“Your connections to all the things around you literally define who you are.”
– Aaron D. O’Connell, Physicist, Creator of the first Quantum Machine
Connection is the key to both overcoming addiction and establishing trustworthy relationships.
One cannot overcome pornography and sexual addiction without this truth becoming firmly established in their life. Attachment – the desire to find personal, deep connection to others – is fundamental to the recovery process. It is a false ruse to think that physical, sexual intimacy can healthily be fragmented from the other dimensions of intimacy – emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, social intimacy, and spiritual intimacy. Addictive sex seeks to fragment intimacy into mere physical pleasure through the objectification and exploitation of others (either in real life or virtually) for selfish purposes such as numbing, escaping, or avoiding unpleasant feelings. Healthy sexual relationships are the opposite. They involve caring, commitment, and connection in multiple dimensions of intimacy. In healthy relationships, when one spouse turns to the other spouse for affection it is with the intention to love, support, and connect as total human beings rather than to selfishly use them or simply parts of them. This is why in recovery we emphasize four connections as a key to healthy relationships: Connection to self, Connection to God or a higher power, Connection to spouse or partner (or other appropriate relative or social support), and Connection to an accountability partner. Each day the recovering addict should be communicating and connecting with someone in these four relationships.
- Connection to self – This means the recovering addict must learn to get in touch with their deep feelings, learn to take inventory of their emotions, and develop healthier core beliefs about their worth as individuals. So often addicts have low self-worth. They have to come to know themselves in a healthier, positive way. We encourage daily experiences where the recovering addict can be introspective and seek to understand themselves. Such activities could be journaling, “Thinking-Sensing-Feeling” exercises, or mindful self-compassion exercises, among others.
- Connection to God or a Higher Power – Recovery happens on a spiritual level, as well. Some recovering addicts believe in God while others do not. We respect each individual’s right to believe what they will. For those who do not believe in God, we encourage them to find some way to connect with something larger than themselves – nature, a cause they believe in, or whatever inspires or uplifts them toward a healthier connection to some spiritual realm of living a moral code. For those that do believe in God, we encourage them to practice the traditions of their faith (prayer, scripture study, service, etc.) in ways that inspire and connect them with God.
- Connection to a spouse, partner, or family member – Connecting with a spouse, partner, or other relative helps develop social relationships. These attachments are vital to recovery. Learning to connect with a loved one at multiple dimensions or levels of intimacy (emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, physical – when appropriate, etc.) are essential to ending objectification and building healthy relationships. Many members of our program choose to use the FANOS/S exercise (Feelings, Affirmations, Needs, Ownership, and Struggles/Sobriety) on a daily basis where they can each check-in and share on these various levels.
- Connection with an Accountability Partner – This essential step of checking in with someone who holds you accountable (besides your spouse) is essential. Like a sponsor in a 12-step program, your accountability partner should be someone you can turn to when in a moment of crisis or temptation. Checking in with them on a daily basis (whether there was a time of temptation or not that day) makes the recovery addict more likely to call in a time of crisis because the pattern of connection has already been established. Also, knowing that you will have to answer to someone each day can be an incentive for making healthier choices in moments of temptation.
Making these four connections part of a recovering addict’s “dailies” is essential to recovery. It helps them develop a more coherent sense of self. They overcome negative views or core beliefs about themselves and develop into healthier human beings. In doing so, they will foster healthier attachments and be able to manage their emotions toward a brighter future. These connective interactions with others always make in impact on the participants. In this way their interactions with themselves, God or a Higher Power, their partner, and their accountability partner truly do shape and define the “new person” that the recovering addict is growing into and heal the addict’s formerly impaired relations.