Over the years I've heard numerous betrayed spouses ask some variation or other of the question, "What is good recovery from sex addiction, what does it look like?"
Over the next two weeks I thought I'd share a resource I've developed for sex addicts in recovery. Interestingly, I think there might be a lot of cross-over application for those of us healing from betrayal trauma... at least in time.
Recovery and Maturity
While it can be very easy to become focused on “stopping the porn” or other forms of acting out, a far better goal for sex addiction recovery is maturity. In Slaying the Monster: Six Battles Strategies to Overcome Pornography, Marcus Warner argues that overcoming addiction is actually a by-product of maturity. I’d add that maturity equals good recovery and also results in a fulfilling life and relationships.
Maturity develops as the person with the addiction:
- Stops the behaviours of acting out/acting in
- Confronts the character issues that come with addictive behaviour (e.g. cognitive distortions, selfishness, shame-based identity, victim thinking, narcissism)
- Develops a healthy lifestyle that promotes healing and maturity
The steps above aren’t actually linear: each one supports the other in (hopefully) an upward spiral.
A Rule of Life
Regarding the last bullet above, Peter Scazzero in the bestselling book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, lists the elements of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve adapted these slightly to create the following list:
- Scripture: reading, meditating
- Silence and solitude: quiet times in the day to “sit with God” and be still in thought and heart
- Daily office: scheduled moments of connection with God, can be combined with exercise, artistic expression, time in nature, etc.
- Study: digging deeper into scripture or Christian principles (e.g. lectio divina or a "Daily Bread” worksheet, bible studies, devotionals, inspirational writing)
- Sabbath: weekly time off from working, but also seasonally through holidays/vacation
- Simplicity: making choices to lighten our own load and free up our time for connection with God, others and self
- Play and recreation: an important, but often neglected, part of recovery
- Emotional health: developing greater relational joy and engaging with people on an emotional level (e.g., empathic listening, smiling, using appropriate boundaries, helping, honesty, transparency)
- Family: spending time serving, relating to, thinking about (including making positive comparisons about your wife), praying with, and playing with the various members of your family
- Community: finding or building a healthy group that shares your values and where you “belong” (your support group may be this group, or meet some of your needs in this area, but this group needs to be “your people” on more levels than just accountability)
Regarding this last point, Warner writes:
“Ask God to help you begin building an identity group of your own. These people may be local, or they may be spread out across the world. The point is that you have access to them, and they are the sort of people you can count on to deal gently with your weakness and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.”
He goes on to say that the ideal team is one of between three and nine people who: are accessible, have a commitment to values such as authenticity, Christian character development and also have similar goals such as recovery (not simply sobriety), maturity, spiritual growth, etc.
Next week I'll continue with more points from Peter and also some pointers on how to get started.