However you got here, you’ve started a journey of recovery from sexual addiction. These early days of recovery may be confusing, overwhelming, scary, painful, or discouraging. That’s why I wanted to spend a few moments sharing how you can build a solid recovery foundation that will help you and your relationship heal.
Successful long-term recovery from sex addiction will require two main components: Sobriety and relational healing.
It goes without saying that for you to build successful long-term recovery, you’ll need to establish and maintain sobriety. Everything else hinges on you seriously working hard to build sobriety. We’ve addressed this issue in another article, So How Do I Start This Recovery Thing? Look there for more ideas on how you can begin a solid program of recovery.
Just know that there is a phrase in the “Big book” (you’ll learn more about what that is when you begin going to a 12-step program). This phrase says, “Half measures availed us nothing.” Essentially, that means that you can’t do the bare minimum and hope that this will all go away. Rather, if you are trying to appease your partner so they get off your back, or if you think you can just try harder and this time will be different, you’re sorely mistaken. To make this work, you’re going to need a new way of approaching life – The way you’ve coped with pain, trauma, or resentment, through your sexuality, isn’t going to work anymore. Sobriety will help you not only stop a behavior but to start new behaviors to put in their place. This is no small task, but I promise you it’s well worth the effort.
So look back through the other articles we’ve written on starting a solid program of recovery. Let’s turn now to the second critical component of recovery: Relational healing.
You may have been told from a sponsor, a therapist, or from another support person that your only job is to get sober from your behaviors. As I just mentioned, getting sober IS a critical task of recovery. Without focusing on building and maintaining sobriety, your recovery will stall. Like a car that continues to idle in neutral but never gets in gear, you will have trouble moving forward at all if you don’t focus your efforts on sobriety. And that work may feel daunting in and of itself.
Yet unfortunately it won’t be enough for you to restore your relationship if you don’t address the sexual betrayal that has traumatized your partner. Abstaining from a behavior will help you start to build some trust and safety, but it won’t erase the years of lies, deception, gaslighting, withdrawal, blame, or other behaviors you engaged in when you were acting out. These other patterns, these relational and emotional patterns, create massive fissures in your relationship, and you can do a lot to heal those fissures. I often say, “You initiated the rupture, so you need to be the one that initiates the repair.” Initiating the repair looks like telling the truth, not getting defensive, engaging in consistent trustworthy actions over time, and by showing honesty, openness, and empathy.
Think of it this way: If you had an infected wound, it’s helpful to clean the wound and stop the infection from spreading. Yet you may need antibiotics or to address the issue that caused the infection in the first place. Sobriety is like cleaning the wound, relational healing is like taking antibiotics that stops the infection.
I can’t emphasize it enough for you to do everything you can to build both sobriety and relational healing from the start. Doing this will allow you and your relationship the best possible chances of healing. If you choose to keep your program only about you, you risk losing your relationship and ultimately your very sobriety! For since sex addiction is an intimacy disorder, if you’re not adequately addressing whatever intimacy issues you may have, you could very well find yourself relapsing or wounding your relationship further. In the infected wound analogy, it’d be like providing a topical ointment to an infection that requires surgery.
I know it may feel overwhelming to do all of this, all at once. I really can empathize with what I’m asking from you. Yet I see courageous men and women doing this all the time. Talk with your therapist, coach, sponsor, or other support person about how you can best build a recovery program that points you towards success in sobriety and in your relationship. And remember, this is a journey of progress, so take this one day at a time – All you have to focus on is today. You can do this!