The Abused Addict: The Ultimate Fight
This week, I am happy to introduce you to David Pittman, Executive Director & Advocate for Together We Heal. I had the great pleasure of getting to know David and immediately knew I wanted to have him on as a guest blogger. This week, David addresses a very important but often unnoticed topic in recovery—addiction.
This will be a little different than previous articles, in that, this is not so much solution based, as it is issue based. I want to bring to light an issue that many survivors of abuse have to deal with on a daily basis—Addiction—whether it is to alcohol, drugs or something else.
As an addict, you must first recognize that you are not “in control” and you are powerless to the addiction. And it is acknowledging that this “giving up control” enables the addict to begin their healing.
Meanwhile, as a survivor of abuse, while we are being abused we are also helpless and powerless and taking charge is empowering. Claiming power is a significant experience of healing. It enables us to reclaim what was taken from us when we were abused.
So, survivors who are also addicts have a razor thin line to walk (and just as sharp), of giving up control of addiction while regaining control from abuse.
Is it any wonder why so many fall back off the wagon, are never able to maintain a healthy mental/emotional/physical life, or even commit suicide?
We have these solutions that run simultaneous and contradictory to each other—the Ultimate Battle. This is why it’s so important to get professional help and seek the support from others such as AA/NA/SNAP and other support groups.
The statistics are remarkable. In a study of male survivors sexually abused as children, over 80% had a history of substance abuse. 75% of women in treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse report having been sexually abused. Another 10-study program found there was a direct correlation to CSA and substance abuse.
Now full disclosure, in all of the research I read, I was able to find one psychiatrist who did not believe there was a correlation, but he did not produce any statistics or empirical data to support his argument. So it is my conclusion, both from my personal life experience and studies from all over the globe, this is something we cannot ignore.
I read in another article, instead of looking down at addicts and asking them, "What is wrong with you?" wouldn't it be a more productive question to ask, "What happened to you?"
Very few services exist to help with both issues: addictions and abuse. It needs to be understood that the two go hand in hand. The services which do exist are often inadequate, requiring the individual to heal only on the therapist’s terms, or to “get clean first, then we’ll talk.” Often, if you make one mistake, you’re out of the addiction program. This isn’t fair. Only one out of every 100 people make it, perhaps because of the programs themselves.
And this is what happened to me, I had to address my addiction first before I was able to even acknowledge my abuse and face it. As they say in NA, “face life on life’s terms.” Once I got clean from narcotics, I was finally able to reach out to Dr. Light and confront my abuser, Frankie Wiley.
Now in reclaiming my power over my abuser, the addiction is not the issue it once was, and that is because my primary reason for using drugs was to numb myself from the pain of the abuse.
Now that I have had my abuser removed from three jobs where he had power over kids, I have regained my power, but I KNOW that I will NEVER have power over the narcotics—they control me in such a negative way that I can never do them without extreme, awful consequences.
Just because this is what worked for me, does not mean it will be the direction a fellow survivor will have to take as a path to healing. Seek the professional help that is available to you—we have therapists here and there are many others out there with other groups—if not here, just get help somewhere.
As I said, this is not a solution article. I just wanted folks to know what many survivors have to deal with and if someone in your life is going through this, maybe it will help you better understand what they are going through. Remember, love is patient and kind, and that is ultimately what we need in the battle we face—patience and kindness … and true love.
Michael and Cheryl Irving, two psychotherapists said in an article what I have been saying and feeling for years so I thought it best just to quote them:
"Survivors need to value themselves, to be true to themselves. Survivors often find it hard to say no to anything, and survivors need to fit in, so they often say yes...We need to understand that treatment for addictions is slow and progressive. You cannot help addicts quickly or with some other drug...Healing from addictions and abuse is possible and they often go hand in hand. It takes time, it takes trust."
Dr. Michael Irving
Mrs. Cheryl Irving
New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Mental Health Association in New York State
The Relationship Between Sexual Abuse and Addiction By Andrea Presnall, Argosy University
Dr. Stanton Peele
Check in next week for Part 2 of David's series.
Learn more about Together We Heal.
David spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
TWH follows the saying, "one person might not be able to change the world, but you can change the world of one person."