Tire Tracks

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Alex had been cheating on Alice from day one. Secretly, he hired strippers at his bachelor party and never made it through his honeymoon without cheating with someone he met at the pool of the resort where he and Alice stayed during the week after the wedding. It didn’t stop. He slept with Alice’s best friend, hired hookers when on the road for his work, and was hooked on porn over the years.

Alice caught him looking at porn on his phone late one night and suspicioned there was more but was afraid to confront him. Then, one evening Alex’s phone rang and Alice picked it up thinking it was their daughter needing to be picked up from volleyball. But it wasn’t. It was a strange female voice who asked for Alex. When the person recognized that it was not Alex she hung up. Triggered with suspicion, Alice checked his texts and phone messages. She discovered a ton of graphic sexting texts between Alex and a woman named Lisa. She checked the phone number and figured there were over 75 phone calls to this one woman’s number. She called the number on Alex’s phone and the same voice of woman answered the call and Alice hung up without saying a word. She burst into tears because she knew what she had been dreading for quite some time. 

She confronted Alex about the call but he denied and lied about anything inappropriate. She stayed with it and laid out the enormity of detail that she uncovered and finally, after hours of adamantly denying and gaslighting Alice, Alex broke down and admitted that he had been having an affair with a woman named Lisa who worked at his company. He piecemealed his history of sexual misbehavior. It wasn’t till a month and a half later when through intensive therapy and an extensive sexual history polygraph that Alice learned that Alex was never faithful to her throughout their ten years of marriage. 

She determined that the only way she would remain in the marriage would be that he move out, go to inpatient treatment recommended by his therapist, and do whatever they recommended.

This is a common story for therapists who work with compulsive sexual betrayal. The stories vary and some relationships are able to heal betrayal brokenness while many are not. Addictive behavior is often concealed in deceit and secrets. In time, compulsive infidelity is discovered by partners and other family members. It is always traumatic for everybody.

Healing around betrayal is difficult and dicey.  The trauma that is incurred impacts both the betrayer and the betrayed. The hurt is multifaceted. 

Therapists treating broken trust have a number of considerations to assess when administering treatment. There are established guidelines for counselor support. However, while there are similarities that are common to all partner betrayal, no two betrayal responses are the same. Couples whose relationships have been riddled with compulsive infidelity with long-term dishonesty have a number of considerations to assess.

1. The compulsive betrayer must prioritize the following in order for healing to be effective: Cut off all contact with the affair partner immediately. This includes text, email, phone calls, and face-to-face visits. If the affair partner is in a working relationship with the compulsive betrayer, contact must be only about business with a commitment to gate all nonverbal energy communication. Preferred accountability about this dynamic would be with a recovering person who also is working a program. The betrayer must prioritize stopping the runaway train going down the track of their entrenched compulsive sexual behavior that has been in existence for a long period of time. Individual treatment is an absolute must. Promises to stop fade away all too frequently for the one who refuses treatment intervention. 

2. The partner must engage treatment for damage created by the betrayal. All too frequently the partner refuses treatment favoring that their betraying partner be the “identified patient”. It is familiar to hear “I am not the one who struggles with lying and infidelity. Focus on the betrayer. They are the culprit. This is like getting run over by a big mack truck and laying on the side of the road with tire tracks across your back. The paramedics are called and when they arrive they tend to the driver, put them in the ambulance, and whisk them to the emergency room for treatment, leaving the victim who was run over lying on the side of the road. It makes no sense. Betrayal breaks the heart and the spirit of every victimized partner. Induced trauma requires long-term partner treatment for recovery. Codependent responses are always triggered by underlying trauma. It must be treated and will not heal without it. 

3. The 3-legged stool approach. I prefer the 3-legged therapeutic approach. Every stool must have solid legs in order for the stool to be stable to safely sit. I find it most helpful that when treating betrayal trauma that each party in the relationship do individual therapy and that the couple also engage therapy as a couple, ideally with three different therapist involved (one for each of the 2 individuals and one for the couple together). I have experienced good success when it is done concomitantly.  There are exclusions when situations are exempt to this approach. That said a three-pronged approach has proven most helpful in healing. 

4. Triage priorities in treatment. Betrayal is chaotic and crisis is not uniform and predictable. Careful consideration and guidance is needed in treating the betrayer, the betrayed partner, family, friends, and extended community depending upon the roles people have in those communities. Both partners will need to embrace their wise-minded adult within, and if this is absent carefully accept the guidance from an experienced counselor to triage treatment based on your specific and unique needs. 

Destructive behavior, broken hearts, and tire tracks across the back caused by betrayal can heal. However, it is a long journey that insists that both partners embrace the healing journey. One or the other being the “identified patient” will impact prognosis for healing and will stymy healing. Addict betrayal is not only about relational infidelity. Addicts betray their own values and the trust of those around them who are counting on them to work a program for healing.  It is crucial that the entire family treat the addictive behavior from a family systems perspective. Each family member will need to address the impact of trauma that warps perspective and undermines trust.

How to Help an Addict Without Enabling Them

Effective Way of Helping an Addict

Friends and family members have to walk a fine line when trying to offer assistance to an addict. Of course, it’s natural to want to help someone you love when you see them suffering. However, recovery efforts are only as successful as the addict’s commitment to them. Because of this truth about recovery, there are good and bad ways that others can lend support to addicts. Be careful not to cross the line over into enabling their addiction. While recovery efforts can be costly, it is important to make sure that any money you give an addict is not just a way for him or her to buy more drugs or alcohol.

AddictIf the addict was only tapering down consumption because he or she could not afford any more of the substance, then your charity might be used to rekindle the addiction rather than seek a long-term treatment option. If an addict tells you that he or she needs money for treatment, you should ask to pay the treatment center directly.

Many addicts alienate their friends and family by being emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive. One of the ways that emotionally toxic relationships develop is that the addict keeps promising over and over to clean up his or her life. In order to avoid this cycle, the friend or family member needs to set clear boundaries and stick to them. Let the addict knows that you won’t tolerate if he/she keeps using.

Tough Love:  The Best Way to Help an Addict

The addict needs to know that there are consequences for his or her behavior. They also need to feel like they have a purpose in life. Let them do the things that they need to do to survive. Otherwise, he/she will not realize how badly the substance is that keeps them from living a normal life. For example, don’t pick up added responsibilities around the house or make excuses for the addict at his/her work place. Sometimes the only road to recovery is to hit rock bottom. If you keep giving the addict a safe cushion to fall on, he or she will never wake up to the realization that drugs or alcohol have ruined their relationships and their lives.  You can’t sugar coat the situation—sometimes the best way to teach someone is to let them fail. Failure is often a better teacher than success.

You have to faced numerous realities about loving an addict. First, you have to give up trying to control the outcome of the situation. It doesn’t matter how much you want your loved one to get help, he or she has to want it. Second, you have to understand that you cannot change the addict. Only he or she has the power to beat addiction. By doing some work on yourself and learning to love while at the same time letting go, you will have a better relationship with an addict.

Friends and family members want to help and they want to show how much they care. But the best way to help an addict is with tough love.

Can You Get Sober with the Help of God?

Getting Sober: Religious and Spiritual Approach

Addicts need all the help they can get in order to successfully get sober. Many may find the support they need by turning to faith-based groups. These groups often view recovery not as a matter of chemical dependency but as a matter of moral sinfulness. They see substance abuse as a ”vice,” whereas the medical community views it as a matter of brain chemistry and chemical dependency. Recommended treatments from faith-based groups will involve bettering your relationship with Jesus. Not all Christian groups have the same relationship to alcohol, however. Catholics, for instance, often drink wine as part of their celebration of mass. Some branches of Protestant faith, however, often avoid any drink in their celebration the Eucharist or they substitute grape juice.

Most time-tested 12-step recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, reference God frequently in their meetings and philosophy. It’s possible for an atheist or non-Christian to participate in these programs, but it will require some creative thinking. These approaches has been successful in large part because of the way they tackle addiction from a multi-pronged standpoint, as a disorder of mind, body, and soul.

Determine the Cause of Addiction

Getting SoberThere are also special faith-based treatment centers that help addicts getting sober and rebuild their relationship with God and with their Christian community. They seek to replace the addictive behaviors with prayer and meditation. Many people who choose this particular recovery approach became addicts because they experiences a loss of faith. If you turn to substance abuse because you have begun to question God’s benevolence in the face of losses you have suffered, then to undo your addiction, you might seek a faith-based approach. However, if your addiction has nothing to do with a loss of faith in God, then this approach may not work for you. Addicts need to be honest with themselves in many ways. Perhaps, the most important element of truth needed for recovery is seeing the underlying issues that led to addiction.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God will just magically make your addiction go away. As Christians like to say, “God helps those who help themselves”. Or, as Lao Russell wrote, “God will work with you but not for you”. The reality is that if prayer alone could cure someone from addiction, then there would probably be no more addicts.  Replacing drugs/alcohol with God may have short-term positive benefits, but it doesn’t address the underlying issues of addictive personality. It just redirects the obsession to a more acceptable subject.

Spiritual and Philosophical: Is Alcohol Addiction a Sin?

Is Alcohol Addiction a Sin?

This is a tricky question that carries a lot of moral, spiritual, religious and philosophical weight. First, it’s important to focus on what a “sin” actually means to you. Committing an immoral acts or wrongdoings that are against the divine law are “sins”. Put simply: “It’s something that’s wrong in the eyes of God”. When you admit to committing sin, you’re admitting to misbehaving, going astray, breaking the law or, quite simply, doing wrong. With that in mind, is alcohol addiction the same as breaking a law? Many believe that it is. However, your opinion matters here, too. In many ways, it comes down to why you believe what you believe. Growing up in household with strict rules will have a direct impact on what you feel constitutes “sinful”. After all, your upbringing plays a huge role in conditioning you to believe the things that you do.

Alcohol AddictionOne thing to bear in mind is that there is a huge difference between drinking alcohol and alcohol addiction. If you turn to The Bible for guidance, there are many absolutes on the subject. Interestingly, The Bible itself doesn’t say whether or not it’s a sin to drink to alcohol. It does, however, explicitly state that drunkenness is. In Ephesians 5:18, for example, God commanded all Christians to avoid drunkenness at all costs. Proverbs 23:29-5, 1 Corinthians 6:12, and Peter 2:19, among others, equally condemn the ill effects of drunkenness. Broadly speaking, Scripture doesn’t so much advocate against excessive drinking as it advises Christians to not conduct themselves in ways that would offend others or encourage them to betray their own convictions. That’s why alcoholism falls squarely in the “sin” category. It doesn’t make sense for Christian to drink liquor excessively and worship God with a clear mind and spirit.

The Bible’s Interpretation of Alcohol’s Role in Life

The Bible’s interpretation of alcohol’s role in life is sometimes confusing. It spends a great deal of time illustrating its virtues. Jesus is seen drinking wine (Matthew 26:29, for example), and alcohol is painted in positive ways throughout many books. In Eccelesiastes 9:7, readers are told to “drink your wine with a merry heart” while Psalm 104:14-15 features God has gifted wine on humanity because it “makes glad the heart of man.” Alcoholics, however, are unable to control their drinking, which makes it downright impossible to avoid being “sinful” in the eyes of God.  In the end, many Christians don’t waste time trying to decide whether their drinking qualifies as “moderate” or, in many ways, worth the effort. For them, it’s simplest to avoid drinking altogether so they never run the risk of possibly committing a sin.