January 22, 2013

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 recoveryaddiction.


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 basisAddictionwhether 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 abusewhile 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 otherthe 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 narcoticsthey 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 youwe have therapists here and there are many others out there with other groupsif 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 facepatience 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."


  1. The two can go hand in hand as well as other behavior issues. I am a surviviorof 17 years of abuse and stayed quiet for over 30 years from the first assult. It was very hard to get it out of my head and into words. That was over 15 years ago. I suffer from PTSD as one would expect but I have had to deal with some OCD on many different occasions. Sometimes they are for short periods, a few days, and at times they go on for weeks. I am very lucky as I have a strong and deep faith that has been priceless but also a strong family in my wife and daughter and some equally strong friends to call upon. I have seen the results of substance abuse and how suicide can shater the live of friends and family left behind. I have to deal with the battle of the thoughts that run through my head with those issues right along with the visuals of the abbuse that play almost non-stop as well. It is a day to day and at times it's a moment to moment fight. These are all issues that I will have to contend with for the rest of my life. I am happy to say that most days are good. Thatsnot to say they are as good as I would like but they are far better than the alternatives I have witnessed. As for the bad days I slice them into small goals and work to get through them as best as I can. There are many aspects of life as a survivor or victim that are tied to our experience and abuse by an abused should come as no surprise to anyone.

  2. As a fellow survivor I can say I truly know what you are saying. And thank you for having the courage to speak out about it now. I know how challenging it is to say anything to anyone, much less put it out here for all to see. Please know you are not alone...we all stand with you and are here for you. If there is ever anything we can do to help, or if you just need that "ear to hear"...we are and I am available. Always and in all ways. You sound as though you have a great support system and please count us as just one more in that structure. David - Together We Heal

  3. What can one do if the abusers are still in your day to day life and you are struggling to cope with workplace environments that can be abusive verbally and trying to cope with alcohol issues and trying to cope with the horrendous pain in my mind and soul that I take 2 steps forward and 25 back and seem to end up feeling weaker each tome and getting closer to 40 seems that it has taken my whole life , and still I am around these people , I cant seem to escape and the psychological warfare and left me wanting to die , I have been to doctors , rape crisis centre , hospitalised , other therapists and cant seem to fine anyone that will help me find the solution , and I have no real support system probably because I am unable to trust at all and the pretence of living such a superficial life pretending to be fine at work and socically is becoming so exhausting, I am hardly able to cope with work and want to give up but how will I cope financially if unable to work so I have to keep getting up every day but I really wish I was dead. the memories don't go away and my abilities to communicate with people has become erratic and rude and explosive , a totally different me , like a monster lives in my body and mind and the guilt is overwhelming , I don't think there is any help , the police , the doctors do nothing , 18 months ago I took a day off and went suicidal to my doctor who promisied to put me on waitlist list for counselling , still I have heard nothing , no letter , no phoncall and I had to work and pay and take day from work to go and seek help , like we are supposed to do and still no help, I feel so disregarded and helpess - hopless, reading ur page today has helped me , I drank so much last night , I ant remember anything and spent all morning vomiting and worrying about my lack of self control , behaviour and obviously the danger of it. I cant seem to get better.

  4. Hi Claire,

    I can so relate to much of what you are saying and glad you have found some hope and encouragement in David's story.

    It sounds like you are waking up today with many questions and frustrations. I'm know the pain that comes when we feel like we are trying/wanting to change our lives but nothing seems to be working and resources seem scarce.

    I first of all want you know that there is hope and things can get better! I have lots of free resources on my site www.rachelgrantcoaching.com and you can certainly schedule a free Discover Your Genuine Self session. This will be of great help in guiding you towards a vision of where you want to go in this new year.

    Certainly know that you are not alone!


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