“Before you pass judgment on one who is self-destructing, it’s important to remember they usually aren’t trying to destroy themselves. They’re trying to destroy something inside that doesn’t belong there.” —Christopher Ferry
As a person who has had significant struggles with substance use challenges, this resonates so deeply with me. For some, their experimentation of drugs or alcohol came from curiosity or social pressures. For others, the use of drugs, alcohol, self-harm, and a host of other destructive behaviors is a response to the traumatic effects of loss, neglect, abandonment, (sexual, physical, emotional, mental abuse), violence, poverty, broken homes, I could go on.
Every person has a unique way a of responding to trauma and some are more resilient. For others, the effects of trauma can be devastating. Imagine for a moment having experienced a multitude of traumas and the messages you are left with about who you are as a result of those experiences. For many people trauma was experienced when they were adolescents, and those core memories and experiences shaped how they saw the world and how they believed the world saw them. This became their core beliefs. What might seem like a self-destructive act, is just a behavior, the behavior is an attempt to solve a problem. That problem is often how they feel about those messages and experiences. It’s through the behaviors that people are trying to desperately escape, or destroy those parts inside them that don’t belong.
For many who have been fortunate enough to escape with their lives the cycle that threatens to take it, they can come to see their past as something that has strengthened them, given them and appreciation for life, the ability to see possibilities, have healthy relationships with others, and experience a spiritual change. These are the areas of a person’s life when measured, speak to what’s called post traumatic growth.
Click here to learn more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) assessment, created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente.
Christopher is currently the Community Building Director of Housing at RI International and has been working with the company for 14 years. His history includes spending 20 years cycling in and out of homelessness, substance use, incarcerations, and treatment centers. Christopher is proud to say that his program has had the highest SAMHSA fidelity scores in Maricopa County since 2014.