When we look at anyone who is struggling with addiction, we might see the problems drugs and alcohol have created for the person without seeing the person themselves. We may have become so quick to judge that we forget to ask them how they came to be this way in the first place. Our leaders at AJP, along with many survivor-centered organizations around the country, have found that for survivors, addiction is often a secondary symptom of their initial trauma, not the cause of it.
Although every survivor’s story is different, we have found that sexual exploitation is often horrific, and usually violent. Survivors are coerced to endure sexual, mental, emotional, financial, and physical abuse for long periods of time. Even when survivors don’t have a preexisting addiction, trafficking predators are notorious for encouraging or even forcing drug and alcohol abuse upon them for a number of reasons: So they are able to work longer hours, so they can temporarily cope with physical pain or emotional guilt, and so they are constantly in a more suggestible mental state. This can create a vicious cycle when survivors try to leave exploitation and rebuild their lives. Even with the best intentions in the world, they are in danger of turning back to exploitation to feed their addiction if they struggle with drugs or alcohol.
When new survivors enter our Grace House Residential Program, they make the commitment to stay clean and sober for the entirety of their rehabilitation. That can be very difficult for some of them, especially when you consider that they’ve used addiction to cope for years, sometimes over a decade, of trauma. Though a two year stay at our residence can be a huge blessing in their lives, it doesn’t automatically fix all their problems, and they are tasked with confronting debilitating trauma symptoms head-on without using unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drugs or alcohol. Our team does all we can to guide them on how to use healthy coping skills while providing all necessary support, but it truly comes down to the survivor herself: She is making the decisions for her life.
Grace House is currently blessed with a number of significant sobriety milestones, with over 18 months clean and sober for our longest-lasting resident and 60 days for our newest resident. We do all we can to facilitate their mental and emotional healing and sobriety, by offering support groups, partnering with outpatient substance abuse recovery services, providing weekly relapse-prevention courses, clean-and-sober fun activities, and the good news is that its working! To learn more about how you can directly partner with us and further empower these ladies, click here.
written by Amanda Moon Ellevis