What if I am a partner of a sex addict?

POSTED July 2, 2013  

One of the things partners of sex addicts experience is called “gaslighting.”  This is when a sex addict turns all the impact of out of control behavior back on the partner.  When that happens, it is the partner who often feels crazy.   Sex addicts will do most anything to be able to continue acting out and won’t want to disclose their activities unless they are about to lose that which they value the most.

Recovery for both the addict and partner takes time and courage.  As far as the addict goes, he/she must ask for help, enter individual and group therapy, attend 12-step recovery meetings for sex addicts, and, if married, enter marital therapy.  For the partner, if they want to recover from this insidious disease, they, too, must enter therapy and attend a 12-step group for partners. Research has shown that this process takes 2-5 years.  Why does it take so long?  Mainly because sex addiction is not a behavioral disorder, but an attachment disorder that has causes a disruption in the brain.  Sex addiction is a profound boundary failure; it is the loss of control of behavior that has causes great pain, and the addict continues to act out despite the negative consequences.

One of the common things that sex addicts, and often partners, have in common is past trauma.   When a person is traumatized, they tend to “freeze” emotionally.  If they were, say, 10 years old when they experienced a life-changing trauma, their body continues to mature, but they remain 10 years old emotionally until they enter a recovery process.  It is then that they have the opportunity to “thaw” and grow again emotionally.

Partners struggle with trying to understand this disease and attempt to cope with the out-of-control behavior they have been living with.  They have to focus on their own self-care so they can survive the craziness and be there for themselves, their children, and other family members.  They have to challenge their partner (and themselves) to enter a process of disclosure so trust and intimacy can be restored.  It is clear that isolation is the enemy of healing.  Recovery is rooted in the courage to ask for help and follow a courageous path to return from the darkness of addiction.

I encourage you to call me or another CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) or CSAT candidate.  Together, with professionals who know the way, you can find help to heal and recover.

Understanding sexual addition

POSTED February 28, 2013  

Some many be surprised to learn that sex addiction is not a behavioral problem, but rather an attachment disorder. Just like an alcoholic reaching for a drink, sex addicts use sex to numb feelings and escape from the painful parts of their lives which have resulted from their inability to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships (attachments) with others. Sick, misguided attempts at relationships are traded for healthy ones, and the sexual experience becomes mood altering to the point that, in time, it becomes the central part of the addict’s life. That is why a few sessions of “talk” therapy don’t work.

Perhaps not surprising, trauma is often part of an addict’s background. An original long-term study by sex addition expert Dr. Patrick Carnes showed that 81% of addicts reported being sexually abused. Research has also shown that when family systems are examined more closely, sex addicts often come from families that were rigid and disengaged. Basically that means that rules were in concrete and usually decided by one person, and there was little opportunity for healthy closeness. It seems to make sense that addicts seek what feels good from unhealthy sources because they didn’t learn and had little practice at making healthy connections.

One of the dynamics of sex addiction is that addicts search for “intrigue.” Addicts dissociate from reality (often because of their lack of healthy attachments) and seek something more exciting.

Another interesting piece is related to how an addict’s brain changes when viewing pornography, especially moving pornography. Some studies have indicated that it is not uncommon for children as young as 4 to 8 years old to view these kinds of images for the first time, and the impact on their brains is similar to that of crack cocaine. This leads us to embrace addiction as a brain (as well as an attachment) disorder.

I work at Family Solutions Counseling.  My colleague, Josh Nichols, and I are both Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Candidates and welcome new clients.  We have an ongoing sex addictions therapy group and more are planned for the future.  Contact me or Josh and we will be glad to provide more information or get you enrolled.

Understanding and intimacy

POSTED November 4, 2012  

One of the most important things that brings us closer to one another is when we feel heard. When conflicts arise we need tools to make sure we clearly hear each other. When we have heard what has been said, then we have a chance to understand and be understood.

Often couples seek agreement in conflict. In reality, we seldom entirely agree with another’s opinions, but we can seek to understand where they are coming from. Most all of us love to talk about our favorite subject (ourselves!) and enjoy it when others give us attention. Even when we disagree with our partner, both benefit from listening to one’s story and how they arrived there. We deepen intimacy (openness to share feelings with one another) when we listen without interrupting.

Another tool that helps us feel closer to our partner is using “I” instead of “you” language. “I” gives our partner the gift of discovering what is going on inside us, while “you” often causes another to feel accused of wrongdoing.

Intimacy is built when we reveal what is going on inside our minds and hearts. Thoughts (from the mind) reveal our opinions while feelings (from the heart) reveal our gladness or sadness or curiosity. We need to hear both from our partner and our partner needs to hear both from us.

Another great tool that works for couples is a simple and effective conflict resolution process. I will show you that nifty tool in my next blog.

What is co-dependency?

POSTED July 20, 2012  

Co-dependency is a concept that was first used in a Minnesota Treatment Center in 1979 for family members of alcoholics and drug addicts.  (Overcomers Outreach, Bob and Pauline Bartosch)  The definition describes people in a family relationship with an alcoholic whose lives have become unmanageable as a result of living with the alcoholic.  Melody Beattie describes a co-dependent as a person who has become hyper-focused on controlling another person’s behavior.  (CoDependent No More)

Sometimes called “caretakers” or “enablers,” co-dependent persons believe they can change a problem drinker’s behavior and make life better for all involved.  What they fail to realize is that no one can change another person; change comes from within and is accomplished by not only a desire to change, but courage do what it takes.

Alcoholism and co-dependency are diseases that affect families in fairly consistent ways.  When a family member begins abusing chemicals, spouse and children and other family members begin to cover for the drinker.  They call his/her boss and tell him/her that their drinker is sick when they actually are hung over.  When large amounts of money are spent on alcohol, the pleading and begging are dramatic, usually to no avail.  Some co-dependents have been known to drink with the alcoholic to try to keep them from consuming all the alcohol in the house.  It doesn’t work.

Children in these kinds of homes are what are called para-dependents because they are unable to leave.  Their coping behaviors can become bizarre, just to make it through the day.  They make up stories to friends to make sure they don’t visit their home and see the chaos, and they isolate and live by the motto of, “Don’t trust, don’t talk, don’t feel.”  They, along with their co-dependent, parent become frozen in time as far as emotional development.  It is only when they enter treatment and “thaw out” that they begin to grow and mature again.

There are usually many family secrets that are being kept in these families, and they have had more than their share of trauma.  Interestingly, where children are trapped and can’t leave, spouses often suffer from “learned helplessness” and choose not to leave.  It seems that the familiarity of the chaos looks better than the risk of the unknown that comes with changing.  Co-dependent persons often develop their own set of compulsive behaviors, including denial, to cope with their pain.

Seeking out a knowledgeable friend or therapist is a healthy step in finding the hope and courage to heal.  I have had many years of experience helping alcoholics and family members heal from the hurts of addiction.  Call me and let’s visit.  The first phone call or visit is free.

Secrets to couples communication

POSTED July 13, 2012  

Living with someone is not much fun if there is little meaningful communication happening.

The most important experience for most of us is feeling understood.  With understanding comes a deep sense of well-being and hope for the future.  Many couples try to get their partners to agree with them, without much success.  Agreement is not nearly as important as understanding.  Actually, there are very few human beings who agree on their favorite flavor of ice cream, vacation destination, or most effective ways of investing money.  Good thing that intimacy does not depend on agreement.

Seeking to understand your partner and feeling understood sparks feelings of intimacy and closeness like no other experience.  I have assisted numerous couples in their journey to a more meaningful relationship.  For sure there are many obstacles that prevent intimacy and many life experiences that have hurt us.  I have been able to help couples heal from deep hurts, let go of frustrations and losses, and come out of traumatic experiences to places of deep satisfaction.

I would love to visit more with you about the things in your life that are most important.  I think I can assist you in deepening your love for your partner and getting the love you want.  Call me and let’s visit.

Addiction is a family disease

POSTED July 6, 2012  

About 10% of people who, when they choose to drink, will eventually become an alcoholic.  Those who have a parent or close relative who have struggled with addiction are at higher risk to become addicted if they drink.  When alcohol reaches the pleasure center of the brain, a craving is set up that leads to compulsive use.

Addiction is a brain disease that is strongly linked to family history.  A person usually goes through four stages in their journey into addiction.  First, they learn the mood swing (euphoria) which comes with a first drink; a strong desire follows to repeat the experience.  Second, this person plans another mood swing and arranges their schedule to use again.  It is around this time that they cross the line into compulsive use. Third, they enter a time of increased use with periodic loss of control that results in blackouts, loss of insight, and growing delusion.  A person has to consume more to get the desired mood swing.  Fourth, a person enters a black hole where they consume more but experience very little euphoria; they have to use just to feel normal.  At this point a person is experiencing a systematic and comprehensive unraveling of their lives.

An intervention is a process that helps “raise the bottom” for a person, encouraging them to enter treatment.  An interventionist meets several times with family members and friends to help the alcoholic see clearly and feel what has been happening in the lives of those around them, and gives the person the opportunity to get help.

 

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