Betrayal in addiction recovery

How can we cope with betrayal in addiction recovery? Words of wisdom from Dr. Louise Stanger.

minute read

Double cross – betrayal

As a verb: Deceive or betray (a person with whom one is supposedly cooperating)
Synonyms: Betray, cheat, defraud, trick, hoodwink, mislead, swindle, deceive, be disloyal to, be unfaithful to, play false
As a noun: A betrayal of someone with whom one is supposedly cooperating

Have you ever experienced betrayal? Have you ever been doubled cross? Have you ever felt that someone you knew and loved was not the person you thought them to be? That their actions were diametrically opposed to who you thought they were?

Recently, I was faced with a situation which left me speechless. I thought the world was going one way and now it went disastrously another.

In Falling Up, I wrote, “Sometimes I wonder: Is life a series of falling ups? Dotted Swiss cheese holes of stability followed by a series of falling downs – a maneuver perfected by Humpty Dumpty.”

…and here as I approach my 70th year I find myself again at a crossroads, devastated that the trust I placed in someone was violated and shook my very core.

Self-doubt is part of the process

I wondered what was wrong with me? What signs did I miss? Was it blind faith that made me miss the mark? Was it that I always wanted a son to replace mine that died and so I took this person unwittingly into my heart?

Surely, I had a part to play.

We all have a part to play and surely I should of known better. And yet, the signs were not there swimming on the surface. Was it greed or the belief that I was being taken care of?

I don’t know.

We have two choices

I do know that when we are faced with betrayal we have choices. One to let anger and resentment fill rent in our head. But this makes us sick and full of righteous indignation. Living in anger does nothing but eat away at our soul.

The second choice we have is to follow the 12 Step program, step up the number of meetings we attend, readings we do, reach outs to others, work the steps, and to do the footwork to take action. To show compassion to our betrayer and pray for them

The Serenity Prayer is my mantra

In my situation I am reinvesting myself in meetings and Step 1. I am talking to confidential advisors and to people in the program, gathering at and doing the necessary footwork to take care of the situation.

On an emotional level, I know that underneath anger… betrayal is grave sadness.

I feel like there has been a death in my family, the death of a trusted loyal loved one and I know I must do the grief work so I may move on tattered with a hole in my heart and ever resilient. That, perhaps, is the most challenging part to bear my soul in sorrow.

Have you ever felt betrayal? What does that feel like to you? What steps do you take?

Let me hear from you.


About the Author:  Dr. Louise Stanger LCSW, speaker, author, trainer and international interventionist has developed and refined her invitational method of mental health, substance abuse and process addiction interventions using the well established research methodology of portraiture. She has performed thousands of family interventions  (http: throughout the United States and aboard.
Louise has published in the Huffington Post, Journal of Alcohol Studies, Addiction Blog , Campus Recovery , The Sober World  etc and various other magazines and scholarly publications. The San Diego Business Journal listed her as one of the top 10 Women who Mean Business and she was ranked as one of the top 10 Interventionists in the Country. Louise is a gifted speaker who immediately connects with her audiences. Her presentations lively, informative, customized and invigorating and participants say they walk away with, new strategies and knowledge   about families and addictions. Foundations Recovery Network, 2014 Moments of Change Conference, proclaimed Dr. Stanger the “Fan Favorite Speaker”. Falling Up- A Memoir of Survival is available on Amazon.
About the author
Louise Stanger, Ed.D. is a clinical social worker LCSW and Certified Intervention Professional CIP with over 35 years experience in substance abuse and mental health disorders, grief and loss. She has been a university educator (SDSU & USD) and researcher. She is active in the Network of Independent Interventionist and Association of Intervention Specialists and is also a Motivational Interviewing Trainer of Trainers. More at All About Interventions .


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  1. Hi – I am experiencing betrayal on a grand scale at the moment. I feel like I’m being made the scapegoat for a plethora of problems that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with me. OK, so I was standing there when the person decided to do xyz, but that’s it. Buck stops with them. So, yeah, at the moment I’m sitting in my discomfort, and getting more and more resentful at the circus going on around me. Not feeling superior, just glad to be out of that. How do you advise I proceed? Thx, Smel

  2. My husband and I have been together for 7 years, since we were in high school. We have a 20 month old son. My husband has never been sober longer than maybe 6 months. He becomes addicted to anything he tries. His drug of choice is weed. Some might think that’s nothing. And I know there are people who can smoke weed and they are completely normal functioning adults without an addiction problem. Not my husband. He is the person that has to be high all day or else. Last May, I caught him in lies again. He had been smoking for 5 months. We went through the whole process again. He “got clean”. 2 months after I caught him, he opened up his own business, a big dream of his for years. He i very successful, enough so that I can stay home and take care of our son. He would always say how proud he was of himself, for pulling himself out of his problem, and that his business was keeping him so busy, he never even thought about getting high. I believed him.
    4 days ago, an incident occurred that caused me to have one of my “knowing feelings”. I’ve always known when he is doing stuff. I get this weird feeling and I’ve never been wrong. I confronted him and he tried to lie at first. After 20 minutes he finally said he had relapsed. He told me what he had done.
    I made him call his twin brother and had him go stay at his house. Last May I had told him I was done, if he relapsed again I would leave. And I thought about it this time seriously. I only haven’t because of our son. My husband called his insurance company the next day and got some info, then on Tuesday he went to see a therapist, the first time he’s ever been. He has also signed up for a relapse prevention group, run by his therapist. He is going to an AA meeting this weekend with his brother.
    This is the first time he’s ever actually gone through with his promises of getting professional help.

    4 days later (today) after I caught him and I still felt like he hadn’t been completely honest about everything. We sat down and talked, he came out with more things.

    My point is, is that I am afraid I can’t ever move on past this. I’m always wondering what else he could be lying about. Whether I have a feeling about it or not. It’s been 7 years of believing in him, and then finding out he is like a completely different person. It’s the most horrible feeling. You think you know someone and you actually don’t. I know he has an addiction problem, I don’t think he does this intentionally to hurt me. But I also am a person. Who’s been lied to and absolutely betrayed and I feel so stupid, for not seeing it. And I want to get through this and I want to help him. I truly am worried for him as a person. And my son, I don’t want him to grow up without his dad. He is a good person. I love him. I need help to figure out how to build trust for him, and how to forgive him.

    1. Hi Alice. This is a complicated situation… You don’t want to be lied nor hurt… I suggest that you read some of Amanda’s articles, she is one of our contributors who speaks from personal experience about addiction in family:
      Also, if you have any questions, feel free to comment, Amanda is eager to help you. Moreover, here’s suggested reading on the topic:

  3. A few months ago, my x-ABF just packed up and moved out of our home with no real reason. Just got up and left and wouldn’t speak to me for a month. He left our 12 month old child and me w/ the bills that come with running a home. After a few months of struggling, I convinced him to go to rehab. While in rehab he would tell me he loved me, wanted to be with me, wanted to move back home, how we were going to work t hings out. Down to the very last day he was there! He told me he would call me the minute he was out, would come see us, etc. The day came and he never showed or called. Finally got a hold of him, he told me he was sick but assured me he would come after a few meetings the following day. The following day came and he disappeared. Never called, never showed, never followed up. He even blocked my number from his phone. After EVERYTHING I have put up with, after everything I did and sleepless nights I spent searching rehabs, disabilities, therapists, etc. He left me hanging with our son again. It’s been two weeks now that he’s been out of rehab and I haven’t heard once from him since the day after he was out, where he told me he loved me and wanted to be with me. I know he is okay because I saw him on Facebook posting selfies. How could a person lie so deeply to someone that only wanted to help? Why? Why bother lying and not just walking away w/out saying all those things that made it even harder?

    1. Hi Confused16. Maybe him leaving is for the best… You can’t force someone to be with you. You did everything to help him. It’s hard, but you should move on with your life…

  4. Hi, I am a retired RN Certified Risk Manager from the Dept. of VA. I have been married twice, the first ended in divorce due to physical and emotional abuse, resulting in broken ribs and threats to kill me. When I met my second husband he has so sweet and caring so much different then my first. That was in 1985 and in 1987 an Indian Casino opened in Conn. He took me there and we had a great time, my first experience with gambling the slots. This slowly built up to be a significant problem, with his not picking me up from work twice, because he was out of state at the casino. Then the elect. was turned off. I have been enabling him for over 30 years and as a result of two accidents I received substantial settlements, which he gradually gambled away. I was unable to attend any casino any more because of my disabilities, and now have a hearing service dog. He lies to me about where he is, and in the past has not paid the rent twice which we had to make up, we lost two cars to repos. I had felt of leaving him but can’t drive any more and even though I was the bread earner during the marriage, I am stuck at home now earing a higher social security and retirement then him, and if I were to divorce him could lose 1/2 of my benefits unless I claim he used our funds without telling me. In Sept. I got my last annuity check of $21,000, gave him $7100 to buy a used car he wanted. I paid off my credit card, which he could use for $1000 and his for $400. Recently I went to spend $20 on Amazon and the charge was denied. I had spent a total of $300 which I was going to pay off this month, as we had paid off all other bills. I found out he had used $600 on my credit card, $400 on his, and taken $5000 out of our savings to gamble. When I confronted him, he threatened to leave, blamed me for my medications ( which are all ordered for numerous physical problems). He told me he would stop gambling because I want to save up the money he wasted in one month. I want to move to Vt. to be near my daughter as I do not trust him, not to leave me even though I am 72 and he is 74. He claims to still love me, however I can’t get ahold of him on his cell phone and if I fall, with my falling disorder, or get ill can’t reach him. Now everytime he says he is going fishing or out, and can’t reach him I am afraid he is gambling what we have in our savings. I should have done something years ago, but he gets angry and puts the blame on me, every time. I feel now that I had been abused for 18 years in my first marriage and now being abused again. I am very smart and work on social media for veterans, disabled rights, politics etc. I am not sure why I got myself into a second abusive relationship. I do not want to put a burden on my children who are in their forties and he refuses to go get help. The important issue he never delt with is abuse by a priest as a child. I would love some advice because I am get to meetings of GA for spouses.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?