Guest blogger Marc Elrington has penned the below piece on trauma-informed care in relation to SMART Recovery.

You’d be hard pressed to even begin counting the reasons people develop addictive behaviour issues. However, you’d need the reasoning ability of the average bedbug to ignore the correlation between lived trauma and addictive behaviour. Of course, this is not to say that all those with lived experience of trauma develop issues with addiction, nor that all those with addiction issues are somehow traumatised. However, it is far from uncommon for traumatised individuals to drink, use drugs, or engage in other forms of high-risk behaviour to deal with the traumatic event they have experienced.

This kind of behaviour might be in response to the traumatic event itself,  in an attempt to “numb” or “mask” the trauma, or it might be an indirect response. Someone developing social anxiety post-trauma, for example, might increasingly turn to liquid courage in the form of alcohol. This kind of behaviour is often termed  “self medication”. Just as a doctor may prescribe sleeping pills if someone has significant sleeping difficulties, people can drink or take drugs to ease anxiety, block out negative thoughts, or attempt to alleviate symptoms or experiences of mental illness.

SMART Recovery emphasises CBT-based therapy to change someone’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours around their addictive behaviour, and trauma is often a high determinant in the person engaging in addictive behaviour.

If this is one of the reasons you may engage in addictive behaviour, SMART Recovery Australia’s four point program can be applied to assist with the effects of trauma and how this relates to addictive behaviour:

  • Building and maintaining motivation: developing tools to ensure that the effects of trauma do not encourage you to engage in addictive behaviour.
  • Coping with urges: engaging in self-reflective approaches to urges related to trauma, or trauma-related go-to behaviours, including self-harm or self-medication
  • Learn problem solving techniques: utilising any Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques learnt through SMART Recovery to change problem solving thought patterns the participant may have in regards to re-thinking how they may deal with their trauma
  • Achieve lifestyle balance: connecting with others in an effort to realise they are not alone and there is help and people available.

This is but one of the many reasons why people may engage in addictive behaviour, albeit one that is highly represented among those presenting with addictive behaviour issues.  It is critical to note that the SMART Recovery programme is designed to be applied to the extremely broad range of issues informing the development of addictive behaviour.