My ex-husband keeps trying to bully me into believing he is in recovery. But he isn’t. It is clear to everyone, except him. What he doesn’t understand is it is not up to me to believe him or not to believe him. Truth is truth. People who are much smarter than I am have developed programs that work and provide the most effective way to overcome this public health crisis. When he is actually in recovery his actions will be unmistakable. They will be undeniable because he will act differently. He will speak differently. And he will look differently. It will show in his countenance.
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Alma 5:14
A man who wants to recover from a sex addiction has to be prepared for the long haul. Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon. And running in a marathon takes training. It means running everyday and training everyday, pushing through the pain, and to keep going even when you feel like giving up. It is work. It is long-term. And most importantly, it is a LIFESTYLE change. It is like being diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. There are just some things you cannot do anymore, because to do them is dangerous to your health. If you are a diabetic you have to change your diet. If you have lung cancer you have to stop smoking. If you don’t do these things then you will die. If you are a sex addict it is the same thing, you have to make changes to get your life back and become whole again. It is a process and it takes time.
You may be surprised to know it takes 3 – 5 years of concerted recovery work to be able to say that you have overcome pornography. Five Years. And that is only if he is ALL IN from the beginning. Not only that, but after you have achieved sobriety and recovery, you must MAINTAIN recovery for the REST OF YOUR LIFE! You can never go back to doing the things the way you did them before the addiction. You must be ever vigilant and aware of your actions.
In the first year of recovery a man will constantly insist that he is in recovery. He will try to convince everyone that it’s not a big deal and he has it under control. He does this because he is really still having trouble maintaining consistent sobriety. He isn’t convinced he can do it, so he works hard to make you believe he is. I am sure it’s painful to keep having slips and relapses. But he still doesn’t want to face that he is really an addict, but his personal behavior shows him he cannot control himself, fact he cannot continue to deny. He is angry. He fights recovery. He believes himself to be an exception to the rules or addiction recovery. He thinks he doesn’t have to do all the recovery steps. He may think he doesn’t need 12-Steps or Counseling. He may tell you that he can get over this by just talking to his Bishop. The reality is that his ability to overcome the addiction is directly related to his willingness to do ALL the parts of addiction recovery. My ex-husband is one of these men and because of it, he has been stuck in this space of stagnation for two years and he doesn’t even realize it. He is stuck in denial to the point that he has become so unsafe to his family that we cannot even be around him. It is very sad. We want to be around him, but we just can’t until he comes to himself and realizes what he does to us. We have to come to accept that he may never change.
What are the steps of addiction recovery? SALifeline has done an excellent job of laying those out. If your man isn’t doing one or more of these, he will have a tougher time at recovering.
A Man Not in Recovery
- Is self-absorbed.
- Is prideful.
- Is unaccountable.
- Is hard-hearted.
- Is dishonest.
All of these feelings and attitudes lead to feelings of victim, withdrawal, manipulation, resentment, lies, lust, acting out, anger, fear, shame, fantasy, and loneliness…this is a good description of the behavior our family has experienced from our addict.
It’s a vicious cycle that just keeps spinning and spinning until he in a hole so deep he doesn’t know where to even go.
A Man in Recovery
- He is connected with the God of his understanding.
- He practices self-care.
- He is honest about needs and emotions.
- He is connected with God and others.
- He has set healthy boundaries.
In addition to this he will work ALL 4 key components of real recovery:
- Education – he educates himself of the harmful effects of addiction and how to overcome it
- Spiritual Guidance – he is doing spiritual work and meeting with his church leaders regularly
- Qualified Therapy – he is willingly seeing a therapist who is experienced in sex addiction
- Working the 12 Steps with a Sponsor – he goes to these meetings and is accountable to his sponsor
Here are the cycles of addiction and trauma in an infographic and how addiction and trauma impact a marriage and family.
A year after fighting, even the idea of, having an addiction, the addict will usually move into acceptance of the addiction. This is the point where he is getting serious about recovery. He will buy into what he needs to do as outlined above and he will start working on recovery diligently. This is a rough year because he will be doing the work, but he doesn’t yet have it down to the point it becomes a part of him, so slips and relapses still happen, but he has the tools to work through them. This is the critical point that determines if he will continue on, or give up. This is the turning point because it take 2 years of constant sobriety for the brain to begin to heal from the effects of the addiction. So the addict will only make good choices during this time if he is being guided by a church leader, a sponsor, and a support group. NOT his wife! He cannot and should not expect his wife to help him during this time. She is experiencing her own trauma and working her own recovery. If anything, he should be helping her by providing safety, accountability, honesty, and transparency, to her.
If an addict can make it through the first 2-years, which are very rough for him, and everyone around him, he will move into year three. This is where the real change will happen. This is where you will notice the real changes in his behavior. He has become accountable, transparent, empathetic, and safe. But this is not the end.
It takes two more years of serious recovery work to see the most growth in the addict. This is where he will see the changes he is making in his life finally stick to him; to become a part of him. This is where he actually becomes the person he is meant to be.
“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6
The road to recovery must start with a willing heart. The addict must accept he is an addict, and then work with all his heart, might, mind and strength to overcome his addiction. It is possible and doable, but it isn’t easy. You MUST do the WORK to reap the reward!
For the traumatized spouse it is hard to know what recovery looks like unless someone shows you. My ex-husband points out how he is in recovery anytime he has contact with me! He isn’t. If he was in real recovery, he wouldnt need to point it out, it would be evident in his behavior. You will not likely see real recovery in your spouse at the beginning of this journey, no matter what he tells you. He will have to “wake up” to his addiction first! He will tell you he is in recovery, even when he isn’t, mostly because he doesn’t even know what real recovery looks like either. (That is where addiction education comes in.) The disconnect between his words and his actions will be confusing. Most wives want to believe their husbands, but it will not be wise to believe what he says, until you see the above actions take place. So now you know, this is what a man in recovery will look like. If your man’s behavior doesn’t look like this then you can know he is NOT in recovery.
Be Strong, Stay Sweet!