The Trauma that Shackled Me also Liberated Me

By Tricia Moceo…

Trauma has had its greatest influence on some of my earliest memories. I was born to an addicted mother and shipped off to Florida when my father divorced her. I was 5 when I was molested. I was 7 when my confessions were completely ignored and swept under the rug. Looking back, I only remember the traumatic events that comprised my childhood and adolescent years. The truth is, my thinking was distorted pretty early on. I had zero coping skills and I was a desperate seeker. A desperate seeker of any/all things that would take me far away from the painful memories of my past. This carried on, for longer than I’d like to admit, and I became the perfect victim.

My first experience of self-medicating came in the form of sheer codependency. I spent my adolescent years setting unrealistic expectations for my parents. I was always waiting for my father to save me from the tumultuous relationship with my stepmother. I always wanted him to choose me over her. In fact, I’d position our arguments to always end with the impossible decision of picking sides. She was his wife, and naturally, they were a team. When this tactic failed, I’d drive myself crazy trying to win over validation from people who were emotionally unavailable to hand it out. This cycle was exhilarating. I would get a “high” of sorts when I succeeded in gaining approval. The ebb and flow of the trenches of rejection and the peaks of validation became an addictive rush for me. As expected, this only temporarily satisfied the gaping hole, left in my chest, from my unhealed trauma.

My junior prom was the first time I was introduced to alcohol. I remember hating the cheap vodka chased with the awful cranberry juice. I wasn’t drinking for the taste, but rather the desired effect: oblivion. I remember all of my friends wincing with each sip while I held my nose and chugged every last drop. This event was a sprint, not a marathon. I wanted to feel anything but the feeling I always felt and I wanted to experience it as soon as possible. I guess that’s what has always separated me from my friends. My friends wanted to drink and get tipsy, I wanted to void all familiar emotions…I wanted to blackout. This continued, well into my college years. But so did the trauma. I accepted sub-par relationships with less than favorable people. Perhaps, it was a boost to my self-confidence or simply a familiar setting. Either way, trauma propelled my drinking and vice versa.

Then came the diagnosis… I was diagnosed with a painful kidney disease and prescribed opiates. At first, I took them as prescribed. I continued to drink as often as possible but never abused my medication. Then came more trauma…my stepmother unexpectedly passed away and I instantly reached for more opiates. Again, my experiences taught me that oblivion was the only way to navigate through trauma. Let’s just say my opiate addiction had me by the throat. I was in complete denial because I had a prescription. I was in complete denial because I was not sloppy drunk, but rather productive. The insanity of this is, I became everything I swore I would never be. My love affair with opiates produced the same peaks and valleys that my trauma had always provided. I found myself complacent with the stark truth that I was a victim of circumstance. I wore that title like a badge of honor.

Eventually, legal consequences landed me painfully detoxing on the floor of a cold jail cell. Finally, desperation met me face to face. I was completely apathetic. Ironically enough, the pain of self-induced misery far surpassed my fear of facing the trauma of my past. Walking out of jail, I said “Yes” to every suggestion thrown my way. I left for treatment and was able to put together about 10 months sober before my relapse. Looking back, abstinent from drugs and alcohol, I was still desperately seeking the desired effect of oblivion through my self sabotaging behaviors. I was rebelling against the idea that I had some internal work to do on my past trauma. I truly believe that blaming substances was a huge part of my problem. The common denominator of my misery was always me.

I put together another year sober before I got miserable again. I found myself in another abusive, codependent relationship. This time, I was beaten into a state of submission (literally and figuratively). I was no longer experiencing the peaks of overcoming the chaos, but rather shackled to a bottomless hell. I was completely sober and an absolute wreck. Chaos no longer served me, but I was very uncomfortable.

My sobriety was revolutionized the day I voluntarily threw myself into trauma therapy. I always had this innate desire to understand why I was the way I was. My therapist held my hand while educating and walking me through intense psychotherapy. She explained the nature of PTSD and how solely treating the addiction, without treating my mental health disorder, was essentially setting me up for failure. I began to divulge a lifetime of trauma-ridden secrets. The more that I discussed these things the more my ego was demolished and my perceptions shifted. I was full of fear and the flashbacks became a very real part of my recovery. Nightmares, dissociation, and panic attacks started to surface, but just as a virus must run its course, a necessary purging took place and ultimately cultivated healing. I began learning healthy coping skills, in therapy, and I became hypersensitive to the situations and people that no longer served me.

Awareness is key. Guilt and shame fell off, seemingly effortlessly. I learned that I was not a bad person, but I was sick and enslaved to a pattern of self-sabotaging behaviors. My therapist specifically focused on healing the inner child. This method of therapy proved to be the most effective platform for my recovery. My entire outlook on life began to change and I was able to view things from an entirely different perspective. I started to connect with the scared little girl that was ruling my thoughts and effortlessly controlling my actions. Connecting to my inner child has allowed me to be conscious of old behaviors I desperately clung to, and has helped me re-establish new, healthy coping skills. My resentments and expectations of others have been completely dismantled. I stopped blaming everyone for my unhealed experiences. Once I put on a new pair of lenses, I was able to connect with others. I began to relate rather than compare. I found solace in the intimate exchange I experienced with the women I’ve met in recovery. Therapy taught me that I alone am responsible for the life I live today. I can continue playing the victim or I can break the chains of generational mental illness, trauma, and addiction.

Everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. My life became everything I constructed it to be. My experiences were a direct result of my actions. However, I am now able to see the benefits and learn from every painful experience I encounter. Perhaps I never would’ve been as compassionate, loving, considerate, kind, and resilient had I never dug deeply into my traumatic experiences. I wouldn’t be half the mother, daughter, woman, and friend I am today without my trauma. The same trauma that held me captive for most of my life liberated me from my self-victimizing propulsion and propelled me into a life filled with gratitude.

 

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Tricia Moceo advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like detoxlocal.com, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

 

 

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