The ultimate destination of recovery is a life lived unburdened by the weight of shame, compulsion to seek sexual solace, and a restored ability to value self and others in relationship. This is a great destination and one that can often feel like a flickering dream to those in the throes of sexual addiction and others who love them.
What Does Full Recovery Look Like?
Full recovery can look like the following:
- Someone who has learnt to deeply know and accept themselves.
- Someone who is caring and empathetic towards the needs of others.
- Someone who values their needs, and doesn’t dismiss or medicate them.
- Someone who knows what temptation means, and how to deal with it.
- Someone who finds joy in living as a fully mature self.
- Someone who is able to wisely respond to their internal experience.
A journey from addiction to thriving can take years, and certainly more than 6 months. As you or a loved one makes this journey there are common stages that are necessary, but what do they look like?
Rock-Bottom, where a vision can be cast—giving up
For the addict who has hit the bottom, where relationships are shot, pain is rampant and life is unmanageable, it can look like they are giving up. Good! This is a wonderful time for this person to be given the gift of a new vision. Usually this comes with kicking, screaming and despair, but recovery begins with the discussion of purpose and hope.
Listen carefully to anyone who is at rock-bottom and you will hear the echoes of the life they long for. Often recovery begins as they hear this echo reflected back in words that grip their attention, and come from someone trusted. This revisioning can take time, but is necessary as someone builds the courage for the tough journey ahead. Partners can often feel deflated and exasperated as this revisioning occurs.
Pushing Through Shame and Denial—wrestling and breathing
Often it is necessary to conduct a disclosure, where the addict informs a therapist, and partner if applicable, what the addiction has included. This forgoes the gritty details but illuminates the reality so the partner can heal, and the addict can break denial and confront their shame.
This will be a wrestling match that addict and partner alike will need ample support to navigate, and deep breathes and care to tolerate. Once this stage is navigated, the truth is opened up and the work shifts direction.
Realizing It Isn’t About Sex—depression and confusion
Addicts often don’t realize that sexual addiction is seldom about sex itself. Like most addictions it is a balm for wounds, needs or trauma that is relied upon for self-esteem or soothing. This realization comes as the addiction is halted and pain surfaces, and as the addict explores their motivations and desires.
Depression and confusion can erupt as the problem seems to become more complex, but in reality the core issues are being identified. Partners often feel offended that the focus seems to shift to the addict’s pain, yet both pain and addictive actions must share the focus.
Interrupting The Pattern—struggle and success
The addictive behaviors are interrupted as triggers and vulnerabilities are identified. Plans should be made to handle each trigger and healing work is to be continued around vulnerabilities, which usually include past wounds.
This process takes time and builds momentum, but may remain frustrating to addict and partner alike as the work unfolds and often reveals new levels.
Building Tools to Cope—displaying new reactions
As new coping skills are acquired and integrated into daily life the addict becomes more functional and able to cope with everyday stressors without the threat of succumbing to temptation. At this point trust often start to be rebuilt within a couple.
Setting New Plans in Motion—life looks different
Once traction is gained in recovery and change is occurring, it is vital that new goals, structures for leisure, and achievement are put in place. This helps build self-worth and reshape life into something meaningful and sustainable.
Partners will start to notice how different life becomes, and this may be a big disruption! Consistent, kind discussion is critical to negotiating these changes.
Rebuilding Relationally—unnerving and delighting people
As the addict starts to thrive again, relationships will have already improved, yet special focus must be given to reintegrating healthy relationships. These are a large source of stress relief, connection and purpose.
It is likely a partner will enjoy seeing their addict building community that is healthy and different from before, yet it may seem hard to trust and believe at first.
Growing In Insight—shifting from functioning to joy
The lifelong journey of understanding how we react, function and understand the world has started and needs to be nurtured. This becomes a fulfilling aspect of life that therapy can initiate, and then gets picked up by partner and addict alike. This is when life shifts, year-by-year, away from simply functioning to flourishing.
It is impossible to say exactly how long your recovery will take, and what it will entail for you to come alive as the person you were designed to be. However, I hope this information provides you with perspective and hope for the journey ahead.
Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!
How has professional treatment helped you recover from a sexual addiction?
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 12, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com