Every day I choose to heal from the affects of living with a sex addict. Recovery from sexual betrayal trauma is not a singular occurrence, but an action I must make over and over and over again. Frequently throughout my day. Sometimes even several times an hour. Or minute by minute. Intentionally. Mindfully. There is no other way if I want to continue my journey to wholeness. If I want to maintain the healing and growth I have achieved. If I want to remain secure in my recovery. There was a time, not that long ago, if someone had asked me how my day was, I would have replied, “which hour?” Maybe even “which minute?” It could change so easily and quickly when I didn’t guard my heart and thoughts from wandering back into the shadows.
I am not an addict, a co-addict, or co-dependent, and yet I am very much aware that any deviance from my own recovery program can and will slide me back into my own unhealthy behaviours and negative thought patterns. And there I find myself opening my wounds, peeking into the darkness, and allowing the ghosts to breathe life into my insecurities, fears and anxieties. Stealing the hope, peace and joy I have worked so hard to attain.
I have diligently and purposefully worked through a 12 Step program, Beyond Love, adapted for partners of sex addicts. I have also completed a partners recovery guide of 100 Empowering Exercises. These resources stabilized my shaky feet and brought order to the messy, ugly chaos of my soul and marriage.
As I began my healing journey three years ago, I read an article criticizing 12 Step programs for partners of sex addicts. It confused me, created doubt, and made me uncomfortable and questioning of the route I had chosen to follow. A few weeks ago, I read a similar derogatory article. This time it made me sad. And a little angry at the damage and harm it was spreading.
I have observed within my own recovery support group, that not many women will opt to gain their strength and hope through a commitment to thoughtfully and thoroughly completing steps and exercises. It has also been my experience that recovery programs work for those who do the work. I am not suggesting that working a 12 Step program is the only way to heal. But I am stating from personal experience that it was vital in guiding me to dig deeply into my life to address and regain all that had been stolen from me. And thus, I find it nonsensical that someone can condemn a program that works if you work it. I guess because it also doesn’t work when you don’t. There isn’t any easy, effortless way to achieve and maintain healing and recovery. It is hard work. And time consuming. But it is entirely possible if we utilize the valuable resources and tools available to us.
I regularly prioritized my recovery homework. I set aside time weekly to delve into my workbooks and participate in a support group. Daily I read recovery material related to personal and spiritual growth, connected with my support system, and prayed. This meant considerable shuffling of my schedule as my personal recovery took precedence over my other commitments. I resigned from my volunteer committees. Even from serving in ministry at my church where I was the financial bookkeeper. That one was tough, because it was my contribution to my church family. But I knew I needed a season of rest and healing without outside distractions. I needed time to be alone, and time to be with God.
I looked forward to opening my workbook and filling its pages with my hurts and hopes. For me, it wasn’t an unpleasant, burdensome task, but rather an anchor that grounded me. My body would relax, my spirit would calm, and my cloudy thoughts clear. It was then that I took control of my recovery, brought order to the chaos, and felt like I was bravely doing something to counteract the brutal and devastating affects of sexual betrayal trauma. I was no longer having something done to me. Nor was I waiting and expecting my husband’s recovery to heal me. I ceased passively allowing my circumstances to reign, but rather actively strengthened myself with every new thing I learned about the good, bad and ugly of my life. And I applied it. Then and now.
God’s use of a 12 Step program was highly beneficial and effective in transforming me from victim to survivor to warrior. From a lost, scared, broken little girl to an empowered, thriving, beautiful, life loving woman. It’s hard to argue with the value of that.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2