As men who have lived with active addiction to drugs and alcohol, we know of guilt, shame, and remorse. Addiction took some of us to the darkest places of our lives, encouraging us to act in way we never thought we would. If we didn’t lie, cheat, steal, or manipulate, we still found ourselves addicted to drugs and alcohol, which was a low point enough for us. Through recovery we realize that we need not hold onto every ounce of guilt and shame that we have been given about living with an issue which was out of our control. We learn that there is no shame in addiction, though our guilt about the way we acted might have been due. We learn to let go of remorse and instead of hoping for a different past, we work diligently toward building a better future. However, some of our decisions and actions from the past might have taken a deeper toll on our lives.
The Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University defines moral injury as follows: “…the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values or codes of conduct.”
Most often, the context of moral injury includes veterans of war and the discussion of PTSD. Not all soldiers return from battle traumatized, because not everyone who encounters traumatic events will develop PTSD. Moral injury, however, looks and acts much the same as trauma and PTSD, but is not quite the same. Men recovering from battle and men recovering from addiction share a similar struggle: coping with the reality and truth of having acted against one’s own morality, ethics, and values. What results is a tremendous amount of emotional distress, which can influence addiction.
Perhaps one of the most perplexing parts of addiction for those who have never experienced it personally is how men can continue choosing to use drugs and alcohol despite knowing the severe negative consequences. Addiction overrides the part of the brain which regulates consequential thinking, taking the consideration out of the picture. Addiction also programs the brain to seek escape from stress. Even when actions are done in addiction which cause stress, men turn back to addiction to cope with stress, adding salt to moral injury.
Tree House Recovery is a men’s treatment program in Portland, Oregon, offering men a unique way to recover. Inspired by the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest and the philosophies of proven recovery techniques, men create sustainable changes in their life, setting up a life without limitations. Call us today for information: (855) 969-5181