Many of us have experienced trauma in our childhood or earlier in our lives. As difficult as it is to heal from trauma, sometimes specific dates or events can bring that trauma flooding back to our memories vividly like it was just yesterday. Perhaps it is the contrast between the overall feelings of happiness and celebration, but traumas that occurred during the holiday season can come flooding back each year as the holidays approach. Dealing with holiday trauma is definitely not the most wonderful time of the year.
When the Holidays Are Not Delightful
While many people look forward to the holiday season with joyful anticipation, some dread them coming. Not because of the expenses or stresses or having to deal with family or coworkers or others who we would rather not, but because the holidays remind us of something that happened in our past. Whether it was physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, domestic or community violence, the loss of someone close, an accident or serious illness, a natural disaster, a divorce or separation, or any other type of traumatic event that we may have witnessed or personally experienced, it can be difficult to forget.
When an event causes trauma, we naturally tie the sights, smells, sounds, and other things happening around us to that trauma. Therefore, if we suffered trauma around the holidays, the holidays can make us feel anxiety, pain, and fear. We associate the holidays with what happened to us, and it is challenging to separate what happened from seasonal events and celebrations. This is why for many of us, the holidays feel like impending doom year after year.
Why Trauma Is Like the Ghosts of Christmas Past
Some memories haunt us because we have emotions and memories tied to them. However, trauma is more than that. The traumatic event gets stuck, almost like a broken record player, in our minds. We may relive it over and over, and our minds stay stuck in fear of flight, fight, or freeze mode. When this happens, we may react to innocuous things as if they are as terrifying as whatever trauma we experienced during a holiday so long ago.
Just like the concept of a ghost that might haunt us until we have made peace with our memories, trauma does not allow us to rest until we have gone back to that event in our minds and healed from it. Until we do, specific dates, places, faces, sights, smells, and more can trigger that fight or flight response to anything going around us, even something happy. The trauma haunts us until we can heal from it.
Why Trauma Can Lead to Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of unresolved trauma is that it can lead to substance use and possibly substance abuse. Because of the pain, fear, anxiety, and depression that untreated trauma causes, we tend to self-medicate or try to escape those awful feelings by using drugs or alcohol. Using substances to try to treat the trauma only masks the problem and creates a whole new set of problems if we become addicted.
How We Can Start to Heal From Trauma
Healing from trauma is nearly impossible to do on our own. One of the best ways to begin healing is to seek help from a licensed therapist. There are different types or modalities within therapy, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which are very effective at healing past trauma. The goal is to locate the trauma in your brain and to allow us to reprocess the event in a safe environment so that the brain knows that it is no longer a threat. This healing is essential for moving away from trauma and having a healthier response to the holidays instead of one of dread and fear.
Is There Hope for Trauma-Free Holidays?
There is always hope for healing. As long as we are committed to taking good care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, then we can heal, learn, and grow from our past. We can make a choice this year to deal with our holiday-related trauma once and for all. We can also choose to heal from substance abuse. We can make this holiday season a season of healing from trauma and all of the side effects, including addiction. We do not need to be haunted by past trauma. We can free ourselves from the shackles that are holding us back from having peace and wellness in our lives.
Trauma is always painful and difficult to deal with on your own. However, trauma that occurred around the holidays is particularly painful, especially if everyone around you is joyful and celebrating. You do not have to be a permanent spectator to the joy of the holidays. Dealing with trauma will help you to heal permanently and enjoy future holidays with the peace and happiness you deserve. Rancho Milagro Recovery can help you to heal from your trauma and also related substance abuse issues. You can do the work this holiday season so that you can be well to enjoy the future holiday seasons. Join us at our beautiful ranch in Temecula, California to begin your healing by calling (951) 526-4582 today. You can heal and find peace again. This year, you can begin your recovery from trauma-related substance abuse and create your own peace on earth.