By Dr. Georgia Fourlas, LCSW, LISAC, CSAT, Rio Retreat Center Lead Therapist
There is an indescribable beauty in watching participants move into a deeper level of intimacy after struggling through the destruction of sexual addiction.
We recently held our first session of Discovery to Recovery Part 3: From Grief to Hope, a unique workshop for couples who have already begun a journey of recovery from sex addiction. The workshop focuses on helping the couple make a transition from despair to renewal.
The rebuilding process set in motion during the workshop helps couples move their focus from the individual’s addiction to the couple and their attachment. Many couples come to this session feeling that they are stuck in grief, which can leave them feeling hopeless and helpless. The grieving process that couples embark on together throughout the week allows them to honor the pain caused by other forces in their lives while examining how that pain has kept them emotionally separated.
Through honoring that pain and re-connecting with one another, couples begin to experience the hope that not only can attachment be repaired, but also that they can experience emotional intimacy that can surpass what they ever believed possible in their lives. I like to think of this as intimacy beyond their wildest dreams, which can be experienced regardless of whether or not the couple is staying together.
Some couples decide it is best for them to move forward apart while building on the hope that they can continue to honor one another as healthy co-parents or in another capacity that respects both partners while they go their separate ways. Others decide to make staying together in a mutually fulfilling and loving relationship their goal.
Experiencing Recovery Together
Dr. Ken Adams, the architect of the Discovery to Recovery workshops, has a deep passion for healing couples. He recognized that there was a gap in services for those who were looking for ways to re-attach, seek the next level of change, and achieve deeper levels of recovery together.
Dr. Adams describes how couples survive the chaos of addiction, but do not always have the opportunity to experience full emotional recovery together. They often become stuck in the negative patterns of interaction that are driven by ineffective attempts to feel understood and to have their emotional needs met by their partners. They move from the addiction to a place where they either continue to spin in pain, shame, anger, and resentment, or they disconnect emotionally and feel stuck in a relationship that they feel is emotionally unsafe.
Dr. Adams says that he views the Discovery to Recovery workshop series as “an invitation to integrate recovery concepts as a couple.” This requires a paradigm shift—the perception must move away from the problem of the individual toward the solution that can be provided as a couple. The solution involves healing through emotional reconnection and attachment repair.
One participant who recently completed the workshop said, “This workshop facilitated an 180-degree shift in how we have been relating to each other. We were very much stuck in conflict and separate corners, wanting to come together, but lost as to how to do that. This workshop showed us how to soften toward each other to allow the connection we both wanted to find, a starting place.”
How Change Happens
First order change happens when something, usually a behavior, changes to restore balance. Most recovery work begins this way.
The final phase of the Discover to Recovery workshop focuses on making second order change, which happens when a completely new way of seeing things is created, or when a major paradigm shift is internalized. Some people see it as a shift in how we view and maintain first order change. In that way, second order change in couples supports first order change, while allowing a complete transformation in the system of the coupleship.
Second order change for couples involves rewriting a new narrative for the relationship that includes a deeper level of connection and shifts the focus from the issues in the relationship to the process by which couples can deal with those issues. Learning how to interact in more tender, loving, responsive, and emotionally connected ways can promote second order change through the development of a more secure attachment.
An eclectic blend of therapeutic approaches makes this amazing workshop unique. It provides what many experts feel is the missing piece in sexual addiction recovery. Experiential work helps couples achieve deeper connection and move toward second order change. After the pain of disclosure and the vulnerability of emotional impact and emotional restitution, this workshop offers couples the opportunity to truly heal with one another and to achieve a level of attachment and intimacy that they never thought possible—intimacy beyond their wildest dreams.
“This workshop was amazing!” said one of our recent participants. “The structure of the week and the support and guidance of the facilitators provided an atmosphere that allowed my wife and me to change the trajectory of our marriage. It is not often that I am surprised by anything, but this week blew past my expectations. I am more hopeful for my marriage now than I have ever been.”