There were 19 wildfires burning at one time in August and September of this year, including the largest brushfire that Los Angeles had ever seen. Then, at the beginning of the month, the Tubbs fires started in Sonoma County, triggering a number of other related fires and ultimately resulting in the deaths of 38 people, thousands of people displaced from their homes, and hundreds of homes, businesses, and schools burned to the ground across 36,807 acres.
Once everyone was safe, and people were able to assess the damage, many began searching for someone to blame, and some turned an accusing finger toward our southern neighbors. Because it was reported that a number of cannabis farms were destroyed by the fires, many jumped to the conclusion that the individual in question may have purposefully set out to take out these establishments by literally burning down the competition. Drug cartels have hundreds of acres of illegal marijuana farms scattered across the California wilderness, and the thought was that they may have a better market for their wares if the legal cannabis farms were out of commission.
While it is an interesting theory, there is currently zero proof to support the notion that drug cartels had anything to do with the fires. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is still investigating how the fire began, though there is some evidence to suggest that windblown power lines may have been partly to blame.
We do not know why or how the fires started, and we are still working to wrap our minds around the extent of the damage caused by the flames. It will take years and millions of dollars to rebuild all that was lost and move forward. It is a tragedy on so many levels. For many people in recovery, it’s important to identify how to move forward.
The first step in processing any trauma – and the fear associated with being evacuated from your home or perhaps fleeing in the middle of the night as the flames approach – is to grieve. Allowing ourselves to feel the pain, anger, sadness, and loss associated with the fire and its threat is a necessary first step. This can take time. For some, it will take weeks; for others, it will take months or years.
As long as you do not harm yourself or others – and that includes through relapse – then there is almost no “wrong” or “abnormal” response to great trauma and tragedy. Give yourself permission to feel what comes up for you and work through the issues with your therapist, your sponsor, and your support groups in recovery.
Assessing the Damage
The next step to moving forward is to fully acknowledge and assess what happened. There is a reality to the trauma – lives lost, homes destroyed, lost artifacts and memories – that requires acknowledging what cannot be recovered. This too will take time to process, and it is important to be patient with yourself as you do the work and give energy to fully understanding what has happened.
Identifying the Path Forward
No matter what the fires took from you in terms of possessions or peace of mind, the good news is that there is always a path forward available to you. Healing and recovery from trauma can and should be entwined with your ongoing recovery from addiction. This can mean connecting with holistic treatment services that help you to manage stress, depression, and/or anxiety, or it can mean finding a drug rehab program that offers you co-occurring disorders treatment that will give you the tools to effectively manage both the issues related to the addiction disorder and to the trauma-related symptoms.
Asking for Help
If you feel at risk of relapse, if you are struggling with a sense of hopelessness or loss, or if you feel you are in any way unstable in your recovery, reaching out for help is the best solution. There are people in your support system who understand and are experiencing the same thoughts and feelings you are, people who can support you as you make sense of the past and begin the process of moving forward, and mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals who are trained to assist you in recovering.
Is it time to ask for the help you need?