In the 2014/2015 Survey of Wives of Sex Addicts I asked a question about regrets. One of the answers that frequently came up (8% of respondents) was around using addictive substances (or engaging in an addiction). Another 8% considered, or took, sexual revenge.
Topping the list of addictive substances women used was ‘alcohol’ (second was drugs). However, when it came to an ongoing struggle with addiction, women listed ‘food’ as their most common issue (others included shopping and sex addiction).
The Purpose of Pain
In nature, pain serves an important purpose. Think about what happens when we accidentally put our hand on a hot stove element. We almost immediately feel a strong pain reaction and then yank our hand away. Thus with a burn we instinctively know: move away from the source of the problem and apply cold (and possibly medicine, bandages, etc).
Similarly, emotional pain warns us that we are in danger and need to act. However, in this more complex situation ‘how’ we should act is more of a question.
I believe that, as in our burn scenario, we do want to put some distance between us and the source of the problem (i.e. our sex addict husband). To begin with, this is probably going to be emotional distance (though there are some situations — e.g. abuse — where physical distance is immediately required). Women intuitively understand this need for emotional space, as seen by the fact that 85% of survey respondents said they had practiced ‘healthy detachment’.
Boundaries (with consequences) is a very common next step – like the cold water for our burn. One of my support groups has been studying boundaries recently in Shelley Martinkus' excellent workbook, Rescued. There is also an entire chapter on this subject in Beyond Betrayal, for those who would like to delve further into this subject.
When we engage in addictions or mis-use addictive substances like alcohol, it’s like leaving our hand on the stove and trying to distract ourselves by banging our head on the hood vent. Not only does it not help us protect our hand, it worsens our pain.
Of course, I don’t really need to tell you that. As I said, these issues were listed as ‘regrets’ in the survey.
For any woman engaging the battle with addiction I pray God’s healing on your heart and body – and the strength to turn to Him (and supportive sisters) in times of temptation. For those with an embarrassing incident/incidents with alcohol, an affair, or inappropriate conduct with other men, I pray you would look to God for healing from your shame. He is so very willing to forgive you.
For both sets of women, I hope that the knowledge that you are far from alone strengthens you. Satan wants you to think you’re the only one struggling and failing. I can assure you, you are in excellent company. So don’t let shame keep you from reaching out to God and others.
Sometimes we just need a little help to step away from the stove.
Next time that Liar tries to run you down... tell him to run.