This will be a little different than previous articles, in that, this is not so much solution based, as it is issue based. I want to bring to light an issue that many survivors of abuse have to deal with on a daily basis—Addiction—whether it is to alcohol, drugs or something else.
As an addict, you must first recognize that you are not “in control” and you are powerless to the addiction. And it is acknowledging that this “giving up control” enables the addict to begin their healing.
Meanwhile, as a survivor of abuse, while we are being abused we are also helpless and powerless and taking charge is empowering. Claiming power is a significant experience of healing. It enables us to reclaim what was taken from us when we were abused.
So, survivors who are also addicts have a razor thin line to walk (and just as sharp), of giving up control of addiction while regaining control from abuse.
Is it any wonder why so many fall back off the wagon, are never able to maintain a healthy mental/emotional/physical life, or even commit suicide?
We have these solutions that run simultaneous and contradictory to each other—the Ultimate Battle. This is why it’s so important to get professional help and seek the support from others such as AA/NA/SNAP and other support groups.
The statistics are remarkable. In a study of male survivors sexually abused as children, over 80% had a history of substance abuse. 75% of women in treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse report having been sexually abused. Another 10-study program found there was a direct correlation to CSA and substance abuse.
Now full disclosure, in all of the research I read, I was able to find one psychiatrist who did not believe there was a correlation, but he did not produce any statistics or empirical data to support his argument. So it is my conclusion, both from my personal life experience and studies from all over the globe, this is something we cannot ignore.
I read in another article, instead of looking down at addicts and asking them, “What is wrong with you?” wouldn’t it be a more productive question to ask, “What happened to you?”
Very few services exist to help with both issues: addictions and abuse. It needs to be understood that the two go hand in hand. The services which do exist are often inadequate, requiring the individual to heal only on the therapist’s terms, or to “get clean first, then we’ll talk.” Often, if you make one mistake, you’re out of the addiction program. This isn’t fair. Only one out of every 100 people make it, perhaps because of the programs themselves.
And this is what happened to me, I had to address my addiction first before I was able to even acknowledge my abuse and face it. As they say in NA, “face life on life’s terms.” Once I got clean from narcotics, I was finally able to reach out to Dr. Light and confront my abuser, Frankie Wiley.
Now in reclaiming my power over my abuser, the addiction is not the issue it once was, and that is because my primary reason for using drugs was to numb myself from the pain of the abuse.
Now that I have had my abuser removed from three jobs where he had power over kids, I have regained my power, but I KNOW that I will NEVER have power over the narcotics—they control me in such a negative way that I can never do them without extreme, awful consequences.
Just because this is what worked for me, does not mean it will be the direction a fellow survivor will have to take as a path to healing. Seek the professional help that is available to you—we have therapists here and there are many others out there with other groups—if not here, just get help somewhere.
As I said, this is not a solution article. I just wanted folks to know what many survivors have to deal with and if someone in your life is going through this, maybe it will help you better understand what they are going through. Remember, love is patient and kind, and that is ultimately what we need in the battle we face—patience and kindness … and true love.
Michael and Cheryl Irving, two psychotherapists said in an article what I have been saying and feeling for years so I thought it best just to quote them:
“Survivors need to value themselves, to be true to themselves. Survivors often find it hard to say no to anything, and survivors need to fit in, so they often say yes…We need to understand that treatment for addictions is slow and progressive. You cannot help addicts quickly or with some other drug…Healing from addictions and abuse is possible and they often go hand in hand. It takes time, it takes trust.”
Dr. Michael Irving
Mrs. Cheryl Irving
New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Mental Health Association in New York State
The Relationship Between Sexual Abuse and Addiction By Andrea Presnall, Argosy University
Dr. Stanton Peele
David Pittman Bio:
David spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator’s methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
TWH follows the saying, “you may be just one person to the world, but to one person you could be the world.”
May 9, 2013 at 8:23 am
Soul Pan hence the Soul Searcher 🙂 please enjoy Dr Jane Simington on the subject of Soul pain. As long as I breath I will share and continue to share the meaning of soul pain . To many are misdiagnosed, prescribed medications and many years of up & downs. If we embrace the meaning of soul pain and practice the teachings to empower those who suffer in silence.
2010 Woman of Vision 2 Jane Simington – YouTube► 4:52► 4:52www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkB01DnQh8MShare
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Apr 5, 2011 – Uploaded by takingflightinter .
http://www.takingflightinternational.com Dr. Jane Simington received the … She coined the phrase “soul
October 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm
David, although I am keenly aware of this issue, and write about it often, and covered it in Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s story, I never thought of this: “survivors who are also addicts have a razor thin line to walk (and just as sharp), of giving up control of addiction while regaining control from abuse” Thank you for telling it like it is: “because my primary reason for using drugs was to numb myself from the pain of the abuse.” Cheers, Lynn
October 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm
Thanks David. I appreciated your article. I live in a small community and this is the first I have seen on recovery and abuse as being part of the addiction picture. It surely is true for me.
Just to give you a little bit about my recovery from addiction for many years, I have also been in Al-anon for many yrs. A few yrs. ago I addressed my Love Addiction which eventually lead me back to my ‘shame’ again. From there, I was lead to more child abuse than I had remembered. It came to surface, in which was very painful. Now I don’t suffer w/dissociation but occasionally and not to the extent I was experiencing it. And I have able to ‘forgive’ but not be comfortable w/my abusers. The anger is still present at times, but I continue to process it and learn more about me. So I am still healing and have gained empowerment in the way I had dreamed to become, as I never felt like ‘me’ my whole life. It was as though I was made by someone else and I wanted to be me. I feel stronger and more like my own person. Al-anon is still my biggest support, as some of their literature addresses abuse. Al-non is for family and friends of the alcoholic/addict. For me, I recognize I was an Al-anon before I picked up my addiction. I was always doing things in hopes my family would be happier and when I realized it wasn’t working, I got angry, in a short time, I was on my way with a addiction that made me fell good which wasn’t the case with any of my family members.
There is so much to learn and I have not regretted what I have needed to go through to get where I am at today. As I said, this is a small community with only AA/NA and Al-anon groups. I never get to share this with people. But I do see the abusive people and now make the right choices for myself.
I agree with you, addiction recovery is only the beginning. I’m probably one out 500 in recovery here, who has been open to other areas of my life that needed healing. I thank the ‘God of my understanding’ for leading me and being with me all the way.
October 12, 2013 at 3:42 am
Thank you for the courage and strength I know it took to come forward and talk so openly about your struggles. As survivors of abuse and recovering addicts, our struggles are multiplied. Please know we are here and support you 100%. My direct email is email@example.com – let me know if there’s anything we can do to help.
October 12, 2013 at 10:14 am
Thank you very much.
July 7, 2014 at 2:48 am
In the case of an abused addict you can’t say that if the trauma is healed (if ever) then the addiction is healed as well.
With healing I don’t mean that the trauma never existed but that the trauma doesn’t control one’s life anymore.
An addiction is: Someone is addicted or not addicted.
Both the abuse and the addiction have to be treated.
An active addiction is keeping the feelings of the abuse unmanageable aka it keeps a person powerless to go on in life.
Falling off the wagon even after years will make the feelings of the trauma unmanageable again and puts one back in the circle of trying to numb those feelings by drinking or using again.
When the door to the addiction is closed the door to the healing is wide open.