Some people start recovery for sex addiction at a full gallop and never look back. But for people who struggle with sex and porn addiction and who have multiple slips or periodic relapses there is one key thing they may be missing.
I’m not talking here about the spiritual enlightenment side of it, the so called “white light moment” or even just the daily spiritual practice. Those are important elements but there is something much more mundane than that.
A simple idea with big ramifications
It sounds deceptively simple but the thing you need to get your head around in recovery is that your recovery comes first. Deceptively simple because it is very hard to put this idea into practice. For one thing although addicts may be selfish and narcissistic, that does not mean that they are any good at getting their priorities straight.
The idea that recovery literally comes before anything else.
You might say well what if I am having a heart attack? Should I go to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting or to the emergency room? Well of course you need to deal with really life threatening situations first. But in day-to-day life it is important to take the commandment to put recovery first quite literally.
Why is this so important? Because addicts find excuses to avoid getting sober. The need for the “drug” leads to rationalizations for putting other things ahead of the addict’s own need to recover. This is faulty logic. And it is part of the “cunning baffling and insidious” nature of the addiction talked about in the 12-step literature.
Isn’t spending time with your kids more important than your own recovery? My addict clients are surprised when I challenge this idea. Off the top it seems selfish and harmful to their children to disappoint them and undermine the closeness. But dropping the ball on your recovery work is more harmful in the long run to everyone concerned.
There is a saying in 12-step circles that “Anything you put ahead of your recovery you will lose”.
This is profound The reason recovery comes first is that addiction is so destructive. Over time, the un-sober addict will forfeit everything that ever mattered to him. He will destroy relationships, jobs, money, health, and lose any chance to fulfill his potential in life.
Many addicts get stuck in a pattern of continual relapse even though they are quite diligent about going to treatment, going to meetings and so on. Making recovery the center of your life, at least until you are well on your way (usually at least a year or two and often longer) means more than just going through the motions of getting help.
Recovering addicts may enter treatment for any number of reasons other than wanting to get over their addiction. In fact few actually want to stop using porn or sexually addictive behaviors in the beginning. Most likely they have come to get help because their spouse or partner threatened to leave them, because they lost their job, because they got in trouble with the law, or some other crisis situation.
The crisis motivates the addict to get into recovery in order to hold onto something else: the wife, the career, their freedom. And yet in the long run the motivation needs to shift, the addict needs to put those things after his recovery or he will stay an addict. He will lose the very things he came into recovery to keep.
Putting recovery first is very hard. As if the siren song of sex addiction weren’t enough, life throws numerous other challenges our way. We get temporarily derailed from what we need to do to stay sober. But eventually the basic principle applies: be ruthless in your pursuit of your own need to recover. If you think in this way nothing and no one can stop you. Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource