Partner's Workshop: Stage One; Lesson Two
Reclaiming Your Life
The single, most important thing you can do in the wake of the discovery of another's sexual addiction is to regain control and stability in your life. You will hear this again and again throughout this workshop — The need for you to first regain, and then retain control and stability in your life. The worst thing? Try to gain control over your partner's addiction and/or recovery.
The question then begs, how? How do you regain something (control over your life) that has been ripped so callously from you? Well, the answer starts not by looking for answers to their addiction, but by seeking to understand and repair the damage that has been done to your own values. And that is where you will start in this workshop. Now, early on, you will learn much about your partner's addiction and their recovery process, but you will start your healing by focusing on YOU.
Developing a Healthy Vision for Your Life
In a healthy recovery, an individual must develop a clear vision for his/her life so that a contrast can be made between it and the secret, destructive identity that fuels the addiction. As a partner traumatized by that addiction, you also have the need to establish a clear vision for your life, but for much different reasons; Assuming you had a healthy foundation to begin with, it isn't to establish your identity, but to establish a baseline for the damage that has been done to your identity. It is to reconnect to the values that once guided your life so that you can strengthen the boundaries that will be protecting those values in the future.
What type of vision will you be creating? Actually, two. The first will be a vision of those values in your past that you intend to use to guide you into the future. That is what you will developed in this lesson and what will serve as the foundation for your control and stability in the coming months. A bit further in the workshop, you will be creating a second vision, one involving a vision of how you practically manage your life through your healing and your partner's recovery.
Restoring a Healthy Vision
The first step in regaining control over your life is to identify which things you do indeed have control over. You have to gather your existing resources so that you dig your feet into the ground and begin the fight to reclaim your life. This can best be done by reconnecting to a vision for your life that is no longer polluted by your partner's addiction. This is not easy — especially if you remain uncertain as to the future role your partner will play in your life or you know without question that you will be together on the other side of this recovery process. So, try looking back to a time not just before the immediate discovery of your partner's addiction — as it is likely your values were affected long before the discovery; look back to even before the relationship itself. Work to reconnect to the values that you once guided your healthy identity. The values you relied on to experience joy and meaning and fulfillment.
Pursue Your Vision with Passion
People develop passion for many things. Soon after the discovery of a partner's addiction, it would not be uncommon for you to develop a passion for understanding addiction/the addiction recovery process — with frequent ruminations, even obsessions, relating to your partner and the path that they are on. I implore you...don't. There is no need for you to become an addiction expert. No need for you to invest a significant amount of time and energy learning about things that are beyond your control. Don't get me wrong, there is much for you to learn about addiction and recovery — and much for you to be aware of regarding your partner's recovery efforts — but what you need to know will be taught here in this workshop. Do not allow your life to be consumed by his addiction and/or recovery. Instead, start your healing by developing a passion for living your life. Develop an unwavering focus on the values that you hold dear, then construct your life so that your actions match those values. Your vision then, will represent a snapshot of your day-to-day life being managed by your values (and the boundaries that protect them).
I. Take at least twenty minutes to be alone. If you have a family, ask them to respect this time that you are taking. Make sure that you leave your cell phone off. That the dog is fed. That there will be no distractions. Take a walk by yourself. Sit alone on the beach. Find somewhere secluded and then, think. Think about who you are, the life that you have led, and the life that you want to lead from this point forward. Think about your legacy as a wife, mom, sister, friend. Create a vision that represents the real you. The one that you will be reconnecting to on your path towards healing.
II. Write out your vision. Use any format you would like. As a general rule, the more personal, the better. Post this vision in your Healing Thread. There is no right or wrong to this vision...though it should be comprehensive enough for a stranger (in this case, me) to read it and have a pretty good idea as to what you value and the life that you want to live.
As these visions are reviewed, what we will be looking for is the following:
a) Is it practical or is it idealistic? Practical is what we are shooting for. Idealistic visions feel good, sound good... but they serve very little purpose. "I want to be more spiritual" is an example of something that would be included in an idealistic vision. "I see spirituality becoming a part of my every day routine. I see myself praying regularly and having a real connection to that prayer. I see myself taking some time out each week to just enjoy the essence of nature and life." is something you might see in a practical vision.
b) Is this vision capable of sustaining a healthy life? Are there enough values identified that have the potential to generate fulfillment. To counter instability. To drive decision-making. If you isolated your partner's recovery effort and considered it from both sides (he does recover; he doesn't recover), does the foundation of your vision remain intact? Is it capable of allowing you to manage your life in response to either reality?
Suggestion: Note the difference between the 'I want' and the 'I see' statements (in part a) — the first feels distant and slightly out of reach, the latter is a more empowering statement and feels attainable. Even better is the "I am" statement. It matters little whether or not you feel that 'you are' ...you are creating a vision that you will live into — so choose statements that will inspire you and keep you motivated. And obviously, what you include in your vision will also have a big impact on whether or not you will be, and continue to be, inspired and motivated — make sure you are choosing what you really see for your life, not what others want or expect of you. Your vision should be meaningful to you!
For an excellent example of the depth such a vision should have, click here: Example of a Personal Vision
Now, this is a vision written by someone on the recovery side, but note the variety of areas examined and the depth of which they are examined. If you are looking to finish this exercise in a matter of minutes to 'check it off the to do list'... you will be missing one of the first critical tools for rebuilding your foundation. Think of this as your 'first impression' towards the sincerity of how you will be approaching this workshop. From a coaching perspective, I know that I do. The more you invest in yourself, the more coaches will be willing to invest as well. It is human nature. And so, if you need several days to complete this, take several days. Most people can write out a solid vision in about an hour. But judge your efforts more on the quality of effort you have put in, rather than the amount of time.