Most people who suffer from addiction have made countless attempts to change. Sometimes they try to change on their own. Sometimes they ask for help from others, like a spouse, a religious leader, or a family member. If you here reading this, chances are you have not yet found success in recovery.
It’s not uncommon to hear, “I’ve tried everything I can think of to change. Nothing has ever worked. I’m starting to doubt that change is even possible for me.”
Some of the things that may have blocked real change from happening are:
In early recovery, there will be slips back into old behaviors. It’s part of the change process. In your attempts at recovery, if you find yourself saying things like, “It was only one time. I don’t need to tell anyone about it” or, “If I share this with my wife, we will be back to square one” you are not fully accountable in recovery.
Others choose to be accountable only when they slip or relapse in recovery. If you are only accountable when you slip, over time you will become less and less likely to be accountable because it easily becomes only a shameful experience.
Those who are successful in their recovery efforts are accountable, daily, to one or more people about two things. First (and most important), their proactive recovery efforts of that day. The question is: what have I done today to proactively combat my addiction? Second, a proactive accountability about slips or relapses. Proactive accountability involves honesty about the slip and sharing a specific plan to do things differently in the future.
Lack of total honesty
To avoid feeling deep shame, sex addicts often tell partial truths or polished versions of stories that do not reflect the real frequency or intensity of their addiction behaviors.
Ironically, this type of behavior actually increases shame. You know, deep down, that you have not told the whole truth. You still have to work hard to keep the real story from surfacing. It creates a chasm between you and the people you desperately need to help you in recovery.
Shame sinks in and says, “If I tell the whole truth, people I care about will be sickened, outraged, and will eventually reject and abandon me. They can only handle so much, so I have to keep them from my deepest secrets.”
For recovery to be real and to last, you have to be willing to be fully honest.
The vast majority of people’s unsuccessful attempts at change are done in isolation. Driven by shame and fear, most addicts think, “I can do this on my own. After I’ve been in recovery for some time, then I will be honest about what I used to struggle with.”
The great problem with change in isolation is that it keeps people from the very thing they absolutely need for real recovery – real human connection.
Pornography is not real. It presents a distorted view of sexuality and of relationships. It provides little relational risk – a pornographic image cannot reject a person. However, it also provides no relational reward.
The most important need people are trying to meet (whether they know it or not) with pornography and sexual acting out is to be loved, valued, cared about, and to matter. Because sexual addiction behaviors will never meet that need, they never satisfy.
Real recovery requires real human connection.
These, of course, are not the only issues that get in the way of real change and real recovery, but they are some of the more common challenges.
When you are serious about change – serious enough to be willing to commit to the difficult tasks of real recovery – you will find change. Therapists who specialize in sexual addiction recovery work can attest to the fact that people who put in the work can achieve real change.
You cannot judge your ability to change based on your unsuccessful past attempts at change because it is likely that your past attempts were missing the critical ingredients that predict real change.