“I feel voiceless and sad,” Tad said, his face ashen and blank.

At fifty years old, Tad has been married for thirty years. For the entirety of their marriage he has been acting out sexually. He came to The Marriage Recovery Center “as a last ditch effort to save our marriage.”

Tad was wracked with guilt, while his wife, Rebecca, was equally forlorn and broken. A professional man who was accomplished in every area of his life, he has never been able to “white knuckle” this addiction away.

Tad had repeatedly acted out with pornography, chat room affairs and physical affairs. He was always sorry, but his resolve gave way again and again to acting out. His wife forgave and forgave and begged him to stop. It never worked.

Both sat, broken and hurt, wondering if the next thirty years would be the same as the first. It was not likely, actually, because neither were willing to continue doing the same things they had tried before. They had apparently “hit their bottom.”

“I can’t live like this any longer,” Rebecca said tearfully. “I can’t live with the empty promises. I can’t live watching him leave the house on another business trip, wondering if he is going to cheat again.”

“I really do believe that each time is the last time,” Tad said. “I have every intention of living free from this stuff. But, something happens, we get into a fight or I’m out and feeling lonely and I make poor choices.”

As I listened to their story I was reminded of the many similar stories I had heard—stories of incredible resolve but lacking in substantive structure to contain the addiction. Significant remorse and regret, but lacking in accountability, support and treatment—the three legs to the stool of effective recovery.

Let’s consider these three legs to the stool of effective recovery. If any of these legs is missing, recovery is significantly compromised. You MUST have each piece in place to have successful recovery.

First, an addict of any kind needs accountability. For as much as people talk about accountability, it seems that most don’t really understand this critical aspect to recovery. Accountability means that someone other than the addict is overseeing the process and knows all pertinent information related to the recovery process. This, of course, means the addict is open and transparent to at least one other person and is firmly confronted with any hedging, ‘white lies,’ or compromises. In the case of sexual addiction, this very well could involve the use of a periodic polygraph to ensure honesty and accountability.

Second, an addict must have support. An addict must have support as they work their program. They must know they are not alone and that others have walked the path they are on. As Scripture says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) In a support group such as Sexual Addicts Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery, group members share their experience strength and hope. They point out ‘stinking thinking’ patterns.

Third, an addict must have counseling. As was the case for Tad and Rebecca, and may be the case for you, there are emotional and relationship components to the triggers that lead to relapse. You may be struggling with depression and anxiety that needs to be treated. You need a stout Relapse Prevention program. Recovery involves understanding yourself and learning effective ways to manage your life and your relationships. You must come to care for yourself in healthy ways, including but not limited to, nutrition, sleep, exercise, work/ life balance and other aspects of your emotional functioning.  

Finally, an addict cannot fully engage in recovery without a firm faith life. As the prophet Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). For the addict who has tried and failed many times, a stronger recovery plan involving an active accountability process, a strong support network and depth counseling, adding a faith component can add real strength to your program and allow you to succeed. The addict must hate the addiction and be willing to take whatever measures are necessary to be victorious over the addiction.

We have found truth, again and again, in the adage: “Half measures availeth us nothing.” Small steps yield small successes. Half measures give way to relapse and regret. If you are struggling with addiction, consider reaching out for real help—involving accountability, support and counseling.

We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles.  Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. 

Publication date: April 1, 2014