FAQ – Defining Safety in Recovery

What is safety in recovery? Safety refers to being protected from or unlikely to experience danger, harm, or injury. In recovery, safety typically refers to emotional or relational safety, although it can also be physical safety. You have a right to be safe from: Emotional manipulation Lies or deceit Control or unhealthy use of power Threats of any kind (harm, relapse, abandonment) Safety is more than this. Safety means working toward dealing with and confronting fears Safety means freedom to be emotionally vulnerable Safety means freedom to work toward trust CAUTION: be careful not to overuse the word safety—meaning, be careful not to apply it to things that aren’t really about safety. Overuse of a word makes it lose meaning and power. Examples of overuse: I don’t feel safe because you didn’t do the dishes when I asked I don’t feel safe because you aren’t helping with bed time for the kids I don’t feel safe when you don’t agree with me It’s possible that the behaviors listed above are signs that the addict is in resentment and addict mode—which may create a sense of lack of safety. But the behaviors themselves don’t generally make a person feel unsafe. Learn to distinguish between the frustrating behavior (or lack of behavior) and the underlying reason you would not feel safe. Safety is not freedom to always get whatever you want or need, immediately Safety is not having people agree with everything you believe Safety is not an absence of any fears or distress in your life Safety is as much a process as it is an outcome—it’s creating mutual understanding...

FAQ – How Do I Share My Triggers With My Spouse or Partner?

Many recovering sex addicts I work with have concerns about sharing their triggers with a spouse or partner. If you don’t know, a trigger is something you see, hear, remember, or otherwise experience that has the power to send you into the preoccupation stage of the addiction cycle. Triggers can put you in danger of relapse if you don’t address them well. People give a lot of advice about whether or not you should share your triggers with a spouse or partner, and how much information to divulge. Let me share some of what I have seen work most effectively for the couples I work with. First principle Let the affected partner decide how much they want to know, in terms of level of detail. Some may want to know exactly when the trigger happened, where, and the nature of the trigger. That is a right they have to help them feel safe about the seriousness of your recovery. Addicts tend to avoid sharing information about themselves with others. When you are willing to share, you look like a person who is taking recovery seriously. Your partner may not want to know anything about your triggers. It may be too much to handle at this point in their recovery. Respect that. But most spouses and partners of pornography or sex addicts tend to want at least some level of detail. The reason this is valuable is that it demonstrates what we call a “recovery narrative.” Sharing triggers in a healthy way helps tell the story of your recovery to your partner. This narrative is a key part of rebuilding...

FAQ – My husband seems to be doing OK in recovery, but I still don’t feel safe. What can I do?

First, I want you to learn to trust your intuition. Being married to an addict can make you question everything–including your own ability to intuitively know when something is wrong. With my clients, in nearly every case where a wife feels unsafe, she has good reason to feel that way. Either her husband has slipped and hasn’t told her yet, or he is in danger of slipping. Often he’s just emotionally checking out or avoiding recovery work. You have a right to ask him to proactively work toward helping you feel safe. It’s how your relationship will heal over time. One resource I love is Doug Weiss’ DVD set: Helping her Heal. It’s expensive, but in my opinion, well worth it. Your husband may be sober, but that doesn’t mean his recovery is solid. I strongly recommend that he create a daily set of measurable, visible recovery routintes that you can see. These routines will help you trust that he is serious about recovery. I have a booklet online that you can review on this subject. It’s called How Do I Know if He is in Recovery? Additionally, he should be telling you when he’s feeling triggered so that you can see that even if he’s sober, his recovery struggle is real. If he says he’s never triggered, you’re unlikely to believe that because it’s just not realistic. Here is what I recommend in terms of how to share triggers: 1. take ownership of the trigger 2. share the underlying emotional pain or shame that is likely driving the trigger 3. discuss a relapse prevention plan, which will usually...

FAQ – Emotional Protection Versus Emotional Numbing in Recovery

    A very common question I receive is voiced something like this: My husband is a pornography addict. Even when he’s not acting out, he is very often resentful toward me and blames me for our problems. How do I protect myself emotionally without crossing over into something unhealthy? How do I keep needed emotional distance without disconnecting entirely from my emotions? There are many terms people use to describe a healthy emotional distance between yourself and an active addict. We might use the term “serenity” from 12-step or “emotional boundaries” to name this process. Others may use different terminology. With my own clients, sexually addicted men who are regularly moody, who blame, who are unkind to their spouses, etc. are still very much in ‘addict mode.’ Even when they’re not acting out sexually, the addict part of them harbors resentments and still deeply feels shame—both of which will drive mood swings and unhealthy relational responses. Blaming others is one of the more common addict responses to their own internalized shame. My sense is that this is a way to push away intense feelings of unworthiness onto others to temporarily relieve the shame feelings. Shame becomes blame. So in cases where the addict is still very much in blame mode, his recovery should be challenged. When recovering addicts are open to feedback, I share these concepts with my clients to help them combat blaming. 1. Surrender The 12-step program offers a beautiful approach to letting go of resentment. He would call his sponsor and say, “With you as my witness, I surrender the right to blame _________ for...