In 2009, Noelle found out that her partner, who is a sex addict, had had an affair. She was devastated.
For Noelle and her wife, it was a life-changing experience. Watch her video to hear how she was able to forgive her wife and begin the process of building a healthier, stronger relationship.
For women struggling with sex addiction, The Meadows offers an inpatient program on the main campus in Wickenburg, Arizona, and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at The Meadows Outpatient Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows also offers several workshops for couples and for the partners of sex addicts.
Call 800-244-4949 for more information.
Chris didn’t know he was a sex addict until he attended The Men’s Sexual Recovery workshop at The Meadows. The workshop’s clinical team recommended that he go to the 45-day inpatient sex addiction treatment program at Gentle Path at The Meadows, but he wasn’t quite ready.
A couple months later, he was struggling with his addiction again. Watch his video to find out what happened once he fully accepted his addiction as a disease and completed his treatment.
By Georgia Fourlas, LMSW, LISAC, CSAT-C
There have been a number of high profile cases of sexual misbehaviors lately in the media. Each case has been accompanied by a barrage of interviews in the media with experts who discuss sexual addiction, excuse making, compulsive lying, bad behavior, legal actions, and a variety of other issues.
In the wake of these events, everyone wants to try to understand why individuals would act out in ways that could not only damage their own reputations, but also damage their families and risk the loss of their marriages. Help is often suggested or offered to those who have been “outed” as having engaged in sexually compulsive, sexually inappropriate, and deceptive behaviors— and it is critical that they get that help. But, where does that leave spouses and significant others of those with sexual disorders who have been traumatized by their betrayals?
“Where is my f@$%ing chip???” This is a statement I recently heard while working with a partner of a sex addict. It perfectly captures the anger and desperation often felt by partners of individuals with sexual disorders. This person went on to explain that her sexually addicted partner was in a 12-step recovery program, attending therapy, and recently picked up a chip (a token given at 12-step meetings to honor milestones in recovery) for sexual sobriety. She spoke of the intense pain, debilitating shame and searing anger she experienced while watching the addict being congratulated and hugged.
Meanwhile, the partner sat in the background feeling even further isolated, abandoned, and resentful. All of these emotions fed the anger in this partner and the other partners that were present as they ruminated about the injustice of the betrayal perpetrated by the addict and how the addict, now in recovery, is seemingly, treated like a hero for, in one person’s words: “What? Not being a liar and cheater for a few months? Where is my prize for not being a liar and cheater AT ALL…MY WHOLE LIFE?”
This imbalance can continue well into recovery, as much of the addicted partner’s time and some of the family’s funds get diverted to treatment and recovery activities. Even when the bad behaviors and destructive activities are replaced with recovery behaviors and healthy activities, it still leaves the partner of the addict alone to deal with the fall out. This often leaves the partner with the sense that everything is still all about the addict, and the partner still feels cheated in the relationship.
I heard these expressions of pain and anger in a workshop I facilitate at The Meadows called Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts, which is based on the extraordinary work of Claudia Black. It is one place where a partner of a person with a sexual disorder can get help. The workshop is specifically designed to support and assist the spouses and significant others of individuals with sexual disorders and provides an environment that enables open dialog and honest sharing about all traumatic reactions that partners may be experiencing.
Partners are provided a safe place to take an honest look at their own behaviors. Sometimes, out of anger and in their own traumatic reactions, partners also behave in ways that are outside of their own value systems. This workshop can help partners to begin to make an internal shift from focus on the other person to focus on oneself. In this way, partners are encouraged to embark on a recovery journey that involves self-care and encourages healing. Partners can begin to make decisions for themselves based on what they want in their lives and what is best for them rather than making decisions purely from an emotionally-charged and reactive place of pain that results from betrayal.
A variety of skills are offered to help partners to find ways to regulate their nervous systems and cope with their own feelings about the betrayal. It also helps partner’s deal with the very complex grief and shame that accompanies the discovery of a mate’s sexually compulsive or sexually aversive behavior.
This workshop also offers a chance to give and receive support from others going through similar struggles while encouraging a focus on self when partners begin the difficult decision making process of “What now?” Partners will leave with their own “f@$%ing chip” but will also leave with so much more.
For more details or to enroll, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6a.m. and 6p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
The remaining 2015 dates for the Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts workshop are October 5 – 9 and December 14 – 18.
Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows
When our culture hears about a person with sex addiction, often the automatic assumption is that he (or she) must like a lot of sex. In light of the nature of their behaviors, sex addicts are also often labeled as perverted, creepy, or strange.
These distorted perceptions aren’t just limited to the public, but are often among the core beliefs that sex addicts have about themselves. As patients engage in treatment and begin to understand themselves better, they often begin to realize that their behaviors are not solely about the sex itself, but about some larger constructs.
As a treating therapist, I’m aware from the moment a patient enters my office, that the symptoms associated with sex addiction have less to do with sex, and more to do with limited coping skills for what is often an intense amount of pain. This is not to say that the sexual behaviors are excusable, but it does help us to shift the focus from the stigma of sex addiction and onto its possible underlying causes.
For many sex addicts, their problematic sexual behaviors developed early in their lives as a way to deal with significant stressors or trauma. For example, compulsive masturbation often stems from a child’s early learning about how to self-soothe in a chaotic home environment. At its onset, this coping skill was not necessarily problematic. But for sex addicts, the behavior becomes problematic when they do not acquire a more expansive set of coping skills as they continue to develop. This is just one example of the many ways in which engaging in normal and pleasurable sexual behavior may develop into problematic sexual behavior.
It is important to recognize that in our most functional human state we use a variety of coping mechanisms, including positive sexual behavior, to regulate ourselves, and that is not necessarily pathological or problematic. What can become compulsive, and perhaps problematic, is when this is one of our only coping mechanisms to regulate stress and anxiety over time.
As treatment providers, we work with patients to look at both the sexual behavior itself, and also at what may drive it. Sex addicts often have an immense amount of shame around their sexual behavior, so it’s important to help them understand any connections that may exist between specific sexual behaviors and their pasts.
But, some of their unwanted sexual behaviors are more about activating a part of the brain that allows them to numb out, dissociate, fantasize, or even feel deprived in order to provide some temporary relief from their emotional pain. In these cases, we would want to spend some time focusing on why a patient may choose these ways of responding, and what other coping skills they may need to develop in order to feel better about themselves rather than perpetuate the cycle of toxic shame they experience after engaging in their addictive behaviors.
The vast majority of addicts that we work with express an adamant desire to stop engaging in the use of alcohol, drugs, and to stop acting out sexually. Many of them can also identify numerous failed attempts to stop their behavior.
Before we make assumptions about what the behaviors associated with sex addiction mean, it is worth stepping back and considering the bigger picture. Moving towards lasting change with sex addiction means that we must examine both the behaviors themselves and the stories surrounding them. This opens the door for compassion, which is an essential component of the process of healing from sex addiction.
Marie Woods, LMFT,CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows
If you are reading this, you probably know the pain of discovering the once hidden, out of control sexual behaviors of someone you love. These discoveries are often what catapult sex addicts into treatment. Following the discovery, there was likely some sort of intervention, and expedient efforts to find help. That process likely took up a lot of your time, attention, and energy until they were finally admitted to treatment. At that point, you may have felt some temporary relief, like you could finally breathe again.
Unfortunately, though, the distraction of getting the addict into treatment is now gone, and you are left with your thoughts, worries, and anxieties over what is to come. You may start to feel alone, isolated, and even resentful that the addict is getting all of the help. You may find it difficult to sit with the knowledge of the discovery because you have so many thoughts and unanswered questions. What should you do?
Now that the addict is in a safe environment, utilize this time to engage (or re-engage) in your own self care. In the midst of the chaos of addiction your own physical and emotional care usually takes a big hit. So, utilize the time to reconnect with yourself. This might include engaging in a moderate amount of physical exercise, taking reflective walks, taking a long hot bath, meditating, leisure reading, or engaging in other hobbies that you enjoy.
At some point, you may have a desire ─sometimes a very strong one─ to try to sort things out with the addict. You may think that if they could just answer your questions, then you could make sense of this whole situation, and order in your life could be restored. The truth, however, is that the behaviors that occurred as part of active addiction are irrational. They won’t ever make sense.
Furthermore, the addict engaging in treatment at the inpatient level is in no position to understand and convey the nature of his or her addiction yet either. By giving in to the urge to sort things out right now, you run the risk of increasing your anxiety and feeling more hurt and pain.
At most sex addiction treatment centers, including Gentle Path at the Meadows, patients are highly encouraged to limit their communication with the outside world. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is to help them stay focused and engaged in treatment in order to initiate their healing process as quickly as possible. The other is to prevent any further hurt and damage to their relationships with others. Sex addiction has often already caused a lot of pain, chaos, and turmoil. Although we cannot change that, we can help prevent future damage. So, it’s important for both you and the addict to take advantage of the built- in time away from communication that treatment provides.
In addition to your loved one, you also deserve to be supported through this process. That’s why it’s a good idea for you to build your own support network. Family members are highly encouraged to seek out their own therapist to assist them in navigating through the emotional maze of sex addiction. It would be ideal to choose a therapist that is familiar with sex addiction; however, the most important thing is that you connect with, and feel supported by, your therapist.
Although the inpatient treatment team may reach out to you for collateral information or to coordinate Family Week, their role is to help connect you with more substantial ongoing support rather than serving as your primary support. You may also consider confiding in a few close friends and family members who you trust, and who understand your situation. Additionally, there are also a variety of support groups, both twelve-step and otherwise, that can be helpful as well.
As you read them, these points may seem obvious, but in the midst of the chaos of addiction we often lose sight of what’s important. Gentle loving reminders such as these can help bring us back to reality. Shifting the focus from where it has often been (on the addict) can be hard because it slows you down, and often brings up emotions that have been buried for a long time. As you embark on this journey, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Changing and developing new patterns is not easy.
Keep in mind, though, the growth that will result for you and your family member may end up changing your relationship with them and your lives in ways that are far better than you could have hoped!