As the opioid overdose crisis rages on, it has become apparent that the old ways of thinking and treating addiction are simply falling short. The work of leading researchers in the field of recovery, like Dr. Gabor Maté, is challenging our ideas about substance abuse and addiction.
Newly released statistics show an alarming trend: suicides and drug overdoses are killing Americans at twice the rate today as they did in 2001*. This after federal statistics now show Fentanyl has surpassed heroin as the deadliest drug in 2016, the most recent year for which we have complete data. That’s well over double the fatalities from just one year earlier**. As the numbers of deaths skyrocket, it’s clear that something must change. Current treatment methods are not enough.
The more we study addiction, the more we are learning that it is driven by trauma. It’s important to understand that ‘trauma’ is not what we are left with after going down a checklist of ‘really bad’ events in our lives. Trauma is not even really what happens to us. It is what we TELL ourselves about what happens to us.
Through our life experiences, we develop these basic ‘deficiency stories’ as a result of our experienced trauma such as “I am not good enough”, “I’m not safe”, “I’m alone”, “I’m hopeless”, etc… These stories become embedded in our minds and become self-fulfilling if left unchecked. While a story can serve to reduce harm for us in a certain respect, these messages keep us from feeling the full emotional and somatic impact that these experiences bring. When these stories are formed – usually in childhood, our egos are creating a way to ‘protect’ us. The problem is we begin to believe that the stories are true, and that leaves us searching for another way to cope or self-soothe.
This is a revolutionary way to look at addiction which leads us to a new model of recovery. One that is not based on some manifestation of shame and judgement for this identity such as “The Addict” or “The Alcoholic”. The old model teaches us these identities keep us safe by keeping us from using. What we are beginning to see is that those identities may, in fact, contribute to our suffering and feed the cycle.
Recovery shouldn’t be shame based. We need trauma informed recovery. We need 12 step alternative treatment. We need a mindfulness first approach to treating addiction, so that we can walk into these traumas and ultimately begin healing the true drivers of addiction. This is what we offer at the Kiloby Center. A new approach to healing to help lead us to a more present, full experience of life.