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Dealing With 9 11 and Addiction Relapse

Today I was scanning the internet, reading articles and watching videos in remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist tragedies.  The impact those events have had in the lives of billions of people is powerful and undeniable.  For drug addicts and alcoholics, tragedy and intense emotional pain like that of 9/11 can trigger relapse.

High Stress Jobs and Addiction

It makes sense that people with high-stress jobs, like firefighters and police officers, have a higher risk for addiction.  People cope with stress in different ways, and not every rescue and safety worker abuses drugs and alcohol.  But it is easy to see how many could turn to the numbing effects of drugs or alcohol to cope with the never-ending stream of intense emotion and extreme situations. 

I stumbled across this interesting link this morning, issued shortly after the 9/11 attacks alerting care professionals to a possible increase in addiction relapse rates.  For many people, the reaction to such horrific events were strong and complicated.  Even for people thousands of miles away from the actual events were profoundly impacted.  This article includes comments from an addict with many years of sobriety finding his emotions becoming “old and familiar” in a negative sort of way.

Difficult Memories Trigger Emotional Overwhelm

The events may have been several years ago, but the ripple effect from something dramatic like that can be very long-lasting.  On this seventh anniversary of the events, the media has (as in years past) focused on ceremonies and recalling the events of that awful day.  For a person having struggles with stability and sobriety, a re-stimulation of those memories could still be difficult to deal with. 

Most likely, an anniversary is going to be less of a challenge than the weeks and months that immediately followed the events.  However, a person with PTSD (either from that time or from other events) actually re-experiences those moments as if they are in real time.  Seven years or fifty seven years may have passed since they experienced their pain, fear, terror, shock, and utter disbelief in what was going on.  For them, the nightmare continues daily.

Drugs and Alcohol Provide Relief and Catch 22

When a person is desperate to have relief from overwhelming pain, drugs and alcohol can feel like a salve on the wound.  Even if they truly know it is a bad choice to make, it may seem to be the lesser of two evils.  PTSD is like a horror movie they can’t turn off in their minds.  Not only do their minds replay the events and their thoughts, but the body’s original reactions are triggered as well. 

Tragedy and emotional shock are a test to every human spirit.  And usually, it doesn’t discriminate between people with emotional resilience and emotional frailty.  It simply happens.  Each person’s reaction is unique to them, based on their character, past experiences, circumstances, beliefs, and current support systems.

Remember Those Struggling With Tragedy and Addiction

No one is immune to experiencing overwhelming long-lasting emotional pain.  This is just the time when addiction can unexpectedly become a fixture in someone’s life.  When you remember the unbelievable events of September 11, 2001, also remember those in your life who struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction.  Many people directly involved with those tragedies have probably abused drugs or developed an addiction to cope. 

Is there someone near you love troubled with addiction?  Talk to them about drug rehab.  Are you overcome with addiction yourself?  Know that there is help and hope.

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