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Addiction Through the Eyes of a Survivor

Addiction Through the Eyes of a Survivor

Addiction through the eyes of a survivor of domestic violence is a unique perspective on the disease and offers survivors what they believe is an escape from the pain and suffering they have endured. Victims and Survivors of domestic violence are more likely to struggle with a wide range of issues while overcoming the trauma of abuse.

Addiction through the eyes of a survivor of domestic violence is unique perspective on the disease and offers survivors what they believe is an escape from the pain and suffering they have endured. Victims and Survivors of domestic violence are more likely to struggle with a wide range of issues while overcoming the trauma of abuse. Some problems we may develop are substance abuse, addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and PTSD. Domestic violence and substance abuse are intimately linked and often coincide.

For many survivors who turn to substances, it is an escape from past trauma to cope with the results of the lasting emotional and physical effects. Sometimes, we are coerced into using drugs or alcohol by our abusive partners. For those of us still experiencing abuse, it can be a severe burden to bear, and the use of substances may sometimes seem like the only way out.

Defining Domestic Violence

Because we need this escape, our likelihood of becoming addicted increases. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), substance abuse involves about 40-60 percent of intimate partner violence (IPV) incidents. Victims are 70% more likely to drink excessively than those in healthy relationships.

I don’t remember learning about domestic violence in school. I was raised in a good home with parents who have been happily married for 60 years. It wasn’t until after I left my abuser and was in an emergency shelter with my kids that I even heard “domestic violence.” I’d love to say that leaving the relationship improved everything, but that would be a lie. It took years of counseling, support groups, growing in my faith, and ultimately, getting sober to even begin to put myself back together.

Escaping the Pain

It took 10 years of struggling with addiction before I decided to get sober. My children were my identity, and I was proud of being an at-home mom. When I became a single mom, I was responsible for providing for my children independently. It was easy for me to put my needs on the back burner to focus on them. Weekends, holidays, and summer vacations were tough for me to be away from my kids, and I lost myself in those days.

In the beginning, I would only drink when my kids were away, but I found myself saying I’ll just have “one drink.” I never only had one drink. Weekend drinking started earlier and earlier in the week. “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” started earlier in the day and then found myself drinking for brunch. I will admit I was in denial, thinking because I wasn’t drinking every day, I didn’t have a problem. I wanted to drink everyday. My “escape” was going out with friends, drinking, and living a life of “freedom.” I didn’t realize that escaping my feelings only created a dependency on what I thought was freedom.

Self-Medicating

Instead of my hard days bringing me to my knees, they turned me to the bottle. Anxiety and PTSD became overwhelming, and out of control, so I turned to my doctor. Medication is not to be taken lightly, and definitely don’t mix. I was not someone who should have ever been in control of my medicine. I began to forget if I had taken my medication and would double meds or more. Even being in a new healthy relationship didn’t remove the effects of abuse, guilt, shame, and dependency on alcohol and drugs.

On the contrary, disappointments, infertility, and loss only spiraled me more. I lost control and started to act like the monster I had run from all those years ago. Guilt and shame became my routine, and it was hard to see my reflection in the ones I loved and was hurting so deeply. I wanted to die because I couldn’t find the strength to stop. It wasn’t until I reached the end of myself that I cried out to God, and He stepped in.

The Healing Begins

From one day to the next, I stopped all medications and alcohol. Honestly, I suffered withdrawals and paranoia, but the people I tried so hard to push away surrounded me with love and support and kept me safe. I laid down pain, guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, disappointment, and grief and picked up hope, love, peace, joy, and freedom. It was a long road to sobriety, but that road led to true freedom.

In the past 6 years, I have found the person I was created to be, “the victim” is no longer my name. I am now a survivor, an overcomer, and a warrior. I found my purpose in helping those in domestic violence relationships, dealing with the effects of abuse, and experiencing addiction and self-harm.

Finding the Light

I found my voice and used it to speak life and hope to others. I’ve learned the startling statistics of domestic violence and how many of us turn to ways of coping with our pain that often lead down a road of darkness and addiction. I’ve also learned that abusers need someone to prey off of, and they only find it in the people with the biggest hearts and brightest lights. Abusers snuff out the light because they don’t have their own. They steal from their victims and leave their darkness in return. Yet something incredibly beautiful about a survivor is that we FIND our light again and shine even brighter than before. We go back into the dark places where people are hurting because they’ve lost their light. We share our light with them and pull them out so they can shine brighter than before.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

I’ve always been the type of person who loves helping others. Many times, this even meant saying yes to someone when I really wanted to say no. This meant pleasing too many people and not maintaining healthy boundaries.

Has that happened to you, too? People-pleasing is an all too familiar occurrence in life. We cross our own boundaries and wind up sacrificing our mental and emotional well-being.

But having healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives is vital to our relationships – not just others around us, but also with ourselves. What do healthy boundaries look like and how can you learn to say no?

What healthy boundaries look like 

Boundaries come in several forms – physical and emotional are just two of them. Physical boundaries can simply mean that you don’t want someone touching, hugging or kissing you. As a child, maybe you didn’t like being “forced” to hug someone. That’s a physical boundary. Even as adults, we set our own rules within relationships. Maybe you don’t like shaking someone’s hand when meeting them. And that’s okay.

Emotional boundaries mean that you and you alone are in control of your own thoughts and feelings. Our abusers are so used to telling us how to act, think and feel. When we are out of our situations, we can set our own rules and let others know that our thoughts and feelings are our own.

Within our interpersonal relationships, we set boundaries to tell others what we do and do not want in these relationships. It is like having an invisible line that you set that others cannot cross. It’s creating a life for yourself that is free from stress, abuse and conflict.

Having healthy boundaries means setting limits. It’s what you will and won’t allow. Only you can decide that, though. It will take time to voice your wants and needs. 

When that time comes, healthy boundaries may look like this:

  • You communicate your wants and needs clearly.
  • You know your limits, both physically and emotionally, and will voice that when needed.
  • You ask for help when needed.
  • You stand up for your values and beliefs, and don’t back down just to keep the peace.
  • You have a healthy respect for yourself.

How you can learn to say no

Learning to say no is perhaps one of the toughest things for domestic violence survivors to do. Survivors are so used to saying yes, even when we mean no. We give in. We relent because we just don’t have the energy to fight anymore. We just want peace.

“I realized I was afraid of saying no because my biggest fear is rejection. I was afraid that every time I did this, I would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude,” stated a Tiny Buddha article. This quote truly hit deep because this was me exactly! Abusers know this about us and exploit that to the point of breaking us down to get us to say yes when all we want is to say no.

Abusers never understand that “no” is a complete sentence. They are never satisfied with that. They always want explanations from us. Over time, we learn that we always need to explain ourselves whenever we say no to someone. We can say no without having to explain!

PsychCentral article gives the following tips to help you learn how to say no:

  • Keep your response simple.
  • Buy yourself some time.
  • Consider a compromise.
  • Separate refusal from rejection.
  • Don’t feel guilty for saying no to your children.
  • Be true to yourself.

The above tips will help when saying no to someone. Keep in mind that you are not asking for permission – you are merely letting that person know that you are not able to commit. Also, compromising is only if you DO want to say yes, but have a time limit on your availability. Above all, the tip of being true to yourself is vital – you need to remember who you are and what you want in life, otherwise, you run the risk of losing your identity to those around you.

Why it’s healthy to set limits

For domestic violence survivors, setting boundaries of any kind can be very difficult. We are so used to bowing to our abuser’s wishes out of fear of retaliation. We give in to keep the peace. But in our healing journeys, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that we have value and that our thoughts and feelings matter. Learning to respect our own value in our healing journeys will take time. We were conditioned to believe that we hold no value and that we don’t matter. But now, we are gaining confidence, self-respect, self-reliance, and self-esteem – all because we are setting limits and healthy boundaries.

Setting limits is healthy because, little by little, we will gain our power back. We will begin to see that we have value and we matter. It’s healthy because we not only let others know what we will and will not accept, we also let ourselves know this. Survivors reaffirm within our hearts that we will not accept the type of behavior again that we received when we were with the abusers. We have value. We matter.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our support line advocates at 855-287-1777.

What Men Need to Know When Dating a Survivor of Domestic Violence

By: Clint Schiller

Dating a Survivor of Domestic Abuse can be frustrating, difficult, irritating, complexing, and confusing; if you try and fix them!

Connection, love

  • PATIENCE – is the first key attribute to have when dating a domestic violence survivor. They are usually not very willing to let you in.
  • UNDERSTANDING – not about what they have been through (this helps) but the kind that you know they have things they are going to need to work through in their own time.
  • RESPECT – Some things that may not seem very big of a deal in a normal relationship may be a huge trigger for them. Don’t disregard it.
  • YOUR MINDSET – Long-term Outlook- They may never fully get over their domestic violence incident.
  • STRONG – Not Physically, but Mentally, Emotionally, and physiologically. You cannot be faint of heart!
  • STABLE – You need to be consistent with your actions, words, behavior, and affection with them.
  • CARING – Sometimes words are not what they need. A Hug, kiss on the cheek, rub on back, holding their hand, wink, or just being nearby is all they need.
  • GOOD LISTENER – Make Eye contact, hold their hand, repeat back what they said. Acknowledge what they may be feeling or thinking.
  • APOLOGETIC – You are going to mess up when dating someone who has been through DV. If you haven’t been through it, you will never truly grasp the entire phenomenon of being a victim of DV!

Ways Trauma Affects Mental Health

trauma, mental health, anxiety, depression, PTSD
abuse, trauma, domestic violence, anxiety, PTSD

What is Trauma and where does it come from?

Trauma can come in many different forms. More often than not, it comes from abuse, but abuse can also come in various forms. For instance, trauma can be caused by physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. It can affect how you feel and react to certain scenarios. Trauma changes how you feel about yourself and how you relate to others. Women who have gone through various forms of abuse or other traumas have a higher risk of developing a mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It’s always important to remember that the trauma and abuse you may have experienced is never your fault.

How Does Trauma Relate to Mental Health?

Trauma can happen after abusive scenarios happen. It can be an event in which you experienced or witnessed physical or emotional pain. These events can have long-lasting effects on your overall well-being, including your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Some of the mental illnesses or health conditions someone may experience after trauma are as follows:

Anxiety disorders

Depression

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Misusing alcohol or drugs

Borderline personality disorder

The long-lasting effects of trauma can be as follows:

Severe anxiety, stress, or fear

Abuse of alcohol or drugs

Depression

Eating disorders

Self-injury

Suicide

How Do I Know If My Mental Health Is Affected By Past Abuse or Trauma?

It can be difficult to understand or acknowledge where your abuse and trauma can affect you. However, some of the common signs of your mental health being affected by past abuse or trauma could be increased anxiety, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. , quick changes in mood including anger, irritability, and depression. Past trauma can also cause changes in appetite, and sometimes abusing drugs or alcohol. It’s also always important to consult your doctor if you feel like these changes are affecting your daily life.

References:

Abuse, trauma, and mental health | Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.). Women’s Health. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/abuse-trauma-and-mental-health#:%7E:text=Trauma%20can%20affect%20how%20you,abuse%20are%20never%20your%20fault.

Surviving Abuse Without My Mother

There is nothing quite like a mother’s love.

It’s comforting and nurturing. A simple embrace can make all the cares of the world disappear even for just a moment. It’s the very heartbeat that we hear before we ever enter this life, and it’s the first form of love that we feel from another human being.

Dana Rutherford (BTSADV’s Volunteers Director) and her mother, Pam, in 2002

What happens, however, when that love is ripped from us too soon? Many of us are left to deal with the broken pieces that the absence of a mother leaves in our hearts. We long for that nurturing, comfort, and embrace, but it is not there, whether by death or choice.

I was 18 years old when my mother passed away. I was just entering adulthood, and I truly needed her more than ever. She had unfortunately become addicted to prescription drugs in a day and age where they were handed out with little said about their habit-forming properties. My childhood was very unstable because of it. My father was also addicted, so it led to a very unhealthy situation. My mother went to the hospital one day with Tylenol poisoning and died 6 days later at 44 years old. My father would pass away as well just 3 weeks after her at 53 years old.

Right before they passed away, I married a boy I met at church youth camp. We were both young, 18 and 19 years old, and we both came from toxic homes. I wanted someone to love me, and he was eager to fill that role. I now can see where it was a perfect storm that would lead to almost 15 years of marriage, 3 children, and abuse in every way.

Not having a mother (or father) while enduring abuse was devastating. I often wonder if she would have been the first phone call on those days that I needed encouragement. Would I have hidden it from her out of shame, or would I have looked to her for wisdom and guidance? Would I have gotten out sooner if she was there to help pick up the pieces, or would it have broken my heart to utter the words that a man was hurting her little girl? No matter how the events would have occurred, ultimately, I wish that she was here through it all because her absence was crushing.

Leaving the abuse without her support proved to be even more difficult. Logistically, I had nowhere to go, but emotionally, I needed her more than ever. Statistically, the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is right after they escape, and I was terrified. I had to file divorce papers and a restraining order all by myself. The shelters were full, so my 3 children and I bounced around homeless for almost 4 months. I felt like I was drowning, and I worried that my children were going to feel the effects of this. Not only did I not have my mom, but I felt like I was failing at being a mother myself.

Survivors of domestic violence struggle with multiple issues including post-traumatic stress, insecurity, hypervigilance, a lack of resources, etc. You throw that in with grieving, and it can be very triggering especially around holidays such as Mother’s Day. Whether it’s the one who lost their mother, the one who has no relationship with their mother, the single mom, the one whose mother is the abuser, the one who longs to be a mother but isn’t, the mother who lost their child, etc., this event can be painful with constant reminders of it through advertisements, greeting cards, and social media posts. Even though I am happy for them, it can sting to watch my friends shower their moms with love on that day. I am blessed to be a mother, so I can say that my children make me feel very special on Mother’s Day, but there are many years that it has been a hard day for me, and that is okay to admit.

If you struggle on Mother’s Day, or any day of the year because of grief, know that it’s normal, and you are not alone. If you are walking through healing from abuse or any kind of trauma without your mother’s support, it will not be easy, but you can honor your mother in the best way possible by loving and caring for yourself. I know for a fact that my mom would be so proud of me for leaving abuse, getting on my feet, and helping other survivors do the same. I know that she would be my biggest cheerleader every step of the way, and I carry her spirit with me in my heart. She loved me dearly, and I know she would never want me to live a life full of abuse.

Mom, I miss you. I wish that I could tell you how much you mean to me, but for now, I will live a life that makes you proud. Happy Mother’s Day, not just to you, but to all those who may be grieving on this day.

The History of Child Abuse Prevention and How to Recognize the Signs

It’s been 39 years since President Ronald Reagan formally established April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time where it is absolutely essential to understand and recognize what not only constitutes as child abuse but precisely how to respond to the signs. In working to both raise awareness and eradicate any and all stigmas, perhaps there will exist a day where all children have accessibility to a safe and healthy adolescence.

History of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

Enacted on January 31, 1974 by then-President Nixon, CAPTA was a direct legislative

Enacted on January 31, 1974, by then-President Nixon, CAPTA was a direct legislative address of child abuse and neglect within the United States. This acted as a federal attempt to provide victim care, child services and formulate organizations for those who are survivors. The Act defines child abuse and neglect, per the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm[1].” Alongside the reauthorization of the act by President Barack Obama, as is pictured below, there additionally included the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA).

 

  “President Barack Obama signs S. 3817, the “CAPTA Reauthorization Act of  2010,” in the Oval Office” [2]

Four Major Types of Child Abuse

Though child abuse is certainly an opened-ended and layered topic, it is often differentiated into four major categories, those being neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional/psychological abuse. Statistics show that approximately one in four children experience abuse or neglect within their youth, of these cases, 18% are abused physically, 78% are neglected and 9% are abused sexually[3]. Any injury that stems from physical aggression constitutes physical abuse, such as beating, slapping, pushing, or burning. It is also important to note that harsh physical punishment can very easily be considered abuse. Sexual abuse is definitively any and all sexual acts enacted by an adult onto a child, including but not restricted to fondling, commercial exploitation, and violations of bodily privacy. Emotional child abuse, also knowns as verbal, mental or psychological abuse is any non-physical mistreatment that could potentially have a negative mental impact on a child. This can come from parents, caregivers, siblings, or even bullying peers. Neglect is the most common form of child abuse[4], and can include a failure to provide appropriate physical care, educational care, and emotional support. 

Recognizing the Signs

One of the essential ways by which children can be spared of abuse and neglect is through recognizing the signs and symptoms. It is imperative that both individuals who work in childcare and those who do not are educated on how to pay direct attention to vulnerable adolescents.

[5]

Some of the most common signs of neglect may not always be a physical bruise or inexplicable injury, though those are certainly symptoms that are important to look out for. Nevertheless, a child who is being abused may begin to withdraw from friends, their studies, and their usual activities. They may become angry, anxious, depressed, or present rebellious behaviors that are otherwise out of character for them. 

In fact, according to ChildSafe, a Texas based non-profit organization dedicated to abused and neglected children, there are “10 Signs of Child Abuse.” The signs are as follows: changes in behavior, physical or emotional acts of regression, a fear of going home, a change in eating habits, changes in sleeping, changes in school performance and attendance, lack of personal care, risk-taking behaviors, and inappropriate sexual behaviors[6].

Statistics

One of the most beneficial ways to raise awareness surrounding child abuse is through proper education and exposure to the dark realities that some children experience. By keeping society privy to the real cases, the irrefutable statistics, we can better aid those who have faced such inexplicable horrors. Some of the most disheartening studies show that a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in the US and more than 3 million adolescents experience at least one situation of abuse annually[7].

[8]

                    

Where to go Next?

Moving forward, it is imperative that society collectively work toward eradicating situations of abuse and neglect. Additionally, discourse surrounding the long-term effects of abuse must, too, be taken very seriously. Studies show that survivors of abuse can experience lifelong consequences, and not just physically. By the time some reach adulthood, some may experience cognitive delays, speech and language problems, depressions and anxieties, and extreme difficulties within relationships. Plus, there is an irrefutable and strong link between trauma and substance abuse, an entirely different societal battle. Overall, though there is certainly no erasing the pain and abuse people experience in their youth, society, at the very least, can work to prevent future trauma and provide adequate resources.


[1] https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/whatiscan.pdf

[2]https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2010/12/20/president-obama-signs-critical-legislation-prevent-child-abuse-and-domestic-violence

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470337/

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459146/#:~:text=Neglect%20is%20the%20most%20common,shaking%2C%20burning%2C%20and%20biting.

[5] https://news.sky.com/story/staggering-rise-in-child-abuse-images-detected-10252012

[6] https://www.lifestoriesweld.org/10-signs-of-child-abuse/

[7] http://www.cactn.org/child-abuse-information/statistics#:~:text=A%20child%20is%20abused%20or,abused%20before%20their%2018th%20birthday.

[8] https://www.alaskachildrenstrust.org/issue

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