Traumas and Addiction (Workshop Transcript)

Obie-Host: “Welcome to our Workshop on Trauma and Addiction. We will be discussing trauma, abuse and as well as addiction. Would someone like to open us in prayer?”

“Yahweh, thank you so much for the freedom we have to gather together in fellowship with you and each other – Thank you that Yvonne is giving us her time to teach us -Holy Spirit open our eyes and ears – that we may see and hear what you would impart to us today – Have your way – may your will be done. Amen”

Obie-Host:“Welcome everyone to the Workshop on Trauma and Addiction – our leader today is Yvonne Ortega. She has credentials as long as my arm, as well as personal experiences in everything she talks about. Yvonne, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.”

“Hi you all! Thank you for having me. It is a blessing to share with you all. Yes, I have credentials, but, I’ve also learned through the school of hard knocks.

Trauma refers to situations in which a person is rendered powerless and great danger is involved. The situations involve death and injury or the possibility of death and injury.
Those events evoke a state of extreme horror, helplessness, and fear. They are events of such intensity and magnitude they would overtax any human being’s ability to cope.

Such events can be childhood physical abuse or sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, natural catastrophes such as hurricanes and tornadoes, car accidents, war and combat, and a life-threatening disease. Just as the body can be traumatized, so can the psyche.

On the psychological and mental levels, trauma refers to the wounding of our emotions our spirit, our will to live, our beliefs about ourselves and the world our dignity and our sense of security.

The assault on our psyche is so great that our normal ways of thinking and feeling and the usual ways we have handled stress in the past are now inadequate.

When the cause of the trauma is a natural catastrophe, such as a hurricane, we can look at it as an act of fate. When the cause of the trauma is another person our trust in other human beings and in society in general can be shaken or entirely shattered.

We experience an internal earthquake when people we love and need to feel secure in the world are lost in their own addictions or psychological illnesses. We feel helpless and hopeless. We are left feeling frozen or immobilized.

The signs or symptoms of trauma are dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event – insomnia, flashbacks (sudden and vivid recollections of the traumatic event accompanied by a strong emotion), irritability, panic attacks, rage, triggers, difficulty concentrating,loss of interest in hobbies or interests, memory problems, and depression.

The emotional pain of trauma is so great that some of us self-medicate to numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling or any excessive behaviors. We engage in high-risk or high-intensity activities such as excessive work or risky sex. We self-medicate to cover up the trauma because we don’t have or don’t think we have the support or encouragement to talk about and work through the trauma.

We live a secret and find it impossible to have genuine,honest relationships. As we self-medicate, we encounter more problems and therefore more pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Seven out of ten people in the USA are affected by addiction. There are 22 million adult children of alcoholics in our country. The largest risk factor for drug abuse is untreated childhood trauma.

Trauma ruptures our sense of a dependable and predictable order in life. We try to restore a sense of power and control.

If we are children of alcoholics, we have more than a five times higher risk for becoming alcoholics ourselves and frequently marry alcoholics or adult children of alcoholics.

Trauma and addiction go hand-in-hand. When we are traumatized, we are unable to put our feelings into words. Our self-defenses go up and so do our emotional walls. We smoke a joint, shoot up heroin or drink, and the pain goes away for a while. However, the brain and the body become addicted. It takes more and more of the substance to produce the same effect. Sadly, the mind and body are damaged by years of use. Now we use just to feel normal. We try to control the situation, but we can’t.

We suffer from fear, frustration, guilt and shame, inadequacy, resentment, self-pity and anger. We live with rigid defense systems. Self-medication is our best attempt to ward off our feelings from the trauma. We use alcohol, drugs or food in an attempt to self-soothe.

The symptoms of trauma can distort our attitudes toward self, relationships and life. Our attitude toward life can be our best friend or our worst enemy. We can turn self-defeating attitudes into life-enhancing ones to heal from trauma.

When we have suffered more than enough pain, we crack through our own walls and defenses. As adults, we do have the freedom to choose new behaviors. We can participate in 12-step programs and use the slogans – such as “One day at a time” or “Easy does it.”

We didn’t get traumatized overnight and we won’t heal overnight. Through the 12-step programs, we can develop character, commitment, responsibility, morality and spirituality. As the 12-step programs say, we can “Act as if” or “Fake it ‘til we make it.” We can memorize and post sticky notes on our bathroom mirror or car dashboard of Romans 8:37: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

One of our best tools of getting over trauma is forgiveness. As difficult as it is, we forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness is not a one-step and it’s over process. It is like layers of an onion – we peel off one layer at a time. And in forgiveness, we forgive one step at a time. Forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing the abuser back into our lives. That could result in more abuse, injury or death. We let the person off the hook and let God deal with the abuser. God says, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. Forgiveness is for us. We can’t move on until we forgive.

Praise & worship also help immensely. We focus on the way who made us and loves us. His power and grace fill us to overflowing. When Jehoshaphat’s army went to battle, the ones who praised and worshiped God went first before the army. The Lord took over and the army never had to fight. The Lord won the victory for them. Jehoshaphat’s army picked up plunder for three days.

So we decide. Do we want to hold a grudge and remain in self-medication and numb? Or do we want to get over the trauma and move on? We decide to stay emotionally crippled in a fetal position of pain and helplessness or to stand tall in the armor of God – forgive, praise & worship God and let go of the self-medication.

God longs to heal us. He can and will use counselors, a support group, 12-step meetings, a sponsor, prayer partners
and time in His holy Word, the Bible.”

“We are now opening the floor up to questions from you for Yvonne.”

Comment: “Seems to me, all of my life, though I wouldn’t admit it for a long time – I have been looking for people in my life to give me, teach me show me and help me to see myself – that I am worth more then what I grew up with and even worth more than the trauma left me with – grabbing onto addictions and being afraid of really everything, especially relationships. As I grow in Christ I think really what He is doing in our lives, is restoring us. And that needs relationships. What I have fought with and against most of my life – even relationship with HIM.”

Answer: “When the ones who are supposed to love us and protect us, don’t, we are left scared and don’t trust anyone. we are afraid of relationships. The biggest one-our parents-failed us. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and begin to understand who we are in Christ – sons and daughters of the King of Kings; salt and light of the earth; royal ambassadors for Christ; a chosen people. when we realize that not only in our head but in our heart, then we reach for God’s grace to forgive those who hurt us. we no longer need to self-medicate and we allow God to restore our lives. we make room for God to restore what the enemy has stolen. we put on the spiritual armor of God daily, plead the blood of Jesus over us and daily ask that His warring angels protect us.”

Question: “Well I was wondering if a symptom of trauma may be negative attention seeking. My mom left when I was 6 years old and now as an adult I tend to look for those mothering ‘no’s’. When we did see my mom it seemed like she wanted more to be a firend. And when we did wrong things she would think it was cool or she would seem to praise those things. When I wanted her to say no or tell me I did wrong – she did the opposite. Lots of things happened in the middle which I wont go into for time sake but, I never was protected from my step dad either.

Answer: “I’m so sorry for the trauma you endured. It sounds as if your mother herself may have been doubled over in pain. She may have suffered from guilt and shame for leaving you. She wanted to make sure you still loved her, so she tried to be your friend instead of the parent you desperately needed. I don’t want to sound as if I’m excusing her behavior or excusing your step-dad either – parents aren’t perfect. If they were traumatized as children and didn’t seek help to walk through the pain, they will hurt their children, because, hurt people hurt other people. That’s why it is so important for us to seek help and continue to work at our recovery. Even if we
never marry or have children, we are still members of society, we still have neighbors and co-workers – they have to deal with us. We can give them our best when we are healed.”

Question: “I was just wondering if you could give some insights into why it is so hard for males to admit abuse and then the trauma that results. I am the only guy here and there has to be others in CIR who have experienced this stuff. It is hard for me to admit it and to go public. I feel I can do it online but would never do it face to face.”

Answer: “The enemy of our souls likes to keep us wrapped up in false pride. It threatens our ego to admit we need help and to say that we don’t have it together. It is, however, more productive to meet face-to-face with a sponsor, a group meeting or a counselor. God can use online meetings and discussion groups, but, if we look at Jesus Christ – the people ran to him – they asked in person for help. Jesus touched the blind man. More often than not, he was there with the hurting person. It does, however, take time to find the right meetings, the right sponsor, the right church and pastor, and the right counselor. My friend does a batterer intervention program but she has a male co-facilitator. I worked in a men’s prison for years. Initially, I had a male co-facilitator until the men got to know me and trust me.”

Question: “My question was about my seeking negative attention. Just to hear someone say “no” in a loving way. Do
you think that is a symptom of my trauma? Is it normal?”

Answer: “Some people seek negative attention because they would rather have that than no attention at all. Yes, it
can definitely be a sign of your trauma. You want to know that people care enough about you to set boundaries. It is one of the normal reactions to trauma. You want to know they have enough backbone to stand up for what is right.”

Response: “Thank you ma’am – so I’m not weird or a freak?”

Answer: “Oh no, dear sister. You are not weird or a freak. You are a precious child of God. He loves you and wants
you well.”

Question: “Yvonne, there is the understanding that trauma relates to addiction and also chemical imbalances. I wonder, if I have mostly had problems with a brain chemical imbalance that is called depression and schizophrenia, which I think was trifgered by both drug use and an abusive sexual experience. I think chemical imbalances don’t really give a very human or understandable reason for abuses substances further, it creates a lot of shame and stigma in me thinking that I can’t justify my addictive behavior for any other reason but a genetic predisposition.?”

Answer: “An abusive sexual experience can and does cause trauma. Drug use can and does affect the chemical balance of the brain. That is why some people who have abused alcohol or other drugs, do suffer from bipolar disorder, depression and in your case, you had a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. However, Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant – their faces are never covered with shame.” Stay on your medication and hold your head up high. You don’t need to drown in shame anymore than someone with diabetes or heart trouble or cancer does. When someone suffers trauma such as sexual abuse, rape or assault, the person can react in one of two ways. One is to become prim and proper and avoid intimacy. The other is to become sexually promiscuous. Both are a response to trauma and both need help.”

Comment: “A huge struggle was not just what I went thru but what I did from that, So, what was brought up was good
Shame and condemnation keep s giving, yet, God works in all of that and never stops healing us.”

Response: “You are so right. Jesus’ death and resurrection set us free from condemnation. Our part, a difficult one – is to believe that and accept His freedom from condemnation. The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus has come to set us free. The Holy Spirit has come to comfort us and to teach us Truth. We don’t have to be buried in guilt and shame because of the enemy’s lies.”

Question: “Just wondering if you are familiar with the dynamics of body memories. I don’t just have NIGHTMARES, I
have to live with the EXPERIENCES over and over and over again and “they” have yet to come up with a medication that will SHUT DOWN my mind and body. Some days are sooooooooo difficult!”

Answer: “In flashbacks, we do relive the experience. The body is saying and addressing what we don’t speak about and the flashbacks can come any time. When we try to live a lie or keep the trauma a secret, that is our mind in operation. The body will scream for help and one of the ways is through flashbacks. When the flashbacks keep coming it is time to get into counseling and work through the trauma.”

Question: “Sometimes I am told that I am exaggerating my trauma or making it worse when I cry. I have been told
as a child, that crying is a sin (I know now that’s not true) but is it possible to make the trauma worse than what it was?”

Answer: “Trauma is horrendous. God made us with tear ducts. Jesus wept when Lazarus died and Jesus knew he would raise him from the dead. Paul and his friends wept when he boarded the ship to leave the people. The trauma feels worse in our minds and bodies when we don’t deal with it. Until we work through the pain and forgive, the trauma seems larger than life, so we must come to a crossroads and reach out for help.”

Closing: “Yvonne, we cannot thank you enough for your wonderful presentation. You are a great blessing to everyone
here at CIR. We surely appreciate your time and wisdom. We appreciate your time and devotion to the ministry of CIR.

Response: “Thank you for having me. You are all so precious.”

Obie-Host:“Would someone like to close us in prayer?”

“Father God, thank you Lord for giving Yvonne the teaching and the expereinces to teach and give of Your precious Word. You’re awesome Lord.”