What Does a Sexually Addicted Person in Recovery Look Like?
In the last topic, we noted that sobriety alone, is not recovery.
So then what does a man in true recovery look like?
How do I know my SA is really changing from working a recovery program?
I ask myself all the time, I hear it asked all the time. The list below is from years of dealing with attempted recovery, and failures and then finally seeing real recovery, maturity and growth in my husband and other men in he was in fellowship with.
Recovery often comes in waves for addicts.
First it's the “I don't have a problem” or denial, and then maybe, “white knuckle”, “I can do this on my own” – which doesn't work. They may be “sober” for a while, but that doesn't mean true recovery-based change, which prevents relapse.
Then it's the “I can do this for you to make you happy” – which doesn't work because they aren't doing it for themselves. They don't take full advantage of a full recovery program and just “check off the list” a few recovery items. There is no inward change.
Or- they honestly don't have the right recovery experts in their corner. The wrong therapist, an unhealthy group, no accountability partner. Not having a good resource can be just as frustrating for a man who honestly wants freedom from his addiction, and just “doesn't know how.”
Then after they relapse a few times because of lack of taking it seriously, or we lay down the boundary of “real recovery or we're done”, or they hit some other “rock bottom” and seriously see they cannot manage their addiction any longer.
None of these will happen overnight, and they may come easily for him one day, and then difficult the next.
You can't tick off a list, and change – as we will know too, if we struggle with weight, depression, smoking or other behaviors we need to change – it doesn't come by flipping a switch, but by flipping several switches, and repeated attempts at change. Small steps, repeated, create big changes.
(Let's keep updating this list as spouses with addicts in real recovery contributing.)
An man in recovery will do this more:
THE OBVIOUS: Sexually sober. Emotionally sober and not abusing relationally. No lying, gaslighting, blaming you, toxic anger, denial, justification, minimization, etc.
Show brokenness. Will have true sadness and grief over how his actions hurt you, himself the marriage. Takes responsibility and doesn't try to shift the blame to you or elsewhere.
Own his past behaviors and express remorse, without getting impatient, angry, frustrated, or blame-shifting
Being considerate and kind, using careful communication
Owns his mistakes right away. We all make mistakes and recovery is forward and backward, but when there's a wrong step, he owns with humility and makes it right immediately.
Doesn't complain about the **inequality during separation **and while you are not “all in” but he has to show that he's “all in.” He understands he disempowered you with deception and treason, and has to let you be in the seat of power while you observe his recovery and attempt to rebuild trust with you.
Agrees that the coupleship comes first – in a reasonable, healthy manner – before his addiction, before children, before family of origin, before buddies and bros, before career, before hobbies, etc. (This does not mean that you also must put the relationship first when there is still abuse happening!)
Agrees that, “we tell each other everything.” Again, what is healthy and reasonable. Not every single detail about your day. Meaning, no secrets that would affect the relationship, or your ability to make informed consent about your participation in the relationship. No secret conversations or sexual activity.
Has humility, and is humble and will admit when he is wrong or has carelessly spoken.
Maintains custody of his eyes at the beach, or where other people are dressed in ways that might be triggering for some people.
Takes ownership and accountability in recovery attempts. Researches his own recovery recovery resources, therapist appointments, group meetings, reading and writing homework
Shares personal insights from recovery work and the personal growth that comes with real recovery, if asked to.
More willing to go outside of himself for help – not trying to do recovery “on his own”
Is eager to rebuild trust by showing transparency and honesty. Doesn't complain about your requests for safety, and in fact leans in and is happy to provide them
Being emotionally and mentally present, connected and engaged.
Tolerates your difficult emotions (this takes time to learn – it's a skill, and increased capacity)
Non-sexual intimacy. Emotional check-ins like FANOS os “dailies” or shares emotions with you.
Doesn't complain about your needs for transparency, empathy, or your own recovery process.
Doesn't pressure for you sex and doesn't complain if you don't want to be sexual
Will be working on cultivating empathy – this is something that is learned, not just felt. (this one is very hard and has to be taught!)
Awareness of what his triggers are (*hint, they aren't usually sexual, they are usually emotional)
Will have a relapse plan, and know exactly what steps he'll take should he be triggered to act out.
Will cultivate healthy relationships with other healthy males (friends, neighbors, family members.)
Gratitude for big and little things in life
More time focused on his “Spiritual” life, whatever that means as defined by him. Not necessarily religion, but something larger than himself.
You may see other evidence of responsibility, ownership, maturity, emotional intelligence and empathy developing.