Addiction, Trauma, and Wounds
Society as a whole has an easier time accepting medical healing and treatment than we do behavioral health and addiction treatment. If we were to take the time and see the similarities, it could help with any conflicting ideas that we may be holding onto that prevents us from seeking help when it is needed.
In the medical world, doctors follow certain steps to heal wounds.
Step one is always to stop the bleeding. Once punctured, cut, or wounded, the body bleeds. Within minutes blood cells work to start creating a clot, protecting the wound and preventing further blood loss. These clots, which turn to scabs as they dry, create a protein called fibrin that holds the clot in place.
Step two is inflammation. The clot and the surrounding tissue become inflamed as the process of healing begins, allowing for oxygen and other blood cells to work to fight infection and begin the repair process of new tissue. There is a need to clean out the wound first of any infection before any healing can begin. This process can be very painful, but necessary. The wound looks angry and swollen, but it is working from the inside out to begin the healing process.
Step three is growth and rebuilding. Chemical signals tell the blood cells to make new skin and tissue. This is called collagen. It serves as a type of scaffolding. Sometimes you see the result of this process as a scar that starts out red and eventually dulls.
Step four is strengthening. Over time, the new tissue gets stronger. You might notice stretching, itching, and even puckering of the wound as this happens. The wound begins to gain strength. In about 3 months the wound is 80% as strong in its repair as it was before the injury. The entire healing process may take years in order to complete. This is where you may see people going to physical therapy, a wound clinic, or something to that effect.
So how does this relate to trauma, addiction and recovery? As we can sustain physical wounds, we can also sustain emotional wounds (trauma). Addiction works in both injuring our brain, our emotions and our spirit. It requires us to begin by acknowledging that there is “bleeding” that is happening spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Our first step is to stop the bleeding. How do we do this? By acknowledging that we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable. That is Step One in AA.
Our second step is to begin the process of healing our wound. This is done through counseling, treatment, engagement, but it BEGINS with addressing what will come now, pain and inflammation. We begin to feel the pain of our wounds, without what was masking our pain/infection/bleeding, now that we have stopped the bleeding and begin looking at the actual wound. We begin this second step by believing that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. This is Step Two in AA.
Our third step is growth and rebuilding. How does our human body do this with a physical wound? Remember, it begins to rebuild by making new tissue and skin. It forms a scar. We are never the same again, and we are restored when we begin to acknowledge the wound and begin to create a clot. The body begins the work. And so it is in Step Three of AA, making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. What does this mean? It means that we have stopped the immediate bleeding, we have begun the process of healing by forming a clot around a wound that may be painful, and now we are creating a new self where the old self once was through the care of God. Rebuilding in counseling and with trauma consists of moving through what at times is painful, hurtful, uncomfortable, foreign, scary, and new.
Our fourth step is strengthening the wound. Once we reach this stage, our clot has become a scab that is stronger than it has been. We begin to dry out the wound. New tissue has emerged and is becoming stronger every day. We are now able to dig into ourselves more than ever before, as we have a new stable foundation to stand on. We are now able to do Step Four in AA, which is a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We can dig deeper and create an even deeper level of healing of wounds that were untouchable in the past, that we spent a lot of time avoiding.
The rest of the 12 steps continue to build upon these initial and crucial events that must happen before going further.
With any type of wound, there must be a decision made by the individual that they are done being in pain. It is all a choice to renounce your old ways of functioning and looking at yourself, the world and your pain.
Our bodies are made to heal from all types of wounds, whether they are physical, spiritual, or emotional. Nature around us has a profound effect in its ability to help us heal, as numerous studies show. We at Triple Divide Lodge feel incredibly fortunate to be able to offer these two components of treatment to promote healing in every adolescent that comes to us seeking to be restored to live their best life possible.
Please feel free to drop us an email, or give us a call at (406) 296-5776 if you are wondering if treatment is right for you or your adolescent. We are here to help.
Angelica Bennett, MA, MAC, MEd, LPC has been in the behavioral health field for 20 years. She has experience working with children, young adults, families, in substance abuse, among other populations. Angelica has two Master of Arts degrees in Counseling, and a Master of Education in Elementary Education. She is independently licensed as a Professional Counselor. She has advanced training in trauma informed care, as well as formal training in EMDR and DBT. Angelica has worked in a variety of settings including hospitals, community behavioral health, and with Native American populations. She has experience as a therapist, a clinical supervisor, and clinical trainer, developing and administering clinical trainings for staff and stakeholders. Angelica also enjoys creating clinical programs to promote clinical growth for staff. She is fluent in Spanish and enjoys all things that have to do with nature. When she is not working on helping others be their best self, she can be found hanging out with her husband Mike, their four children, and their dog Socks doing something outdoors.