The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?

 

Have We Been Warned?


pexels-photo-753619.jpegHave you ever been warned?

There’s plenty of warnings in our world. On cigarette packages, at the gas pump or by an exit door. Lawn signs tell us a house is protected, and TSA tries to protect us by telling us what we can’t take on airplanes.

But what about the small voice in your spirit that tells you what to do or not do multiple times a day? Maybe it comes as a whisper, a word from a friend or a verse you’ve read in the Bible. Do you heed it? I’m trying to listen to that voice better each day.

I believe it’s God helping me navigate life well.

Recently, I read about Paul in chapter 27 of Acts. He was a prisoner on a ship  headed for Rome when he sensed danger ahead. A storm was headed their way. After a radical change in his life, Paul was now pretty in tune with listening to God (another story) so it wasn’t unusual for him to sense instruction from God.

He shared his concerns, but no one listened.

Ever been there? Yeah. Not a fun place. But even more important is what we can learn from the situation, both from the ones who didn’t listen, and Paul who voiced his concerns. Here are some insights I gleaned from the story.

  • The captain of the ship believed he knew the situation better based on his expertise on a ship so he didn’t listen to Paul. No matter how much we think we know (or do know!) God knows more. It never pays to lean on our own understanding.
  • Initially, after they made their choice, it appeared that they got what they wanted. God cannot be mocked. Eventually his ways, truth or insight will come about.
  • Their choices took them into a hurricane force wind they couldn’t fight against. They were forced to give into it and were driven along in a way they never wanted to go. We may think we’ve made the right choice, but if we don’t heed God’s warning, we’ll be caught up in something more powerful than we can handle.
  • They ended up having to throw cargo and belongings overboard. We have to realize that if we don’t choose to heed God’s ways, we are by default choosing Satan’s, and he is out to destroy us. We WILL lose peace, possessions, life, relationships, etc. along the way.
  • They were hungry, tired and finally gave up hope of surviving. Denying God’s warnings will lead us to a weak, hopeless place.
  • God offered a promise to Paul that he would spare their lives, but they would lose everything else. God is gracious in wanting to save us even when we don’t listen to him. He will still allow us to suffer consequences, but ultimately, he’ll rescue us if we do what he says.
  • In order to save themselves, they looked for another way out, pretending to do something else. God used Paul to sternly rebuke them and tell them that the only way to live was to stay in the boat. We can “pretend” to accept God’s way while still looking out for ourselves, but our lives are actually in God’s hands. We have no power to save ourselves outside of doing things his way.

In the end, the boat was lost, but all on the ship were safe and well-cared for by the people on the island where they ended up. Paul suffered no harm because he continued to trust God in the storm.

Maybe you’re the receiver who didn’t listen. Or maybe you’re the speaker who wasn’t heard. Either way, God has good for you. I love that about God. Even when we bring dire circumstances upon ourselves and others by ignoring or discounting what he says, he will still make a way to be gracious to us.

And when we are at the mercy of others’ choices?

God sticks by us and still uses us to speak to the situation. He doesn’t give up and neither should we. It’s natural to feel afraid in a crisis. But God’s already there, knowing what will be and how to save us.

For those of us who have experienced trauma, it can be difficult to trust God when something traumatic arises again, especially if we are not choosing the situation. I know it’s been a challenge for me at times. But we do have the choice to put ourselves into God’s care and do what he tells us.

Maybe that means leaving a situation if that option exists, or as in Paul’s circumstances, sitting still and waiting where he was at. Either way, we can believe that God is in control.

And if we haven’t heeded God’s warnings to us, it is never too late to go back and change our course. God promises that when we turn around, he’ll set us in the right direction without condemning us.

Is God warning you about something today?

How Do I Forgive?? – Part 2


Hawaiian Honeymoon
Hawaiian Honeymoon

God forgives us. Now, He asks us to forgive others.

 

But you don’t know what they’ve done!”

Acted foolishly? Lashed out because they are in pain? Stubbornly chosen their own way?

Haven’t I done the same?

God reveals to us what we have done that needs repentance and forgiveness, and lavishes love and grace on us. Then He asks us to do the same for others.

 

Freely you have received; freely give.     Matthew 10:8

When God reminds us of the details of what someone has done to hurt us, He’s helping us deal with each issue, forgive it and let it go. Remember that last week we talked about how our lack of forgiveness hurts us more than the other person. God doesn’t want us to suffer in anger, resentment and bitterness.

At first, I felt guilty for reflecting on things done to me, but then I realized I could only forgive as I saw the full truth of what I was forgiving. Contrary to what many of us think, forgiveness begins when we can honestly acknowledge the hurt we’ve experienced.

Let’s say my sister used my car without permission and wrecked it.

(Just an example, I don’t have a sister.) If I don’t acknowledge the facts of the circumstances, how can I forgive my sister? If I deny it: “My sister didn’t do anything wrong;” or minimize it: “Well, after all, she’s my sister so isn’t it okay for her to take my car?” or ignore it, then I’m not forgiving her action or the fact it has hurt me.

Doesn’t granting forgiveness means I condone hurtful behavior?

I’ve wondered this, and also if forgiveness requires me to return to a painful situation. But I learned that forgiving doesn’t mean I must disregard or tolerate someone hurting me. It doesn’t necessitate continuing to live in a deceptive, dangerous or abusive relationship. Forgiving someone simply releases that person into God’s hands to handle it. When I was able to forgive, I could let go, and not go back.

Sometimes, a person’s lack of remorse can trip us up.

I’ve struggled with forgiving someone when I sensed they were more concerned for their own suffering as a result of being caught than because of pain they caused. But forgiving is to free me. So I’ve asked God to help me let go even if the other person refused to apologize, excused their actions or didn’t seem sincere.

Sometimes, I wasn’t willing to forgive because I was holding onto pain as proof that I deserved justice. I felt like giving up the pain was giving up my chance to make things right. But God is the one who brings justice. He is the one who will hold the person accountable for their behavior. It may be now or later, but He will call them to account. When we let Him deal with the situation, we are free.

Forgiveness really comes back to trusting God. When we believe He has everything covered it’s easier to be gracious towards others.

What has kept you from forgiving someone?

Living With an Addict – Part 4


The unpredictability of life with an addict causes stress and inner turmoil.

 

We’ve been looking at the patterns of living with someone who suffers from an addiction, specifically in the area of sexual addiction. Often we can be lulled into a lifestyle of survival, minimizing, denial and isolation that becomes our new normal. We don’t actually know what “normal” looks like especially if we’ve grown up in these patterns of life and then married into them. The patterns become engrained in our soul and offer a familiar, even if destructive, way to relate.

Recognizing and examining these patterns is often the first step in becoming free.

  • Lack of unconditional love. True love is not about keeping a spouse happy, or trying to make them love us. Covering for our spouse’s indiscretions, making excuses for them, taking responsibility for their actions, and carrying the weight of the relationship and family is enabling their behavior, not loving them. A sexually addicted spouse may insist that if we don’t perform according to their particular desires, we are unloving, but sexual love is intended to be an outpouring of the love and intimacy we share; a joining together physically of what God joined in heart and spirit. Love never demands, it gives.
  • Rejection. When we don’t measure up to our spouse’s fantasy life or experiences with prostitutes, we are rejected. Even if we have been initially praised for creating a fulfilling experience for our spouse, it will never match fantasy in extreme or frequency and will often be disregarded. We may become the brunt of crude insults in private and even in public due to our lack of sexual prowess. We may be told that if we don’t do or like what they want, we should leave; or they will leave us.
  • Lack of respect. We lose respect for a spouse who is out of control and unkind. We lose respect for ourselves when we are simply an object for someone’s pleasure. That kind of prostitution leaves us feeling used, hated and dirty. If this person who we trusted with our entire being doesn’t respect us with consideration, we see no reason to care for ourselves. Often, our past abuse allows for this perpetuation of disrespect.
  • Lack of trust. Relying on our spouse feels like a dangerous proposition when they choose what pleases them at the moment rather than considering what is best for everyone in the family. Their lack of consideration, and hurtful or cruel behavior keeps us from entrusting them with our hearts and lives. Infidelity is an act of betrayal, and whether a spouse is emotionally involved in an affair, or physically involved with magazine pictures, computer images or women for hire, the betrayal leads to distrust. That environment breeds suspicion and causes difficulty in trusting not only the spouse involved, but anyone.
  • Depression. Slipping in and out of depression can be a daily situation often based on the mood of our spouse. Any affirming overture in towards us results in our hope that things are improving; that a better future waits just around the corner. One minute life seems full of possibility, but if something happens to rock our spouse’s fantasy world, they take it out on us. In devastation, we are without hope and despairing that life will always be hellish. We may feel a diminished ability to think or accomplish simple tasks one day, but then feel as if we can conquer the world the next. Bouts of depression becomes longer lasting with fewer good days between. Suppressed fear and anger cause us to rage at our children or burst into tears. We don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t sleep at night. Our emotions are out of control from pressing down all we feel in order to hold life together. Our children probably struggle in this way as well.

Next week we’ll talk about intimacy and sex with someone addicted to sex. The dynamics are unique and can be devastating.

Are there other patterns you have recognized or become aware of? How have you become free?
 
For further help or prayer, please leave a comment or email Laura privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com

Every Little Miracle


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Every little miracle along the way encouraged us. I enlisted the help of my son Chris to help me get  paperwork I needed from Nevada to save me a trip. He gladly managed the task immediately and sent the papers off–express mail. A couple of days later, after checking the mailbox and porch a dozen times, I began to wonder why I hadn’t seen the delivery .

The next day I called Chris to check on it. Yes, he had mailed it. It was supposed to have already arrived. Feeling a bit pedantic, I questioned Chris about the address. It seemed silly to ask since he had lived there for a number of months, but why not cover all bases?

“Uh, I think I might have written the number wrong, Mom. I’m so sorry,” he confessed miserably.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it,” I tried to comfort him while I held back tears. “God will work it out. He knows where it is. Thanks. I love you.”

Easy for me to say to my son, but immediately I struggled to believe the very words I had just spoken. I had no clue what to do. Should I have Chris get the paperwork again? Should I check with the post office? Could they track it? I prayed. I asked God if I should do something or wait. I thanked him that he at least knew where the papers were even if I had no clue how to find them. The doorbell rang. A fairly rare occurrence in the middle of the morning.

I opened the door to find our old mail carrier on my front deck holding—yes, you guessed it—the envelope from Chris. I’m sure I must have gaped.

“Is this yours?” He handed me the missing parcel somewhat apologetically.

“Yep. That’s me…but how did you…?”

“It’s a crazy story really. I haven’t worked this route for almost a year now, but I’m filling in for the other carrier today. When I saw the name on this, I thought I remembered you living here, even though the address on it is wrong. On a fluke, I felt like I should bring it to your door and see if it was yours. ” He shuffled his weight back on forth in what seemed as hesitant discomfort.

“You have no idea how important these papers are to me. I need them to apply for a visa for my fiancé to come here to marry me. Thank you so much for checking on this. I can’t tell you how much it means to me!” I felt the tears getting ready to burst forth.

“Well, I’m glad I followed that hunch! Good to know it got into your hands. Best wishes on your situation,” he added as he made his way down the steps. Maybe he sensed my impulsive desire to throw myself at him in a grateful hug.

“So am I!! Thanks again. For everything. Have a great day!”

I ran upstairs to tell God thank you and sorry for doubting him in the first place. Only he could have planned for that situation to be worked out. My heart cried out to the Lord in repentance and thanksgiving and into my mind there flooded verses of encouragement.

Is My arm too short, Laura? Do I speak and not act? Do I promise and not fulfill? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? Trust me beloved.