Positive Growth After Living With Addiction
Recovery is Post Traumatic Growth! Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a theory that explains transformation following trauma. Substance Use Disorders (SUD) either exacerbate existing trauma, or cause significant new trauma. Psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, in the mid-1990s, theorized that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward. I have witnessed miraculous growth by families recovering from a substance use disorder as they take this on with the use of specific tools. And, there are many rewards.
Out of post-traumatic growth I have seen family members develop a new understanding of themselves, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life. They accomplish a deep level of intimacy within the family relationships. The video is a great example of what type of success families can experience.
The positive transformation of PTG reflects in one or more of the following five areas:
• Embracing new opportunities – both at the personal and the professional fronts.
• Improved personal relationships and increased pleasure derived from being around people they love.
• A heightened sense of gratitude toward life altogether.
• Greater spiritual connection.
• Increased emotional strength and resilience.
It is well documented that individuals coping with adverse events report both negative outcomes, such as post-traumatic stress symptoms, as well as positive changes, described as post-traumatic growth. Positive changes are also reported in people who have recovered from substance abuse, including their families when they enter into recovery themselves. It seems plausible from the literature that both of these types of positive changes have elements in common. Addiction-related growth refers to the growth that an individual undergoes as a result of the addiction itself, and the recovery from the addiction. A successful recovery from addiction is associated with positive changes, particularly regarding spirituality and meaning-making, and the construct of addiction-related growth may explain why.
A couple of example’s of Post Traumatic Growth –
—From Hamilton Jordan, Former White House Chief Staff after having cancer 3 times
“After my first cancer even the smallest joys in life took on a special meaning; watching a beautiful sunset, a hug from my child, laugh with my wife, Dorothy. That feeling has not diminished with time. After my second and third cancers the simple joys of life everywhere and are boundless. As I cherish my family and friends, and contemplate the rest of my life, a life I certainly do not take for granted.”
—From Rabbi Harold Kushner on the death of his son
“I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron’s life and death that I would ever have been with this experience. And I would give up all of those gains in a second if I could have my son back. If I could choose, I would forgo all of the spiritual growth and depth which has come my way because of our experiences…. But I cannot choose.”
Families experiencing addiction, in all of its forms, is traumatizing. The brain chemistry is changed within the family, including the member ingesting the substances. SUDs (including AUD, Alcohol Use Disorder), cause a great deal of stress. Stress emits stress hormones that impact the the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, and sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus and hippocampus. Stress impairs memory, changes the brain structure, makes people more susceptible to mental illness, kills brain cells, shrinks the brain. Stress causes a cascade of events throughout the entire body system. These include the production of the stress hormone cortisol, an increase in glucose levels, increased heart rate, and an increase in blood flow to the muscles in the arms and legs. Hitting “rock bottom” in addiction process is a major life crisis. People suffering from Substance Use Disorders (SUD) in their active addiction are living through a major life crisis, an ongoing trauma, caused by drugs and alcohol. The decision to get sober, and whatever necessitates that decision, is a major turn of life events. Rather than be discouraged by the experience of addiction and never fight for recovery, addicts and alcoholics everywhere make the life-changing decision to turn their traumatizing experiences of addiction into a positive lifestyle of recovery, which they use to heal themselves and inspire others. Recovery is post-traumatic growth. Recovery from substance abuse disorder is a testament to taking something negative and life-altering and turning it into a positive life-alteration instead. But changes of such magnitude don’t happen without effort. Practices of mindfulness, gratitude, therapy, and spiritual development aid the process, which turns into a lifetime of growth and healing.