A Lone Sheep Is a Dead Sheep
I manage an office in Columbus, but on Monday nights I get together with about 70 men who are trying to recover from sexual addictions.
For sex addicts, sex has become not some incredible, physical, emotional and even spiritual pleasure, but something that’s destroyed trust, broken vows and left our families in shambles. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking.
For many it started out easily enough when, as a kid, we saw our father’s magazines. For others it was something forced upon us by an abusive parent, sibling or someone from the neighborhood or school.
Today, of course, the internet has amplified the access and stakes for the men I work with. It can be pretty dark. Yes, porn, but also hardcore videos of women being raped and beaten. My friends on Monday nights are drawn in, but left empty. And it’s my story too. For almost ten years, I’ve been recovering. For me it was like falling off a cliff and landing at the bottom … which happens to be quicksand. The quicksand softens the blow, but the harder you struggle to get out the deeper you sink in. Eventually you lose hope and strength. The recovery statistics are grim for addicts of any kind.
That said, I recently learned about one group of addicts who are having a remarkable rate of recovery. In her great book It Takes a Family: A Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety, Debra Jay writes:
But what if I told you there was a group of addicted people who almost never relapse in the years following treatment? As a matter of fact, 78 percent never have a single relapse. Less than 15 percent have one relapse but not a second. And those with more than one relapse? A whopping 7 percent.
These amazing, non-relapsing addicts are all doctors enrolled in a program that provides tremendous love, support and daily accountability. They sign on to calling a number every day for five years to find out if they have to go in and be tested.
You can’t shame an addict to stop using—shame being what drove them to addiction in the first place. But, for those who want to get better, you can develop a support system that offers them meaningful positive rewards, negative consequences, and a clear understanding of what they need to do.
For years I told myself I could stop, that I was smart enough and strong enough. Those messages turned out to be lies that empowered me to keep using. As I approach my ten-year point in recovery and as I work with my Monday night group, a few wall-plaque sentiments strike me as the truth about our addictions.
A Lone Sheep Is a Dead Sheep. Isolation dooms us.
Recovery Happens in Community. It only works with clear accountability and support.
Recovery Is a Process, Not a Procedure. There is no quick fix. It really does come down to walking it out one day at a time.