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Sexual Violence and Chemical Dependency: Triggers and Coping Skills

August 10, 2011

by Teresa O., Sexual Violence Center Volunteer

For victims/survivors of sexual violence, the risk of becoming chemically-dependent is especially high, as they have endured an experience that can make the world seem upside down overnight. Although there are many potential triggers for any person in recovery, the chemically-dependent victim/survivor faces even more challenges, as they must navigate the road to recovery from both issues.

It is a human survival mechanism to seek relief from pain by any available means; using chemicals (alcohol/drugs), comfort eating, gambling, or any other compulsive behavior activates the neurological “pleasure-reward” pathway in the brain. These temporary fixes can easily become an addiction disorder when the person suffers a serious trauma, one that needs (and deserves) real healing, which is something that simply cannot be found in chemical use.

Some triggers to use chemicals are nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and anger, all of which are also normal symptoms for the victim/survivor to experience. Going out at certain times of day or night, or living with the feelings of anger and rage may seem impossible at times. It is important that victims/survivors have support to remind them that these feelings do not define who they are and these feelings do indeed pass. When facing triggers, it may be helpful to break down the AA saying “One Day at a Time” to “One Minute at a Time”, as holding on for just another minute can seem more do-able when in crisis; one minute to call a friend or sponsor, get to a meeting, visit the Alcohol Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous websites, or seek services at the Sexual Violence Center by calling their 24-hour crisis line at 612-871-5111.

With the help of a support group or counseling, powerful things can begin to take place as the victim/survivor taps into the healing power that comes from being around others with similar issues; sharing their experience, strength and hope. All addicts/alcoholics need that connection with others to heal, which is one thing that many sexual violence victim/survivors may want to avoid as a direct result of their trauma.

“…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin

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