Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex PTSD (CPTSD), combined with substance abuse makes recovery from PTSD and CPTSD symptoms extremely challenging. Watching your loved one’s self-destructive behavior is heart-wrenching. You support them daily through horrific PTSD symptoms and episodes that leave you weak, terrified, confused, and heartbroken at times. It’s frustrating because you work so hard to help your loved one yet they won’t help themselves. I too have felt this same way and my marriage almost failed because of my spouse’s choices. All in all, it isn’t uncommon to see CPTSD substance abuse or with PTSD.
It’s no surprise that someone going through the horrific storms revolving around CPTSD and PTSD may self-medicate. Self-medication includes alcohol abuse, narcotic use in excess, and use of street drugs. In some cases someone will choose prescription medications to numb them from the mental and physical anguish. Although they may feel they are masking their issues they are actually cause them to be worse off.
PTSD & CPTSD Substance Abuse
When you add substance abuse to CPTSD it creates an uglier monster inside your loved one. Particularly opiates like dilated, morphine, vicodin, and oxycodone are very harmful.The opiate medication would increase the severity and duration of certain symptoms. By exacerbating these symptoms the result would be a full on violent and confusing CPTSD episode. These episodes could last anywhere from 12 hours to five days. I’m talking non-stop CPTSD attacks. The PTSD brain functions with variables compared to a person who doesn’t suffer from this disorder.
Opioids work differently for a person with CPTSD or PTSD as opposed to someone without the disorder. Regarding the brain of someone with CPTSD medical professionals look at the locus cerulean is in the brainstem and is relevant to the body’s response to stress. This part of the brain houses a large volume of opioid receptors. When the brain senses danger, high amounts of natural opioids are released. Uniquely the natural opioid binding receptors increase feelings of happiness and calmness. In people with CPTSD or PTSD, this continues long after the end of the stressful event. What this does is reduce sensitivity to physical and emotional pain. It’s what happens in the brain during CPTSD dissociation.
Symptoms Worsen: PTSD & CPTSD Substance Abuse
Hypervigilance is a symptom where your loved one is ultra paranoid and in my husband’s case hallucinating. Looking out the windows, checking all closets, and watching the heating vents would progressively worsen each hour. Once he saw sniper scope lasers coming in the windows. Then he would see shadows of people inside and outside of our home. And, hear voices. He would reply to the voices in a way that suggested he was sought after by the FBI and terrified. These voices would tell him threatening things about removing my children and myself from the home.
Also, the hallucinations evolved into him seeing hand written messages in our carpet. Picture your loved one, acting as convincing as possible, deciphering messages “written” all over your living room carpet. Now imagine these behaviors compounded with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Substance Abuse. Many have seen that this combination can involve episodes that continue on for 24 to 72 hours or more.
Stop PTSD & CPTSD Substance Abuse
Caregivers go months living in a PTSD and CPTSD substance abuse nightmare. If your loved one suffers from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse, keep in mind that drug abuse causes the onset of symptoms and full-blown episodes. In essence they are self-destructive. You can plead, negotiate, and give ultimatums but nothing you do or say can change someone’s substance abuse problem. Only they can make these kind of decisions for themselves and achieve success. In the long run you can only be as supportive as possible without acting as a crutch for them. Which in turn is counter-productive.
With that being said, what you can do is make up your mind about what you can and cannot control. What you have absolute control over is yourself. You control you behavior and what you allow in your life. Hopefully a switch will go off in your loved one’s head and they’ll chose to embrace their journey. By embracing their journey and owning their choices will allow them to truly begin their recovery process.
Therapy Works When You Work the Therapy
Wanting recovery, remission of symptoms, and stability for your family is stronger than wanting to stay on the same roller-coaster ride. Implementing what’s learned through therapy and working hard for a better quality of life is a game changer. Without substance abuse one can finally experience peace and true symptom remission. My husband self-medicated in excess for almost two years. Essentially, after a year and a half of chaotic PTSD attacks he decided to come clean to his therapist. He was finally honest with himself and the person guiding him to recovery.
In doing so, and working very hard, he overcame his addictions. In turn, his CPTSD symptoms slowly began to subside. As time went on we experienced a much more stable home and loving relationship. Eventually all of his symptoms went into remission. And together we were able to see that PTSD symptom remission and recovery is a very real thing. Although there is no cure for PTSD or CPTSD, there is remission and a wonderful life of recovery. In fact, my husband went without issues from his disease for six months. When his PTSD sets in it is far less intense. Additionally, any episode that he experiences is also shorter lasting. Now, they only last an hour or so, instead of several days.
Issues from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex PTSD can be reduced. Their symptoms of high anxiety, rage, nightmares, hallucinations, dissociation, and erratic mood swings can be sent into remission. All it takes is learning some new tools and exercises. These tools include self-guided relaxation techniques. Other tools are creating a routine. Your therapist can give you all the tools in his or her arsenal but it’s up to you to use them. Therapy works when you work the therapy. And in turn, you will see that owning your journey simply means embracing your recovery.
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