The link between early childhood trauma and the onset of addiction in later life, I think, is undeniable. A copious amount of research has shown a direct correlation between traumatic experiences in childhood and addiction later in life. Whilst addiction masks the primary issues, the addiction becomes the identity of the persons all round being. The addictions display themselves in many guises, ranging from drug addiction and alcohol misuse, process addictions like sex, pornography, gambling and shopping addictions through to eating disorders and a wide range of addictive attachments and behaviours. Through these, the individual is aiming to fill the voids, or perceived hopelessness within their lives.
What each individual is attempting to achieve is to ideally fill the void created by the absence of bonding, nurturing and protection in childhood. The underdeveloped attachment is frequently caused by childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, trauma, mistreatment and neglect.
The individual is not necessarily seeking the chaos that comes with addiction but rather looking at filling a void that has been plaguing them throughout their entire existence. While the addictive personalities do vary, the ideal aims are similar the addict has a desperate desire to feel, to experience, to be attached. Whilst what they are seeking to fulfil may vary, the idealistic hope of feeling, experiencing, and being alive is true in a majority of cases.
Early childhood trauma has consequences for how humans respond to stresses in their lives, and as most of us know stress plays a huge part in addiction. We are born into families who sometimes do not have the emotional maturity to parent, we are subjected to dysfunctional, volatile relationships and educational upheaval sometimes parental substance misuse and neglect. We have no say in this and the responsibility is not our property, it’s how we are conditioned as children. We haven’t been given the tools to learn to cope with the chaos that sometimes goes on around us, and we have got the verbal ability to articulate and express or needs and worries. As we grow and we attempt to express our needs, we are sometimes ignored, and we seek solace in comfort with the group of people that may be detrimental to our development, we seek out other damaged people, who may introduce us a world that we are unfamiliar with, and in order to fit in we comply to their way of life, as we have spent our wholes lives attempting to fit in and be part of. We find another dysfunctional family.
It may take years to break free from the cycles that we find ourselves in, it may take interventions from criminal justice, mental health and therapeutic services again and again to finally get the support and nurturing we truly require and a process that works to break the habits and behaviours that we have become familiar with and attached to.
Early childhood intervention is a luxury that some children miss out on and, services are oversubscribed and underfunded and unfortunately some children fall through the cracks. There is a tool I was recently informed of called The Adverse Childhood Experience test, I personally thought this was an excellent tool for parents, professional and other individuals to gauge and identify trauma, it may open people up to facing the issues they have experienced, and hopefully look to find therapeutic support that will help them, let go of old patterns and behaviours, end the cycle of dysfunction and put them on the right track to recovering in order to have a fulfilling, happy life.