the truth heals, part two

Dorthea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress Collection


The blog post today is written by Dave. In the previous post, I wrote about letting go of Dave’s recovery. My prayer in the last few years of his addiction finally became a simple, “If he’s lying, please don’t let him get away with it.” I still pray that prayer — for Dave and even for my kids. Lies destroy relationships. The truth heals.

* * * * *

My addiction to pills caused a lot of damage. Every part of my life was hurt.

Financially I wasted thousands. Physically I was wracked through the withdrawal and detoxification process. Mentally I am not as sharp as I was before I was on Ultram. Spiritually I seared my conscience and distanced myself from God.

The most evident damage, however, was the wreckage I brought on my relationships. My wife. My children. My parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, anyone I met. And almost all that damage was a direct result of lies.

When I was using, I lied about it. Over and over and over.  I lied all the time to hide and minimize my sin. I had an entire life to hide.

I could not sleep.  Guilt and fear that weighed on me and my mind raced from one lie to another and one manipulative scheme to another.  I would lay at night wide awake in the dark, while Deb slept soundly next to me, with pills in my system — afraid I might die. Not because I was afraid of death or even that my family would be left without me. (By that point I had decided they would be sad, but most likely better off without me.)

I was afraid of dying because all my secrets would be laid bare without my constant vigilance to keep them hidden.

It was a full-time job just keeping the lies straight.

Where did I say I was when I was at a doctor? What could I make up to explain the money spent at the pharmacy? Who did I tell what?

Keeping those lies up and my sin in the dark was draining, exhausting and terrifying. I was terrified of discovery.

Earning trust

When I was asked to resign from my ministry job it all came out. The lies were laid bare. My nightmare came true. And it was the beginning of freedom.

The problem was, even if I told the truth now, no one trusted me. I had lied for so long and so well that all the words and all the tears and all the declarations of innocence had been heard before and were eventually proven false.

At times in those first months I nearly despaired that I could ever rebuild trust with my wife, my family and anyone who knew me.

I quickly learned that I needed to be OK with suspicion.

Deb wanted to believe I had changed and was clean and willing to truly walk with God, but she had been to that place over and over and had been hurt. Not just hurt, but violated to her core.

Today we have rebuilt most of that trust. Not completely healed. There are still scars that will always linger. She still needs to be able to ask me if I am taking drugs, if I am hiding anything.

Rebuilding trust was painfully obvious but painfully slow.

The best and only way to earn trust is to have nothing to hide. Just as the damage was caused by lies over and over, I needed to be honest and clean for a long time. Over and over.

Rather than trying to convince Deb that I was being good, I needed to just let the evidence of my recovery and changed life be enough.

I needed to stop manipulating. Stop minimizing. Stop deflecting. Stop seeking instant and controllable pleasure.

I needed to stop trying and hoping and wishing it was different and realize I was powerless over my addiction and needed to turn my will and life over to the care of God. Rock bottom propelled me. But at some point, I had to actually stop and surrender myself to God.

And then I could start… start. Start to seek God and simple pleasures of a real life. Start honesty. Start trusting. Start loving. Start accepting responsibility.

I love that I have earned some trust back from my wife. That we can grow together. I love that honesty and a clean conscience means I can speak and lead and help without the nagging doubts of a blatant fraud.

Another thing has changed . . .

Tonight I will lie down to go to sleep and I will… sleep. I will be OUT in a few minutes. I sleep like a baby, or a log . . . Honesty and a clean conscience have given me peace and rest like I had not known for years.

— Dave

* * * * *

If you are a recovering addict, you need to realize that restoring the trust you’ve broken takes time — there will have to be a lot of truth-telling before you see signs of hope. For Dave, it has been a long and humbling road.  Are you committed to being truthful even if you are not believed? Can you tell the truth longer than you lied? There is hope. 

If you’re married to someone who has started on this “road to recovery,” your journey will also be long. Remember that the habit of lies doesn’t die quickly.  If your goal and hope is restoration, give them time to tell you the truth. Pray that God will catch them when they lie and convict them. He knows and He sees. Encourage honesty. Pray for wisdom. There is hope.

. . . So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes . . .

For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities:
rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
turning our backs on our God,
inciting revolt and oppression,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found . . . .

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

 . . . I am the Lord;
in its time I will do this swiftly.”

Isaiah 59-60

If the foundations are destroyed

Walker Evans, March 1936, near Jackson MS

“Honesty is such a lonely word

everyone is so untrue

honesty is hardly ever heard

and mostly what I need from you.”

— Billy Joel

* * * * *

The path to the beach cuts through the woods near our house. At the edge of the cliffs, roots of lofty pines and cedars clinging to a wall of dirt above their fallen companions. Tree tops, immersed in sand.

We don’t often go to the beach in the winter. It’s cold. The way is muddy. . .

But in spring, we go. Carefully. Mom first. Checking the path for danger and sucking the joy out of the adventure with warnings and lectures.

We reach the sand and look back at the path we’ve descended. The wall has been cut away by waves, downpours, and the trickle of a seasonal stream. How long, I wonder, til our path is gone?

Longer than I think. That’s what I realize. I am always surprised to see the path still there, at the edge of the cliff. But the tree roots are stubborn. And erosion takes years.

* * * * *

Truth is the foundation of everything good.

 . . . of faith: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . . of freedom: We hold these Truths to be self-evident . . . of justice:  swear to tell the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth . . . 

There is beauty in Truth. Security in Truth.

And there is nothing so destructive, so undermining, so shattering as being lied to.

* * * * *

Every six months something hit. A phone call. A letter. A bounced check or seven. My first response was always anger. Lashing out about irresponsibility. Frantic fixing. And then an aching confusion . . .

I was afraid you’d be mad, he’d say. Or, I know I told you that. My mind and heart whirling, trying to be strong.

Eventually, in an effort to preserve myself from these seasons of deep pain, I would become a watchdog. Determined not to be deceived again. Protecting myself. Thinking if I spotted the lies coming, they wouldn’t hurt so bad. Driving myself crazy in a futile effort to prevent feeling crazy.

And I felt crazy. I didn’t know what to believe.

I wanted to believe it would never happen again.

* * * * *

It’s in our nature to be deceived.  So, so easily.

Eve. The serpent. An apple.

But I wasn’t the only one being deceived. Dave had bought plenty of lies himself.

The shocking truth . . .

devastated by the truth . . .

the truth hurts . . .

Lies to make Truth sound like it is an enemy that will ruin your life. That truth is to be avoided at all costs, to preserve a relationship . . . to protect ourselves. So we are afraid to reveal who we really are. Or what we’ve done.

But the pain of hearing the truth is nothing next to the revelation you’ve been deceived. Lied to for years. No, lies are the real enemy. Truth sets you free.

The pills were bad, Dave will tell you, the addiction was bad, but lying did most of the damage.

It’s true. I could handle the Truth. I couldn’t handle being lied to.

But I was too proud to admit my marriage wasn’t perfect. I allowed myself to be deceived for years and never let another person in. I dealt with deception alone.

Lies eroded me and left me unstable.

There is nothing so destructive to a relationship as lying and nothing so hard to regain as trust.

* * * * *

I need to say thank you to Dave for encouraging me to tell these things. He knows I’m writing about the lies this week and stops to say once again that he’s so sorry for the years of them.

I read my journal to him from fifteen years ago and tell him I am amazed. Because I can see so clearly now where the lies and deception began to erode our marriage.

But it doesn’t hurt to write this today, I’m no longer worried about the eroding path. I am on the beach looking back at the cliff. And my roots are clinging to something stronger than man — made of dirt, of clay. And though this world is full of seasonal streams — and sometimes floods — of lies that threaten my stability, they will not destroy me.

Because no matter how awful it may seem, the Truth heals. 

And there have been years of Truth now . . . but that is for the next post.

In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me . . . .“ When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” . . . . for the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face. Psalm 11