Wheww...can we all take a deep breath? Because I am still recovering from S2:E5 of HBO's iconic show Euphoria. This episode was extremely intense, triggering, realistic, and raw. It finally shed light on the dark side of addiction and how it affects families and other loved ones involved, but more importantly how trauma plays a role with addiction. As we see in this episode - we understand the depth of Rue engaging in substance abuse in order to escape from the reality that her father is dead. We also find out that Rue might be trying to connect with her deceased father as she was told leading up to his death that "if I ever wanted to be with you, all I would have to do is close my eyes". Well what easier way to attempt connection to her dad by having substances keep her eyes closed right?
I think society has a black and white outlook towards addiction. Typically characterizing the "addict" as someone who chose to be this way, is selfish, careless and more. While it may feel selfish, careless, and a choice when you are a loved one trying to help the person struggling embrace sobriety...it is not always that clear cut. The reality is, many of those suffering from addiction typically do not want to have a dependency on anything let alone substances to get through life.
Coming from a family and culture (Punjabi for those who are curious) filled with addiction and working with clients who have struggled with addiction, I have noticed that most of those struggling with addiction have some sort of history with trauma and/or have learned to cope with trauma and hardships through substances intergenerationally. As humans we take pride in autonomy, so when a person would rather have a substance take full control over their decision making, relationships, and overall life it is rarely intentional.
As a clinician, I have witnessed clients process their trauma and no longer have a desire to escape from reality through substances.
So what does this show us?
It shows us that we need to understand that trauma and addiction go hand in hand.
As a family systems therapist...we NEED more therapists to explore a client's trauma history, childhood and upbringing (whether they have already processed it or not) to be more aware of their journeys in general. If your clinician has never explored this with you, it may be a red flag for your treatment and healing overall.
Here are some quick tips and resources regarding addiction:
Educate yourself about addiction
Have compassion without enabling the behavior
Expect difficulties such as relapses, shame, denial, and stigma
Do not expect immediate change
Seek your own therapy and join local support groups
Consider learning about plant medicine healing for addiction and trauma such as ayahuasca or ibogaine
Check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) website https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline or call their helpline for more resources 1-800-662-4357
To find local addiction treatment centers near you and support groups check out https://addictionresource.com