Prodigal Sons: The Journey Home

The hallmarks of addiction are:  failed efforts to control or stop the addiction, withdrawal pains, obsessive thoughts about the habit, increasing consumption, continued addictive behavior despite huge costs/problems from doing so, and self-deception about the causes and effects of the addictive behavior.

A very common cause and effect of addictions are their polar opposites:  compulsive habits of avoidance (aversions, or “anorexias”).  The causes and effects of these aversive disorders are remarkably similar to those for addictions:  both addicts and anorexics were often abused, neglected, or traumatized in their youth; exposed to addictions and enabling co-addicts in their families; and raised in homes that had way too much discipline or affection, or way too little.

For sex addicts, the best course of treatment is very structured and homework-intensive, so it has a time frame built into it.  It is multi-dimensional, involving 12-step recovery, individual and ideally group counseling, a regimen of physical health, your family (if they will participate), and for Christians, prayer, church and Bible study.  It reflects a structure of 30 tasks that is now emerging from research as the model standard for all addiction treatment programs.

I used to include a time line in this outline, but that was designed for hard core addicts who needed an intensive outpatient alternative for residential treatment.  The amount of time to work through these phases, and the number of tasks that will need to be written out vs. discussed, will depend on the severity of your problem, and that really can't be known until the end of the second phase of treatment when you're out of denial.

Sexual addiction is not a black and white concept, as if you're either addicted or you're not.  It's more like as infectious disease, and regarding the lust virus, you need to ask yourself, "How bad a case do I have?  How much of my system is infected?  How much damage has it done to my mind, heart, calendar, budget, career, faith, self-esteem, marriage?"  The more extensive the damage, the more extensive the treatment and recovery you'll need to get free of its grip.

The stages of treatment outlined above are very useful, in that they come in a logical order.  Though you are working on all the issues to some extent all the time, it is best to keep your primary focus on one aspect of recovery at a time.  The later phases require building on the foundation of the earlier.

Note that many addicts want to put the last phase first, the fix their marriage and family life, and then establish victory over their bad habits.  This effectively would make the spouse a substitute addiction, and it wouldn't work for either of you.  Full restoration of maritalintimacy can only come in the final stage of treatment.

Because addicts are usually (1) pretty unhappy with their lives due to their addiction, (2) quite injured and misled from their childhood experiences, (3) damaged from trauma, (4) addicted to more than one type of substance or behavior, (5) suffering from losses that haven’t been grieved, and (6) unaware of the existence or relevance of these five things, addicts can’t effectively plan their own treatment.  So this course doesn’t have many optional features.  It works if you work it, and you’re either on board or you’re not. But rest assured that my goal is to phase regular sessions with me out of your life, and turn you over to the guidance, support and accountability of fellow believers and recovering 12-steppers.

Addicts are much like the prodigal son, codependents are much like the elder brother, and recovery is much like the father who comes running with open arms.  I am like a fellow traveler who has walked the road of recovery himself, and I am here to lead you to a new home life that is better than you could have ever imagined.

Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.


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Dr. Paul F. Schmidt