Moving Beyond Child Abuse Without Alcohol

Posted by on May 8, 2013 | 1 comment

Moving Beyond Child Abuse Without Alcohol

RISE welcomes Melissa, Public Relations Coordinator for St. Jude Retreats, a residential retreat program for those looking to overcome alcohol and drugs. Melissa offers her perspective on why so many survivors use alcohol to escape the trauma of abuse and how to break this cycle.

Experiencing child abuse, whether sexual or physical, can perpetuate trauma throughout a person’s life. In their teen and adult years, the abused child may display acts of outrage, anger, or even act out abusively toward others. Can these acts of violence against a child cause them to become alcoholics? According to a recent study, 31% of the 196 patients in an alcohol treatment program were exposed to child abuse at some point in their lives. So why do victims of abuse turn to alcohol?

Child abuse victims often drink to seek relief from their troubled lives. People can have very high expectations of alcohol – it can remove stress, take away problems or make them forget their sorrows. Unfortunately, these effects are only temporary leading people to drink to oblivion in an attempt to permanently numb themselves to their pain. In many cases, people justify this choice to turn to quick relief–based solutions rather than tackling their emotional issues head on. Over time, this expedient method of addressing painful situations becomes their practiced method and thus the “alcoholic” is born. By turning to alcohol at those crucial, difficult moments in life rather than fully solving their problems, few adequate paths leading out of their current situation are ever created.

Some will begin to actually define themselves by their fight against the injustices of their painful lives (while remaining unwilling to change it). Mentally, it may be hard for child abuse victims to talk to a therapist about incidents that occurred in the past. The memories may be too vivid, or cause extreme stress or anxiety. Turning to alcohol, or other “addictive” behaviors, creates a self-limiting perspective that can keep the person at a constant low level of satisfaction or happiness. Often this “low value happiness” creates an empty feeling of wanting more while offering the person a simple, temporary happiness that allows them to avoid dealing with the larger issues. They give up looking for problem-solving options and cycle endlessly through painful emotional events, relationships and circumstances and accept this as the standard. Relief is truly the counter force to pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental.

This cycle of low value happiness can be broken. It is possible to move past these destructive habits and attain a better level of happiness, creating new possibilities and an overall better outlook on life. The person must be willing to change, mature and problem solve through emotion and action. A person can move past the traumatic memories of child abuse and live a productive future – without alcohol.

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1 Comment

  1. I read the above article about alcohol abuse and could relate to it to a certain degree. I am a 46 year old woman who has used copious amounts of drugs and alcohol to try to forget my stuff. However middle age is catching up with me and I now find no solace in any of my addictions.

    I am struggling with addictions to food, alcohol, cigarettes and prescription medication. I have been to more counselors, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and even have paid big money to organizations who run programs for people needing help. I have told my story so many times and am over hearing the same story come out of my mouth. No one has been able to help me long term. I am afraid that I won’t live to see 60. I have found every health care professional to be ill equipped and I have been trying to get help for well over 20 years.

    Every time I see a new doctor I have to relive the torture, only to get a blank stare or even worse. Some of them actually just tell me to stop. I find no pleasure in alcohol or anything else. I do not enjoy drinking at all. I would appreciate some true help. I have also tried addiction medication. I had to go to several doctors before one would even look at it. Now I know why. It made me suicidal.

    I want to change more than anything in the world and can say with all of my heart that I can not do this alone and cannot get the help I need. I don’t drink every day anymore. However I do binge-eat most days. I binge smoke some days and then don’t smoke for days. I take 5 different medications and none of them are completely helping me. If i don’t take them i can’t get out of bed.

    I have 3 beautiful, amazing and well-adjusted children. They have scars and I have failed them on so many levels. I gave them a lot of what I didn’t get, but needed, and I also gave them what I had and hated. They are old enough to articulate their disappointment. It hurts my soul that I have repeated some of the stuff I hated growing up, like the drinking. The one thing that I hate myself for is that I did that to them. I am happy to say that I didn’t beat them or emotionally abuse them and I made sure that most of the partying was when they weren’t there. I am hyper vigalant when it comes to letting men around them. I never let them stay at anyone’s house unless I knew them well. I believe I can pick a predator pretty quick, but I still trust no male around little girls,

    I have good friends who get offended because even if we are having a drink I am constantly watching their children with mine. I know all too well that children can be perpetrators also. I don’t want pity. I want tough love. Can’t be anywhere near a man sexually. Anyway I hope that makes sense. I have a lot of trouble with my memory.

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