The Link Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse: How to Heal

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“In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.” 
― Judith Lewis Herman

While domestic violence and substance abuse are often referred to as two separately occurring phenomena, the unfortunate reality is that the two are often connected. Such a connection isn’t a good one, but getting to the root of the violence involves putting a stop to the substance abuse and healing your body. Seeking treatment is the first step, and an important one at that, but there are other ways you can physically heal your body and subsequently, your life.


The connection

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) comprehensive overview of various studies involving intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance abuse, it has been found that more than half of the incidences of IPV were related or due to substance abuse. What could be the reason for this? The abuse of alcohol and/or drugs creates a negative environment, and such negativity can contribute to an unhealthy relationship filled with physical and mental conflict, becoming a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, substance abuse greatly impacts mental judgment and behaviors, both of which could lead to violent or aggressive behavior. As a result, by seeking treatment for the substance abuse, it follows suit that the domestic violence events should decrease as well. However, treatment involves healing your body. According to Swift River, “It’s imperative that you nurture your body in sobriety — help it heal, provide it the nourishment it needs, and help it grow stronger.” Substance abuse wreaks havoc on your health, but with the right mental and physical nourishment, you can get back on track.


Heal your body

Your body has grown accustomed to the drugs and alcohol, so suddenly taking these substances away can lead to withdrawal symptoms, some of which are a little painful. You won’t feel this way forever, but it is important that you fuel your body and stay strong by eating right to fight cravings, improve your mood, and fix the damage.

To prevent confusing cravings for actual hunger, eat regularly with snacks in between. Include healthy carbs, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, as these all help with the production of neurotransmitters that reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. During your period of substance abuse, not only was nutrition the last thing on your mind, but exercise probably fell short, too. Rather than jump into a rigorous routine, ease in slowly with walking, swimming, or gentle stretching.


Heal your mind

Whether you are the one in recovery, or the partner who experienced the domestic violence, it is important that the both of you find a mental health professional to talk to. It can be together or separate, but this step is absolutely crucial to heal and move forward. You need a support system to turn to on both the good days and the bad, and there will be bad ones. Substance abuse and domestic violence are a dangerous combination, but with the right help, all parties can find the mental relief they need.

 In addition to talk therapy, find other ways to de-stress such as meditation, yoga, journaling or drawing. In many cases, substance abuse was a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, so now you must find a positive way to relieve stress. It’s rather simple – find something you enjoy doing, and do it. Perhaps you could go for a walk with your sponsor and get a talk session in while you relax, or find a fun activity to do with your partner, family, or friends.

Healing from substance abuse and the accompanying negative behavior takes time, but it can be done. Regardless of whether you were the one abusing substances or you dealt with the violence that resulted from the substance abuse, healing your body and mind take time. The best thing you can do for yourself is to build up your support system and tackle your feelings and emotions head on with the help of a professional.

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About Nora Hood

Ms. Hood considers domestic violence to be a form of domestic terrorism and aims to raise awareness about the issue through her efforts including
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