Hurt people hurt people and the hope of healing

Hurt people hurt people.

One of the greatest tragedies in life is that hurt people hurt people. This reality perpetuates a cycle of trauma and shame, where one person dealing with pain caused to them, causes pain to another as a consequence of their unhealthy coping mechanism. Sometimes the pain is vindictive and punitive, other times it is the consequence of actions taken in trying to deal with or escape  pain. The end result is that the pain of one person now becomes multiplied with others suffering as a result. In every situation the breakdown of relationship with self and others is damaged.

The pain of the partner, family and friends.

The perpetuated pain, particularly in relation to addictions cann’t be overstated. The person struggling with an addiction may or may not be aware of what the destruction their compulsive behaviour is causing. Unfortunately in many cases, because of the nature of addiction, the addict does not, or cannot stop their behaviour despite the consequences. 

The pain and trauma caused to partners, family members and friends needs to be recognized and acknowledged. A journey of confession, repentance which is working out a change in behaviour and mindset through recovery, and seeking forgiveness and restoration where possible is critical to the healing of the people affected.  

What pain is caused by addiction.

The primary pain is a breakdown of a relationship. The trauma caused by addiction isolates people from each other. It causes doubt and insecurity. The questions of value, worth and purpose challenge the person that has been hurt. 


I felt like my world had ended!”

“I felt like my heart had been torn out and ripped up.”

“You made my world unsafe!”

“My future imploded!”

“I wanted to hurt you so badly. I want you to feel the pain I am feeling!”

“I am not sure I can ever trust you again!”

These are some of the feelings that partners have expressed in response to the pain caused by addicts. And below are some of the pains experienced.


  • Loss of trust
  • Betrayal.
  • Rejection
  • Isolation
  • Questioning the authenticity of the relationship.
  • Public humiliation
  • Loss of income/financial security.
  • Broken extended family relationships and broken friendships.
  • Compounded trauma from past experiences.
  • Sometimes moving or being rejected from a community.
  • Loss of sleep from stress and anxiety.
  • Inability to focus on daily tasks.
  • Depression
  •  Stress related illness from compromised immune system.
  • Hopes and dreams shattered.
  • Extra burden of responsibilities and roles within the family structure.
  • Possible divorce and the trauma caused by that to children.

 Responsibility for actions while recognizing your own pain.

There is a challenging tension between treating the pain of a person struggling with an addiction while being honest and real about the pain caused to others because of the addiction. The two are not inseparable and in fact the journey of recovery should include a restorative engagement with people who have suffered pain as a consequence of addictive behaviour.

 In the 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program steps 8 and 9 are focused on this:

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

A restorative engagement may not always be possible. Forgiveness may not always be granted. The pain caused may be too great and this needs to be realised going into such a space. 

Hope and healing.

The journey of healing for anyone affected by the addiction of another is possible. It May need a counsellor or facilitator to assist in the journey. It may unearth other past trauma that makes it difficult to deal with. But healing is possible. The reality is that life will never be the same and that is ok. 

The opportunity to rebuild a future and a new life is possible. There will be a time of mourning the past, recognising that things didn’t work out according to the original plan. Healing can happen but will take a lot of work, self-reflection, honesty and grace. Creating safe spaces and having rules of engagement when dealing with sensitive topics, and of course having supportive people around you. Addiction is primarily about broken relationships or disconnection with God, self and others and healing is about being restored into authentic relationships with God, self and others. 

Reach out for/to help.

If you are suffering from pain and trauma caused by a loved one in addiction, there is help available. Don’t try to do the journey of healing alone.  If you know someone suffering in that situation, reach out to them, they are already battling with rejection and the love and care of some recognizing their pain and coming alongside them will often be the hope they need to take the first step to healing.

We have partnered with some incredible mental health care professionals who can help you heal from past trauma and pain. To connect with these partners click here.

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