Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Why Did They Cheat? Part 4: The Problem With Addictions

Series: Why Did they Cheat?
  1. The Role of Oxytocin
  2. Entrapped or Enchanted?
  3. Do They Have an Addiction?
  4. >The Problem with Addictions

In the fall of 1980 I took a course on problem-solving at the University of Denver. At the time I found it hard to believe there was enough material to teach about this subject to warrant a three hour course. In hindsight however, it was one of the best graduate courses I've ever taken. It taught me to stop assuming I knew what was wrong and instead assume that I have no earthly idea what the problem is. Failure to identify the actual problem leads to a lot of wasted time, effort and resources. It's what causes people to do the same things over and over again only to wind up with the same results. When it comes to betrayal or other self-destructive actions, it's natural to focus on behavioral change. But there are times, regardless of how hard you try, that the behavior stays the same. When that's the case there's a good chance the behavior is a symptom of a much deeper, possibly even unidentified problem.

Willpower Is Just Not Enough

The past three weeks I've explained why people cheat from a neurobiological perspective. This series has produced a decent amount of feedback stating that this perspective seems like an excuse for bad behavior. I hate that it may have come across that way because I certainly don't see this as an excuse! My hope in examining the problem through the neurobiological lens is to provide some explanation as to why someone, who has done something this destructive, continues the very behavior they say they want to stop.

If the behavior you are dealing with meets the criteria of the four C's mentioned in last week's newsletter, then rarely will willpower alone be sufficient to stop the behavior. When it comes to addictions trying to "just stop it" is a recipe for disaster. Those seeking to stop addictive behaviors by mere force of will only create further destruction for those they love. With good intentions they will continue to try only to discover that you don't control addictions; rather, addictions end up controlling you. And when the consequence of failure is continued betrayal of a loved one, the damage done only increases.

I remember one 12 step meeting when someone said to an old timer (a person who has years of sobriety) that they believed they finally hit bottom.

"You haven't hit bottom yet," the old-timer replied.

"How do you know whether or not I've hit bottom?" the other man asked defensively.

"Because you're still wearing a watch," said the old timer.

Finding sufficient motivation to do what it's going to take to change doesn't come until most addicts have hit bottom.

Can You Really Create A New Life?

Bottom doesn't have to be a moment in time where you lose everything. Addiction is an elevator that continually moves downward, but we have the ability to get off at whatever floor we choose. All it takes is a desire for a different life and seeing the problem for what it is. You have to accept that, strange as it may seem, you have an addiction. You don't overcome addiction by stopping the behavior; instead, you create a new life where it's easier not to act out. You find something worthwhile to live for.

If you struggle with addiction there are many resources available: 12 step programs, Smart Recovery, addiction counselors, and support groups. The one thing those in recovery have are others who will walk with them. As I mentioned in the second week's video the power of the addiction's motivational engines will overcome reason and logic. Unless the addict can find others who understand the problem and are willing to come alongside them and help direct their recovery, the power of the addiction will return to once again drag them into a living hell. So please don't try it alone. Find others who can keep you on the path of healing.


If your spouse struggles with addiction I hope you'll consider enrolling in Harboring Hope. This course helps betrayed spouses heal and find hope in whatever circumstance. Rebuild your confidence and give yourself room to thrive by registering today: https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/harboring-hope.

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