The Addicts Dilemma, Pt. 2: Transparency & Re-building Trust

Faith, trust and transparency in addictive relationships

Posted Apr 09, 2009

A previous post considered that one of the more difficult challenges facing those confronted with addiction has to do with the social consequences that they create for themselves by virtue of that addiction, and their addictive behavior; namely, the disintegration of trust.

Re-building trust is no mean feat. It starts with faith on the part of others and is propelled by everyone concerned finding the balance point of transparency that leads to a re-invigoration of that broken trust.

There are two primary challenges for those attempting to rebuild trust within the context of an addictive dynamic. The first is for the non-addict(s) in letting go of the idea that their hypervigilance and attempts at control are somehow going to affect the choices that addict makes in their lives. This runs directly to the condition of agency - a subcategory of enabling -- and is akin to the myth of managing emotions.

The second is for the addict in staying focused, not only on managing the addiction itself, but being attentive to the social behaviors - small deceptions, sneakiness, sins of omission and outright lying - that characterize the social aspect of addictive behavior.

These two challenges are interdependent. Meeting them depends upon the willingness of the addict to be transparent and the willingness of the non-addict(s) to allow for, and have faith in, the potential for that transparency. Finding the balance point - the point of interpersonal cooperation - that allows everyone to feel both comfortable and simultaneously get there needs met is the meta-challenge that encompasses the whole system.

A recent study out of Stamford suggests that, strictly speaking, the average individual shades the truth 3-4 times in a typical 10 minute conversation. Most of us do this in a misguided attempt to protect something - a relationship, a person, a situation, a perception, even ourselves. It is, in fact, a subtle and somewhat indirect form of agency and enabling that falls within the purview of co-dependent relationship.

The addict does this same thing, but in the extreme, because s/he operates under the even more misguided notion that maintaining the "truth" that s/he is fostering to avoid the consequence of immediate moment is less damaging than the consequences attached to the actual truth and the lie that hides it. This sets up an expectation for the non-addict(s) that everything out of the addict's mouth is a falsehood.

That set up is the greatest obstacle to moving out of the state of faith - which, despite it positivity, can be stagnant -- into the process of rebuilding trust. If those in relationship to an addict have not left the relationship, it's a fair bet that they maintain some semblance of faith. Fostering trust out of that faith relies upon the degree transparency on the part of the addict that will deflect the expectation that everything is a lie.

The other side of this, the addict's side, is dictated by the state of their sobriety. The "dry drunk" (we'll stick with the language of alcoholism, as it is ubiquitous) is that person who, while no longer engaging in actual addictive behavior, maintains the addictive style. A person who is approaching sobriety has begun to divest themselves of the social and behavioral trappings of their addiction, along with letting go of the addictive behavior itself. Someone who is sober has gotten past all of this.

Transparency depends upon divesting oneself of the habit of deception inherent in addiction. This is difficult because that deception - whether self or other deception - is often unconscious and reflexive. Learning to self-monitor and self-regulate, assessing the intention, motivation and the potential outcomes of our actions is key to breaking the habit that deflects the re-establishment of trust.

So, in the end, it's a two way street. The non-addict must hold space for the potential of truth on the part of the addict and the addict must step up and take responsibility for all of their choices. These two elements become the linchpin in the system of balance between trust and betrayal that can help to grow trust in both the relationship and each other out of the bedrock of faith.

© 2009 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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