Recovery is about facing – instead of running from – suffering

Recovery will mean facing the suffering in our lives. This is hard to do, and many people cannot or will not do it. So they drift away from recovery habits, and drift back into their old behaviors. When we courageously address the painful issues in our lives, healing will happen. This is true for all of us – sexual strugglers and the spouses of strugglers alike.

The sexual struggler who does not face their suffering and process their pain may stay stuck in the “never never land” of recovery: chronic relapsing. Addicts don’t make progress in recovery until they can begin to build days and weeks of solid sobriety. Until the alcoholic or junkie is able to experience life without his or her drug in their system, they can’t begin to face the issues in their life that need to be processed.

The same is true with people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior. Sexual strugglers “act out” as a way of coping with or shielding themselves from painful or stressful aspects of life. They may act out because they are bored, resentful, anxious, lonely, etc.

This is important because it means that unless and until the sexual struggler is able to start experiencing life without their “drug” (or coping mechanism), they’re not going to make much progress in understanding or changing what’s really going on. Instead, they may continue “living in the fog of lust,” as described by Sexaholics Anonymous.

Spouses of sexual strugglers must also face their own personal suffering in order for healing to occur. We do not dwell on past pain. Rather, we prayerfully consider how our wounds of the past are impacting us today. We seek counseling with a trusted professional to address our concerns in a way that leads us on the path to healing, peace and joy.

Gangaji describes it this way:

“We have tried everything to get rid of suffering. We have gone everywhere to get rid of suffering. We have bought everything to get rid of it.  We have ingested everything to get rid of it.

“Finally, when one has tried enough, there arises the possibility of spiritual maturity with the willingness to stop the futile attempts to get rid of, and, instead, to actually experience suffering. In that momentous instant, there is the realization of that which is beyond suffering, of that which is untouched by suffering. There is the realization of who one truly is.”

Someone has said that “Sometimes the only way out is through.” We can’t get around suffering. We can either deny it and try to cope (usually with some unhealthy addiction), or face it and work through it and become whole. I agree with Gangaji that the possibility of spiritual maturity comes with the willingness to face and work through the ups and downs of life, including our suffering.

Or, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

5 thoughts on “Recovery is about facing – instead of running from – suffering”

  1. Hi Mark….
    I’ve read and re-read this post several times…and probably will some more. This is the real work of recovery, if you will. It has been my biggest challenge. Facing life on life’s terms, without hitting the “reality ejection seat button” when it gets too painful…or stressful. The reality for me is that I am in a part of my recovery where I am feeling more pain and anxiety than I ever have prior to this point. I am frequently waking up at 3 to 4 in the morning with all kinds of anxiety that I never had before when I was acting out in my addiction. Now I am having to face those issues, surrender on a daily basis those defects of character, seek out the possibility of treatment, and do the next right thing stepping through the pain. Mark, thank you for the encouragement and support. Your words of wisdom and encouragement are well needed…and well appreciated.

  2. Paul,

    Thanks for the comments. You are in a difficult – but important – place in recovery. This is where a lot of people drift away from the program and relapse … because facing our pain is hard. I hope you have some people in your life that you can lean on during this time. It might also be helpful – if you’re not already doing this – to see a good counselor about the anxiety. I have some friends who do cognitive behavioral therapy, and it seems to be really effective for clients with anxiety. Blessings,

    – Mark

  3. Hello Mark,
    I am 47 years old and have been dealing with sex addiction pretty much all my life, it has ruined my marriage of 23 years with my wife. I am not into child or rape. I have been going to SAA weekly which has helped very much and attending Sex Therapy: Men’s Group also has helped. I have a blocker on my computer to stop the internet porn, and many of my other “acting out” problems. I am doing well with masturbation and recall of my porn “thrill” at night once the ball gets going it’s extremely hard to stop, lay awake until I masturabate. My brothers and especially sisters dealt with our father who is a alcoholic and sex addict, and our mother who was emotionally unavailable for us. My brothers and I weren’t molested, but my step dad shamed me and more abusive to me: not sexually. Thanks, Tim

    1. Tim,

      Sorry to hear these things happened to you. It sounds like you’ve experienced big consequences. Glad to know that SAA has helped, it’s a great program, but people have to stick with it and work the steps, as I’m sure you’re discovering. I think for most people struggling with addiction, coming to terms with this past pain is also essential to recovery. Otherwise, our sobriety is simply “white-knucking it.” We’re still sad and hurting inside, but just managing life by controlling ourselves. Hopefully we can all move from this to actual healing. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you more.
      – Mark

  4. Mark,

    I became aware of your site about a year ago, and since then I have taken positive steps to deal with my sexual addiction. Recently however I have relapsed someone what. I have stayed clear of pornography for the better part of the year, but recently I feel myself slipping into old patterns. even though I don’t look at Porn, my thoughts have tended to become more sexual in nature.

    I started seeing a sex therapist about 6 months ago, and after the sessions I feel better. However, do to my scheduling I have not seen him for about 2 months, and I feel my old demons creeping into the way I think.

    I have also increased my masterbation (which I thin is directly associated with how I am allowing sexual thoughts into my head).

    I’ve heard about relapses, and I was hoping I could avoid going through one, but I feel lately I am on the verge of slipping back down that whole.

    I hope to start my sessions with my counselor soon, and also increasing praying about the issue.

    I want to face the emptiness and loneliness without the need to turn to compulsive addictions.

    Thank you again for having this site.


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