By Caileigh Smith, MC, LAC
Have you ever sent the wrong text message to the exact wrong person? I have. In fact, I did it recently. I sent a message about a person TO THAT person—the horror! The consequence? Well, besides being cut from that person’s Christmas card list, I suffered a complete and utter shame attack.
According to the Federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, women are the fastest growing segment of substance abusers in the US, with about 2.7 million women – about one quarter of the identified population of substance abusers in the US. Women’s concerns about recovery are extremely complex and many identify their use as a coping strategy for growing up on a toxic or abusive environment. Many of the women from a study by Judith Grant, Sociologist from Ohio University, identify their core issue related to their recovery concerns as being low self-esteem and the lack of ability to identify their true selves. These issues exacerbate their relapse potential.
For mothers in recovery from a serious, or long-term illness including addictions, mental health, physical/medical concerns causing extended absences from their children, the guilt of these issues are compounded by the shame felt by mothers in recovery as they become aware of the effects on their children. Increased shame and stress create potential relapse triggers and warning signs for these moms attempting to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Society projects their own criticism onto Moms in recovery with the ever-so-doubtful glance and mistrustful tone of how these Moms cope with the stress and stay “healthy.” Even when Moms decide to continue their path to recovery and perhaps work through their own issues, the ongoing realization that their behavior has affected their children and “Oh my, what have I done” sets in reinforcing the shame. 12-Step programs encourage Moms to look into character defects and make direct amends. Private therapists encourage Moms to take care of their codependency issues first so they can become more emotionally available to take care of their children. All of these are positive steps toward recovery, and also steps to the road to self-realization and acceptance.
Going through the stages of guilt and shame to self-realization offers these mothers a tremendous growth opportunity and also unleashes opportunity for shame attacks potentially leading to relapses. These relapses do not necessarily need to be back to the “drug of choice” or the “suicide attempt”, although that can and does occur in some cases. The relapses can lead to other forms of self-medication such as disordered eating, distorted body image issues, unhealthy relationship issues, work addiction, to mention a few. The recovering mother’s ego is fragile and contains tricky misinformation telling her that who she is as an individual and as a mother as she navigates through the murky recovery waters. The process of moving through these waters with intention is important to a sustained and progressive recovery for Moms. This process would include:
1. Breaking through the denial and the self-medicating patterns
2. Core work of shame reduction
3. Re-parenting the self
4. Self-amends and self-forgiveness
5. Body-centered release work
This week The Meadows provided to industry experts an online screening of the new film "Thanks for Sharing" focusing on sex addiction. One hundred twenty-four people attended the screening. The following is a review of the film.
BY: Gene Klassen, LPC-Intern, CSAT (c)
I thought the movie was well done. It provided a very realistic view of life in the first several years of recovery from sexual addiction. All of the basic themes around recovery and 12-step meetings were presented: sobriety medallions, sponsorship, 3-second rule, relapse, partner's fears about their addict's relapse potential, dating, honesty, avoiding triggers, withdrawal, meetings, phone calls to program buddies, eliminating stash, higher power, etc.
There were a few scenes with sexual content that could potentially be problematic for sex addicts in early recovery to watch. With appropriate support and discussion about these scenes with other recovering addicts immediately following the movie, I think the movie could be appropriate for almost all addicts and partners in recovery.
For the general public, I think the movie provides a pretty good overview of sexual addiction. For individuals with this problem who are not in recovery, this movie may provide an impetus to seek help. Of course, those who see the movie and want to solve this problem on their own will find ways to dis-identify with the characters in the movie.
Other than an education in sexual addiction, there is not much else that makes the movie compelling. Because of a few well-known actors, the movie may bring in a crowd that would otherwise pass. My prediction is that it will not be a box office hit. I also doubt the movie will result in immediate change in general attitudes around sexual addiction, but my hope is that it will provide additional content and perspective to the ongoing conversation. The media buzz could generate curiosity and higher attendance that I might expect. We'll see.
Thank you so much for the invitation to the pre-screening,
Gene Klassen, LPC-Intern, CSAT (c)
Dallas, TX 75209
The Meadows will sponsor a preview of the new film about sex addiction, "Thanks for Sharing," at the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) National Conference on September 18 - 21, 2013 at the Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel. The theme of the convention is "Creating a Culture of Healthy Sexuality: Diversity of Thought" which will examine sex addition and how to move from addiction into healthy sexuality.
The Meadows Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT, CST-S, and the 2012 Carnes Award Recipient, will present the Carnes Lecture "From Behaviorism to Biology: A historical look at where we've been and where we're going" on Friday, September 20.
"We are pleased to preview the new film "Thanks for Sharing" at this year's SASH Conference," said Sean Walsh, Executive Director for The Meadows."Leading sex addiction experts, including The Meadows' Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, will be presenting training, along with strategies, treatment modalities, and research in the fields of sexual health."
Several goals and objectives of the conference include using effective techniques to identify persons for increased risk for problems with sexual health and developing educational approaches and preventive interventions that improve the sexual health of all persons.
SASH is a nonprofit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to scholarship, training, and resources for promoting sexual health and overcoming problematic sexual behaviors. For more information about SASH and the conference, visit. www.sash.net.
Finding out that your committed partner has sexually betrayed you is like: getting your heart ripped out, stomped on, thrown through a glass window, spit on, and perhaps lastly, smothered with gasoline and set on fire. Then, your partner asks you to forgive him or her; and you don't think you could ever be more furious and disgusted.
This is a common experience for the Partners of Sexual Addicts that I work with on a weekly basis at The Meadows. The stories and behaviors may be different but the underlying foundation of the damage is always Betrayal. Emotional, Physical, Sexual, and Financial betrayal is devastating and gut-wrenchingly painful for a partner who had dreams and hopes of having a healthy and committed relationship. Those dreams are now shattered and the Partner is left with the questions of "Why wasn't I enough?", "How could they do this to me?"; and "Where do I go from here?"
Sexual Addiction stems from a deep rooted intimacy and attachment disorder that often starts within childhood, teenage, or young adult years. Many of the patients I work with at The Meadows have been engaging in some type of dysfunctional, sexual fantasies, thoughts, and/or behaviors since they could remember, far before ever meeting their current partner or spouse. Sexual Addiction thrives off of Shame. Often times the addict's shame, due to their behaviors and lies, will be deflected or projected onto the partner and they are the ones that have to carry it.
Because sexuality and being sexual is so important and integral in intimate coupleships, when that is destroyed or taken outside the primary relationship, the partner has no choice but to take it personally and look at it as an attack on themselves and who they are or are not. Many spouses that I speak with will say to me, "Why wasn't I attractive enough, sexual enough, loved enough to keep him/her with me?" My message to them is: "If there is one thing I want you to learn this week, it is that this had nothing to do with what you have or have not done".
So if the partner did not cause the addiction and is not an addict themselves then why be a part of the patient's treatment and come to Family Week? I often hear from partners: "He is the sick one! He gets to go and get help and leave me here at home with the chaos and damage that he created! And now he is asking me to drop everything and come to Arizona for a week to help him?" My reply is: "Come here for YOU."
Within the Family Week program, partners are given resources and tools to start to stand on solid ground. Family Week is NOT about reconciliation, fixing the problem or hearing an excuse about why the patient acted out. The week long program is designed around boundary setting and healthy communication that allow the partner to be heard and protected.
Being betrayed will undoubtedly, for most partners, contribute to feelings of shame and worthlessness that creates a deep, dark wound within them. The Meadows and Pia Mellody define Trauma as "Anything less than nurturing". Sexual betrayal would obviously fit into this category based on the definition and many partners experience symptoms of trauma such as hypervigilance, despair, flashbacks and nightmares, among other experiences. The shame and trauma need to be addressed for the partner to start to heal that wound. Even if the partner decides to move on from that relationship he or she will continue to be plagued in life and through other relationships if not addressed.
Through my work at The Meadows, I have seen amazing growth and strength in men and women who thought that they could have never dug themselves out of the dark hole that sexual addiction created. Recovery work, for both the addict and partner, instills hope, perseverance, and self-worth that they thought they had lost. The Meadows Workshops such as Partners of Sex Addicts, Survivors, and Women's Intimacy Issues are great resources to help partners to gain awareness, understanding, and tools to help themselves and their families.
Lauren Bierman is a Family Counselor at the Meadows working with the Sex Addiction population. She is a Licensed Associate Counselor and has been trained through Patrick Carnes and IITAP's Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) program. Her passion is working with Partners of Sex Addicts in their own healing process and helping them find hope after sexual betrayal.