Native American circles illustrate how substance abuse disrupts the family and creates trauma.

At the center of intact circle is the fire with the children next, a circle of mothers, then fathers, then elders. It is a protective and safe circle.  When substance abuse enters the circle, the fire is replaced with the substance abuse at the center. Then, everything revolves around the substance abuse and the substance abuser. This pushes the children to the outside of the circle.

As a colleague shared this story, images of children looking for safety came to mind. They seek it in positive ways outside the circle through friends’ families and extracurricular activities. They also seek it in negative ways. This is true outside Native American cultures, too.

Trauma disrupts a child’s ability to trust, regulate emotions and feel safe in the world.  Self-esteem is damaged.  This leads to trouble controlling or expressing emotions. It also affects future romantic relationships, friendships and interaction with authority figures like teachers, bosses or police officers.

As childhood trauma continues, even more damage is done to physical and emotional health.

The good news is that treatment can help children and adults who have experience trauma.  What happened to them is at the root of their emotional and behavioral issues.  Healing begins with creating safety.  Without a sense of safety, healing cannot begin. The first tool used at Counseling & Recovery Services is the safety plan where each person identifies things to do when they feel unsafe and negative feelings are triggered.

To learn more about creating safety and how trauma affects behavior, visit our Sanctuary section.