PTSD, betrayal, and addiction

July 21, 2009

I know little of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I have done some reading recently and have grown curious as to whether or not it is likely that I went through it.  I am hoping others can share some experiences and input.

One thing that jumps out from my reading is the inclusion of “Psychological Trauma” in the factors underlying PTSD.

My Psychological Trauma did not however include any physical trauma…. which I read is often a concurrent underlying cause.

What leaves me curious is the symptoms that I had…. including but not limited to…

  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fixation with re-living the event
  • Impairment socially and occupationally
  • Persistence of the symptoms beyond a month

The trauma I experienced was the discovery of prolonged betrayal by my wife of the time.  Betrayal with a friend of mine.  Leading to a divorce and her then marrying the guy. 

I look at my reactions and the impact the event had on me.  It was severe to say the least.  I turned to drugs.  They didn’t genuinely help…. they just masked the pain for a time.

Gladly, I have done a lot of work emotionally over the past few years and feel that even if I had been considered to have suffered PTSD, I would say I am now largely recovered.

Yet there is an eerie similarity in what I read about PTSD and how I felt and reacted after the initial trauma.

Can anyone with experience in this matter comment on…

  • Is PTSD recognized as being a result of emotional trauma only… meaning without physical trauma?
  • Do you know of any similar situations to mine that I describe?
  • Is addiction or alcoholism a commonly observed outcome?
  • Any other thoughts or comments?






  1. Definition
    By Mayo Clinic staff

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic event. You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you experience or witness an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror.

    Many people who are involved in traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping. But with time and healthy coping methods, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely disrupt your life. In these cases, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent PTSD from becoming a long-term condition.

    Chaz I found this on the Mayo Clinic Website and it seemed to answer some of what you were asking. I hope it helps, if not, I gave it a try.
    Take Care.

  2. Chaz, PTSD is about trauma- emotional as well as physical. Frequently people self medicate with drugs, food, alcohol, etc., to alleviate the symptomes of PTSD.
    You might want to consult with a professional counselor.

  3. Thanks guys for the replies…

    Beyond…. my sitch seems to fit the definition. Thanks.

    Lynn… I have seen many counselors and a couple shrinks and even spent some time in the psych ward…. all related to deep depression post-betrayal.

    In fact, was after all of this that drugs commenced so the effect was prolonged.

    Not one ever mentioned PTSD. Yet, the definitions seem meaningful.

    Will most definitely bring up with my Dr. Gladly would say I am mostly past it, but just shocked me to read about it and it never brought up by any professional.

    Wondering if this is one reason the fallout was so prolonged. My world was rocked and I was a mess for years. In all of the ways desecribed in most common symptoms of PTSD.

    Anyway…. thanks.



  4. Hi there. I don’t know about PTSD, but a book I read by Kritsberg called The Adult Children of Alcoholics’ Syndrome discusses a state of “chronic shock” in response to trauma. He breaks up the process of dealing with trauma in terms of stages: 1) trauma or event 2) shock 3) rebound 4) resolution. He says in alcoholic families and otherwise dysfunctional situations, people stay at stage 2 because they don’t have the support and outlets to move on. In this stage, people repress their feelings, sometimes denying that the event even affected them. That’s how I lived my life for years without acknowledging the effects of the multiple traumas I experienced growing up in an alcoholic household. Anyway, it’s another way of looking at the trauma issue rather than from a PTSD angle.

  5. Hi Me-Anon…

    Thanks for reply.

    That makes sense that we never were modeled how to progress past shock. I too had an alcoholic family of origin. My father in particular.

    We knew he functioned less than ideally. Even in my early adulthood when I thought I saw past all of the dysfunction of my growing years and started to see some success in life… I was actually kinda living on belief and not fact that I had significantly progress past my alcoholic parental role-modeling.

    I could see that Dad’s ways were ineffective but I did not see clearly any effective way to process trama any better.

    I guess what I am saying is a saw the problem so I thought I had significantly suprassed the example of my family. But missed out on the fact that seeing the problem is a lot different than living the solution.

    Ya… I got stuck at a shock type stage when life blew up on me. I did not for the longest time move past shock. And it was only upon utter desperation after having hit a painful bottom myself that I became teachable.

    Wow… ya. I find meaning in the stages you describe.

    Thanks for the contribution.



  6. Have you done any reading on Adult Children of Alcoholics? You may find a lot of meaning there 🙂 I did!

  7. Not yet but I am sure it is relevant.

    Main focus has been my own recovery. Finally at a stage where I am ready to look further at underlying issues.

    Am certain that my alcoholic environment growing up imparted many complexities into me.

    Will be quite a journey unravelling.



  8. chaz-
    my experience with PTSD would be from watching my friend go through it. he served in iraq for 9 months driving a convoy… he came home and got hopped up on coke… he claims he stopped doing drugs but he still loves his booze. so much so he got in a severe car accident- he already has issues with driving sober because of his experience- so adding booze to the mix obviously didnt help. he has sought assistance- he will admit he has PTSD… but he wont admit that he is an alcoholic… yet. best of luck on your information search!

  9. Thanks MFM… ya, it is a search.

    When you experience something and don’t process it in a meaningful way…. and just stuff it or avoid the fact that you were affected… it so often eventually shows itself in other ways…. such as your friend’s drinking and drugging…. been there.

    A friend of mine in recovery expresses it this way…

    “If feelings don’t come up, they will eventually come out … sideways”.

    My Dad is a WW2 combat veteran and POW. They never had the mechanisms to deal with it in an effective way… in fact not at all. So alcoholics from that era are common.

    My Dad seldom talk about it and never in any depth. He’s a walking case of PTSD. Probably much like your friend.



  10. Hi Chaz……just wanted to let you know that I went through something quite similar just over 3 years ago and I keep trying to understand the severe trauma I went through. It’s like I relive what I went through as if in some obscure way, I can come up with an answer to it all. I experienced dry heaves, guilt, shame, aloneness, self blame,and the list goes on and on. For me my mind was trying to rationalize that I must be a very bad person for this too happen too me. I was disposed of, so to speak. I ended up moving from my home of 2 decades, everything was foreign too me. But for the grace of God, I did not take my life. The worst of it all was my son ending up staying with my ex and the “new woman” moving in to my old home 3 weeks after I move out……. My upbringing never prepared me for what I went through. I had one of my ex’s female liason’s (for lack of a better word) stalking me and never knew who she was until after our breakup even though I mentioned her to my ex while I was with him. He never let on that he knew this woman all along. I never knew what was being said about me. I never knew what part of my life with him was real or just a means to an end. I was so trusting of people in general, that it never occurred too me that my ex was playing me for the majority of the time we were together. My friends say I have quite a script for a movie….lol….. So Chaz, I mention only a bit of what I experienced to let you know I struggle with identifying a name for what I went through as well. It is not as powerful as it was then, but my life has forever been changed and I still struggle to come up with why. I hear that I should be over this completely by now, but you know it wasn’t just a betrayal. It was my very being that was put into question. I lived a lie. I don’t know if I will hear back from you on this, but hopefully I will……….

  11. Wow Miranda…. that is quite a parallel story!

    And ya, I could never put a name to it either until PTSD came up in conversation and then I followed it up with some reading.

    Like you, my life never prepared me for the circumstane I found myself in. Not only betrayed, but then immediately replaced. I often said at the time that there must have been a revolving door on my house and I would have been going out one side while the other man was entering the other.

    It feels like our spouses had these things lined up which then leaves us to wonder what we should have trusted and not.

    Bewildering at best. Traumatizing and devastating at worst.

    Yet I am glad to say that I believe in and have experiened recovery from things I felt there were no way out of. So why would this situation be any different? It isnt.

    I wonder if the discovery of possible PTSD at play was a result of peeling enough layers of the onion off to arrive at this point. And if I deal with this…. I wonder what I will discover next. This is all for the good though. It is dealing with TRUTH of where we are at and what we were affected by. And truth is freeing. If we are dealing with denial, avoidance or cover up (untruth), we stay stuck, bound, imprisoned. But truth sets us free.

    Wow eh?

    Will look up your blog. Stop by any time. Thanks for your reply.

    Ciao. Chaz

  12. Hey Chaz

    Thanks for the response! You’re very articulate in your take on things. Having stumbled across your site quite by accident the other day, I am now reading through it and find plenty of food for thought. You know, there is such power in sharing of life’s experiences. It’s amazing and fascinating to discover how our perceptions of events can be the same or quite different even though we all can be looking through the same window. I like to think of my soul, my being, for lack of a better term, as having been shiny at one point, but through life events, became encased in tar. The tar of course (like an onion) gets picked away, speck by speck through self growth so that the soul can shine once again. I have for the most part come to terms with what I did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, made amends to whomever I needed too (painful…..but necessary). One thing I know for sure though is that I did not (did not) cause my ex to cheat on me. We all have choices and to choose to knowingly betray or deceive someone without having the guts to pick up and leave if things are so bad, well, it is not only pathetic, but very very cruel. I don’t hate my ex, but I do feel somewhat sorry for him. I should end right here, so much to say…. just so much to say…..

  13. Thanks Miranda…

    If you have a blog site… let me know to take a look.

    I agree that we did not make our spouses cheat/betray. We may have created a setting that made it easier or more tempting…. but they are the ones that made the choice.

    Likewise…. my ex did not make me drink or drug. She sure did some things that I found impossible to handle and extremely painful…. but I usually term things “I drank because I did not handle what was going on properly”… which is frankly more accurately descriptive.

    Also… it leaves me to focus on the things I can change, namely, Handling hurts, injustices, and the variables of life, rather than focus on things I can’t change… namely the behaviours of others.

    This helps me to remain productive in my recovery and growth… to focus on things I cant change leaves me immobilized and stuck because it gets nowhere.

    Pop by any time.



  14. Hey Chaz,currently,I do not have a blog….Chaz,your response is dead on. It’s the serentity prayer in action. I especially love your words “We may have created a setting that made it eaiser or more tempting ” very profound. I have had to put my own behavior under a microscope. Self exploration is not easy and paradoxily, cannot be done alone but is done through many different avenues such as councelling, meetings, friends etc. I try now, for the most part, to check my responses to anything negative I am confronted with before I react. I do this so that I don’t become an ongoing contributor to a negative experience. I needed to change certain things about myself. My goal is too have my list of amends to become shorter not longer. It’s sort of “do onto other’s as you would have them do unto you” type of living. Though not a religious person, I find that this helps me recognize that everyone of us is struggling to make this life journey we are on, the best it can be. I don’t want things I can’t control renting space in my head, but suffice it too say, many of the rooms remain filled, but not as many as there were before. Thanks Chaz,,,,,Your a great inspiration. I admire truth in people. People who are not afraid to put responsibility where it lies even when it is with themselves. Your blog, whether you realize it or not, is helping people. …. Miranda

  15. Thanks Miranda…. I do enjoy the dialogues blogs bring… ya, mine included.

    Always glad to know that my blog helps others. I remember the desperate days when I was deeply depressed or using/drinking unable to stop. How helpless I felt.

    When I read or interacted with someone who shared something meaningful, it was the most soothing feeling…. like there was hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.

    Better yet was when they shared something workable for me. And I actually took what they handed me, did it, and derived a result. It was sooooo amazing.

    So I make every effort to share what I have learned and make it as transferrable and digestible to others as possible.

    There is just such relief and power in one alcoholic or addict helping another. Or one eating disorder person, or one co-dependent, etc, etc.

    God as I understand him said that he came to set people free and that there was tremendous power when like-minded people worked together. I have found these to be so amazingly true.

    Somehow it took a scorching cocaine problem bathed in vodka to break me sufficiently to be able to learn this… but I learned it nonetheless.

    Today I have the strength to face most of my past and shortcomings without it curshing me. So now instead of being crushed, I can address the problems and move forward. What a gift eh? And that is what I seek to share.

    An acronym I heard a while back comes to mind,,,

    F.E.A.R. can equal F*%# Everything And Run.


    F.E.A.R. can equal Face Everything And Recover.

    How can we face things we can’t handle? With help of others on the journey … especially those who have already travelled the road.

    So every step we complete on our journies can be used as gifts to those a few steps behind us.

    Thanks for your kind words and reflections.



  16. Dear Chaz,
    I’m pretty sure I’m going through this right now. I’m no longer with the guy who betrayed me ( by having a 5 year affair with my mother ) but the back lash from what happened to me is reflecting very badly on my new relationship. I constantly have overwhelming “flashes” of feelings that my new boyfriend at that moment is cheating on me. They get so bad that I have to leave work just to go check up on him. And its not just him, I feel that all the people who closest to me are cheating with him. I know most people find this crazy, but its a feeling that I have no control, on controlling. Everyone tells me to go get help, but when this all happenend, I went off the deep end and gambled everything and then some at the casino, so i can not afford to see a Dr about this. I guess what I’m asking for is just……..well I’m not sure. maybe just advice.
    Thanks for listening,

  17. Hi Tara… thank you for your comment. It has been some time since I revisted this blog but I still get updates when comments come in so I am glad that the fact it remained has been some help to you.

    Advice? Well…. I am cautious on this as I do not really know people that well who I meet through blogs and nor am I a professional.

    I am however happy to say what worked for me. But ahead of that, let me start by saying my heart goes out to you. I am familiar with the bewilderment that can happen when we discover such news as you did. And the projections our minds and imaginations can make such as you mention…. having the feeling he is cheating with many people you know.

    I had plenty of irrational thoughts after my discovery. And they haunted me for a long time and in many bizarre ways that few understood. If we consider the “trauma” aspect of what we went through, of course we are essentially in an emotional concussion. We are not thinkng straight and not ourselves. For me, I felt warped out of my natural and familiar shape… figuratively speaking. I felt damaged, like a ship after being hit by a torpedo. Not sunk, but crippled. Still afloat and able to sail, but slower and less effectively. And taking on water that I had to pour energy into pumping out in order to stay afloat.

    So in what I have said, if you can relate at all, perhaps you can find some solice in the fact that I found great reprieve and recovery that included a number of ingredients. In no particular order:

    Community: I did my best to stay in good company. Healhty people who were functioning better than I was. This included reliable family and friends, 12 step support groups, self-improvement groups, and church. We naturally absorb and aspire to our environment. We become like what we are immersed in. So I did my best to immerse myself among people who were healthier than me.

    Reading: I did my best to keep my mind occupied. I have the type of mind that does not do well alone or un-engaged. I even changed jobs so I didnt spend so much time alone with my thoughts as I did previously.

    Forgiveness: I made it my mission to find forgiveness. Not to receive it, but rather to give it. I didnt know what it even looked like at the outset but I was determined to get there one day. And gradually, I made progress toward forgiveness.

    Refuse to self-pity: Declare war on self-pity. It is the most destrurctive thought process I know. When I finally discovered that my pain had been so incredibly amplified and multiplied by my own self pity, life finally began to change rapidly. It has been about 6 years since I first had a breakthrough in this area and life has improved so incredibly much since I began to let go of self-pity.

    So all I can say is these were some critical keys for me. I hope they are helpful to you.



    • Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that the damage can somewhat be repaired. Its encouraging to hear that you are doing well. Thanks for the advice.

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