Couples Recovery Workshop
The Individual Recovery Process
In Stage One of the Couple's Workshop, you were exposed to some of the common obstacles/objectives found in working together to heal a relationship from sexual addiction. Over the next several months, you will be pursuing an 'individual' path of recovery. Make no mistake though, this 'individual work' will not be done in isolation. You have both committed to working together to heal and so, ongoing communication throughout Stage Two is required. Logically, this is the only way that a partnership can heal; so welcome this opportunity to share your insights, experiences, frustrations, confusions, progress, regression, etc., with your partner openly. The following are general guidelines to follow as you proceed through Stage Two.
What you should do while pursuing your Individual Recovery
- Take responsibility for your effort. Complete the Recovery Workshop for yourself, not your partner. The lessons and exercises will progressively lead you to alter your perceptions of not only your addiction, but your life. Recognize this significance and invest your efforts accordingly. Three months is not a long time to permanently reverse an emotional disability.
- Be genuine. In your thoughts, your perceptions and your actions. Don't allow yourself to 'go through the motions'. Don't allow yourself to settle for what you 'should think/should do' because it will present a better image of who you are. Present instead what you are thinking/are doing. Commit to permanent change; not furthering an illusion.
- Encourage your partner's healing. When you can show patience and empathy for your partner's healing efforts, you will be that much more receptive to her efforts to offer you the same. Recognize that you want your partner to examine your addiction thoroughly. Don't fear this, welcome it. It is the only way that you can be sure that you are rooting out all hidden threats.
- Be transparent. She may be on an 'individual path', but she needs you to support her efforts through honesty and openness. You may be on an 'individual path', but you need her compassion and understanding. Do your part to support both paths.
- Maintain momentum. It is the rare individual that can sustain a straight path from Lesson One through Lesson Fifty-Nine, but that doesn't mean that consistent progress can't be maintained. If a day or two goes by without conscious effort, not a problem. A week passes and you have a problem. We aren't talking about setting aside hours a day for the rest of your life; we are talking about prioritizing your health, your partnership and rebuilding the foundation of your life over a two or three month period. By the time you reach Lesson 59, you will have learned everything you need to know about addiction and recovery — the rest will take that learning and build upon it.
- Anticipate complacency. It happens to just about everyone at some point so don't wait for it to happen to you. Anticipate it. And when it happens, don't deny it...don't minimize it...don't defend it. Just talk about it. With your partner.
- Act on all threats. During this period of individual growth, you must act on all threats to your value system. That doesn't mean that you won't make mistakes, it means that you will act on those mistakes. Let no urge go unchallenged. Let no ritual go unreported. Or unprocessed. If you find yourself turning to deception as a situational management technique — stop yourself as you become aware that you are deceiving. Recognize that you are setting aside these next few months to DEVELOP, not to maintain. There is no short-term situation that can't serve as an opportunity for strengthening your long-term health. But you have to force yourself to take advantage of these opportunities — as uncomfortable as they may be.
What you shouldn't do in Individual Recovery
- Don't panic. It is likely that you will experience times over these coming months when you are struggling for no apparent reason. Or, that with your best intentions, you continue to experience intense urges. It's normal. The fear, the doubt, the frustration: it's all normal.
- Don't be critical. This is especially true of your partner's work. Just as you need a safe environment to express your thoughts as you experience them — not as they should be experienced; so too does she need a place to purge her's. Will her perceptions differ from yours? Probably. Will her memories differ from yours? Probably. Will her reactions to certain events seem misguided? Probably. But so what. Allow her to heal. Allow her to transition these things as her understanding of addiction grows.
- Don't dominate. Your path is not the same as your partners. For you, there are certain progressive learning stages that must be integrated into your recovery. Lessons 1-59 lay out these essentials. You don't have the option of choosing which sections you are interested in and skimming past the rest. Not if your goal is to end your addiction. This is not the case with partners. For your partner, she doesn't necessarily have to make the same intense investment in change that you must. Sometimes, it is enough just for her to change her perception — and nothing else. She doesn't need to assess the consequences; doesn't need to understand addiction in depth. And so, once she regains this sense of empowerment over her life, she turns away from 'learning about addiction' and begin to refocus on living her life. Repairing the damage that has been done. If this is the path she is taking — and seems to be functioning in a relatively healthy way — don't force her to complete her workshop. She doesn't need to; you do.
- Don't manipulate. There is a place in your head that only you can access. Common manipulations can be written out in lessons and even recognized in real-life application. But others, the more subtle ones, exist only inside your head. To anyone else, your behavior can be rationalized as innocent. But you know differently. Do not allow any of these subtle manipulations to go unchallenged. Equality and respect are fundamentals of a healthy partnership and you undermine them with each conscious manipulation of your partner.
- Don't personalize your partner's work. Recognize that she is not exploring your addiction/the consequences of your addiction to shame you; she is exploring them so that she can move forward. So that she can establish trust in you (and herself) again. Recognize that her healing work is about HER, not you.
Much of the work you will be doing in individual recovery will be expanded upon in the advanced couples work. There is nothing in that workshop that is just 'filler'. Additionally, recognize that while you are in recovery, you still have other responsibilities. You are still a husband, a father, a doctor, a CEO, a doorman, etc. Work hard to derive meaning and fulfillment from these other areas of your life. Work hard to balance these other responsibilities, but maintain your health as your top priority. It is what all else flows from. And finally, take the Couple's Scavenger Hunt seriously. It exists to bridge the intimacy gap that may widen as you both enter more indiviudal areas of recovery/healing. You can't allow yourself to lose sight of what it is you are recovering for. So continue to seek out ways of showing love and respect for each other — even if you don't necessarily like each other at times.
The Individual Recovery Workshop can be found here: The Recovery Workshop