Can Childhood Fears Lead to Addictive Behavior Later in Life?

I think this was true for me.

My name is Elizabeth McKissick and I am a wife, mom, and a person in long-term recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I want to share some of my story both through words and through an interview I did with Rich Jones, Chief Clinical Officer at Youturn Health. I want preface my story by saying that this is what worked for me, but there are many other pathways. It does not matter how you get to a better place, just get there. I wish I had seen a blog like this one while I was struggling but for so long the stigma of SUD kept anyone from openly talking about it.

Genetics Play a Role

They say genetics and environment play big roles in the path to addiction. I have the genetics covered on both sides, but I think the environment I grew up in was fine. I do want to point out that mixed in with the warm memories of fireflies and flashlight tag, there was an underlying fear of almost everything. I like to point them out as they are just plain weird. I know we are all weird in our own weird ways, but I am uber aware of all my weirdness. I think that has a lot to do with my being an “overly sensitive human” or as I remember being called a “scaredy cat.”  So this fear could have been the precursor to needing to feel comforted or escape reality but would most likely need a therapist, not Google, to tell me what they mean.

Childhood Fears

The hole in the bottom of the toilet bowl. That was going to end me. I did not want anything to do with that black ominous fanny-snatching hole. Another one was the drain in the deep end of the pool. That fear was so horrible that I never dove off the diving board, joined the swim team, or played any fun pool games that others played. I feared the dump trucks that came on our street. Another weird trait was what I now know is misophonia: Literally the hatred of sounds. My best friend growing up would sleep over, and I would spend the night waiting for the AC to come on again so I could sleep for 15-minute intervals. You see, she did something that literally made my skin crawl. She breathed. Yes, so I can understand how bad that was because she breathed out loud all night.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point. I was just very uncomfortable with the sights and sounds around me and carried fear around like a backpack. As I got older the backpack got heavier and I began to want some relief. I had many ticks that would I suppose, not being a doctor I don’t know, but they would transport me out of my uneasiness. I hard blinked my eyes, I slapped my legs, I chewed the inside of my cheeks until they bled.

Are these weird things? I really don’t know. I just know that the moment I felt the relief that only a good alcohol buzz would bring. I don’t know why I loved it so much then but looking back, it really was the antidote to all of my oddities. With all of my senses numbed, sounds and sights were not too… and the fear? Well let’s just call it squashed like a bug. I would continue to chase this feeling for the next 20 years. I chased it until it no longer worked, and I needed more and more of everything. Well, it almost killed me…something had to give!

Addicts Do Not Enjoy the Party

While I was at the depths of my addiction, I had so much shame, thinking it was my fault I couldn’t get myself together. Again, these are just pieces of me telling my story to recovery. Everyone has their own story and their own path to recovery. If you are reading this and you are struggling or if you have a loved one that is struggling, know that it is not something we enjoy.

Elizabeth McKissick is the Director of Communications at Youturn Health. Elizabeth has been in recovery for substance use disorder for more than 15 years. She is a strong advocate for sharing her story in the hopes of helping others struggling with dependency and misuse.