top of page

The Vicious Cycle: Understanding Addiction as a Traumatic Experience and its Connection to Trauma

"Addiction is a traumatic experience. It injures the mind, the body and the soul. But it's also a way of attempting to escape trauma."

Ruby Wax

Many of you know that I am in recovery from my addiction to alcohol, and I do not doubt that my addiction was a maladapted attempt to medicate my traumatic childhood trauma. I got sober over 20 years ago, and I could not begin healing from trauma without first addressing the addiction.


Addiction is a devastating and complex phenomenon that affects millions of people around the world. It takes a toll on the body, physical health, mind, and spirit. This multifaceted suffering often leaves the person and their loved ones in a state of distress. However, have you ever considered the possibility that addiction may also be a way of attempting to escape trauma? Let's delve into this complex topic.


The Trauma of Addiction

Living with addiction is a traumatic experience in itself. It involves a persistent pattern of behaviour fueled by a compulsive need to consume a substance or engage in an activity. This can manifest as substance abuse, alcoholism, gambling, or other forms of behavioural addiction. These intense urges and cravings, coupled with withdrawal symptoms, create a state of constant stress and tension, leaving the person feeling out of control and helpless.


Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

In many cases, addiction develops as a way to cope with past traumas or ongoing stressors in life. Trauma, in its various forms, can leave deep psychological scars, causing feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame. These negative emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. In an attempt to alleviate these feelings and create a sense of escape or numbness, individuals may turn to addictive behaviours. This may provide temporary relief, but the underlying trauma remains unaddressed.


The Vicious Cycle

The attempt to escape trauma through addictive behaviours, unfortunately, forms a vicious cycle. Addiction not only exacerbates the pre-existing trauma but also creates new traumas as a consequence of the harmful behaviour. The person may suffer from financial ruin, strained relationships, legal problems, or a sense of shame and guilt that only perpetuates the cycle of addiction and trauma. This cycle can be challenging to break, but it is possible with professional help and support.


Breaking the Cycle

The key to addressing addiction and its connection to trauma lies in recognising the underlying issues. Treatment needs to address both the addiction and the trauma to ensure long-lasting recovery. This can be achieved through various methods, such as:

  • Professional therapy and counselling - Providing a safe space to explore past traumas and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

  • Support groups - Sharing experiences with others who have gone through similar situations can help alleviate feelings of isolation and guilt.

  • Trauma-informed care - Treatment programs designed specifically to address the connection between addiction and trauma.

  • Holistic approaches - Mindfulness techniques, meditation, and exercise can help promote overall well-being and emotional regulation.


Addiction is a traumatic experience that affects people on multiple levels. By understanding the connection between addiction and trauma, we can begin to approach treatment more compassionately and comprehensively. The good news is that there is always hope; recovery is possible with the right support and resources.


I have several self-paced courses on the website if you want to continue doing this healing work. Additionally, addiction can result in poor boundary setting, so if you want to improve your relationships, join my Boundary Setting self-paced course.



Lots of hugs until next time.


Faith xoxo


bottom of page