Partners of sex addicts often are devastated when they come in for therapy, and so usually have a lot of questions about how to proceed.
Many partners are so focused on the sex addict’s strides toward recovery that they often overlook themselves and their own care. I emphasize to partners of sex addicts that it is crucial to look at the ways that they have been affected by sex addiction and to actively engage in their own recovery process.
Partners of sex addicts are dealing with the trauma of discovery and, oftentimes, don’t know where to turn. Here’s a good place to start.
Understanding that the sex addict’s acting-out behaviors are not their fault is important, and at the same time, it can be very helpful to begin to examine the possible vulnerabilities that predispose partners to becoming involved and staying in a relationship with an addict.
There are 12-step groups specifically designed for partners of sex addicts and other family members affected by sex addiction. They are free to attend, and can provide vital support for partners of sex addicts throughout the recovery process.
These groups are:
- COSA (formerly Codependents of Sex Addicts)
- CoSex and Love Addicts Anonymous (CO-SLAA)
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA-Anon)
- Sexaholics Anonymous (S-Anon)
All of the above groups use the 12-step philosophy as created by the AA fellowship. By attending 12-step meetings, we learn that sex addiction is a disease and learn the nature of addiction and recovery for oneself.
In meetings, members often identify themselves by their first name and a variety of terms, such as co-addict, sexual co-addict or family member of a sex addict. Such terms may feel strange at first, as co-addict can sound as if the partner is also an addict. The purpose of such terms are just to imply that the participant is affected by the addiction of their partner or family member. Partners also have the option of not identifying themselves in any particular way.
It is very important to know that seeking recovery through 12-step meetings is not assigning blame to the partner or family member for the addict’s sex addiction. The fellowship directly states that there is no blame directed at members, and facilitates letting go of feelings of blame, guilt, shame and anger and movement toward empowerment of the partner or family member.
There has been some confusion about the word “powerlessness” as it relates to the 12 steps. Rather than implying hopelessness, it implies that the partner has no control over the addict’s sex addiction, and that accepting this truth has the power to grant serenity, and assist the partner to focus on what he or she can change.
Attempts to control others rarely work, so surrendering to a path that embraces stepping back from control and seeing the big picture can bring a sense of peace.