Medical detox (or detoxification) is a crucial first step toward a sober, happier life. However, in getting rid of toxins in your body, you might encounter emotional landmines that could trigger trauma — and make you want to quit your recovery journey.
Recognizing trauma triggers is critical to a successful substance abuse recovery. This blog will help you navigate the link between trauma and addiction, the impact of these triggers in the detox process, and practical steps to help you or your loved ones on this challenging yet necessary path.
Understanding Trauma Triggers
Trauma triggers are anything that can remind you of a traumatic experience you’ve had. These stimuli evoke emotions and even physical sensations that can distress you and your state of mind. While some other triggers are subtle, some can be utterly overwhelming.
While examples (and their impact) vary widely depending on the individual, here are some of the most common triggers you may encounter.
- Sounds (e.g., sirens, music, footsteps, gunshots, fireworks, yells, cries)
- Sights (e.g., people resembling those involved in the trauma, specific objects)
- Smells (e.g., fragrances, alcoholic drinks, gasoline, certain foods or beverages)
- Situations (e.g., interactions with authority figures, unwanted physical touch)
- Emotions (e.g., helplessness, abandonment, sadness, feeling ignored)
No matter the cause of trauma, it can drive people to find a sense of solace from abusing substances. In other cases, individuals turn to them to numb their pain or as a way to self-medicate. Nevertheless, addiction and trauma are intricately related. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 young people with post-traumatic stress disorder develop substance use disorders.
People often respond with various physical and emotional reactions when trauma is triggered. These range from an upset stomach, sleeping issues, and panic attacks to irritability, anger outbursts, anxiety, and even dissociation.
The Relationship between Detox and Trauma
If you’ve been struggling with addiction, the detoxification process is the first step toward a healthier life. With the guidance of a healthcare professional, you will have the necessary tools to cope more healthily and manage your withdrawal symptoms better. In this delicate process, withdrawal symptoms can range from trembling and muscle pain to irritability and depression.
Whether you’re undergoing detox for crystal meth addiction or any other type of addiction, you will experience physical and emotional stress as you abstain from consuming substances your body has been used to. And the vulnerability that detoxification entails can make you more sensitive to your triggers, even the simplest ones. This further intensifies the triggers’ impact on your body and mind.
To help you mitigate their consequences, you must create a safe, supportive, and understanding environment — with the help of professionals. When you have the proper coping skills and appropriately prescribed medications, you can better respond to trauma triggers during your medical detox.
Steps to Navigate Trauma Triggers During Medical Detox
Now, the question is: How do you effectively navigate trauma triggers and subsequently ease detox symptoms? Here are some practical tips to follow.
Knowing who you are plays a vital role in overcoming trauma triggers. As you develop self-awareness, you can better recognize stimuli (internal and external) that can trigger your recollection of past traumatic experiences. It’s only the triggers you must identify but also how you physically and emotionally respond to them.
Open Communication with Medical Professionals
Once you’ve learned those trigger points, you must share them with your physician. Engaging in open communication with them and the rest of your healthcare team will help them design a more tailored treatment plan for you. Depending on your trauma history, triggers, and responses, they will provide you with the most appropriate guidance.
Engaging in Therapeutic Modalities
In a trauma-informed detox, your doctor will use different therapeutic modalities to help you face your triggers more healthily.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This psychological treatment delves into your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. This therapy will help you identify your negative thought patterns linked to your trauma. Ultimately, the goal is to teach you proper coping strategies to manage triggers and cravings.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This structured form of therapy is for patients who have experienced significant trauma. This fairly new method is used to treat PTSD. In this talk therapy, your doctor will help you desensitize traumatic memories and minimize their impact on you.
- Group therapy sessions. Support groups dedicated to trauma and addiction allow you to connect with others with similar experiences. You will learn from one another and find a sense of emotional connection and belongingness, further giving you the determination to continue your recovery journey.
One way to protect yourself from stressors and triggers is to establish personal boundaries. During detox, you will encounter and communicate with various people in your surroundings. Sharing your boundaries with others empowers them to support you and reduces the likelihood of triggering situations.
Building a Support System
A vital aspect of emotional healing is having a strong support system. Your family, friends, and loved ones can give you the encouragement and practical help you need as you detoxify and prepare your body and mind for recovery.
The Importance of Post-Medical Detox Support
Keep this in mind: Detoxification is just the beginning of your journey toward an addiction-free life. Therefore, you must undergo continuing care, counseling, and therapy sessions, even post-detox, so that you won’t be overcome by trauma triggers and negative emotions when they surface.
To receive ongoing support in a safe environment — and a structured manner — consider enrolling in outpatient programs or residing in sober living environments. These programs will help you stay on the path to sustained recovery.
Just as important, you must invest more in self-care. Be intentional in honing self-awareness and incorporate mindfulness practices into your lifestyle (e.g., journaling, walking). All this will serve as a strong foundation as you attempt to break free from addiction and trauma.
Addiction, trauma, and medical detox are closely related, and understanding this connection is vital for anyone on the path to recovery. As you learned, detox is an essential first step. Still, it’s important to recognize the potential triggers that may emerge during this process — and hinder you from continuing your recovery journey.
Self-awareness, professional help, therapies, and a strong support system play key roles when navigating trauma triggers. It’s also significant to receive post-detox support to avoid succumbing to triggering situations that you may encounter in the future.
Want to enroll in a detox program to help you manage your trauma while thoroughly preparing your body and mind for recovery? Learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail and reach out today.