(Mis)Adventures in Joining a Recovery Support Group

So much about recovery involves scary leaps out of your comfort zone. That safe place you are in is likely unhealthy, but it is where you are, and what you know, and that can count for an awful lot of points when your life is falling apart around you. Maybe I should be a little more personal here and replace these “you” and “your” words with “I” and “my” because it is me that I am really talking about.

Knowing how to quietly walk on eggshells and when to tiptoe around the perimeter. When to keep my mouth shut. Which is almost always because everything will come out wrong or stupidly. Learning how to camouflage into the background. Trying so hard to be unnoticed. By everyone.

This was my comfort zone. The isolation and security of me. Not letting anyone see the dark places of my soul, but also not the unique beauty of it either. Certain that it would be rejected and ridiculed. Because it was. Daily. By the person who I freely and trustingly gave it to. If my husband so thoroughly disliked me, logically, everyone else would as well. I lived in constant fear of being humiliated and rejected by everyone.

And there was my problem with embracing a recovery program. Recovery is not a “me” journey to be taken alone. At my first counselling session, my therapist introduced me to the five vital components to treatment and recovery for partners of sex addicts.

Number one, one on one counselling. I could do that. I was cautious, but desperate for guidance. It was his paid job to sit and listen to me without fleeing from the room repulsed by my thoughts and emotions. I trusted this counsellor who validated my pain and offered me hope and practical ways to achieve healing. He thought I was worth it and I began to believe that too.

Number four, reading. I was encouraged to read sex addiction recovery resources for partners and other personal growth books. Again, a reasonable suggestion. Especially with a list of recommended materials provided to me.

Number five, prayer. In the words of my counsellor, “When God is at the center of your life, long-term health and maintenance is much more likely. You can be okay no matter what happens in your relationship.” Nothing much to argue there. I believed in God so talking to Him wasn’t a stretch.

But ah, yes. Components two and three. For me, the tough, scary ones that I was inclined to skip over. The people ones. The relationships. The ones where other women will look me in the eyes, and listen to my wobbly, foolish words, and recognize instantly that I am a waste of their time.

Number two, participate in a recovery group. I was told that I would receive support, validation and strategies for recovery. That I was not alone. My counsellor’s wife, herself a recovering partner, led a weekly teleconference group that I was welcome and encouraged to join.

Number three, accountability. Meeting other women who have gone through what I am going through will help me stay accountable to a recovery and healing process. Okay. Doubtful, but maybe. But then my counsellor lost me completely by suggesting these women would become my friends. I was unconvinced. And saddened that he would say something so outlandish to me.

Nevertheless, out of my comfort zone I stumbled. Literally. On my first attempt to connect with my counsellor’s wife, (after staring at the phone in my hand for several minutes beforehand), I panicked and hung up the phone when I heard my counsellor’s voice on the line. Ridiculous, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Only minutes later, after a few deep breaths, I dialled again wondering if they had call display. He answered again. This time I identified myself. With my real name.

Later that week I bravely called in to the teleconference recovery group for the first time. It was awful. I said two words. “Cynthia” when I had to identify myself as the caller. And “no” when I was asked if I wanted to do a check-in. It was overwhelming, confusing, discouraging. It was quickly evident that I had no idea what was ahead of me. This was an unknown culture with an entirely new vocabulary. Triggers. Disclosures. Polygraphs. Boundaries. What?!?!

I hung up the phone that night and sobbed. Crushed by the overpowering raw emotions of myself and the other women I heard. Too much pain.

As my tears turned to stillness, I heard a tiny whisper. I called the group leader. Explained how much the call had distressed me. Through her words and beautiful spirit, God deeply ministered to my brokenness. A calm settled over my heart that could only come from my Abba Daddy.

I would like to say that my second time participating in group went more smoothly. But that would be untrue. I did hobble through a partial check in. Choked on the words, “Hi my name is Cynthia and I am the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic.” The foreign recovery lingo was still there. I hung up in a worse state than I was in an hour earlier.

It distressed my husband to see me so upset with my recovery group. He was finding life and freedom in his support group and thought I should quit mine if it was making me miserable. He handed me an out. I was in enough pain as it was. We both wondered why I would intentionally add to it.

But I heard that tiny whisper again that refused to let my flickering hope be snuffed out. God gently nudged me forward. Drawing me through. Asking me to trust the process and path laid before me. Giving me the courage to do it. Making me brave.

The next week I walked into an in person recovery group and said “Hi, my name is Cynthia. The thing I like about myself today is that I am here.”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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12 thoughts on “(Mis)Adventures in Joining a Recovery Support Group

  1. Don’t know you but so very proud of you! I remember my first few times in a recovery group and can relate to everything you said and felt! But…I’m so glad I kept going back!!! Blessings on your journey of healing!

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    • Thank you so much! I, too, am so grateful that I pushed through and kept going. The support and relationships have been a tremendous blessing and significant part of my recovery, which will be the topic of my next blog post! Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey.

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  2. My first time back to a recovery group, after being away for a couple of decades, consisted of me crossing my arms, sitting in the seat trying to remain as disconnected as possible in order to prove to everyone that this was NOT going to work. That was five years ago and I sure see things in a different light now.

    Great post. Brought back the moment for me.

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      • I think it is great when someone steps into leadership for the first time. They can really see the 180 degree turn in their lives when they are in the place of leadership looking back at people experiencing what we felt the first time we walked into recovery.

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      • Exactly! My goal was just to stop hurting, but now I am thriving and continuing to be amazed at the things God has me doing. I am blessed over and over by my recovery and being able to encourage others with their own. God is soooooo good!

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    • Thank you! It is my hope with this post to encourage others to stick with the group process and not be overcome by initial negative reactions and quit before giving it a real chance. It really does work! I have been very saddened by the number of women I have met once, maybe twice, through my group only to have them disappear. My heart aches that they have chosen not to continue with the process when there is so much healing available to them.

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    • You are very welcome! I have found it so helpful in my recovery knowing there are others who share the same messy, overwhelming emotions that I experience and are surviving and thriving. Recovery really is a “we” journey. Keep pushing through! It is worth it!! (((Hugs)))

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  3. I am so glad you fought the fear and continued….you did it afraid, but you did it. Had you not, then I wouldn’t be where I am today….it was you in group that reached out, first with your voice on the phone and then in person…the woman who embraced me and whispered to my heart – “you can do this”…..”I am here, you’ve got what it takes” and I breathed a silent prayer of relief and thanksgiving! And so began the journey…love you, friend.

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    • Thank you so much for these kind, beautiful and gracious words. God put us on our journeys at the same time so that we could be a support and blessing to each other. We are both doing it courageously and winning!

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