Long Division to Diminish Disconnection
Do you remember in third grade learning long division? The solar-powered Texas Instruments calculator? A few taps of the keypad and the answer magically appears. Yet your teacher would not accept a calculator generated answer. You had to, say it with me, “Show your work.” You could even get the right answer, but it would not count unless your teacher could see that you knew what you were doing. Long division had to be…longhand.
We still love these kinds of short cuts in life, don’t we? Especially around the really difficult things…things like mending a broken relationship, things like dealing with our past, things like recovery. But to progress in recovery and relationship repair, the long math has to be done. You’ve got to show your work here as well.
If you are weeks into your recovery journey and grasping for what steps to take, or you are years into your journey and find yourself stagnant, the principles below will help you progress as an individual and as a couple.
The Long Work of Recovery
Many men sit in my office every week and each has a unique recovery journey. Nonetheless, I have learned there are themes that make for successful recovery. Here are some of the most important themes for your recovery journey.
Know Your “Why”
The why question is essential for you and your spouse. You need to know why you ended up breaking your marriage vows; why you violated your integrity. You need this for you, so that you understand what safeguards to put in place and what work you need to do going forward. Your wife needs it, well for a bunch of different reasons. She needs the security of you knowing how you got there and how you’ll never go back again. Beyond making sense of the past, she also needs it to have confidence in the future. Without a solid why, she might believe it is her fault (It is not!).
The answer to your why question is not an easy one to ascertain. It is far more complicated than “I was just not walking with Jesus,” or “It was a really stressful time,” or “I don’t know.” The answer to the why question should touch on your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviors, your spirit, your relationships, your history…your why answer should incorporate all of your being. This is why recovery work is a big deal and a life long pursuit.
The Upstream Work
Acting out sexually is a symptom of the problem. Acting out sexually is a problem, but just stopping will not solve the problem. This is often called white-knuckling it. Because acting out is a symptom of the problem, what is the problem? Usually, the events leading to acting out are rooted in life stresses, emotions, unmet needs, and deep wounds. So, for you to have confidence you have to engage all of the aspects of life, not merely the behavioral. Those who have the most success in recovery share with friends all of those stresses, emotions, insecurities, and needs. Those who succeed in recovery learn to be more and more intimate in all aspects of life.
Family of Origin and Childhood Template
How you were raised influences how you now function. No matter if you were abused as a child or you thought you had a perfect family, you were imprinted with a way of doing life. There were spoken and unspoken rules. Until you examine your childhood, those ways of doing life will be your default. As you evaluate those childhood templates, you begin to see how they play out in real-time. This allows you to respond to triggers and stressful events, rather than react. Many wives look to these responses as the quality of recovery work. Not acting out is one thing, but responding out of tenderness and compassion, where once you reacted out of anger…that feels so much different. That feels like quality recovery work.
Spirituality and Identity
Men who do well in recovery engage in spiritual work—Step 1 in 12-step programs. But simply connecting with God won’t get you where you need to be. Don’t get me wrong, connecting with God is great, but connecting with God does not guarantee you won’t blow up life. Most of us have prayed a million times to stop acting out, only to go back to it and feel trapped. What is more, studies have consistently shown that there is no difference between Christians and non-Christians in their use of pornography.
Your pursuit of God must go beyond the behaviors of a Christian. Again, many of us, myself included, have worn a really convincing “good Christian mask.” Your pursuit of God should speak to your core, your identity. Your identity is not what you do, it’s who you are. Solid recovery work allows spirituality to penetrate and mold the deepest parts of us, such that we can stand in our significance before God, even when our behaviors have not reflected His heart for us. Or, as my pastor recently whispered in my ear during an embrace, “You are not defined by your darkest moments.”
So, if you are worn down with having the “right answers,” but never “getting credit.” If you’re ready to stop phoning it in, and start buckling down and actually knowing your truest self. When you’re ready to be done with your addiction once and for all, contact Redemptive Living. There is a way out. There is a way to like who you are. There is a way to heal your relationship.
These are four keys in recovery, but they are not the keys to recovery. The nature of recovery is lifelong life transformation—we will never be done. What is more, these four keys are for your recovery. There is still the work of relationship repair and helping our wives heal. To that end, this is the first of a two-part series on the long division of recovery. My next blog will address the long division of relationship repair.
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