Early years trauma … compulsive eating … gamblingàfull blown addiction
I was a 5-year-old little boy playing happily when one day there was a knock at the door, it was the police. They asked if they could come in, next thing I remember was my mum lay on the floor screaming hammer fisting the floor over and over. I don’t remember the bit in between but I was carted off the neighbors house while the police consoled my mum. My dad had been in an accident and had died. I didn’t know what this meant, what would happen, when he would come back, or where he would go, 5 years old is supposed to be a magical time for children so how would I cope.
I didn’t show any emotions (apparently) in hindsight and with an insight into people these days I know my mum was left alone, angry, confused full of grief but at the time, all I knew as a little boy was, she left me also. The abandonment of losing both parents and having no one to help me make sense of grief left me scarred for life.
Food became my friend, it comforted me and gave me something to look forward to, my mum was a workaholic to deal with her grief and loss and I was left to my own devices. I gained weight at the rate of around 1 stone a year (14lbs)
This brought a whole new angle to growing up. Ridiculed at school, kids can be so cruel, I sunk further into myself, eating more and more to deal with the shame, the loss, loneliness, isolation and rejection I experienced daily, I can see how this viscous cycle was forming itself.
What is addiction?
I’ve often said addiction is like a cancer of the emotions; it eats away at anything good in your life, it affects your emotional well being negatively, its progressive and its fatal.
You can see from the above that no one roll modeled me a healthy way to deal with grief, no one helped me make sense of loss in fact quite the opposite happened. As I grew up an angry mother criticized me at most opportunities so I withdrew and lived in fantasy with food as a comfort.
I was sent to ‘psychiatrists’ and specialists? To see ‘what was wrong with me’ I was put on anti depressants at 9 years old. This was back in the 80s and I’ve got to say looking at the medical reports which I have done recently those people had no clue about children who suffer trauma! I am glad our psychological and emotional understanding of development has come on these days.
Gambling became my next thing, I would steal money to gamble and get away from life as I knew it, the misery of being fat, and the loneliness of just being me.
See at this time, I really didn’t understand what trauma was, or addiction or anything to that matter. All I knew was I was depressed, unhappy, overweight, didn’t really want to live, I didn’t think much about my dad but probably because it was so painful.
Trauma is described as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, and its only relevant to the person who experiences it. I’ve heard many a time people saying ‘it wasn’t that bad’ or ‘ah pull your socks up’ or ‘get over it’ if you have experienced something that was traumatic to you, don’t let anyone else tell you differently, if its traumatic to you then that’s enough, other peoples job is only to understand that.
Progressive, fatal, incurable?
By the time I was a teenager there really was only one way I was heading, from gambling to co-dependency to alcohol to drugs. I went through the progression of addictions till I found heroin, it was the solution to all my problems. You see addiction is not about drugs, or alcohol or any substance for that fact, the substance or process is the solution to the problem, the problem is the internal condition, the misery, the loneliness, the isolation, misery, depression that I used the substance to fix. So really, it just adds another layer of problems on top of your problems.
I don’t expect anyone to read and find a logical solution from my writing, as nothing about addiction is logical, if only it was that simple. People used to say to me, get a job, go to college, lose some weight you’ll be happy then. But they really didn’t get it. Soon as I put the drugs down, I had that big list above to contend with, the drugs were the lesser painful option on how to live.
Sure enough the consequences of drug use, jail and institutions became too much after many years and I had had enough, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sure enough when I did stop, I was that anxious, lonely, overweight little boy who had never grown emotionally.
Recovery from addiction and trauma without medication is possible
Luckily at that time there were other people I met in recovery who showed me the way, who guided me and helped me find a way to deal with my emotions, how to be a productive member of society. I learned to live life without the use of drugs or addictions to cope with emotions, I was finally learning who I was.
It wasn’t till later in my recovery many years clean and sober till I started to look at grief and trauma. What I realize was it was my reaction to the situations that happened that contributed to my addiction, it wasn’t the situations. I started to open up about my childhood and went through some deep seated grief and got the support I needed to make sense of some things, but to this day, it has not gone and still haunts me from time to time, I just deal with it differently today.
Today as a psychotherapist I use my experience to help me understand others, and to help them help themselves. No one could direct me, or help me until I wanted to help myself. I still feel so strongly about that time in my life as a traumatized child but with some compassion and sadness when I think about it.
Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist
22 years of addiction recovery
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