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.