How to Navigate Through Symptoms of PTSD in Early Recovery
Tips on how to navigate through PTSD while staying sober
According to the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. It is no secret that many individuals struggling with untreated PTSD find themselves self-medicating with other substances. Some common symptoms of PTSD are: nightmares, lack of sleep, irritability, loss of appetite, flashbacks, emotional distress, hopelessness, loss of focus, feelings of rage/resentments, suicidal thoughts, memory loss, feelings of guilt/shame, easily alarmed, hyper-vigilance, loss of memory, and even utter avoidance or dissociation.
Research has shown that almost half of individuals struggling with PTSD meet the criteria for struggling with a substance abuse disorder as well. Often times, the individual is not equipped with the proper coping skills to walk through the symptoms of PTSD alone. Seeking relief, through mood/mind-altering substances, seems like the more tangible and most appropriate solution for many suffering with untreated PTSD. Drugs and alcohol can increase the severity of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and can create further physical/mental health complications.
I personally struggled with PTSD, for as long as I can remember. Completely unaware and uneducated, the odds were against me. I was never officially diagnosed with PTSD, until I walked into a dual diagnosis treatment center, seeking help for my alcoholism. I know I have three years sober and I have been walking through recovery and learning how to mitigate symptoms of my PTSD. It has been a long and daunting road, but there are many proactive steps we can take, in early recovery, in order to heal.
Talk about it
The first and most important step, when dealing with any form of trauma, is to talk about it. Almost mirroring the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous, there lies a dire necessity to admit that there is a problem and there have been consequences (or symptoms) because of it. I remember a specific trauma from my childhood, one I had avoided for 20+ years, coming up in a conversation with my therapist. An instant relief rushed over me. It is always beneficial for anyone struggling with PTSD to reach out and ask for help. Psychotherapy is perhaps one of the most effective forms of trauma therapy.
Change your habits
Any individual struggling with PTSD copes with the symptoms of this disorder in his or her own way. For those of us in recovery, many of us have coped by way of self-medicating and thus have landed ourselves in a far worse situation than most of us would care to admit. It is vital that we begin to take on new, healthy habits to replace our poor methods of mitigating the symptoms of PTSD. Studies have proven that a holistic healing approach seems to be the most effective way of addressing these seemingly overwhelming and relentless feelings that arise from our looming PTSD. Here are a few different types of holistic therapeutic approaches to dealing with dual diagnosis disorders.
- Nutrition Coaching
- Career Services
- Spiritual Counseling
- Art Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Martial Arts
- Music Therapy
- Outdoor Activities
- Dream Work
- Guided Imagery
Be of service
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous makes it very clear how working with another alcoholic is vital to our sobriety. Much in the same way, acts of service are vital to our overall mental wellbeing. When we take the time to work with someone else and offer a helping hand, it has been proven that we receive a number of benefits to our mental health. When we are thinking of others, our problems seem to subside—even if only temporarily. We are able to take on an entirely different perspective as our anxieties begin to slip away. Acts of service have the beautiful ability to reconnect us with other humans and destroy our natural desires to isolate.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, reach out, ask for help, and remember you are not alone.