Last night, I was scrolling through old documents on my computer and I came across one document titled “Running.” I’m not sure when I wrote it, but it grabbed my attention. It was the start of a blog post but it was unfinished. So maybe now is the time to share.
When healing from trauma, we often find ways to cope with the overwhelming pain. Unfortunately, these attempts can sometimes be incredibly unhealthy. At the time, we often do not realize these efforts to cope are maladaptive and complicate the healing process. They often temporarily numb us to the pain or provide an escape we desperately desire. Something about the behavior produces the results we crave, otherwise, we would not return to it. Despite being provided examples of healthy coping skills when I was in counseling immediately following my final disclosure, some unhealthy coping skills just seemed to work better and quicker. As a result, many times I chose the “drug.” The drug created a new type of pain but the momentary perceived freedom (from the effects of trauma) it produced magnified its allure; however, there was never a time it contributed to my healing and growth.
The drug calls my name so strongly
I hope I can identify my trigger quickly
Do I need attention or to feel loved?
Am I startled by something that could be good?
I can predict the outcomes if I run
Even when I try to believe this time will be fun
I know deep down I will wake up feeling broken.
After years of sobriety, it can still be hard to choose
Lapses happen quickly and if I don’t bounce back I’ll lose
Don’t run, please stay and fight another day.
The drug in this poem represents the maladaptive coping skills I employed. When I chose to run to the “drug” I could expect and predict the outcomes. I often told myself, “even though what happens will be bad, at least you know what to expect. It is what you are used to.” Lies seeped through the drug. Lies such as: this is the best it’s going to be, this is “your” normal, this is the only way you can escape the pain you currently feel.
The truth is that the drug can be disempowered. We can learn to choose which way we will cope. It is not easy or quick, but it is possible.
Eventually, I faced the stark reality that if I continued to run to the “drug,” there would be a time that I would not be able to return to the life I most desired. Continued use of unhealthy coping tactics would result in my demise. The “drug” had the power to completely alter the trajectory of my life.
Here are some ways I was able to reach a place of choosing healthy processing and coping over escape, life over drug:
Recognize the reality and power of the drug.
Find a counselor and be honest with him/her.
Learn healthy, adaptive, coping skills and practice them regularly.
Remove all things (reasonably possible) from your life that tempt you to return to the drug (people, places, things)
Stay present with the pain and work through it.
Remind yourself about the reality of the drug and the pain it causes.
Discover God’s truths, His hopes and desires for your life (hint: it isn’t what the drug tells you) and always turn to Him
When you fall, let someone you trust know, and get right back up; commit to learning and adjusting.
You are not alone.