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Question

My husband has a drug addiction. I thought he was doing fine, but I found out he was stealing pain pills from me and selling them for three months. He blames me for everything. I made him leave. He blames me he is gone and tells me it’s all my fault. It’s been a few months now. I have been very depressed. I’m trying to stay busy and move forward. I go from seeing the loving times to angry and confused. I don’t know how to get through this.

Answer

This is difficult betrayal on so many levels. Not only are you coping with lies, theft, drug abuse, and illegal selling of drugs, but you’re also now being blamed for all of it. Anyone in your situation would feel depressed and struggle to move forward. However, you don’t have to stay here and I’m glad you’re asking for help. Let’s talk about what you can do to heal.

First of all, his addiction and his crimes aren’t your fault. You may know that, but when you’re repeatedly told that you’re to blame by someone who is supposed to love you, even the most rational people begin to question their sanity. It’s not your fault.

One tactic that abusive individuals use to keep themselves out of accountability is called DARVO. It stands for:

Deny
Attack
Reverse Victim-Offender

It points to a predictable sequence used by abusers to place the blame on someone else. They first begin by denying they did anything wrong in the first place. Your husband is refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of his wrong behaviors, leaving you to wonder what is right and wrong. Next, you become the target of the attack. This shows up in criticizing your character, your intentions, your behavior, or anything else to put you down. It’s a way to silence you and further distance themselves from any form of accountability. Finally, your husband reverses the order of the victim and the offender. When he tells you that he’s the one suffering because of your choices, he’s now making himself the victim while labeling you as the offender. Clearly, this is backward.

It’s important for you to spot this pattern and not allow it to impact your reality. As soon as he begins to deny the reality of his behavior and then you don’t go along with it, he will escalate to attack you and then make you believe you were the one responsible for all of this pain. It usually happens quickly and is always very disorienting. Once you can see the pattern and know how common it is when there is abuse, addiction, affairs, or other betrayals, you can better prepare yourself to respond.

In your quiet moments, you know the truth of what is happening. You know that this is medication that is prescribed to you for your pain management. Your husband stole it from you (preventing you from using it for your own physical health) without your permission. Then, he illegally sold it to other people, putting himself and your children (if you have children) in a terribly precarious position. You know that nothing will improve for him or this situation if he denies any of this.

Even though you didn’t make these choices and shouldn’t embrace any accountability for his behaviors, you can completely embrace the wise choice you made to have him leave your home. Yes, that was your choice to protect yourself and your children. It was your choice to prevent him from taking more of your medication. It was your choice to create an environment where you will be safe. You chose to protect yourself and your children from any outside dangers related to drug culture. Your choices changed lives for the better.

Don’t let him cause you to believe that just because he’s hurting right now that you made the wrong choice. Again, you’re not the offender. You were put in a situation where you had to protect because he wouldn’t. Your courage and strength will bless you and your children. If you hadn’t made those choices to protect your family, he would have likely continued on and brought more serious consequences to your family.

Even though you can work to own your choice to choose safety and peace, you won’t automatically feel peaceful when someone is shouting you down. I recommend you limit contact with him until he can be respectful. Work closely with an attorney to understand your rights with your children and keeping them safe, especially if he’s engaging in illegal activities. This is a time to set conditions where he works to earn the right to be back in your presence.

Make sure you get the support you need from others who understand the mind-games associated with addiction and abuse. I recommend you attend a family 12-step support group to help you understand how to stay out of these unhealthy interactions. When you’re repeatedly accused and told things that aren’t true, it can drive you into deeper isolation and shame. You need others to help you see clearly.

It’s normal to question your history when you discover a secret life. You will go through a long sorting process of trying to make sense of your story with him. Even though you weren’t living a lie, it can feel like everything was a lie. However, the truth is that your experiences were pure and based on living one life. Be gentle with yourself and work hard to keep the accountability on him and not blame yourself for not seeing it years ago. He made sure you didn’t see it.

Your husband created a massive emotional and debt that he can’t repay. Wendy Ulrich teaches that it’s important to let go of that debt he owes and hand it over to the Savior. The Savior will take the debt and work out what he needs to with your husband. Then, you can turn to the Savior and ask him to help restore your peace of mind, your deep losses, your confidence, and your security. You’ll need this strength as you build a new life without him.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

Repairing broken trust is complicated. I’ve broken down the critical steps to rebuilding trust in my brand-new online Trust Building Bootcamp. This course is designed to help you become a trustworthy person and create conditions where trust can be restored in your betrayed marriage. I’m also including ongoing live support from me through monthly webinars to help you apply the things you’re learning. Visit https://www.trustbuildingacademy.com/bootcamp to learn more and sign up for instant access. Meridian Magazine readers can receive 20% off of this course by entering the discount code MERIDIAN at checkout.

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available on his website www.geoffsteurer.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

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