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EP 12: The Relationship Between Trauma and Substance Abuse

The path to recovery following a catastrophic event often involves pain medication and medical treatment. It’s vital in most cases, but that can eventually turn into an addiction problem when people don’t have the right support system in place.

Today we’re going to explore the relationship between trauma and substance abuse with our guest BK. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Advanced Alcohol Counselor in the state of Georgia and is committed to the process of recovery, which takes enormous compassion for people dealing with these types of issues.

We are trying to be a resource for people who have suffered catastrophic events, whether that be a physical injury or the loss of a loved one. People often turn to self-medicating when they don’t have the full support they need, and trauma often precedes substance abuse and BK has seen this manifest itself in many different forms. So we want to learn more about why people go down this path and how medical treatment can turn into a lifetime of destruction.

Here’s some of what we discuss in this episode:
0:00 – Intro
2:55 – Trauma causing substance abuse
5:23 – The events that cause many of the issues
9:19 – Why people go down this path when they know it’s destructive
13:13 – How abuse begins

Featured Keyword & Other Tags

Substance abuse,

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Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Hi, and welcome to another episode of catastrophic comeback today. I'm very excited to have my guest BK with us. BK is a, what's it called? Tell us what you do?

Well, I am a licensed clinical social worker and a certified advanced alcohol drug counselor in the state of Georgia. Okay.

Okay. In historically you go by BK sometimes for confidentiality and those types of things into your work. Yes, yes. Okay. Well, so, BK, thank you for joining us, we're excited to have you. I wanted to tell you a little bit about why I wanted to have you on as a guest. And first of all, I know you and I know your husband, and you guys are picart, friends of mine. And I wanted to talk to you about, about what you do. And why it's important. Because I know you personally and I know how committed you are, to this process of recovery, and substance abuse, recovery, and how compassionate you are for people who are dealing with these types of issues. And the reason I think is important in this case, in this circumstance is because we are trying to be a resource for people who have suffered catastrophic injuries, you know, maybe, you know, very serious physical injuries, burns, broken, multiple broken bones, lost limbs, those kinds of things, or lost loved ones, the recovery process of either of those two things. Pain medication can can lead to substance abuse issues and, and put somebody in a in a place where they really need to not only deal with their physical injuries, but now they have a substance abuse issue they have to address as well. The same could be affect a person who's lost someone who then self medicate through drugs or alcohol. So that's the reason why I think what's that this conversation is so important to what we're trying to do here. So thank you for joining us. I appreciate you being here.

You're welcome. And a lot of times like the what happens first is the trauma, which is what you're talking about losing a loved one being in the automobile accident, having that medical injury, and then of course, yes, start self medicating, because you don't have the support that you need to be able to deal with it in a healthier manner.

So is that so so in your work? What percentage of the time there's some type of trauma precipitate a substance abuse problem?

Probably about 95% of the time, either it being childhood trauma, or adult trauma, or loss of a loved one, when people don't have a good support system to begin with. And then they might start just you know, alcohol is a drug as well. So a lot of times it might be alcohol, and you're using it to cope with life problems. And then before you know it, you can't stop. And the same thing happens with opiate pain medication ADHD, medication. Xanax is Valium, which is sometimes they will prescribe to someone that has lost a loved one. Those are should be very short term, but you become dependent on them.

Well, so So the whole purpose of this, of this show is to be open to be vulnerable to be helpful to other people to share information, if it will be helpful to other people. And in the spirit of that I don't drink I can't drink. Really good at it. And so I, I can't, I can't do that in my life. And I've made that decision probably 13 years ago, I think it was and so I do have some degree of familiarity with with what you're talking about least from an alcohol perspective. But go ahead. Well, I'm

also in long term recovery. So um, that means I haven't put any mood or mind altering substance in my body since August 15 2008.

Wow. Okay, well, so it will so you so in your personal experience, then without getting into details, he told me what piece of this you don't want to discuss. And you

know, I'm pretty open about it all. I mean, I live my country out loud because I think it saves people's lives. When we don't talk about it, um, that's where the danger comes.

Well, so I have that I have that same opinion. And so I'm usually a very private person, and I don't really, you know, necessarily want to talk about certain things, you know, publicly, but I feel like if it can help somebody else, and let's do it, so, so, okay, so So in your personal life and your professional life, you see that trauma? All almost always, is the catalyst to start some of these problems. What are the what are examples of the types of trauma that might cause a alcohol or substance abuse problem?

Well, there's a lot of it. Trauma is a very complex situations, and some of it is childhood trauma. childhood sexual abuse, I mean, it could just be as simple as parents got divorced, and the child didn't know how to handle it, they start hanging out with the wrong crowd. And then before they know it, they're caught up in addiction. And then divorce, I mean, it could be simple things because the threshold just is it's individualized to that certain individuals. So what might be trauma to me might not be trauma to someone else, or vice versa. A loss of a job. Course childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, medical diagnosis, you know, if you're used to working every day, then all of a sudden, you have that car accident, are you hurt on the job, are, you know, those things that definitely leads into can be the catalyst to have an addiction issues yourself. And we know that if you have addiction in your family, and a lot of people don't include alcohol, so alcoholism is addiction, if you have that in your family, then you are at a thing, it's eight times more likely to have addiction issues yourself.

Well, so. So like when you say alcohol is an addiction to that makes sense. And when I'm thinking about it, I typically think of my soak, you know, I have a thing with alcohol but but that I'm still not like a, you know, a drug addict or whatever, if I'm being if I'm being completely honest, that's kind of something in my mind is that as I'm hearing you talk about it, that may not be exactly accurate, the problem may be more of an addictive personality, and what I was maybe potentially exposed to, or, or participated in, and not so much that I'm somehow different. Is that fair? Yes,

that is fair. And I mean, a lot of people when they think of addiction, you know, they think of homeless out on the street are the ones that are doing cocaine or meth or heroin. But really, I mean, it's also the alcoholic are the wine drinkers are well, I get my medicine from a doctor, so I'm not an addict, which some of those sir,

like what the medication? Yeah, like, like Xanax or Xanax,

Valium, ADHD, of course, all the opiates are in that as well. Um, you know, addiction has many different levels. And, you know, the professional alcoholic probably wouldn't will look at it as I have addiction issues, because they're working, they have the job, they have the family, that if you continue drinking, then you probably aren't going to be able to keep those.

But that's kind of where I was and where I was headed. 1013 years ago, I started noticing that I was like, you know, what, I remember one time, I'm real close with my kids. I remember one time, you know, kind of being short with them and frustrated and be like, I'm putting you guys to bed. And I'm like, Okay, that's it. I'm not I can't do this, again, this, this is not good. This was a part of my childhood. This will not be a part of my kids childhood. And that's a decision that I make. And so when you talk about, you know, heroin, meth, those types of things, so I can't help somebody like me, what has a tendency to then go? I mean, we all know that stuff is terrible for you, and it'll destroy your life. What kind of what kind of person makes a conscious decision in 2023 2024, to put that into their body to put to bring that into their lives? Help me understand that. All

right. So most, a lot of times it happens before the age of say 18 to 21. And we know now that you know both For you are about 2122, your frontal lobe is not fully fully developing. So when you start using drugs or alcohol as an adolescent you don't have you can't look at the consequences. I'm like, say we can hear now, no one everything that we know. And then you know, addiction is very cunning, it's the only disease that you have that says you don't have one. And it's your mind. It's your thoughts. You know, I grew up with a man with an alcoholic mother and will then she traded alcohol for pain pills, and she died of an overdose in 2004. So growing up always said, I'd never be like my mom. But I was. So when I had my son, I didn't drink. So I thought that was okay. But I was still doing, you know, cocaine or meth or marijuana. So, you know, it's very complex, because the disease is your mind, it's your brain, it's your own voice in your head. And it will tell you things like, it'll be okay, you can spin this month's mortgage payment, you'll make it back up. So that's what makes it such a hard disease to treat. I mean, if you have cancer, like, you know, you're gonna have to go and do the treatment, are you most likely are going to die? Well, the disease talks to you in a way that you think, Oh, they don't know what they're saying, or I'm different. I'm smarter. You know, I have a lot of people in treatment who complete like an IOP program is an intensive outpatient treatment, and it's about 12 hours a week. So they will complete that program, or the drug court dy for, they complete that. And then they stopped doing the things that was keeping them clean, like going to meetings, having a sponsor, talking to a therapist. So then the disease says, you know, what you've learned now how to control you're using this time to be different. And so I think that's what makes it so difficult. And you really don't see, because most of the time, you know, in the beginning of addiction, it is fun. It is just on the weekends, or it's very social. But as you continue continue to use those normal people who are just doing it once a month, or a couple of times a year, they kind of step back and be like, no, they're too much for me. So as you progress in your disease of addiction, those good friends go away, the family starts putting boundaries in place, you might have lost your job by then. So it doesn't happen overnight. Usually, it's you know, a couple of years. So you don't really notice it are you believe the addiction when it says you don't have the problem? Everyone else has the problem. It's their fault. So yeah,

so So I understand you're painting a picture to me how it progresses. And I understand that but but let's back up a step. How and how, in this day and age with all we know about addiction. We've all seen people that have suffered from addiction we've all been personally affected by if not addiction in our own lives in addiction, addiction and somebody who we at least know if we're not close to how does somebody get started using it, you know, Meth, heroin, cocaine in this crack in, in today's world? How does that happen?

Well, we'll start with the heroin first because I think that one's probably the easiest one to explain is a lot of times it starts by, you know, I was the high school quarterback, I got hurt. My doctor prescribed me pain medicine. And that kind of played a role in it. If you look at most people who are using heroin, they didn't start with heroin. They really started with either it was prescribed by a doctor, are they got it out of somebody's medicine cabinet because they had a headache. I think that's the easiest one to explain.

Can we go through that a little bit more slowly, because that's the that's the piece that I think is going to be helpful to that's, that's, that's one of the pieces is going to be helpful to our clients. So like, in other words, if somebody has a catastrophic injury, then pain a lot of times as soon as associated with that injury. You know, they've got, you know, multiple breaks in their, you know, legs back back pain, you know, lifelong chronic back pain. It's unless, you know, like if it's hot outside like it is right now that we're filming this in the sun. Tom, you're in Georgia, I'm in North Carolina, it's brutally hot. And it's hard to imagine being cold, right? It's hard to imagine, you know, like being outside, and there's snow on the ground, and it's in your, and it's so cold, you're shivering and campfire would feel great. But just like that, it's hard to imagine having that kind of pain, and you know, just never ending pain and a life and a lifetime, going into the future of more pain. And so, and then, and so. So then people get prescription medication, and that prescription medication is supposed to take away that pain. And it does take away that pain for a period of time. And then at some point, in my experience, and tell me if you've observed this as well, doctors sort of start pulling back on that pain medication, and pulling back on the pain medication more and more and more, but then the person still has pain, and then the person may also now have a dependency on that medication. Can you talk about that, in that progression into that high school quarterback or into that accident victim, or into that person who's had a burn injury or some kind of other catastrophic injury? How that might slowly over time, and just in a very sneaky way, turn from quality medical treatment into a lifetime of lost relationships, lost jobs, lost money, lost everything?

Yes, well, a lot of times it does start out, the doctor prescribes it and you might take for a day of this medication. Well, after you've taken it for, in, I don't know for how long but say, after you've taken it for we know now that we have tolerance. So once we take something if we're on a pain medication, and we've been on it for 30 days, maybe 60 days, at at the 60 day mark, one pill isn't working as well as it did in the beginning. So then you go back to the doctor, you tell them that, you know, this really isn't working anymore. So then the doctor either increases the dosage of it, or they will change it to a higher a stronger opiates. And if you know you're not very aware, sorry, I feel like I'm all over the place. Let me back up. I think a lot of times

on you exactly. I think your your, your I think your description makes perfect sense.

And I think the beginning of it is a lot of times when you go to the doctor and they put you on this medicine, they're not very forthcoming. Or they might say, you know, you really need to be careful, you need to get this locked up. I don't think they really sit down and explain to the client or patient, hey, this medicine is highly abusive. These are things to look out for. So I think one of the problem is probably the patient isn't educated on the full dangers of this medication. They're

being handled a gun and they just don't don't appreciate the magnitude of that responsibility. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Hi, and welcome to another episode of catastrophic comeback today. I'm very excited to have my guest BK with us. BK is a, what's it called? Tell us what you do?

Well, I am a licensed clinical social worker and a certified advanced alcohol drug counselor in the state of Georgia. Okay.

Okay. In historically you go by BK sometimes for confidentiality and those types of things into your work. Yes, yes. Okay. Well, so, BK, thank you for joining us, we're excited to have you. I wanted to tell you a little bit about why I wanted to have you on as a guest. And first of all, I know you and I know your husband, and you guys are picart, friends of mine. And I wanted to talk to you about, about what you do. And why it's important. Because I know you personally and I know how committed you are, to this process of recovery, and substance abuse, recovery, and how compassionate you are for people who are dealing with these types of issues. And the reason I think is important in this case, in this circumstance is because we are trying to be a resource for people who have suffered catastrophic injuries, you know, maybe, you know, very serious physical injuries, burns, broken, multiple broken bones, lost limbs, those kinds of things, or lost loved ones, the recovery process of either of those two things. Pain medication can can lead to substance abuse issues and, and put somebody in a in a place where they really need to not only deal with their physical injuries, but now they have a substance abuse issue they have to address as well. The same could be affect a person who's lost someone who then self medicate through drugs or alcohol. So that's the reason why I think what's that this conversation is so important to what we're trying to do here. So thank you for joining us. I appreciate you being here.

You're welcome. And a lot of times like the what happens first is the trauma, which is what you're talking about losing a loved one being in the automobile accident, having that medical injury, and then of course, yes, start self medicating, because you don't have the support that you need to be able to deal with it in a healthier manner.

So is that so so in your work? What percentage of the time there's some type of trauma precipitate a substance abuse problem?

Probably about 95% of the time, either it being childhood trauma, or adult trauma, or loss of a loved one, when people don't have a good support system to begin with. And then they might start just you know, alcohol is a drug as well. So a lot of times it might be alcohol, and you're using it to cope with life problems. And then before you know it, you can't stop. And the same thing happens with opiate pain medication ADHD, medication. Xanax is Valium, which is sometimes they will prescribe to someone that has lost a loved one. Those are should be very short term, but you become dependent on them.

Well, so So the whole purpose of this, of this show is to be open to be vulnerable to be helpful to other people to share information, if it will be helpful to other people. And in the spirit of that I don't drink I can't drink. Really good at it. And so I, I can't, I can't do that in my life. And I've made that decision probably 13 years ago, I think it was and so I do have some degree of familiarity with with what you're talking about least from an alcohol perspective. But go ahead. Well, I'm

also in long term recovery. So um, that means I haven't put any mood or mind altering substance in my body since August 15 2008.

Wow. Okay, well, so it will so you so in your personal experience, then without getting into details, he told me what piece of this you don't want to discuss. And you

know, I'm pretty open about it all. I mean, I live my country out loud because I think it saves people's lives. When we don't talk about it, um, that's where the danger comes.

Well, so I have that I have that same opinion. And so I'm usually a very private person, and I don't really, you know, necessarily want to talk about certain things, you know, publicly, but I feel like if it can help somebody else, and let's do it, so, so, okay, so So in your personal life and your professional life, you see that trauma? All almost always, is the catalyst to start some of these problems. What are the what are examples of the types of trauma that might cause a alcohol or substance abuse problem?

Well, there's a lot of it. Trauma is a very complex situations, and some of it is childhood trauma. childhood sexual abuse, I mean, it could just be as simple as parents got divorced, and the child didn't know how to handle it, they start hanging out with the wrong crowd. And then before they know it, they're caught up in addiction. And then divorce, I mean, it could be simple things because the threshold just is it's individualized to that certain individuals. So what might be trauma to me might not be trauma to someone else, or vice versa. A loss of a job. Course childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, medical diagnosis, you know, if you're used to working every day, then all of a sudden, you have that car accident, are you hurt on the job, are, you know, those things that definitely leads into can be the catalyst to have an addiction issues yourself. And we know that if you have addiction in your family, and a lot of people don't include alcohol, so alcoholism is addiction, if you have that in your family, then you are at a thing, it's eight times more likely to have addiction issues yourself.

Well, so. So like when you say alcohol is an addiction to that makes sense. And when I'm thinking about it, I typically think of my soak, you know, I have a thing with alcohol but but that I'm still not like a, you know, a drug addict or whatever, if I'm being if I'm being completely honest, that's kind of something in my mind is that as I'm hearing you talk about it, that may not be exactly accurate, the problem may be more of an addictive personality, and what I was maybe potentially exposed to, or, or participated in, and not so much that I'm somehow different. Is that fair? Yes,

that is fair. And I mean, a lot of people when they think of addiction, you know, they think of homeless out on the street are the ones that are doing cocaine or meth or heroin. But really, I mean, it's also the alcoholic are the wine drinkers are well, I get my medicine from a doctor, so I'm not an addict, which some of those sir,

like what the medication? Yeah, like, like Xanax or Xanax,

Valium, ADHD, of course, all the opiates are in that as well. Um, you know, addiction has many different levels. And, you know, the professional alcoholic probably wouldn't will look at it as I have addiction issues, because they're working, they have the job, they have the family, that if you continue drinking, then you probably aren't going to be able to keep those.

But that's kind of where I was and where I was headed. 1013 years ago, I started noticing that I was like, you know, what, I remember one time, I'm real close with my kids. I remember one time, you know, kind of being short with them and frustrated and be like, I'm putting you guys to bed. And I'm like, Okay, that's it. I'm not I can't do this, again, this, this is not good. This was a part of my childhood. This will not be a part of my kids childhood. And that's a decision that I make. And so when you talk about, you know, heroin, meth, those types of things, so I can't help somebody like me, what has a tendency to then go? I mean, we all know that stuff is terrible for you, and it'll destroy your life. What kind of what kind of person makes a conscious decision in 2023 2024, to put that into their body to put to bring that into their lives? Help me understand that. All

right. So most, a lot of times it happens before the age of say 18 to 21. And we know now that you know both For you are about 2122, your frontal lobe is not fully fully developing. So when you start using drugs or alcohol as an adolescent you don't have you can't look at the consequences. I'm like, say we can hear now, no one everything that we know. And then you know, addiction is very cunning, it's the only disease that you have that says you don't have one. And it's your mind. It's your thoughts. You know, I grew up with a man with an alcoholic mother and will then she traded alcohol for pain pills, and she died of an overdose in 2004. So growing up always said, I'd never be like my mom. But I was. So when I had my son, I didn't drink. So I thought that was okay. But I was still doing, you know, cocaine or meth or marijuana. So, you know, it's very complex, because the disease is your mind, it's your brain, it's your own voice in your head. And it will tell you things like, it'll be okay, you can spin this month's mortgage payment, you'll make it back up. So that's what makes it such a hard disease to treat. I mean, if you have cancer, like, you know, you're gonna have to go and do the treatment, are you most likely are going to die? Well, the disease talks to you in a way that you think, Oh, they don't know what they're saying, or I'm different. I'm smarter. You know, I have a lot of people in treatment who complete like an IOP program is an intensive outpatient treatment, and it's about 12 hours a week. So they will complete that program, or the drug court dy for, they complete that. And then they stopped doing the things that was keeping them clean, like going to meetings, having a sponsor, talking to a therapist. So then the disease says, you know, what you've learned now how to control you're using this time to be different. And so I think that's what makes it so difficult. And you really don't see, because most of the time, you know, in the beginning of addiction, it is fun. It is just on the weekends, or it's very social. But as you continue continue to use those normal people who are just doing it once a month, or a couple of times a year, they kind of step back and be like, no, they're too much for me. So as you progress in your disease of addiction, those good friends go away, the family starts putting boundaries in place, you might have lost your job by then. So it doesn't happen overnight. Usually, it's you know, a couple of years. So you don't really notice it are you believe the addiction when it says you don't have the problem? Everyone else has the problem. It's their fault. So yeah,

so So I understand you're painting a picture to me how it progresses. And I understand that but but let's back up a step. How and how, in this day and age with all we know about addiction. We've all seen people that have suffered from addiction we've all been personally affected by if not addiction in our own lives in addiction, addiction and somebody who we at least know if we're not close to how does somebody get started using it, you know, Meth, heroin, cocaine in this crack in, in today's world? How does that happen?

Well, we'll start with the heroin first because I think that one's probably the easiest one to explain is a lot of times it starts by, you know, I was the high school quarterback, I got hurt. My doctor prescribed me pain medicine. And that kind of played a role in it. If you look at most people who are using heroin, they didn't start with heroin. They really started with either it was prescribed by a doctor, are they got it out of somebody's medicine cabinet because they had a headache. I think that's the easiest one to explain.

Can we go through that a little bit more slowly, because that's the that's the piece that I think is going to be helpful to that's, that's, that's one of the pieces is going to be helpful to our clients. So like, in other words, if somebody has a catastrophic injury, then pain a lot of times as soon as associated with that injury. You know, they've got, you know, multiple breaks in their, you know, legs back back pain, you know, lifelong chronic back pain. It's unless, you know, like if it's hot outside like it is right now that we're filming this in the sun. Tom, you're in Georgia, I'm in North Carolina, it's brutally hot. And it's hard to imagine being cold, right? It's hard to imagine, you know, like being outside, and there's snow on the ground, and it's in your, and it's so cold, you're shivering and campfire would feel great. But just like that, it's hard to imagine having that kind of pain, and you know, just never ending pain and a life and a lifetime, going into the future of more pain. And so, and then, and so. So then people get prescription medication, and that prescription medication is supposed to take away that pain. And it does take away that pain for a period of time. And then at some point, in my experience, and tell me if you've observed this as well, doctors sort of start pulling back on that pain medication, and pulling back on the pain medication more and more and more, but then the person still has pain, and then the person may also now have a dependency on that medication. Can you talk about that, in that progression into that high school quarterback or into that accident victim, or into that person who's had a burn injury or some kind of other catastrophic injury? How that might slowly over time, and just in a very sneaky way, turn from quality medical treatment into a lifetime of lost relationships, lost jobs, lost money, lost everything?

Yes, well, a lot of times it does start out, the doctor prescribes it and you might take for a day of this medication. Well, after you've taken it for, in, I don't know for how long but say, after you've taken it for we know now that we have tolerance. So once we take something if we're on a pain medication, and we've been on it for 30 days, maybe 60 days, at at the 60 day mark, one pill isn't working as well as it did in the beginning. So then you go back to the doctor, you tell them that, you know, this really isn't working anymore. So then the doctor either increases the dosage of it, or they will change it to a higher a stronger opiates. And if you know you're not very aware, sorry, I feel like I'm all over the place. Let me back up. I think a lot of times

on you exactly. I think your your, your I think your description makes perfect sense.

And I think the beginning of it is a lot of times when you go to the doctor and they put you on this medicine, they're not very forthcoming. Or they might say, you know, you really need to be careful, you need to get this locked up. I don't think they really sit down and explain to the client or patient, hey, this medicine is highly abusive. These are things to look out for. So I think one of the problem is probably the patient isn't educated on the full dangers of this medication. They're

being handled a gun and they just don't don't appreciate the magnitude of that responsibility. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

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