Cheers to Tears

Breaking the Cycle: Recovery from Trauma and Alcohol Dependency

Understanding the Effects of Trauma on a Persons Well-being

Trauma can be described as a psychological response to a life-threatening event. It is a complex experience that leaves a long-lasting impact on a persons emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

Trauma can range from sexual, emotional, physical abuse, domestic violence, serious accidents, and military warfare. The victim may develop a variety of symptoms, including neurobiological changes and an altered response to stress.

Neurobiological Changes:

When a person experiences trauma, their bodys fight or flight response is activated, releasing adrenaline. This gives the individual the energy and strength they need to respond quickly to the danger.

However, the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis just cant shut off due to the ongoing stress of trauma. This causes the hypothalamus to release corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which triggers the stress response.

Adrenal fatigue can lead to exhaustion, making it difficult to concentrate, and leading to spells of anxiety or depression. The amygdala is the area of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety.

The constant activation of the amygdala can cause it to enlarge, creating false fear responses that can trigger anxiety disorders.

Relationship between Trauma and Alcohol Misuse:

One of the most significant co-occurring behavioral health conditions connected to trauma is alcohol use disorder, or AUD.

Alcohol provides an immediate sense of relief, releasing dopamine in the reward center of the brain, providing a powerful coping mechanism. This emotional relief can quickly turn to physical dependence and addiction.

In particular, those with a history of trauma are susceptible to alcohol dependency, as it eases the emotional pain and helps them to avoid daunting memories. This is known as a dual diagnosis, or two co-occurring disorders that require treatment together to promote holistic healing.

PTSD and Alcohol Use Disorder

PTSD Symptoms and Causes:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health disorder that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, negative moods, and physical and emotional reactions are hallmarks of PTSD.

Intrusive memories are when memories come back, or flashbacks occur. Avoidance behaviors are any actions that a person may engage in to avoid thinking or being reminded of traumatic events.

Negative mood can impact how a person sees themselves, the world, or the future, and can indicate that they may develop depression or intense feelings of hopelessness. Lastly, physical and emotional reaction symptoms can vary from person to person, but signs includes panic attacks, racing heartbeat, or hypervigilance.

Co-occurring Conditions:

It is important to note that

PTSD and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can co-occur, and sometimes individuals who struggle with AUD will only recover once their PTSD symptoms are addressed through supportive care. Dual diagnosis is a term used to refer to the co-occurrence of both of these conditions.

Historically, those with dual diagnosis were often given a label such as mental and addiction or alcoholism complicated by PTSD. However, today, we know that a dual diagnosis is a treatable condition that requires evidence-based medical care and support.


In conclusion, when a person experiences trauma, it affects their mental, physical, and emotional health in complex ways. With various neurobiological changes and altered stress responses, PTSD and alcohol use disorder can co-occur.

It is important to understand these issues so that friends and loved ones can seek support for those who need it. Dual diagnosis refers to separate but related conditions that require separate and combined treatment plans.

Seeking treatment can lead to a happier and healthier life.

Coping Mechanisms and Recovery from Trauma and Alcohol Use Disorder

Trauma can be one of the most challenging experiences a person can face. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one way some individuals may cope with the pain and stress of trauma.

However, this coping mechanism can be harmful and lead to addiction. Recovery from both trauma and AUD is possible by changing our relationship with alcohol, healing from trauma, practicing new coping mechanisms, and seeking support from others.

In this article, we will explore these important topics to achieve and maintain a life of sobriety and healing.

Why We May Seek Alcohol to Cope with Trauma

When individuals with trauma consume alcohol, they experience relief because alcohol activates the dopamine system in their brain, providing a sense of temporary relief. Trauma survivors may also experience hyper-vigilance, and they find themselves constantly on alert, which leads to overactivity and exhaustion.

Drinking alcohol seems like a temporary escape from the heightened feelings of anxiety, fear, or depression. However, alcohol creates a harmful cycle, and repeated drinking can cause dependency and lead to AUD.

What Recovery Looks Like

Recovery is a process that helps individuals change their relationship with alcohol and heal from trauma. Recovery from AUD is not just about stopping consumption; it is about creating healthy relationships, building new coping mechanisms, and finding meaningful activities that promote happiness and joy.

Recovery is also a way to heal from the trauma and learn new ways to cope with the painful emotions and thoughts associated with it. It’s essential to approach recovery with patience, acceptance, and self-compassion.

One mistake that some individuals make is to replace their AUD with a new temporary habit, such as a food addiction or compulsive shopping. To truly recover, individuals must learn healthy coping mechanisms that promote long-lasting health outcomes and growth.

Being honest about the underlying cause of the AUD will ensure that there are no residual triggers during the recovery process, and individuals can work to address the trauma head-on. Seeking support from others can also help in the recovery process.

Joining a community that offers accountability and a shared journey provides individuals with access to advice, feedback and creates a sense of belonging. Engaging with others who have experienced trauma and AUD provides a supportive and safe environment to share concerns and feelings without judgment or isolation.

Approaching Treatment

To truly heal from AUD and trauma, individuals must seek meaningful help. There are several approaches to treating AUD and trauma, including therapy, medication, and community support.


Therapy aims to promote healing by addressing the root causes of the condition. A therapist can guide individuals through the recovery process by providing personalized therapy programs that address the subconscious mechanics of addiction.

These programs may include honest conversation, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or addressing the thought patterns that may trigger AUD and anxiety. The therapist will work to help the individual regulate their emotions to build new healthy coping mechanisms.


Working with a physician on a care plan for recovering from AUD may include medication to manage withdrawal symptoms. A physician’s goal is to ensure that the individual is physically and mentally safe during the recovery process.

They may recommend medical-grade vitamins, detoxification programs, or medications used to treat depression and anxiety that promote long-lasting healing. The physician’s role is to develop a care plan that meets the individual’s specific needs.


The support of others is an essential element in the recovery process. Communities that provide support and accountability may include Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART recovery, and other anonymous online groups.

Joining a community provides individuals with a chance to share experiences and offer feedback and inspiration. Having access to others who have faced the same challenges and struggles promotes resilience, motivation and helps to build a sense of connection.


Recovering from trauma and AUD is not easy and requires commitment, openness, and kindness towards oneself. The good news is that recovery is possible.

A new relationship with alcohol, healing from trauma, and new healthy coping mechanisms are vital elements for living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Seeking support from others through therapy, medication, and community engagement provides a rich environment to learn, grow, and experience the joys of recovery.

In conclusion, trauma and alcohol use disorder are complex and interconnected issues that require care and attention for individuals to achieve long-lasting recovery. Recovery is possible through changing our relationship with alcohol, healing from trauma, practicing new coping mechanisms, and seeking support from others.

By taking these steps, individuals can create a meaningful life that promotes joy, growth, and well-being. FAQs:

Q: Is alcohol the only coping mechanism for trauma?

A: No, there are many healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, writing, meditation, therapy, etc. Q: Should I be concerned about seeking help for both my AUD and trauma?

A: No, it is important to seek help for both issues simultaneously, as they can often be connected. Q: Is recovery from trauma and AUD possible?

A: Yes, recovery is possible with proper care, attention, and persistence. Q: What is the benefit of joining a community for AUD and trauma?

A: Communities provide a safe environment for individuals to share experiences and provide feedback and support, which can help with accountability and inspire resilience and motivation. Q: Can therapy help in healing from trauma?

A: Yes, therapy can help individuals heal from trauma by addressing the root causes and providing personalized therapy programs aimed at promoting healing and growth.

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