Name: Ahlara Faith Kent
From: kansas city, Missouri
Transform Trauma, Transform Addiction
Seasons in Malibu Annual Scholarship
January 18, 2021
Transform Trauma, Transform Addiction
Why do I believe we as a nation are dealing with an addiction crisis?
“Trauma not transformed is trauma transferred”-Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri. It is my belief and personal experience that unhealed trauma is a root cause of addiction. I also believe that, as a nation, we are dealing with personal, collective, and intergenerational trauma. I consider trauma as any event or anticipated threat that violates a human’s rights and causes distress to the individual, dysregulating the nervous system. Without treatment these events, and uncomfortable feelings that accompany them, begin to overwhelm the person and they disconnect from themselves running away from the pain and the feelings. When people do not have the tools, education, or support to process traumatic experiences, it is transferred to different parts of their lives and can lead to addiction as a coping mechanism to slowly numb the pain.
I was an addict for 10 years. When I was 25 years old, I remember telling myself that I only felt “normal” while I was drunk because the pain I felt while sober was too much to bear. It was around that same time I was introduced to the term “trauma.” I learned the pain I felt was from unprocessed experiences I had from childhood. This knowledge gave me a new foundation! I was able to pull myself out of a deep pit of pain and I began to learn how to heal. This knowledge about trauma helped me to see I was in “a process” and that there was a path out of pain and into self-connection, integration, and safety. As I transformed my trauma, I transformed my life and healed my addiction struggles.
What are the consequences of this addiction for the individual and society?
If a pot is full of water and someone accidently taps into it, water will spill out. If a person is filled with trauma and deep unhealed wounds, then if tapped, trauma and pain will spill out. The consequence of addiction can cause a transfer of pain and ripple out trauma patterns through multiple generations. On a personal level, addiction can cause physical harm and even lead to death. It can pile up layers of guilt, shame, and regret on top of deeper core wounds and lead the person to deeper disembodiment and abandonment of their body and life. Addiction then extends out to family, friends, and society, creating co-dependency and dysfunctional coping patterns and can even leading to physical and emotional abuse. Addiction can destroy a marriage, a career, a friendship, and relationships with children. When the people around the addict are negatively affected, their trauma ripples out to their work and friends, and begins to leak out into society.
I grew up in a very unhealthy dynamic, which was passed down for generations in my family. Trauma and addiction are intergenerational and go hand in hand. My parents pain spilled onto me and I allowed my pain to spill out to a lot of people, especially when I was drinking. But the good news is that we have the choice to change the pattern and take responsibility for our actions and for our life. I was the one that decided to stop the pattern through trauma therapy and deep inner work. I experienced that being honest and taking responsibility for my actions created deep healing for myself and the people in my life.
How can we remedy the addiction crisis on an individual and societal level?
My remedy for the addiction crisis is through teaching resiliency, self-empowerment, and connection. I believe that every single person has a right of be here and have their needs met, to feel and have joy in their life, to be an individual, to be loved, to speak, hear and see truth and to know and learn. I believe teaching people these truths will save lives and create transformation and healing from addiction. For change to take place, each person must be willing to do their work. On an individual level, we can begin to surround ourselves with healthy people (connection), go to therapy (resiliency), find programs that support us to heal trauma (self-empowerment), get to know ourselves at a deeper level and find a Spiritual (not necessarily religious) connection that helps us feel nourished and safe.
On a larger scale we can create programs to teach about trauma healing, emotional intelligence, healthy communication, and healthy boundaries. Give people tools to help them feel safe, grow self-confidence, and provide a better foundation for their lives. Begin to break down the stigma around mental health and the unhealthy patterns that have been passed down through generations. Teach people how to have healthy relationships with themselves and those around them. Let people know they matter, and they make a difference in the world, just by being who they are.
Trauma can be transformed, and in doing so, we can transform addiction into healing!