The number one trauma trigger I hear about from partners of sex addicts is not knowing – not knowing what the truth is, not knowing how far his behavior has progressed, not knowing what to trust about his recovery, not knowing what is real in your past, present or future and not knowing if you can handle any more blows.
You may want to return to the kind of naïve trust you had before it sank in that this really is a problem, but your body and spirit will no longer allow you to do that. The person you were is gone, and part of the purpose of a structured healing journey is to help you to accept and grieve that loss, so that you can move on with your life.
In my experience counseling partners of sex addicts I find that the best recovery plan and therapy processes are those designed to provide you with some practical tools for surviving, and thriving, despite the intense pain you are now experiencing. In essence, in recovery you learn how to turn down the volume on your pain and anger. This will empower you to not only pick up the pieces of your shattered life, but to rebuild your life to your own specifications – regardless of whether your sex addict chooses to change.
Reclaiming your personal power will be a lengthy journey, but well worth the effort. For right now you can allow the intensity of your pain to be your motivator for starting this recovery process. I frequently recommend that the partners in my counseling practice participate in the Partners’ Empowerment Group, a therapeutic work group that uses a structured set of exercises specifically designed to help partners heal from their mate’s sex or porn addiction.
If you take this or a similar route you may initially be impatient with the first few group exercises that ask you to do a number of things before you begin to focus on the details of your own trauma story. There is a very specific reason for this. Telling your story and describing your pain is going to activate the emergency override part of your brain that will put you back on the emotional rollercoaster again.
Metaphorically speaking, in laying down a foundation for your healing with the group’s early exercises that focus on stabilizing your feelings and behavior, you will create a container for your pain so you don’t feel so out of control when you are on the rollercoaster. Over time you will be able to ride it out without getting caught up in the emotion or reacting in ways that prolong your healing process. Eventually you will be able to avoid the rollercoaster altogether.
Your healing starts right now! You will need two ingredients to get started: 1) a journal and 2) the sound of your own voice. You will use these resources on a daily basis throughout your entire healing journey. It will both document your pain and be the evidence of your empowerment.
1. You will use your journal to privately pour you thoughts, feelings and reflections on your own behavior onto the pages on a daily basis. At the beginning of each day, review the previous day’s entry; highlight anything that suggests you may have been triggered into a trauma reaction. Begin to identify your own trauma cycle by developing a list of what thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or external events appear to trigger that response and notice whether it elicits a fight, flight, or freeze response in you.
For now, just observing what your particular pattern is will be enough. In the Partner’s Empowerment Groups we then develop self-care plans for preventing and dealing with those reactions later. I urge you to find a similar therapeutic group or join a healing community of women in recovery, such as COSA, S-Anon or Al-Anon, who can serve as a support system helping you through this process.
2. At the bottom of this page are 2 sentences I want you to say out loud to yourself, even though you may not believe them and they won’t bring instant relief. You will need to repeat them to yourself thousands of times in the coming weeks and months before they sink in.
IT WON’T HURT THIS BAD FOREVER.
HIS ADDICTION IS NOT MY FAULT!!!
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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