Overcoming Betrayal and Addiction

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Overcoming Betrayal and Addiction

Tami VerHelst

The title of this article is the same as Dr. Rob’s and my podcast, which is pulled from our live Q&A webinars. I like this title. It is hopeful. It does not minimize the issues that are at the root/core nor the behaviors that are present, but it does identify that there is a path forward. It makes it clear that we can overcome both betrayal and addiction. To that I’ll add “if we are willing.” And there is the catch. Not everyone is willing.

From the addiction side, many addicts prefer to hold onto the “comfort” of the addiction, continuing to remain in denial that there is an issue. They simply do not want to face the fear and shame that could surface if they acknowledge the addiction (and the behaviors associated, such as lying, gaslighting, and even physical harm like STDs). Some addicts will acknowledge that there is an issue, but they still hold onto the addiction by blaming others and the trauma that happened to them as kids. They allow their old wounds to hold them hostage. Blame is the basket they use to carry their issues (problems/hurts) with them.

I heard this in a 12-step meeting recently and it resonated: “As long as we blame someone else instead of taking responsibility for ourselves, we cannot make peace with our past or move forward to a better future.” Basically, this means we can choose to be a victim, maintaining our victim mentality and remaining stuck in the chaos of addiction. When we do this, we cause ourselves unnecessary pain and we hurt others, too.

Another statement I like comes from Dr. Edith Eger, Holocaust survivor: “We become our own jailers when we choose the confines of the victim’s mind.”

Is walking away from the comfort of victimhood and active addiction easy? No. Is confronting both our past and our present the first thing that comes to mind when we are confronted with a situation that is difficult or hurtful? No. Does making changes feel like an uphill climb? Definitely.

But these efforts are worth it. If we are connecting to others—hearing how they have made a change and shifted their path to do something different than they had been doing—we can learn from them and start to shift both our thinking and our actions. In addiction recovery, we talk about acting our way into good thinking. True. The reverse, thinking our way into good acting, that doesn’t happen.

So how does this also apply to the betrayed partner? Great question.

Like an addict who has pain underneath the addiction, there is pain to partners that is caused by the addiction. But after the initial shock, as betrayed partners seek help and healing, they can heal, but only if they choose to do so.

Unfortunately, like many addicts who choose to stay stuck, partners can also choose to stay stuck. They can remain a victim of the actions and behaviors of their addicted partner for years or even decades. They can permit themselves to miss the joy of living, mostly because they are focused on the past. If they have a foot stuck in the past, they cannot move forward into something positive.

At Seeking Integrity, we offer lifelines for healing for both the addict and partner. Whether you’re an addict or a betrayed partner, we want to help you find your path to recovery and healing.

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