This year I’ve decided to infuse my blog posts with more user-friendly tools, strategies and action steps. This month I’ll be revisiting the theme of Emotional Sobriety and introducing specific ways you can create a practice around it.
Emotional Sobriety can only take shape once you are sexually sober. But let’s open the aperture even further. Most people who are healing from addictive, compulsive behaviors have a history of brokenheartedness—trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment as well as grief and loss.
For example, a seven-year-old boy was bullied by teenagers because he liked art and fashion. Humiliating events of this nature become hidden pain, and sometimes layers of trauma develop into addiction—an attempt to numb the underlying pain. Whether it’s the cause or the effect of sexual compulsivity, brokenheartedness is a form of invisible suffering, but it can also become a catalyst for healing and sustainable recovery.
So what is the antidote to brokenheartedness? It comes in the form of intimacy, connection, emotionally-reliable relationships, and ultimately, giving and receiving love. In my own recovery, receiving love has always been an ongoing challenge. In my family of origin, I believe that we loved one another but had no clue how to show our love. As a result, we all went hungry within the confines of my home.
Action step: Where is the love in your life today? List all of those sources now. Who are the people in your life who are not available to share their love openly with you? Make a list of those individuals so you can start to identify where the love exists and doesn’t exist in your life. Keep in mind that it’s not helpful or productive to go to the hardware store looking for milk.
For those of you who are not yet sexually sober, here are some simple ways of planting seeds toward sexual sobriety:
- Establish Sexual Boundaries. In twelve step programs for sexual compulsivity, it’s recommended that you develop a sexual-recovery plan preferably with a sponsor in program. As an alternative, contact a therapist, counselor or coach who specializes in this area. Your recovery plan will outline specific behaviors you would like to stop (i.e. destructive or self-destructive) as well as those you would like to introduce (i.e. enriching, healing activities).
- Harm Reduction: With process addictions such as sex, food and money, there is no perfection. Ask yourself these questions, “Are my sexual behaviors depleting my life? Are they enriching my life?” You can take a look at each of your sexual choices through this lens.
- Sexual Sobriety is the Starting Gate: Keep in mind that getting sexually sober opens the door to emotionally sobriety. Stay accountable with the help of a trusted friend or professional.
In Part Two we will take a closer look at how to implement action steps to not only support sexual sobriety, but also strengthen emotional sobriety.