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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
If you are a spouse or partner in a couple relationship and you have experienced betrayal by your significant other, then you might consider incorporating a disclosure session as part of your treatment process.
What Does “Deep Betrayal” Look Like?
We consider “deep betrayal” to be any act committed by a partner or spouse that severs the lines of trust in the couple relationship and strongly injures the emotional attachment of the couple. Examples include, but not limited to:
Emotional Affairs | Physical Affairs | Chronic Sexual Infidelity | Financial Infidelity
What Is the Purpose of a Disclosure?
In a nutshell, a disclosure session is a process designed to aid in providing the betrayed partner/spouse peace of mind. Damaging secrets have a way of surfacing in relationships; thus, it is our belief that it is imperative that the offending party reveal these secrets in a controlled setting so that they can move forward in recovery with minimal worry that more secrets may surface in the future. Thus, if you are doubting your spouse’s honesty, then a therapeutic disclosure may be what you and your relationship needs in order to move forward. Additionally, the offending spouse may also experience a sense of relief and freedom as keeping secrets is often very burdensome which can hinder recovery.
Another purpose of this event is that it serves at ritual for transition. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to this type of betrayal. But, one thing that most certainly has to happen for couple healing and reconciliation, is that the couple must say goodbye to the old and tattered and start transitioning toward the new and unknown. The disclosure session serves the couple by giving them a strong shove forward, leaving behind a relationship poisoned by secrecy and deception, and welcoming a new relationship built on honesty, transparency, and integrity.
CAUTION: Staggered Disclosure Is More Harmful than Helpful
What is staggered disclosure? Often times, when a traumatic, hidden secret is revealed or discovered, the betrayed spouse is often overcome with painful emotion, which generates many MANY questions. Their imaginations often take them to very dark places that can be terribly overwhelming. To end their pain and to stop their imagination, they NEED their questions answered. They NEED IT ALL TO STOP! Thus, it is common that the wounded spouse ask more and more questions over the course of time. Their intent is pure in that they simply believe that the right information will make the pain subside. Unfortunately, this attempt to “feel better” often ends up exacerbating the wound, thereby, creating even more trauma.
Staggered disclosure is when the offending partner, over time, discloses more and more details about their infidelities. Much of the time, in the initial disclosure (i.e., when they were caught or discovered), the offending partner often withholds information. Some of that information is important for couple recovery and healing, and some of it is just white noise. Regardless, the wounded partner often will eventually assume or presume that there “is more s/he is not telling me;” ergo, more questions ensue. The offending spouse, often riddled with guilt and shame, will start answering these questions without giving thought to the notion that (1) certain information really has “no therapeutic value,” thus, potentially creating a deeper wound, or (2) the information disclosed is appropriate, but since it is done at different points in time, it keeps the initial wound open and leaves the wounded spouse thinking, “I wonder what else s/he hasn’t told me that will eventually surface and bite me on the ass when I least expect it.”
If Not Staggered Disclosure, then WHAT?!
For the reasons listed above, this is why we recommend a therapeutic disclosure. This type of disclosure is NOT driven by the hurt and pain harbored by the wounded spouse, but instead, it is driven by the desire to get the proper form of medicine for this deep emotional wound.
What’s Involved in a Therapeutic Disclosure?
Therapeutic disclosures may be done differently depending on who is facilitating it. We recommend you have a CSAT (certified sex addiction therapist) conduct your disclosures. Other providers with different types of certifications may be able to conduct an adequate disclosure, but we recommend CSATs because we know CSATs are trained in this process.
So, a therapeutic disclosure often involves the following, but formatting may vary based on the provider:
- 2 therapists trained in facilitating disclosures
- both partners partaking in couple recovery
- 2-4 individual prep sessions for each partner
- 1-2 hour disclosure session with all 4 parties present
Each partner will usually spend some time with an therapist partaking in the VERY IMPORTANT prep work involved in order for the disclosure event to be beneficial. The therapists should coordinate an agreed upon day and time to have the disclosure event; thus, the prep work needs to be completed before that time arrives. In my practice, we block out 2 full hours for the actual disclosure. Some times we finish sooner, but two hours gives us plenty of time to complete the process. It’s important that you discuss this process in detail with your therapist. Since the process will look differently from therapist to therapist, make sure you understand his/her unique process and the purpose for each element. You need to be confident in the service that is being provided.
What SUCKS About a Therapeutic Disclosure?
Waiting. This is probably one of the hardest parts for the wounded spouse. Anybody experiencing the level of pain they are experiencing really wants the pain to stop NOW!! As you can see, even if you were able to get into see a therapist right away, there is still prep work that needs to be done prior to the disclosure. HOPEFUL MESSAGE: There will always be some wait time; however, if your urgency level is through the roof, you may be able to complete this process in a week or two.
Intensity. The emotional atmosphere of this event is often VERY emotional. The couple more than likely will leave tired and emotionally exhausted. As a therapist who has facilitated several therapeutic disclosures, I often leave tired and emotionally spent as well, which is why I like to schedule them at the end of the day. HOPEFUL MESSAGE: Although this part is very scary, intensity is treatment often helps give the couple momentum. In other words, I would worry about the quality of the event if the couple did NOT feel or experience a heightened level of emotional intensity.
Bitter-Sweetness. At the close of a therapeutic disclosure, the couple may feel a lot of things. Unfortunately, complete trust and peace is usually NOT one of them. Thus, the couple, more often than will not, will leave the event feeling glad it is over, but also understanding there is more work to do. HOPEFUL MESSAGE: No, a therapeutic disclosure, does not “fix” things whatsoever. Yes, there is more work to do. However, this event is often very difficult and challenging. It takes a lot of courage, commitment, and love. Our hope for couples who complete this portion of treatment leave feeling proud of themselves for the courage and strength displayed; relieved as they have taken a very important step in building a relationship with no secrets; and hopeful as they leave with a clearer picture of where they are headed in this journey.
Cost. This service often falls in the realm of “expensive.” However, most recovery-related forms of treatment are expensive for various reasons. HOPEFUL MESSAGE: We tend to invest in the things that are important to us. It is a very encouraging move when a couple (or individual) has the courage to love themselves enough to financially invest in their own health and well-being. Trust me, YOU’RE WORTH IT!
I hope the information you find here aids you in your recovery journey. If you want to know more about therapeutic disclosures or other services we offer, feel free to contact me at your convenience. Meanwhile, I wish you well in your recovery journey. Here are few book recommendations to learn more about therapeutic disclosures.
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.