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CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE, AND ADDICTIONS ~ THE FACTS!
| Addicted to Drugs/Alcohol? | Drug/Alcohol Research and CSA | Addicted to Sex?

YOU CAN BECOME 'ADDICTED' TO MANY THINGS:

  • Sex.
  • Masturbation.
  • Gambling.
  • Strenuous exercise.
  • Overworking.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Taking risks, including dangerous behaviour.
  • Violence.

    Have you felt out of control with any of the above?

    If your answer is yes to any of the above, then you may be wondering, 'what's that got to do with being abused as a child?' Well, being abused is extremely painful, and as such, that pain is hard to cope with. There may have been no one around to listen to your pain.

    It has been ingrained into society that for men it is sometimes different, as they are supposed to be strong and to be able to cope with anything. But you still have to find a way of coping and surviving. Some men/women turn to addictions. If this has happened to you try not to beat yourself up about it. It's important to understand that addictions serve many valuable short-term functions:

  • They help to blot out the pain of the abuse.
  • They can temporarily reduce tension.
  • They might help you feel good - briefly.
  • They might help control distressing symptoms like flashbacks, or lack of sleep.

    Unfortunately, with addiction there's always a price to pay:

  • Your physical health will suffer, often badly.
  • You might suffer financially.
  • You might lose time at work, or even, your job.
  • Under the 'influence' you might be more likely to get yourself into situations where you might get hurt, or hurt others.
  • If you're having thoughts of harming yourself you might be more likely to do it 'under the influence'.
  • All these are potentially dangerous.

    It is hard to begin your recovery whilst you're in the grip of addiction. This is because recovery involves expressing and feeling your feelings. This can be very hard and painful. The point of addiction is to try and blot out painful feelings. So, while you're addicted it's hard to get to your feelings.

    It may seem obvious, but make a decision that you want to deal with it. Talk through the decision with someone you trust.

    Also, remember that the addiction has served a purpose. It has helped you survive.


  • Are you working with clients who have an addictions problem, who have also disclosed child sexual abuse?

  • Are you stuck in the mode of thinking that clients with addictions chose to abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a choice?

    With no other reason for doing so, they choose to screw up their life's?

  • Are you a graduate from the school of thought that says it's genetic?

    Are you someone who needs to see proven research, and will only believe what you read?

  • Have you been trained into thinking that the addiction needs to be treated first, and that issues of sexual abuse and disclosure must be left until later?

    If so, ever wondered about the incredibly high amount of relapses that occur again and again?

    If so, please read through the information below, and look at the underlying reasons for the addiction problems that are endemic in our society today.

    International and UK research strongly confirm a relationship between CSA and substance

    Experienced, and enlightened addiction counsellors have long since argued the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and substance use

    UK estimates state that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 4 males are subjected to some form of sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18, although the statistics gathered whilst I worked at an Addictions Rehab Unit show the true figure to be much higher!

    Some studies undertaken have shown that substance misuse acts as a way of managing the psychological effects arising from abuse. Work already done proposes that people often use drugs, which help to mask specific effects and consequences of abuse, such as intrusive recollections, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, numbing or hyper-vigilance.

    Opiate, alcohol and inhalant misuse are all identified as being used if having been sexually abused, and used as an escape. Substances are also used as a self-medication before sexual abuse in response to other trauma or neglect.

    They are also used to excess to counteract the effect of poor self-esteem. For others, increased access to substances during adolescence might prompt experimentation with self-medication.


    LONG-TERM EFFECTS.

    There are a number of models for understanding the long-term effects of CSA.
    Finkelhor's 'traumagenic' model specifically describes the effects of sexual abuse rather than more general trauma.

    #1: Traumatic sexualisation occurs when someone's sexuality is shaped by their abuse experience and the actions of the perpetrator. Consequences include confusion about sexual identity and norms, sex being the only means of giving and receiving attention and affections, possible involvement in prostitution, and adverse or phobic reactions to sexual intimacy.

    Substances are often used as misguided protection - "if I'm stoned and ugly, nobody will want me".
    In the case of amphetamines, they can often deny sexuality by ensuring prepubescent figures remain.

    Discussions with clients about safer sex practices could precipitate frightening memories, leading to urgent self-medication and drug use.

    #2: Powerlessness results when the child's will, desires and sense of efficacy are continually contravened by the abuse and/or a child experiences the threat of injury or annihilation. Many people with histories of CSA continue to experience themselves as powerless into adulthood, so they might be unable to stop later abuse, which increases fear, anxiety, depression and somatic disorders.

    Substance abuse can help to manage such effects and counter poor self-esteem arising from lack of personal power. This can increase confidence in social situations, ordinary sexual interactions or where there is the danger of further sexual assault.

    Substance use helps to aid a temporary dissociation from painful emotions and memories. But feelings of powerlessness are often intensified in the longer term if substance use is not controlled or stopped. They then become trapped in a negative spiral.

    #3: Stigmatisation occurs when the negative connotations of badness, shame and guilt are communicated to the child during abuse, then become incorporated into the child's self-image. This sense of being different or alone may be lessened by substance use.

    Also, some people can be attracted to other stigmatised groups because they believe that it is all they deserve. This can exacerbate shame and guilt, leading to more substance use.

    It also reinforces self-blame. This can lead to self-harm and suicide, with substance use as an obvious means.

    #4: Betrayal occurs when someone they loved or whom they were taught to respect assaults them.
    It can be greater if 'trusted others' failed to protect them. So they seek redeeming relationships as adults - which, arguably, can be provided through drugs, being personal, intimate and pain relieving.


    Drug use is also used to facilitate social relationships with minimal intimacy, allowing people to function in the world whilst maintaining self-protection. Although for others, it's used a guard against relationships, which could lead to more betrayal

    Heavy drug use can test boundaries to discover if another person can be trusted. This can be punished through sanctions or judgments, which 'prove' that they cannot be trusted and reconfirm earlier experiences of betrayal.

    For people who have been sexually abused and feel powerless and stigmatised, this can be devastating.

    Inevitably, some might use stimulants to maintain hyper vigilance, a self-protective mechanism consistent with post traumatic stress disorder.


    Treatment:

    Disclosure, referral and abstinence:

    Given the complex relationship between CSA and substance use, it is hard to separate the two issues. This can have practical consequences for treatment, with particular repercussions for client disclosure, referral and abstinence.


    Disclosure.

    Many studies indicate that unresolved CSA issues are a hidden factor underlying substance use. It should be noted that these issues are a major indicator when clients relapse during treatment.

    Practitioners often receive unsolicited disclosures of CSA, and in doing so, should foster an environment where disclosures can be facilitated. It is vital that practitioners feel competent to manage such disclosure and support clients, or access local services that provide specialised counselling and support

    It would be unprofessional, and stupid, to say the least, to embark on asking someone to disclose their sexual abuse if the person working with them has no prior knowledge or experience of working with survivors, which can further 'damage' the person who has been abused.


    Referral.

    Where client disclosure of CSA has occurred, it is often expected that they be referred to 'specialist' agencies or counsellors. This can undermine a basic tenet of good practice: to encourage client choice and responsibility, and support disempowered clients in establishing personal authority. Referral can also disrupt continuity for the client, creating insecurity and helplessness when safety and empowerment are crucial. And where should a client be referred? There is a grave lack of services.

    One man I worked with in prison was reluctant to speak to me, having been promised that counselling for his sexual abuse would be sorted out many times previously in rehab's, but nothing was ever arranged, so was unsure as to whether I would come back to see him again. Thankfully he chose to speak to me, and he healed fully and had not returned to jail


    Conclusions.

    A recent Scottish study suggests that practitioners feel unequal to this task. Action must be taken. Practitioners need appropriate training and work experience.

    Their managers/supervisors must understand how this work affects them, especially if the worker has unresolved issues of sexual abuse in their life, and we need more research on long-term outcomes for survivors.


    Childhood sexual abuse and substance use:

    key points:
    International research suggests a relationship between childhood sexual abuse and later substance use:

    - individuals sexually abused as children are disproportionately represented among substance users

    - CSA's long-term effects are mistaken for or manifested in serious mental-health problems

    - substance use can play an important role in the self-management of many of the mental-health effects

    Some UK research has been conducted; but while services do receive client disclosure of CSA, few are likely to be equipped for such work and UK services must work concurrently on substance use and CSA issues; this will require modification to drug-assessment protocols and staff training


    DRUGS/ALCOHOL RESEARCH and CSA

    Various surveys carried out always set the tone for the results, but it's interesting to find that similar surveys show the same amount of people

    Staff at 47 addiction agencies in Scotland states that up to 50% of their clients had disclosed having been sexually abused as children. These figures were collected from disclosures made in programme sessions and out of sessions

    Research undertaken by Janet Wilson, at Stirling University, stated that anywhere between 37-42% of men who were addicted to alcohol/drugs had also had childhood abuse backgrounds
    Scottish Drugs Training Project, Stirling University: 1998

    UK: A survey of 40 male clients in a regional inpatient detoxification unit showed that 47% of men had experienced child sexual abuse before age 16.

    Another survey showed that 87 men, out of a 134 men in therapy, had experienced child sexual abuse before the age of 16.

    With the understanding that they would not have to discuss the issue unless they wanted to, over 90% of people in alcohol/drug therapy disclosed childhood sexual abuse as the probable cause of their addictions.

    The above figures were all taken from addictions research, often disclosed within a different setting, but it is worth noting that not all survivors choose to disclose their abuse, which makes the incidence of sexual abuse much higher


    ARE YOU ADDICTED TO DRUGS/ALCOHOL?

    Do you have an alcohol/drugs addiction? Were you ever sexually abused, either as a child or adult? Have you been told that it is the addiction to alcohol/drugs that is the problem, not the sexual abuse you suffered as a child?

    Well, who ever told you that are wrong!

    You didn't wake up one morning and decide that you were going to end up with an addiction, possibly losing your family, work, almost your life, without having some issues in your background that sets you off on a spiral of drinking and/or using drugs to mask the pain.

    If you are wondering what you can do to overcome the addiction, the answer is very simple, you need to speak out about your abuse, finding a counsellor that will treat the whole person, and not ignore the obvious, which is that you are still in pain from the abuse inflicted upon you

    N.B. If counselling has not worked, have you considered finding another counsellor who is skilled in working with and assisting healing?

    To heal fully, you need to speak out about all aspects of the abuse you suffered, and also feel free enough to disclose what happened after the abuse stopped

    Don't allow a counsellor to tell you that the substances you use is the issue, it is not, it is the reason and cause, that's all.

    If you need support to overcome this, please consider getting in touch with us, via e-mail or telephone, and we will endeavour to support you through the trauma's of giving up the substances and help you overcome the addiction.


    Thoughts and temptations to drink again or use drugs often occur when you are tired, tense or worried. A vicious circle then develops. i.e. Thinking of drink/drugs makes you more tense, making it more difficult to control.

    Reducing the tension, fear, and worry by following some of the guidelines below will help, and the ability to handle difficult situations will increase.

    Relaxation.

    You may have already done some of this, and may have found it helpful, you may have felt just a little self-conscious, but by being able to relax properly, you will find it one of the most important skills in reducing stress.

    Practise relaxation skills regularly and you will find it will reduce your tension when tension arises.


    Distraction.

    Dwelling on temptation and worrying about what might happen does not help. Active involvement in doing something else will distract you and reduce the temptation to drink/use.

    Distraction always requires forethought and planning so don't leave it until it's too late! You cannot afford to wait until it happens - it will be too late!!

    Decide in advance what you can do if temptations arise, and practise the coping skills in advance. Ok, it can be hard work but you can do it, after all, consider how much effort and determination you have put into getting drugs/drunk?


    Talking.

    You need to arrange a support network that will enable you to gain the support that you badly need, and will do for some considerable time to come.

    Sometimes you'll need to see the person face to face; sometimes maybe a phone call alls that's needed. In either event, you decide, in advance, whom you will contact when in need. It's not enough to think about whom to contact.

    You must make a serious effort to pick up the 'phone, or visit the person in question, or the consequences are, without doubt, seriously negative.

    You and you alone must make a personal decision about whom you will contact and prepare your chosen contact and yourself for when you need them to be there for you. (You must check whether that person is prepared to be there for you)

    Carry their phone number with you always, and arrange to see them on a regular basis too. You need support for the first two years in recovery. Not a choice to refuse or take, or is it?


    Negative thinking.

    If you become caught in this trap, reverse the process by recalling some or all of the negative events of your drinking/using that caused you problems in the past.

    Think of the full consequences of previous drinking/using and then decide what really matters to you.

    What are you most ashamed of? Most frightened by? Write them down and carry those memories with you at all times.

    Look at them at regular times. It will help you focus on the negative issues that will arise if you return to drinking/using.


    Positive thinking.

    Do the opposite to the above and write down all of the positives that have arisen since you stopped drinking/using. Consider the advantages you have built up by being sober/straight.

    Being sober/straight helps you decide clearly, what is right for you, with no outside interference.

    Again, do not leave it until it is too late!

    What you do after a mistake is crucial and by looking at how it happened, you can learn from it and prevent it happening again.

    It is far too easy to allow feelings of shame and failure to dominate your thoughts, and in doing so, this can prevent family, friends and supporters from seeking help.

    If you cannot handle difficult situations alone, why allow yourself to slip into a state of total loneliness?

    Many survivors join us with addictions, and decide to stop using, face their pain, and have recovered, never to use again.


    ADDICTED TO SEX/ONLINE PORN?

    Some research shows a high correlation exists between childhood abuse and sexual addiction in adulthood, and those who admit to being addicted to sex have reported experiencing some of the following shared issues:

    Emotional abuse: 97%
    Sexual abuse: 83%
    Physical abuse: 71%

    Almost all survivors who are locked into this way of behaving end up feeling guilt and shame about their behaviour, and often live in a constant fear of discovery, yet all the time remain locked into a pattern of acting out sexually, in order to match their sexual needs.

    All too often, by doing this, its just an attempt to block out the actual pain of their addiction, and to deny the abuse.

    Often the sexual acts that men carry through are nothing less that them recreating the abuse they suffered., and which is part of what drives the addictive cycle.

    Sex is, without doubt, addictive, but please don't get bogged down by the terminology used on some sites, which says that sex addiction is a disease.

    When I have asked so called sex addicts/male survivors why they are addicted to using online porn, or sex with other people, they find it hard to think fully about the question, apart from the sexual pleasure they seek, but once asked the question, and they are allowed to go beyond the usual answers of 'getting sex', they begin to see that the sex lives their life, controls them, and almost always, it's a major problem, and therefore ruins their lives.

    When one survivor was asked that same question about online porn misuse, responsible for the collapse of his marriage, he felt unable to answer that question properly. I then asked what he 'got' from doing that, apart from the obvious, and he replied that it was the thrill of the chase.

    That is how he had been viewing the abuse he suffered, and when that reply to the question had settled in, and he thought about the connection, he was silent for a while and then realised that the abuse had indeed had a major effect upon his life, and was behind his addiction to sex and online porn

    UPDATE: After some time, he has given himself another view on his lifestyle and has made some serious decisions about HIS Life and how he lives it, and is well on his way to overcome what is nothing more than a habit, NOT a disease.

    It is not a disease, you dont suddenly catch it and become an addict either.


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