Reliving trauma during sobriety is a risk for those who have used substances to self-medicate a trauma reaction. It is fairly common among people with PTSD to drink or use drugs to feel better. active addiction is not by any means a solution fro trauma. You may feel temporary relief from distressful thoughts and memories or nightmares, for example, but the results are not predictable and over time, trauma symptoms worsen.
If You Begin to Have Symptoms
If you begin to have trauma symptoms after detox or in early sobriety, it is important that you discuss these with a counselor, therapist or other healthcare provider. Here are some symptoms that can be trauma-based:
- feeling, fear, anxiety, terror, suspicion without immediately apparent reasons
- being overly preoccupied with safety
- being overly watchful of your surroundings
- startling easily (‘jumping out of your skin’)
- having difficult falling asleep or staying asleep
- having nightmares
- feeling like you are reliving a traumatic experience
There are other symptoms that a mental health clinician or healthcare provider can help you with. Getting to someone soon can help you manage the problem quicker and reduce your risk of relapsing to substance use. It is important to remember that using substances is not a workable solution for trauma related problems and that a better, healthier solution can be found with your providers.
This Isn’t Sobriety’s Fault
Having trauma symptoms when you are sober is not sobriety’s fault. It’s tempting to blame sobriety because things seemed better when you were using. Just because they seemed better does not mean this is accurate. Being intoxicated alters your sense of reality. The trauma reaction was still active when you used. Being sober is the first step to getting the problem resolved. Nothing effective could be done when you were in active addiction. If you are sober, you are already well into finding the solution for the trauma. Don’t give up, keep going on your recovery path.
Tips for Coping
Focus on fun and relaxing things. Pay attention to your body. Take nice baths, exercise, walk in nature, dance and breathe deeply. Be creative in coming up with ideas for activities in which you can allow your body some comfort and movement that is fun. Focus on feeling safe. Be with people you trust and go to places you feel safe in. Establishing a good sense of safety in everyday life is a significant step toward recovery. All of this is good daily practice, but you have to find support from a trauma-informed healthcare provider.