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Relational healing is difficult when addiction is involved. Many times the destructive behavior damages trust beyond repair. Most addicts suffer relapse that further dims hope in a relationship. Couples who persevere toward a healthy future demonstrate resilience and perseverance that extends beyond common expectation.
Rebounding from broken trust is a challenge for both partners. Purposefully maintaining a healing path requires a resolution and dedication that many couples are unable to continue to recovery completion.
Yet, there are those who do. There are many pitfalls to address when trust is shattered with addiction. There is a cascade of questions that seem to never end: Where did this come from? I never saw this coming. How could I have been so blind? Why can’t I not control what others seem to have no problem with? I have failed so many times, what makes me think that I will ever stop? What could I have done to prevent things from getting so bad? These questions and many more overwhelm the thinking processes of couples devastated with addiction.
There are overwhelming feelings that dominate consciousness in the carnage and aftermath of addictive behavior. Shock and shame paralyze both partners. Anger, rage, and resentment roil oftentimes unabated. Sadness, loneliness, and regret dominate and suck happiness and security from the relationship atmosphere. Is it any wonder that two hurting people seeking rescue from the calamity of addiction get stuck in relational reactivity toward each other?
Many things have been written about various aspects of relational healing from addictive behavior. I want to share observations with suggestions that I have noticed with those who seem stuck in reactive response toward the other partner while attempting to heal broken trust caused from addictive behavior by one or both partners.
1. Allow for a season of time to embrace raw feelings. This seems to be a no brainer. It’s not like I can stop it. Depending upon who you are, embracing feelings can be a challenge. As you embrace your emotions, you will need to direct them. This will be difficult. Initially, throwing up raw feelings might be instinctive. Yet, you will need to focus the direction of raw, unedited feelings away from your partner. Saying it straight and raw is necessary. Practice directing it away from your partner when it is about him/her. This does not mean to avoid telling your partner your feelings directly. This is also necessary. Emotionally vomiting vitriol and cutting invective in the lap of your partner because of their hurtful behavior is seldom healing. Unedited raw intensity should be redirected away from the party that hurt you. You can communicate your feelings about being hurt or betrayed without being abusive.
2. Come to terms with your hate, rage/anger, and resentment. It all makes sense. I believe it is healthy to recognize and embrace all of your feelings. Yet, it requires adult responsibility. A common component for all powerful feelings is that they are all energy fields. The responsibility that you will have regardless of what happened to you, is to direct this powerful energy in the form of feelings in a responsible way. If you are pissed, be pissed! The key is to direct your focus with responsibility. Without your partner present, take a tennis racket or its equivalent, and exhaust yourself beating a bag of pillows in a garbage bag, screaming out whatever profane name or word you need to express. It will help to get rid of the pent-up energy within your body. This has been proven to be true. However, even if you think you have the right to direct unedited feelings toward your partner, I have never known it to be healing. If you say, ”I don’t give a shit if it is healing” then work with that. When stuck in these powerful feelings, you most likely will need the help of a trained therapist who can guide you through your feelings.
3. Re-direct the energy. You have the power to re-direct the powerful energy attached to feelings from hurtful behavior from the person who hurt you to the issue that hurts and to what you want in your life instead of the hurtful behavior. You can use the feelings of hate and anger to say “No more” to abusive behavior and redirect the same energy to say “Yes” to life-affirming boundaries and experience. This often requires therapeutic guidance and certainly demands ongoing practice and conditioning.
4. When you are stuck in reactivity toward your partner, pay attention to how old you think of yourself in your reaction. It is common to subconsciously expect more from your partner than you would from another adult. When you get stuck with this expectation, it is often helpful to think “How old do I feel right now in my response to my partner’s behavior?” At first, the question will seem awkward to answer. However, upon reflection, the intensity of reactivity is likely to point toward the age of a small child. When this is true, it is important to recognize that a small child is incapable of navigating and making adult decisions. You can shift away from this position by giving the power back to the mature adult that you are. You can take a deep breath, return to your adult self, and figure out the next best response. You can determine the next best response from the powerful adult that exists within you. It will less likely be one that is reactive. When it is, you can apologize and do it over.
You can practice shifting away from reactive response by recognizing that you had given the reins of responsibility to the small child in you. As you condition your response with training, you will be able to better shift away from reactivity to responsible behavior that will contribute to healing and not chaos.
I cannot overemphasize that this shift in mentality from a small child to the powerful adult that you are will require training and unending practice. Further, it will require accountability and living in consultation with those in your support group. It is difficult to take responsibility for your overreactive response when your partner has committed egregious and harmful behavior toward you. You will need to embrace humility and accept your human frailty to be able to respond with maturity. Yet, if you will commit to this path in your healing journey, you will increase the likelihood of getting unstuck from your reactive response and improve the odds of healing from addiction and betrayal behavior.