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Musings of a substance abuse/interpersonal violence counselor...

Substances use disorder is a cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms indicating that the individual continues using substances despite significant substance related problems.

The unique thing about substance use disorder is that it manifests differently in each person’s life. One person may be exposed to drugs or alcohol as a teenager and immediately find themselves abusing these substances. Another person may be exposed to the exact same drugs and alcohol at the exact same party and successfully get through high school and college, establish a career and family, and later slip into problematic drinking or drug use.

How would someone know if they have it?

When a person begins putting drugs or alcohol in their body, do they find that they don’t know when they will stop? Have they ever planned on having two drinks and ended up having twenty? Do they find themselves doing things when drinking or drugging that they couldn’t imagine doing when sober? Have they ever drunk or used the rent money away? Have friends or family made comments about their drinking or drugging? Have they sworn they were going to stop only to find themselves drunk or high again?

Living with substance use disorder is difficult for anyone. The shame associated with the inability to control one’s intake of alcohol or other mind-altering substances can be overwhelming. The shame is often amplified for women who live in a society that has differing expectations based on gender. For example, consider the fact that substance use disorder does not go into spontaneous remission simply because a woman is pregnant. Imagine a compulsion so strong that even though they knew what they were doing to their body was bad for them and their pregnancy, they could not stop. The same stigma and barriers extends to other issues when considering interpersonal violence and substance use disorder.

Research indicates a significant connection between struggling with a substance use disorder and experiencing domestic or sexual violence. In addition to having a substance use disorder that controls spirit, mind, and body, many individuals are also experiencing a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviors from a partner or family member. Now, the obstacles keeping them down are both intrinsic and extrinsic. It seems whichever way they turn, they are running into a wall. Maybe, the partner who is abusing them is also the supplier of the substance that they are using to cope with the abuse. Maybe, every time the person experiencing interpersonal violence tries to stop using their partner get them high again because when under the influence they are easier to control. Or, maybe every time they consider leaving their partner, they threaten to tell everyone about the substance use disorder.

How does someone reach out for help when they feel they are being judged or that another person or substance has power and control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

DASACC works to ameliorate the suffering of those people who are afflicted with substance use disorder and experiencing interpersonal violence utilizing a concurrent model that addresses both issues at the same time. We offer individual counseling grounded in the “Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse.” This curriculum was developed by Lisa M. Najavits. We also offer group counseling based on “Getting Safe and Sober: Real Tools You Can Use” developed by Patricia J. Bland and Debi Edmund. Both curricula are evidenced based and specifically designed to address both issues at the same time.

Substance use disorder is a treatable illness. People get better and stay better when they are offered real solutions.

If you or someone you know is being hurt or is interested in receiving services, please call our 24/7 hotline.


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