Between 55 and 99 percent of women who attend addiction treatment and between 85 and 95 percent of women with a history of mental illness have a history of trauma. Among this trauma, the vast majority happened during childhood. Whether the trauma involves neglect, sexual assault, or dysfunction within the family, the need for trauma-informed care in both addiction treatment and in the mental health field is of great importance.
When I found myself at a detox facility 1,300 miles away from home in Florida, it didn't even cross my mind that I would not only be treated for opioid addiction and depression, but I would be thrown into trauma-informed care as well.
In the beginning, I was extremely hesitant to open up to my therapist about my trauma. I was scared of being judged because, in the past, I had experienced a lot of gaslighting when it came to the subject of my abuse. Fortunately, my therapist was patient and loving from the very beginning.
She let me open up in my own time. After all, a lot of my memories were suppressed and it was impossible to make those memories resurface if I was in a place where I felt unsafe. Over time, my therapist helped me peel back the layers of the onion that I hid behind, and slowly but surely, I began to talk about the abuse that I had suffered as a child.
My therapist specialized in trauma-informed care as she advocated in treating people as a whole. She took into consideration past trauma, addiction, and mental health. I wasn't simply having one symptom treated - I was having all of these treated in a round-about way.
The first time I spoke to her about my abuse, I was completely emotionless. She explained to me that I was detaching from my emotions in order to cope with my trauma. In addition, I had been emotionless nearly the entire time I was in treatment up until this point.
To help me become more in touch with my emotions, I was asked to carry around a "feelings chart". Literally - it was a piece of printer paper with a variety of smiley faces on it depicting different emotions. I had to keep a journal and identify at least five emotions that I felt throughout the day. As ridiculous as this seemed at the time, I can look back today and recognize that this helped me become aware of and express my emotions.
Never once was I judged. Never once did I feel like somebody thought I was lying about my experience. I felt pure acceptance and love.
After opening up to her one-on-one, I began to speak openly about my abuse with others in group therapy. I came to realize that others had experienced the same thing as me. Most importantly, by speaking out about my experience, I encouraged others who had been hiding behind their trauma to speak out on their experiences, too.
This therapist, through trauma-informed care, taught me the principles I needed to work past my trauma in order to recover from addiction and live a healthy, happy, sober life. She instilled trustworthiness so I could be transparent with her. She encouraged peer support which cultivated collaboration. Then, through helping others, I felt more empowered. I was no longer a victim, but I had a voice that could be used to benefit others.
To the therapist who saved my life, thank you. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for treating me like a human being rather than a drug addict. Thank you for the amazing work that you do each and every day. Most of all, thank you for allowing me to have a choice today.