In the first therapy session, the most frequently asked question is “How long is the recovery process?”.
People in acute distress need a sense of how long it will be before their lives to return to “normal”. In that first session what a client is really asking is “how much longer will I be in this much pain?”. Partners want to know how long they will be asked (or expected) to manage the home, children, work, and other responsibilities while the addict attends numerous 12 Step meetings, group and individual therapies. Partners understand the problem requires immediate and intense focus, time and attention. Partners are encouraging of their addict partner – and often willing to put their needs on hold while the addict works hard to get well.
Addicts understand the recovery process involves getting “sober”, or stopping addictive and destructive sexual acting out behavior. They understand that attending two to three twelve step meetings, meeting with a sponsor, meeting with a therapist and attending group therapy help them to get better. The problem is deeply rooted and both the addict and the partner come to realize how “old” the behavior is through the disclosure process. While a therapeutic disclosure (a therapist-led admission of “acting out” behaviors) is primarily for the partner, or betrayed, the potential healing for the addict (betrayer) is multi-dimensional. In this process the addict has the unique opportunity to face the one they love the most (and also the one they have hurt the most) and admit the full extent of their wrongs. Reflected in their partners’ eyes, the betrayer comes face to face with the dark side of self ; the disconnected part; the “addict”. The one who has assumed the “drivers seat” of the soul is revealed. In this moment, the moment of truths, the split selves are reunited. Through the partners’ pain, the addict sees who he has become. In the “light of day” the addict sees the pain he is capable of inflicting. The addict sees how far away from his self he lived. However, the immediate task is to get and stay sober.
So, then, recovery begins with stopping the behavior, or getting sober. In the first year of sobriety much effort is put into reading, discussion and understanding of sex addiction, the addiction cycle and triggers. psycho-education, workbooks, 12 step meetings, retreats, step work, group and individual therapy aid in securing sobriety.
Days of sobriety are proudly counted and well earned medallions (“chips”) which represent and celebrate milestones in sobriety are awarded in meetings.
After a significant period of sobriety, the recovering addict is ready to face the hidden, compartmentalized dark self.
For those willing to look below the surface it is quickly understood that sexual acting out is old, yet very young behavior. Behavior used to manage feeling alone, empty, sad, scared and anxious. Behaviors born of experiencing self as a ” nothing” in the world; having no use, having little value and feeling enormous emptiness of self. When the acting out behavior stops we see that in its place is a gaping and dark hole.
Recovery is much, much more than getting sober.
Those who pursue depth therapeutic work begin the task of rebuilding the essential self. This rebuilding happens from the ground up; from the inside out. The foundation of ones’ house, or ones’ self, is cracked and needs to crumble to pieces so new foundation can be laid. Reflecting on early childhood experiences, or “family of origin” issues, and the impact of those becomes the focus in therapy. Understanding how early familial relationships shape sense of self, beliefs, and perception of the world enables one to begin the rebuilding process.
It is in this depth work that we see that this process is not a recovery of self. For many there is no essential self to recover, rediscover or reclaim. For many, the journey of recovery is a journey of discovery.
Attending 12 step meetings is invaluable. Meetings are the place addicts learn the recipe for sobriety; how to get and stay sober. Working the 12 steps with a sponsor is emotionally and spiritually enlightening. Psychotherapy work brings one down to the root level, allowing ones’ house to be built on a steady and firm foundation.
To those struggling with sexual addiction, I invite you to attend 12 step meetings. Find and work the 12 steps with a sponsor. Develop a community of support. Let go of the shame of your addiction. Work therapeutically with a certified sex addiction therapist who will focus on the root issues. Take out the jackhammer and drill down to the core of you.
Discover your self.