Some of our happiest memories are the ones we spend our lifetimes trying to continually recreate. When we think of these times (for example, birthdays, Christmas mornings, and Thanksgiving dinners at our grandmother’s house), we remember everything we liked and keep those memories with us.
Unfortunately, some of our strongest memories tend to be the negative experiences that we have had. For some of us, those memories are the most vivid of all, often replayed in our own minds as we relive the trauma from time to time.
Some of us who have lived through specific and intense trauma may try to recreate this trauma in our lives without knowing it. We may be drawn to abusive relationships or social groups that are not appropriate.
Women may face gender-specific issues when in treatment for substance use and addiction recovery. In some cases, they may need to separate themselves from trauma-recreated situations and abusive relationships while also seeking treatment.
Re-enactments, the psychology-specific term for these recreations, can provide us with a helpful way to conceptualize trauma. However, recreating trauma is a destructive habit to avoid. Read on to learn more about re-enactments, gender-specific issues, and how this can be used positively in addiction recovery.
What Are Re-Enactments?
Unlike simply remembering a traumatic event, re-enactments concern involving oneself in a situation that recreates the trauma in their current life. For example, a woman who was abused by her father as a child may seek out partners as an adult who also abuse her.
Re-enactments are a type of coping mechanism. We would consider this maladaptive because the result is adding to and compounding the trauma. This behavior is the result of patients trying to normalize a traumatic past or exhibiting psychological vulnerabilities relating to their trauma.
People who engage in re-enactments may be addicted to trauma. It is not well-known why someone would engage in re-enactments, but some theories suggest re-enactments are the result of a patient trying to express through actions what they feel they cannot express in words.
In many ways, a person who engages in this behavior is likely trying to recreate trauma that previously occurred in their life, to normalize it. By recreating the trauma, they are avoiding facing it for what it is.
Women and Recreating Trauma
When a person reenacts specific trauma, the behavior might be thought of as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, this might occur when a person abuses controlled substances because they grew up in a household where controlled substances were used.
Traumatic events often result in an individual developing PTSD. People with PTSD may experience flashbacks to the events and may be unable to move on from the traumatic experience.
Women are more likely to experience PTSD than men. In fact, PTSD is among the leading conditions that can be listed with substance use as a co-occurring disorder. Post-traumatic stress occurs when the memory of traumatic events interferes with a person’s ability to live their daily lives.
The reasons that men and women develop addictions are quite different. Men often seek out vices to cope with daily stresses, such as job security or economic situations. Women, however, more often use controlled substances and other addictions as a means of dealing with emotional problems.
Trauma Barriers to Women in Recovery
Even today, substance use and addiction are thought of as masculine issues. Women face significant stigma, barriers to treatment, and stereotypes that make it harder for them to be accepted.
Social barriers also present significant obstacles to women seeking treatment. Women are often placed in the role of caregivers in homes, taking care of the house and children, even when they are also in the role of providers.
Mothers who are addicted and seek treatment face social and legal repercussions for seeking treatment. In some cases, mothers may lose custody of children to the state or family members. Women who seek treatment after escaping abuse may risk having their children return to traumatic or abusive situations if they lose custody.
Women are often also financially disadvantaged compared to men. Because of the gender pay gap, women make less money than men for doing the same work, in many cases. Those who have escaped trauma situations are also frequently further disadvantaged; cut off from resources in order to escape abuse.
Five Ways to Counteract Re-Enactment in Addiction Recovery
There are several ways treatment plans can counteract reenactments and the revisitation of trauma they bring. Here are some examples:
- Treatment begins with patient empowerment. There is no better way to escape from trauma and re-enactment than to inspire women in treatment. Spero Recovery’s women’s residential program provides a safe space for women to be surrounded by other women.
- Clients must be given agency. People who experienced trauma and engage in re-enactment are prisoners of their own tragedy. Giving the power of choice to someone who has not had it can help bring them out of the cycle of abuse.
- Clients should be a part of their own recovery. At Spero Recovery, clients have the opportunity to guide their own path, by learning woodworking or cooking, spending time in natural green spaces or hiking, or learning mindfulness techniques like meditation and yoga.
- People in treatment must feel safe. As we discussed, Spero Recovery’s women’s residential facility is a safe space for women. Here, you can escape trauma and find a relaxing space to recover from abuse.
- Trust is key to recovery. Spero Recovery’s professional staff works hard to ensure your trust will be rewarded.
Facing the abuse and trauma from our experiences can take a lifetime, especially when those experiences take place in childhood. The wounds may heal, but the scars remain with us. Developing healthy coping mechanisms as early in life as possible can help ensure that we deal with trauma in positive ways. If you were not able to develop these coping skills, though, you may find maladaptive ways of dealing with trauma. Re-enactment is a negative approach to facing trauma that keeps trauma with you by recreating abuse with other people. Only in ending the cycle of abuse can you truly begin to break free of the vices you use to deal with stress and emotion. At Spero Recovery, we can help you overcome trauma in a safe space, guided by professionals whose mission is your successful recovery. Call us today at (303) 351-7888.