I came across this article today. I thought it was fantastic because it lays out the problem I had with my husband’s refusal to get into recovery very susinctly. This article gets right to the heart of the matter and is super easy to understand! It makes perfect sense too! See the whole article here.
Call me cynical, but I have learned not to trust what clients say about their commitment to recovery.
News flash: addicts have been known to lie. In fact, you may have heard the old joke: “How can you tell if an addict is lying? His/her lips are moving.”
But I think that’s only part of the issue. Addicts aren’t simply trying to deceive you when they express commitment to change, but don’t follow through. They really believe – in that moment – that they are committed to change. But later, they will not be committed to change.
This drives spouses crazy. The most common question I hear from the spouses of sex addicts is this: “How can I trust that my husband is getting better?” Another way of phrasing that might be: “How can I trust that my husband is really serious about recovery?”
Conventional wisdom is that you can’t. You just have to hope that if your spouse expresses commitment to recovery, that this commitment will last. But it’s time to challenge conventional wisdom. Of course we can’t know anything with absolute certainty – we can’t predict the future. But there are two things we can look at to determine whether or not someone means what they say.
1. Calendars never lie
If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at how they spend their time. If you want to know whether recovery is important to someone, consider how much time they commit to recovery actions (going to support groups, doing recovery reading, making contacts with recovery friends, etc.). It’s as simple as that.
Recovery takes time. The pattern of addiction developed over years – even decades. Countless hours have been spent over the years in fantasy and various acting out behaviors. Habits were formed, neural pathways were forged. These processes will not be changed without diligent, ongoing effort.
If someone claims commitment to recovery, but isn’t willing to make time for it, they are not being honest with themselves or you. If someone claims commitment to recovery, and skips (or drops out of) their support groups, slacks off their recovery work, stops seeing their therapist after a few months, they are kidding themselves.
Recovery will take huge amounts of effort – read “time” – and during the first year it’s always too soon to take your foot off the gas pedal. There might be exceptions to this, but they would be exceedingly rare. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone I have ever observed who went to too many meetings, made too many phone calls, or spent too much time doing recovery work during their first year. It just doesn’t happen.
So stop wondering if your husband “has what it takes” to recover. If you’re an addict, stop worrying about whether you’ve “hit bottom” or whether you’re “really ready” to recover. Just look at your calendar. How much time are you spending doing recovery work?
If you are not making enough time for recovery work, then change your commitments. Make sure you schedule the rest of your life around recovery, instead of scheduling recovery around the rest of your life. Put your recovery commitments in first, then build the rest of your schedule around them.
This might raise the question for someone: how much is “enough time” for recovery work?
That’s impossible to answer for a general audience. It depends on a host of factors. It’s best to talk this through with a counselor who knows about addiction, and/or someone who is further along in recovery than you.
Do not ask fellow group members who are struggling themselves with recovery whether or not it makes sense for you to back out of some recovery involvements because you are too busy or don’t need it anymore. They will most likely sympathize with you, remind you how busy you are, and commiserate with you about how hard recovery is to fit into our crowded lives. Talk instead with someone who has built significant, long term recovery.
I hope this helps!
Stay Strong, Be Sweet!