The 5 Pillars for Recovery Success

“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.


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:

Mending a Shattered Heart by Stephanie Carnes
Moving Beyond Betrayal by Vicki Tidwell Palmer

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

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