Questions from Addicts
I’m a committed Christian. I know what I’m doing is wrong. Why can’t I stop by just reading my Bible or praying more? Are you sure I don’t simply need more faith?
Reading your Bible, praying, and increasing your faith are all important parts of your spiritual walk. But simply being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from having an addiction any more than it might spare you from having diabetes.
Sexual addiction is a many-faceted problem which demands a multi-approach solution. Addiction is a physical, mental, and emotional disease as well as a spiritual problem. All four areas must be addressed.
Would you treat your diabetes by simply praying more?
My spouse doesn’t know about my sexual acting out. Do I have to tell them? What about my children?
Your sexual secrets are understandably embarrassing and shameful. They also are having a tremendous impact on your marriage, even if you believe your spouse doesn’t know. This secret sin will handicap your relationship. You can never have true intimacy and commitment unless it’s built on honesty.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should immediately confess your sexual behavior to your spouse. Consultation with a professional and with other recovering addicts would be helpful. Be sure there are resources in place to help your spouse before you disclose.
Sharing your story with your children is also a difficult step. Professionals in the field generally agree that children, both minors and adults, have a need to know (to varying degrees) about a parent’s addiction. You should consider your children’s ages, maturity, and personality when discussing sensitive information.
The primary thing to consider is your motive for telling your children: Is it to promote honesty and healing within the family, or is to relieve your guilt or manipulate the children into comforting you?
Again, consultation with an addiction professional is helpful. We’ll thoroughly address the topic of disclosure at the Healing Workshop.
What should I tell others about the workshop? I sure don’t want to say I’m going to a conference on sexual addiction!
You don’t have to explain in detail where you’re going or what you’ll be working on. You can share that you’re attending a Christian workshop that’s designed to bring you closer to God and to guide you toward being the person God has called you to be. Another general statement is to say the workshop will look at a variety of childhood issues and how they might be impacting your life and relationships in the present.
It’s healthy to have boundaries! That’s one of the things we’ll discuss at the workshop.
I’m scared to admit this (and very ashamed), but my situation is different. I don’t act out with the opposite sex. My sex partners are the same sex. The pornography I use involves the same sex. Will the participants at the workshop be comfortable with me there?
Don’t worry. You’re not the first workshop attendee whose acting out has involved the same sex. Without exception, these men have also found acceptance, hope, and healing. The core pain and issues are the same. You won’t be judged. Instead, you’ll probably leave understanding why you’ve acted out the way you have and what you can do to change that pattern.
Questions from Couples
How do we heal as a couple?
When faced with the devastation of sexual addiction, a couple may feel there’s no hope for their relationship. The good news is that the crisis of sexual betrayal can be the window into the kind of relationship both spouses have always wanted – a relationship of genuine intimacy. A coupleship in the truest sense of the one flesh union that God intends for marriage.
This kind of renewal, however, takes the same dedication to healing as a couple that’s required for individual recovery. A recovering sex addict and co-addict sometimes think that their individual work will automatically improve their relationship. In some ways, that’s true. It definitely helps the relationship when the addict is being faithful and the co-addict is addressing his or her own codependent behaviors.
Individual healing, though, doesn’t automatically translate into a healthy coupleship. Each couple has its own couple’s dance – a predictable pattern of interaction that’s been developed over the years. Maybe one spouse distances and the other pursues. Perhaps one mate over-functions and the other mate is irresponsible. Often both partners unconsciously project family of origin or other wounds onto the spouse, so that their relationship is complicated by additional baggage that was brought into the marriage. These patterns must be identified, understood, resolved and forgiven.
Rebuilding trust is a key task of couple’s recovery. The addict is responsible for re-earning trust that’s been broken, which is a process of demonstrating change over time. The co-addict must ultimately be willing to re-extend trust, which often is harder. Couples who are years down the road of recovery say that trust can be rebuilt to the point that it’s no longer an issue.
This healing process usually begins when both spouses come to understand each other’s woundedness. This understanding generates compassion and de-personalizes some of the pain the spouse has caused.
Effective couple’s recovery includes getting connected with other recovering couples. Just as the addict and co-addict need their individual support groups, the coupleship requires the same kind of help. A couple benefits from a sponsoring couple to mentor their journey.
The Healing for Couples Workshop provides a huge entry into couple’s recovery. It creates a foundation of compassion and structure that can carry a couple through the hard early months of healing.
Why do we keep having the same old fights? We’re destroying each other with our hurtful patterns.
Couples often feel powerless as the dysfunctions of their relationship continue, no matter how hard the spouses try to stop. One key answer to breaking this cycle is to change the patterns of unhealthy family systems, which each spouse brings into the marriage. Realize that you and your mate are probably doing the best job you can as a marriage partner. And your parents did, too. Recognize that you didn’t have the modeling, the instruction, or the unconditional love and nurturing you deserved as you were growing up. You lack the tools to have a healthy relationship, especially one struggling with the trauma of addiction. When you identify the ways you get triggered and how it affects your marriage, you can begin to change your behavior.
We’ve tried couples counseling and it didn’t work. Why will a workshop be different?
A variety of factors could have contributed to the failure of earlier counseling. One or both partners may not have been completely honest with the counselor. (Many active addicts won’t disclose their acting out, even to a therapist.) Maybe one or the other spouse was stuck in blame and unwilling to accept personal responsibility for his or her contribution to the relationship problems. Or perhaps you didn’t get the right kind of help.
Unfortunately, many counselors – including Christian counselors – aren’t trained in treating sexual addiction or in helping the marriages touched by this disease. If the “help” you got before didn’t go deeper than the behavioral issues, it’s no surprise it wasn’t helpful. Addicted couples must explore the “whys” behind their behavior patterns – the baggage each brings into the relationship.
We also find that too often couples jump into marriage counseling without working on themselves as individuals. We find this approach rarely works, and it’s why we require each spouse to attend his or her own individual workshop before coming to the couples workshop.
I don’t think I can ever trust my spouse again. I’m still so hurt and angry. How can a workshop help me get past this pain?
Nearly every couple wonders if – and when – the agony will ease. Trust is the number one issue with most couples. A Healing for Couples workshop is a safe place to express your hurt, fear, and your desire for healing. You’ll be coached to communicate and listen at a deeper level. The example of the leaders offers encouragement and hope, as well as a practical model for interacting differently.
I’m interesting in attending a couples workshop, but my spouse isn’t. What should I do?
First, discuss the possibility with your mate again. Find a time when things are calm and invite your spouse to a conversation about improving your marriage. Begin by sharing some positive things about your relationship. Assure your mate you’re interested in understanding him or her better and learning how to interact in a healthier way. Emphasize you’re willing to do your part in addressing any issues, and take responsibility for any lapses you’ve had since your own workshop. Share again how strongly you want to attend a Couples workshop and explain how it can be feasible in terms of arranging childcare, finances, etc.
If your spouse is still unwilling to consider coming to a couples intensive, ask why and really listen to the answer. Then take your own inventory first. Are you consistently working your own recovery program? Are you walking your talk? If not, commit to making the individual changes you need to make, and ask if your spouse is willing to attend the next workshop if you demonstrate progress.
Remember, you’re powerless over someone else’s choices. Keep doing what you’re supposed to do and leave the outcome to God. His timing is perfect, even when we doubt it. Don’t let your mate’s refusal keep you from working your own program.