Last week I began sharing a resource that I've created for sex addicts to help them move from "sobriety" to "recovery". Considering how many betrayed wives I work with who are at their wits' end because of his: acting in, narcissism, gaslighting, withdrawing, lying, cognitive distortions, throwing them under the bus, etc., I thought it was time for a resource that helped direct the SA towards maturity. The kind of "whole lifestyle" change I'm suggesting be adopted has been called a Rule of Life by Peter Scezzaro in his bestselling book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
Last week we looked at the areas (pinpointed by Scazzero) of prayer, rest, and relationships. Today we'll look at the area of "work" and talk about how to implement these lifestyle changes.
As mentioned last week: these changes can also promote healing and growth in the betrayed spouse: after she has had some healing from her trauma. Some of these points taken individually may even support her trauma healing; but whole lifestyle changes don't need to be her focus in the early days. Breathing and "surviving this day" are perfectly good goals initially.
Rule of Life Continued: Work/Activity
- Employment: most of us could connect with God more frequently in our workplace and look for ways to serve him even while serving our employers
- Service and mission: giving back to others as we have ourselves been given to - this could include service to other struggling brothers
- Care for the physical body: exercise, sleep, fasting, diet (question: are you addiction swapping with food, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, etc.? See 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 for Paul’s connection between sexual and food addiction… and how they both dishonour our temples, and thus God)
- Be aware that there are many sex addicts who have had a “work” or “hobby” addiction in the past. If that's true of you, God may be asking for some major changes. See more below.
Start Small… and Grow
Changing our lifestyle can feel overwhelming if too many areas are tackled all at once. The first step is to consider if there have been elements (e.g. work, hobby) that have created tension in your relationships because you have harmed others in order to pursue these (we often do this when our identity is too wrapped up in this thing). Such things may have to be put aside first as part of creating a healthy lifestyle. This is often a very hard, but very necessary step to take in recovery. If this element cannot be “put aside” completely (e.g. work: though consider that men/women have given up jobs before for the sake of recovery) then discuss with others with a clearer perspective what boundaries need to be put in place around it.
Next, consider, with your spouse, one or two key elements that need adding/tackling first and work on this. After a month or so, if you’re doing well, pick another to add. If you don’t feel you have the time, energy, inclination to tackle any of these changes, then that’s a clue that “simplify” has got to be your first element to tackle… that or “care of the physical body” (would you have more energy for this if you were getting more sleep?)
Another possible barrier to tackling lifestyle changes is low “joy strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Negative emotions disrupt our joy and this affects our overall energy. It’s important to acknowledge our negative emotions and learn to be comfortable with discomfort. The more we are willing to sit with our negative emotions and accept (rather than try and avoid) them, the quicker we generally pass through them and return to joy. Moreover, we don’t need to sit alone with them, we can invite the God who asks to be our “refuge” to sit with us and comfort us. Sometimes we can call on others as well; however, recovery (i.e., maturity) will require that we expand our capacity for tolerating negative emotion and develop ways back to joy—both with and without other people.
Finally, I recommend addicts be pursuing relational healing with their wife as never before. It's both common and understandable for wives to be wary of connecting with their husband for quite some time. Moreover, her trauma symptoms may make it impossible for her to feel any positive emotions with you for awhile. This is a perfect time, then, to work on building empathy for your spouse. One of the best resources I've found on this topic is the workbook Help Her Heal by Carol Jurgensen Sheets. This and other recovery work needs to be incorporated into any healthy recovery lifestyle. I also recommend reading my book Beyond Betrayal, along with the companion Couples' Guide in order to better connect with the pain of being a betrayed spouse/spouse of a sex addict.
God's deepest blessings on your healing journey. May you find in Him the strength to "keep going" despite the ups and downs.