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“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”― Margaret Thatcher
Many people who are in recovery for various reasons – drug addiction, infidelity, alcoholism, sex/porn addiction, etc. – are having a hard time experiencing success in their efforts. They often feel discouraged because they continue to relapse and/or simply struggle with an ever present darkness that had made its home within you; kind of like a parasite that has embedded itself within your flesh consistently causing discomfort and disarray.
If this describes you, then, when it comes to your recovery efforts, you are probably experiencing feelings like discouragement, helplessness, hopelessness, and maybe even despair. From my experience as a licensed therapist that specializes in helping people be successful in recovery, the main obstacles that are preventing people from having success in their recovery are (1) the lack of structure, and (2) the lack of focus. It’s important to note that the lack of focus is often due to not having the appropriate structure or direction in place. THAT STOPS TODAY!!
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
― Zig Ziglar
In this article, I will address what we, at Family Solutions Counseling, call THE 5 PILLARS of RECOVERY SUCCESS. When you implement these pillars in your recovery, I believe you’ll find yourself progressing in ways you haven’t experienced.
PLEASE BE SURE TO READ THE BONUS TIP AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE!!
PILLAR #1: Individual Therapy (and Couples Therapy if in a relationship)
This is often a hard step for people to take, but it is an important one. It is often very hard to see the forest for the tress when you are in recovery. A professional counselor is trained to pull you out of the forest and help you take a look from above you can see bigger picture, which will help you develop points of intervention.
Yes, if you are married or in a relationship, then you’ll eventually need to consider couples therapy. We highly believe in treating all entities involved; thus, when a client that’s in a couple relationship enters into recovery and takes part of our program, we consider there to be 3 entities that need to be tended to – the client (e.g., the addict), the wounded spouse (e.g., partner of the addict), and the couple relationship.
“Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don’t go there alone.”
― Augusten Burroughs, Dry
Don’t let this overwhelm you (see bonus tip at the end of this article), simply begin with finding a therapist that specializes in the recovery issue you are specifically dealing with.
PILLAR #2: Group Therapy
There is a strange magic that is involved in group therapy. It is HIGHLY important for recovery success in my opinion (article: The Magic of Group Therapy by Joshua Nichols, LMFT, CSAT). After you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with, ask him/her to help you find a quality, well-ran group that you can be part of. In my practice, we specialize in sex addiction treatment and recovery; thus, we run several groups for our clients (and clients of other therapists’). As a facilitator of these groups, I, personally, have seen progress and change in ways that I simply have not seen with clients in individual therapy.
PILLAR #3: Support Groups
Support groups are different than therapy groups. The biggest difference is that they are peer-led group, while therapy groups are facilitated by a trained therapist. Also, most recovery support groups follow a 12-step model. These groups include, but not limited to, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, S-Anon, Recovery Couples Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery.
This is often where most people start their recovery journey, but sometimes they fail to add in the other pillars. Support groups are highly valuable and should be a part of your recovery plan; but support groups alone often don’t provide you with the structure and focus you need to be successful in your recovery. Therefore, DON’T give up your support group, but simply look at adding another pillar to your plan.
PILLAR #4: Accountability
The great thing about the first three pillars is that accountability is built in to those processes. You are scheduling counseling appointments and attending your groups (therapy and support), doing your homework assignments, implementing your newly learn skills, and actively developing new habits. You can see how the first three pillars can hold you accountable to your recovery. However, more is needed. You’ll need to ask your therapist to help you develop accountability outside of these meetings or events. You need to understand, for example, the differences in slips and relapses. You need to understand what boundaries should be put in place to help you in your recovery as well as your couple recovery. I know this sounds overwhelming (again, see bonus tip), but a trained therapist can help you develop this as part of your recovery.
PILLAR #5: Psycho-Education
Information is power. Start reading quality literature on the issue of concern. When you can see there is a science behind the development of your struggle, and there is a science behind the patterns you, yourself, are caught up in, then you’ll begin to see there is a science behind successful recovery. THERE IS A WAY OUT!! Here are some reads I recommend for recovery of sex addiction, which is my specialty in working with recovering clients:
For the Sex Addict:
Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes
Always Turned On by Rob Weiss & Jennifer P. Schneider
Sexual Anorexia by Patrick Carnes
Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers
Stop Sex Addiction by Milton Magness
For Partners of Sex Addicts
BONUS TIP: Add ONE iron in the fire at a time!!
This is very important. From my experience, people tend to drop out of recovery because they feel overwhelmed with all that is involved in successful recovery. I can’t express it enough – START with ONE PILLAR; once that is established, then move on the next. If you try to implement ALL FIVE PILLARS at once, then you will likely get overwhelmed and over-worked. Please be kind to yourself as you start this process.
“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
I wish you well in your recovery journey. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about this article and/or the recovery program we have developed for sex/porn addiction treatment here at Family Solutions Counseling. Blessings.
~ Joshua Nichols ~
Licensed Martial & Family Therapist
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
All of us have uttered the word “sorry” many, many time in our lives. Some people say it so often that it is as much a part of their vocabulary as “hello” and “good-bye.” Some people cringe so strongly when they say it that it seems like “sorry” actually has a bad taste. Neither of these descriptions exude an authentic, meaningful apology. [Scroll down for VIDEO]
Merriam-Webster defines apology as “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.”
This definition is clear in what the word means, but actually giving a good apology can feel elusive, or like a talent that many struggle to achieve. I would like to help you change that by sharing with you five concepts that can help you create and deliver a quality apology and meaningful exchange with another.
This is the most important of all the concepts because truth and authenticity is key in order to offer true amends to someone as well as creating a change in interpersonal healing. We have all probably had an experience when someone utter the word “sorry” and it felt like a bold face lie. This neither draw anyone closer nor released someone from feeling bad about hurting another. Basically, this is a waste of an experience. Instead, take time to evaluate, think, reflect and perhaps study how someone felt wronged, even if it is not how YOU would think or feel. Then once you have been able to make this connection, identify honest words that truly reflect how you feel.
When preparing to give your apology, be mindful of how you may be explaining away the wrong actions. People often will say things like “I am sorry, but I was really stressed that day; and I didn’t even think about how important it was to be on time.” This kind of statement does not make the other feel like their feelings matter; adding context may be important down the road, but at the stage of offering an acknowledgment of transgression, the “why” doesn’t matter as much.
This word is just as you might imagine. It means presenting yourself in a soft, open and somewhat reverent manner. Especially in intimate relationships, most of the communication between people is non-verbal. This means that even if your words are perfectly crafted, it is your tone, body position and eye contact that will really send the messages. Sitting down next to or across from the other person, alternating between looking them in their eyes and looking down, and being able to show emotion through tears, a soft voice or gentle affection is the most effective way to communicate “I get that I wronged you and I care about you.”
This is the part of the puzzle that can get many people stuck. This is addressing the when, where, and how you will apologize. Timeliness of an apology is important; often times we want to apologize right away so that the other person can see that we are on top of things. However, for deeper and more complex issues, like betrayal or secret keeping, scheduling or inviting another to hear your apology sends the message that you respect their time and feelings [WHEN]. In addition, location matters as you want to acknowledge privacy as well as a place where you can manage distractions and be able to reveal yourself in the “soft “manner described above [WHERE]. Finally, how or what method is VERY important especially when the apology is going to an important person. Text, email or voicemails may work for minor infractions, but face to face is the most vulnerable method that offers the most opportunity for resolution and connection [HOW].
In a perfect world, saying “sorry” would be enough for people to wipe the slate clean and move on with no hesitation. However, many times an apology may not be met with forgiveness or acceptance. Instead, especially in difficult situations, it may be met with resistance. If one can create an apology that is sincere, thoughtful, mindful, and vulnerable then that is success. The reaction to it is the wild card. Instead, focus on doing your part and identifying how crafting and sharing this apology is representative of personal growth and that the other person’s reaction is theirs to have and you must respect and accept it as true. Finally, many times apologies must be delivered in higher doses. Saying “I’m sorry” may be a statement someone needs to hear and experience many times to begin to see the other as genuine and repentant.
~a final message~
The art of the apology is often like actual art in that its quality is in the eye of the beholder. However, creating and giving an apology has the opportunity for one to experience transformation and connection regardless of how another takes it.
You may be reading this simply for personal and/or interpersonal growth, but you may also be reading this because you’re relationship with someone you care about has been wounded; thus, an apology is needed for healing and reconciliation. If this is you, you should be proud of yourself for having the maturity and courage to further investigate on delivering a proper apology. However, if the offended party is suffering from a deeper wound that stems from events like betrayal, infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc., then I encourage you to consider working with a professional relationship counselor to better assist you (and your loved one) on how to proceed with healing. Keep on pressing forward.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:
Licensed Marital & Family Therapist
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
I was 10 years old when my fear of clowns began. Many people of my generation (I’m 37…and climbing) know exactly what I’m talking about! That’s right, approximately 27 years ago, Stephen King’s bestselling book, IT, was made into a TV series. This horror flick starred actor, Tim Curry, as Pennywise – the evil clown that terrorizes the town of Derry, Maine every 27 years.
So, you might be wondering, “What in the world does a horror flick about some psychedelic clown have to do with mental health or addiction? Where are you going with this, Josh?” Well, I implore you to keep reading to find out.
As many of you probably are aware, this story was recently filmed and released to the big screen as a major motion picture. For the majority of my adult life, I have more or less steered clear of horror films, but, for reasons of nostalgia, I decided to go see this one. Yes, it was dark, scary, and I even struggled with some post-movie anticipation considering I would be going home in the dark to an empty house as my kids were staying with their grandparents and my wife was away on business. To my surprise, I found myself really enjoying the movie. Later that evening, as I sat in my empty home, my mind kept replaying certain scenes from the movie, although I was disturbed, I didn’t find myself “freaked out” or scared by any means. The more I stewed and pondered all by my lonesome, the more I was able to comprehend the amazing depths of this story. The more disturbed I became, I began to realize that it wasn’t the sinister clown that fed off children, or the dark, startling, and often, bloody scenes that created this increasingly feeling of uneasiness. No, I realized there was something else about this story that was much more disturbing than what was on the surface. This is when I began to think about the stories of my clients and the work I do as a sex addiction therapist.
If I haven’t bored you yet, then please journey with me into the depths of my mind as I address 5 observations about how this dark and sinister story relates to the life of an addict.
********SPOILER ALERT********SPOILER ALERT********SPOILER ALERT********
The Loss of Innocence. This story centers on lives and friendship of seven pre-teens (six boys and a girl) that have not only been treated as lepers by their peers, but it also seems that the community around them has deemed them misfits of a sort. All seven of these middle-schoolers have been hit by life in ways that we wouldn’t wish upon any child. If you look beyond the humor and dismissing attitudes, you can see an underlying suffering that each child is working hard to manage. To add insult to injury, they don’t feel safe enough to turn to the adults in their lives as they quickly learn that “bury your head in the sand” seems to be a mantra that most of the adults live by in Derry. Feeling protected, feeling nurtured, feeling loved, wanted, and accepted – all the feelings our children experience that makes them feel safe – sadly is not part of the narrative for these seven kids.
Sound familiar? Many addicts have been hit by life in ways that most of us have a hard time even imagining. These situations often, but not always, involve ill-equipped grown-ups whom are either neglecting their responsibilities as caregivers (i.e., burying their heads in the sand) and/or actively causing harm to their children or the kids they are overseeing. This often results in a lost childhood – the premature loss of innocence. Many addicts have come to understand the darkness of this world long before they should have; and in ways that many of us would never understand.
Strength in Community. As they deal with their feelings of loss, emptiness, and anger, these seven buddies all seem to gravitate toward one another. And through their unique but shared experiences of the dark world around them, they bond together. Despite how reckless they could be at times, these friendships have become the most important part of their short lives. It’s a matter of survival. In a town full of people, they come to the realization that they are at war, and they are fighting it alone.
Addicts are at war! Since they are great survivors, they are resourceful enough to find a community that supports them, even if it is unhealthy and reckless at times. This also is where their drug of choice comes into play. Their drug becomes an important part of the community as it is a way to self-medicate and escape the darkness, even if it is just for a moment’s time. The drug becomes a mechanism for survival.
The Power of imagination. One of the more disturbing components of this story is that Pennywise (the evil clown) feeds off the imagination of children. You see, the world has stripped the grownups of their imagination, but children still have enough innocence left to imagine wild and crazy things. Thus, Pennywise is able to transform and become the very thing these kids fear the most. What is even more interesting is that it is through the power of imagination that these supposedly weak and inept children are able to defeat him.
Addicts often make great use of their imagination. Their imagination is where they go to escape the harsh realities of the world they live in. In recovery, we (mental health professionals) often loosely quote M. Scott Peck, saying “pursue reality at all costs,” but we don’t want them to lose their imagination. In fact, they are encouraged to imagine, fantasize, and dream about things that can be realistically pursued and achieved. We want them to abandon the use of their imagination as an escape, and start utilizing it as mechanism to inspire hope and change. This is how they defeat their addict – their own personal Pennywise – once and for all.
The Drive to Survive. As mentioned earlier, children are great survivors! We see that demonstrated very well in this story. These seven misfits, through all their troubles, heartache, and fear, don’t give up easily. They are determined to defeat this evil that plagues them. Interestingly enough, to defeat Pennywise the Clown is to defeat their own fears and demons.
The story of an addict is often a story of survival. They have been at war for so long that they have a very hard time conceptualizing that the war is over; and now it is time to heal and live. But, how does someone function in a worn-torn world as a civilian when they spent most of their life as a soldier? There is something to be admired about their grit and determination, but their darkest and most difficult battle is yet to come – the battle that ends the war.
The Desire to Live. The second part of this motion picture has not been made, or, at least, released to the big screen yet. But, if the writers and directors continue to follow the original storyline, then these seven friends will return to Derry, Maine, once again, 27 years later. You guessed it! Pennywise is NOT dead! They merely drove him back into his lair, but they did not destroy him; and now HE’S BACK! In the second half of this story, these seven friends, now middle-aged adults, want to be rid of this evil once and for all so they can LIVE THEIR LIVES! This will require them to venture into the darkness in which IT lives and fight him on his turf, in his true form, one LAST time!
The second part of an addict’s story is recovery. The second act of their journey often begins when they step foot in my office. They have realized that through all their efforts, they have not defeated the evil that lurks in the darkness, but have merely crippled it…..but only for a while. Eventually the darkness comes back with a vengeance! And with a strength and ferocity that they have not seen before. This is when they realize that it is time to be DONE WITH IT once and for all! It is time to venture into the darkness and face the terror that has plagued them for years. It is time to heal from the wounds of life and take back their soul that they so long ago sold to the Devil of Addiction as a means of survival. And so their story of recovery begins.
Wow!! I get chills thinking about this! It’s odd to me that a horror film gives me chills in this way. If you have a heart for recovery and you happen to go see this movie (or read the book), then I hope you will spend some time thinking on some of these concepts. I look forward to watching it again; and I can’t wait for the second half to be released.
Whether you have seen this movie or not, if you are struggling with addiction of any kind, then I urge you to begin your battle to end the war. Start recovery today! Feel free to contact me or my colleagues if you need some guidance on getting that ball rolling. Blessings to you all.