Today, we’d like to address a question we received at the Q&A session at the last SAL Conference.
A friend in recovery asks:
“Is this program for those of us who have chosen divorce? I at times feel like I ‘failed’ as the spouse of an addict.”
This is a great question, and a vulnerable one. And the answer is a resounding YES! This program is for you! This program is for every person who is recovering from the effects of another person’s sex addiction.
While the SAL model of recovery sees the ideal as individuals working their recovery separately with the goal toward eventually healing the marriage, we definitely acknowledge that this ideal is not always attainable.
At SAL, the following principles help us find a healthy perspective, a Recovery Mindset:
- Sexual addiction is a true addiction. Acting out in this addiction changes a person’s brain over time just as chemical addictions do. This does not mean that sex addicts are not responsible for their choices; it simply means that we see them as sick people, not inherently bad people. For sex addicts, lust is toxic.
- As loved ones of sex addicts, we have experienced significant trauma. Most betrayed partners meet the criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Before we can find true healing, we must first recognize our trauma and learn how to respond to our triggers in healthy ways.
- The sex addict’s behavior is not our fault. Many of our loved ones were sex addicts long before they met us. We did not cause their sexually compulsive behaviors, and we cannot cure them. We do not have the power to control anyone other than ourselves.
- We contribute to the chaos when we attempt to deny or to control sexual addiction. When this happens, we lose the ability to manage our own lives, and we cannot find serenity.
- When we first approach SAL 12-Step, our own lives are unmanageable. We need our own recovery from the trauma we have experienced, and the unhealthy coping strategies we have developed.
As we continue to progress in our recovery we establish boundaries that create a place of safety where we can detach from a spouse who is caught in addict behaviors or actions. Certainly, women who are actively working their own recovery must accept the possibility of divorce if their husband chooses to continue to pursue his addiction.
Whether we are divorced, have never been married, or are married, there is a place for us in our SAL fellowship. Every perspective is unique and valuable. We each have strength, hope, and experience to offer as we learn and grow through our step work.
Recovery will bless us to be more capable of loving, healthy relationships now and in the future, whether this is with our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, or in a future romantic relationship.
If you feel isolated due to your marital status or life circumstance, we urge you to prayerfully reach out to others in your group. Pick up your phone. Make a phone call. I believe you will find that if you are willing to open up, you will find that there are many, many women who are willing and wanting to connect with you and whose experiences have been similar.
You are not alone. It Works When You Work It, and You are Worth It!