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Sobriety and Trauma

answered 08:37 AM EST, Thu November 24, 2011
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I discovered my nephew’s body this week. He was 25 and had been struggling with bipolar disorder for years. He had taken his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning by running his car in the garage with a hose into the cabin. I was stopping by my sister’s place in the middle of the day to drop off some bricks and so at least it was me and not my sister who found him. I tried to resuscitate him but it was no use. I don’t know how she would have been able to handle that since to be honest I am having some difficulty dealing with it myself.

I know what I am going through is insignificant compared to the loss in my sister’s family, but I am having a lot of trouble getting the memory of that afternoon out of my head and it has been giving me nightmares. If I weren’t an alcoholic I’d have like 10 drinks before bed so I wouldn’t have to dream about that horrible day again, but that’s not really a good idea for me right now. What can I do to get the memory of that day from invading my thoughts at all hours and especially from my dreams at night. I can’t take it anymore and I am worried it will affect my ability to stay sober.

Donna Hunter Says...

Donna Hunter D. Hunter

I am sorry you had to find your nephew as you did.  It is important o know that the trauma and loss you experienced is just as profound as the trauma and loss experienced by your sister.  Yours is just different.  Too often we try to minimize what we have experienced by thinking someone else has it worse.


It sounds like you are experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  PTSD is not only seen in veterans returning from war.  When we have experienced a life shattering event that leaves us feeling helpless, these symptoms arise:


1. Re-experiencing the event through nightmares, flashbacks ( seeing and re-experiencing the event), physical reactions to reminders of the event.


2.Avoiding reminders of the trauma: inability to remember parts of the event, avoiding places or activities that would remind you of the trauma, Feeling emotionally numb


3. Increased anxiety and hyper vigilance: Difficulty sleeping, irritable, anger outbursts, jumpy, easily startled, difficulty concentrating.


All of these things are normal after a life altering trauma.  However, these symptoms are threatening your sobriety.  Please keep in mind that retuning to drinking will only increase the anxiety you feel and add your own shame and guilt related to your addiction on top of it all.


I would strongly recommend finding a trauma therapist who has experience working with addictions.  Look for an EMDR certified therapist.  EMDR is a very effective way to address single situation traumas.  You can find an EDMR certified therapist by going to http://www.emdria.org/  Click on the Find a Therapist tab. Trauma’s like this just don’t go away easily.  Your recovery is being threatened by this memory.  Protecting your recovery needs to be your highest priority. Along with therapy, go to meetings, talk to your sponsor, review your recovery plan.  Do all the things you need to do in your recovery as through you were first getting sober.


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Page last updated Nov 30, 2011

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