his came from her. (She was suspended and finally had her license permanently revoked for similar and other egregious actions which are a public record).

Finally the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM has not yet identified many of these behaviours as "addictions" although many therapists similarly self-certify or buy such certification from organizations not universally recognized specialists in such "addictions" and use the diagnostic codes for "unspecified" disorders that most insurance companies will not cover for treatment. But I also recognize they call it the "art of practice" and not science for a reason. The same DSM once labeled homosexuality as deviant, antisocial behaviour requiring mental hospitalization. And the same APA recognized lobotomies and electro shock therapy as legitimate treatments in the past.
I started drinking in high school. It reduced the anxiety I was feeling and help me function in groups. Same in college. I was never an alcoholic per se. I did drink heavily when I drank but never needed to drink. Masturbation would be my other addiction.
electro shock therapy
This is still being use today in Canada they call it by another name That (I can not get out) it is still the same treatment. My buddy when through several months of treatment before his doctor stepped in and stopped it.
It is still used around the world including the US for certain mental conditions.
It is a hard therapy to go through watching my friend go through it. He got zero benefit and it was torcher on him and his family every week and then they went to every other week till his Doctor step in and stopped it. What it did us made him so he will not accept any therapies from mental health. Not a good out come for him.

I think they call it ECT here

Me Not Me

Yes. The substances followed the abuse. Historically, I alternated between weed and ETOH. Pot head. Alcoholic. Sometimes both. Even though it seriously fucked up parts of my life, it blocked out the thoughts, images, and emotions associated with the abuse. Party on!
Obviously, I’m better off without the substances, but (unfortunately) it remains tempting.
I don't really like the taste of alcohol, hate cigarettes and have never tried drugs. However that doesn't mean that I haven't been addictive. My addiction for decades has been to reenact the abuse. Fantasizing about the abuse was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing at night. And if I had any stress, fantasizing about the abuse was an automatic go-to for me. So while I escaped the struggle with most types of addiction, I have struggled to free myself from abuse fantasies.
However that doesn't mean that I haven't been addictive.
You make a good point here. I think that may be ever present here in the forums. Lots of us fantasized or have intrusive thoughts in our heads about our abuse.
Escapism through addictive behaviors, whatever they may be (food, drugs, drink, work, exercise, shopping, etc.) are all maladaptive coping behaviors for the awful, sometimes empty, sense of self left over after traumatic childhood events. I read a book years ago that actually tried to map drug of choice to age of developmental trauma by mapping the desired effect of each drug type to the missed stage of childhood development and parent bonding. Crazy stuff.

Please be careful with those addictions, seek help if you are worried and they are negatively impacting your life. Addictions alone can be deadly. I've struggled with moderate alcohol and THC addictions periodically throughout my life since I was a teenager. Addictions can take so much away. And they can be difficult to keep in check 100% of the time. Separate support groups from addictions can help.


I meant to post this yesterday. So there is a definite connection between CSA and addiction. Specifically, when the abuse causes schisms (divisions in who you are to protect you from the overwhelming feelings of the experience), it can lead to addictions. Addictions are often the result of a desire to either escape negative emotions / find pleasure in the midst of those emotions. Here's an excerpt from what I posted last night about breaking connections with the perpetrator and what he did to / in you:

Power: recovering from the invasion by an overpowering force
  • Before you can resist the other person's will / power, you have to develop your own will first and make it more powerful
  • I just commented on someone's post today about assertiveness and its criticality to healing. This is the section that speaks to this
  • Recovering power is part of what is necessary to repossess the places the perpetrator lives
  • If you experienced separation during your abuse (schisms), you won't be able to put them back together until you reclaim your power over yourself
    • One of the benefits of putting the different parts of you back together is that you may find your addictions start to fall away. Schisms & addiction are closely related. It is finding your power again that makes you want to feel vs. numbing yourself with addictive things


However, from my experience, and from the information given me by three Phd Therapists, research and reading I have done on my own - I struggle with the term "addiction" as many of my behaviours and I believe many others are truly coping mechanisms, stress relieving behaviours and escapist forms of dissociation rather than true addiction; Most if not all my physical ailments can trace their source back to the stress of hiding the abuse and carrying the perp's guilt and shame as my own for four decades.
I've often contemplated that, too. When does a coping mechanism become an addition. Sometimes it's a no-brainer. Cocaine nearly killed me in my 20s and there is no one who would look at my story and argue I was using it in a healthy or sustainable way.

Running, on the other hand, was not such a clear case. When I was running 40 miles a week, I was fit and aerobically healthy. But now my knees and hips ache almost constantly from the pounding I gave them. If the alternative was sinking into depression and killing myself, I suppose this is a better outcome, but definitely a mixed bag.

Many years ago I took up meditating at the suggestion of a therapist. I loved it right off the bat, but then I told him I was going to quit. He was surprised and asked why. I said I was afraid it was just a mind trick. That's when he gave me an aha moment that I love to this day. Everything we do is just a mind trick. Anti-depressants, exercise, alcohol, sex, you name it.

That leads me to my current take on things. If an activity or substance is serving me, I keep doing it. If, however, I begin to spend my life in service to that activity, I have to figure out a way to stop it.
@Dan99 I highly recommend the book "Positive Addiction" by William Glasser. My T recommended to me. It is an old book (1970's) with some quite outdated psychological concepts which need to be ignored. But I just "spit out the bones" and quite enjoyed it. He talks a lot about what a positive addiction looks like (with quite a bit of focus on meditation) and the benefits of positive addictions.

Me Not Me

Dan99 you make a good point. “Good” activities can become problematic. Between my episodes of substance abuse, I worked ridiculous hours or studied constantly (when I was in school). Overachieving. It served the same purpose. Block out the bad stuff. Keep the brain busy and/or stoned.

The Bluefoot

I hit others since my abuse started when I was 5, it lasted into my early 30's gambling started in my mid 20's and so did eating in my early 20's Thanks to GA I 10 years no Gambling. its been 26 years no hitting. But eating still a problem. I hope b the end of this month that will be fix as well.. with gastro bi pass operation.
Having spent time in two 12 Step fellowships, one focused on sexual acting out and one devoted to overeating, I understand the mind set that tells us IF ONLY we could stop self-destructive behavior all would be well with our world. The fact I could never achieve lasting "sobriety/abstinence" left me eternally shamed... which I learned as I've done work on early trauma is my default position. There is eternally something wrong with me. Eventually I came to the realization that Mani articulates that acting out behaviors which would qualify me for various and sundry addiction recovery programs are ALL rooted in trauma. Healing will never be about controlling behaviors because that is a losing proposition. Yes, I can do a better job of caring for myself and I now understand that dissociating through some form of acting out is not in my best interest. But I'm humble enough to know that at times of stress I may reach for that glass of whiskey, the porn website, that bag of something to eat. I don't want to shame myself about such behavior and honestly when I stop shaming myself, my need to act out diminishes.

A couple of years ago with the help of a friend I created a 12 Step meeting focused on childhood trauma and its impact. New meetings have to be registered with the world service. I've done it before and knew the drill... I was curious about why I didn't get an email announcing the meeting number. After a couple of weeks I got a telephone call from the regional Trustee for the fellowship asking me what the meeting was about. I said it was an ordinary meeting with a focus on trauma. She said she'd have to take the matter to the Board of Trustees. You see, every 12 Step meeting is FILLED with traumatized people but they are more comfortable avoiding the elephant in the room and convincing folks what they need is to "work the steps." I'm a big fan of working the steps and believe the 12 Steps offer a fine framework for doing healing work. But I also believe trauma survivors shouldn't be focused on "character defects", doing "moral inventories" or "making amends" regardless of what the other person has done. I call BULLSHIT on all of that. If we need to use something to survive this day, I say do it, but be aware there is a better way to care for ourselves... "self-compassion is the antidote to shame and self-care a confirmation that we are worthy, lovable, cherished." Those lines are used in the Closing for the meeting I started. It is NOT described as a trauma meeting, but word of mouth has led to people from all over the United States coming to acknowledge their trauma and learn self-care.
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I like the idea of a 12-step group for trauma survivors. I used to attend an NA group that was well-balanced. Picked up a new member every few months. That allowed the guys with more sobriety to focus on self-care and maintenance issues. Created sort of a fellowship.

Then for some reason the group started getting a lot of court referrals. Guys who had to go to meeting to lighten a sentence. With new guys arriving at every meeting, struggling as they were, the group energy really changed to crisis control. It was helpful to share with new guys, and I did like paying back the kindness I received. But it really de-emphasized my own progress. Eventually I had to move on and start attending other meetings. But that was a sign of my progress.

My first sponsor had warned me about the limits of 12-step. He told me it's not therapy. All it can do is keep me sober and in a healthier frame of mind to work on other issues. And I definitely found that to be the case.