Stumbling Blocks in Long-Term Recovery

By Henry_Lucas 01/29/20

I am a psychotherapist and person in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. I am trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which is the preferred method to treat trauma. I work with people from all backgrounds with a variety of complaints and presenting problems. One of my favorite populations to work with are people in recovery from any-kind of addiction. These people in recovery might be abstinent from substances and attend 12-step meetings; they might be on a maintenance medication like Suboxone or Methadone; they may want to moderate their drinking. I enjoy working with this population because these are my people. Regardless of their flavor, I will collaborate with my clients to determine goals, outcomes and how they want to get there. Most presenting problems consist of relationship issues, finding purpose or the typical depression and anxiety episodes that are causing disturbances.

Any issue, almost always, leads to one thing: Trauma. I have seen people sober and in recovery for multiple years that have been struggling with basic life functions. They are baffled and confused to why their recovery program hasn’t offered them ultimate relief. They are frustrated that they aren’t doing recovery the right way.

I am well too versed in trauma. Prior to my education and training—trauma was there. Prior to my own addiction—trauma. My own personal trauma that I have experienced early in my life has managed to cause problems long into a decade of abstinent-based recovery. The emotional neglect and abandonment I experienced early in my life have ravaged the core of who I am. Struggling with beliefs of “worthlessness”, “not good enough”, “defective”, “incapable” has led to difficulty with intimacy and vulnerability in my most intimate relationships. I have struggled to deeply trust others and to feel safe. This is from trauma.

The first two years of our life are crucial. This is where we first experience safety, trust and intimacy. Our mothers, fathers and caregivers play a vital role in our development. As infants, we are downloading information from energy, body language, facial expressions and we even begin to make meaning of the absent-what we are not getting.

Many people in active addiction or recovery have either experienced trauma in early childhood, adolescence or while they were in active addiction. Some, like me, have experienced trauma on all levels. My trauma is not unique. I share because I think it is important to illustrate what we can go through in long-term recovery and…this is my story!

Unresolved trauma leads to trauma reenactments which means that we will continue to unconsciously act out our trauma and reinforce these patterns of dysfunction as our brain and emotional state seek balance and regulation. Trauma is elusive and it’s effects are unpredictable. I think all people would benefit from therapy. If you are in long term recovery, then I strongly suggest to get in therapy to explore root causes to the problems in your current life.


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