As much as we might want to leave our pasts behind us so that we can move forward and look to a happier future, we can only truly move forward once we’ve come to terms with our past. We are often still grappling with unresolved issues, unanswered questions and unhealed fears and emotions. We still have mental and emotional difficulties we don’t understand. We might still have thought patterns, emotional responses and behavioral patterns that confuse us and that we can’t make sense of. The answers often lie in the childhood issues we have yet to examine.
Many of us can trace our addictive patterns back to our childhoods. Analyzing when and how we first started using is an important part of understanding ourselves and our addictions. We might have had a childhood friend, sibling, older family member or even parent introduce us to drugs or alcohol. We might have been bullied or coerced into experimenting for the first time. We might have been dealing with intense peer pressure, thinking we would be cool, popular and accepted if we took this step. It can help us learn more about ourselves and our emotions to examine this time in our childhoods in even more depth. What things were you thinking and feeling at the time? What do you think drove you to want to experiment? Was it something you genuinely wanted to do, or did you feel pressured to do it? Did you in turn pressure others? Did your drug use or other issues make you do other things you regretted? How did it make you feel? What is your story with drug use?
The things we felt and experienced are all quite common in children. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for them or judge ourselves. We should try to have as much compassion and understanding for ourselves as possible. We should try, as much as possible, to love and accept ourselves unconditionally, especially as we’re exploring these tough childhood issues. Let’s be patient with ourselves as we keep examining, as difficult emotions arise and memories resurface. When we get to the root of these childhood issues, that’s when we’re getting to the real core of our addictions, sometimes for the very first time.
When we look at what might have been driving our experimentation, there are some common factors often at play. We might have simply felt bored and unfulfilled. When we’re young, our schedules, routines and lifestyles are pretty much dictated for us. Our parents or other caretakers usually have control over what schools we go to, what classes we take, what activities we take part in, what we’re allowed to do with our free time, and what friends we can spend time with. We might not have found the hobby or interest that excited us, that made us feel fulfilled, that occupied our time in constructive, productive ways. We might have had a lot of extra time on our hands, particularly if we were left alone a lot while our parents were at work. This boredom causes children to look for outlets to occupy that extra time, to bring them some excitement, and to take them away from the monotony of their daily lives. Many kids hate school, and they find that using drugs and alcohol and skipping school with their friends are a fun and exciting alternative they actually look forward to.
Sometimes what fuels our experimentation is our insecurity. This is a major factor when it comes to peer pressure. We desperately want to fit in. We want the cool kids to like us. We don’t want to be the odd kid out, the nerd, the loser kid who can’t relax and have a good time. We want to prove ourselves, and sometimes succumbing to pressure to try drugs is how we feel we can do that. We want other kids to like us. We want to feel accepted. We want to be part of the cool, popular crowd. Underneath these very common, normal feelings are the painful insecurities we feel.
Our adolescence is a time marked with intense changes. As we’re getting older, we’re starting to define ourselves and create our identities. We wonder if we’re good enough. We wonder if we’re pretty enough, handsome enough, smart or talented enough. We often feel inadequate. We might have been bullied and insulted. We might have been abused, mistreated or neglected at home. Many of us had already experienced severe trauma at this point in our lives. We internalize the bad things that have happened to us, the harmful ways we’ve been treated, and the negative things that have been said about us. We believe those unkind words to be true. We believe our trauma makes us inherently unworthy and inadequate. As children we’re already starting to develop the patterns of competing with and comparing ourselves to our peers, patterns that for many of us continue well into adulthood. We feel envious of other people, and deeply self-hating. We become self-destructive. We want to escape the pain of our insecurity, and we find that drugs and alcohol help us to do that. They make us feel stronger, happier and more confident. These are feelings we want to have, so we keep using, and often before we know it we’ve developed a substance abuse problem.
Examining our childhoods and the ways in which we first started using our drug of choice can help us learn valuable insights about ourselves as people and as addicts. Doing this imprtant internal exploratory work is an important part of our healing and empowers us to have a lasting, meaningful recovery.
Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.