“How long does recovery take and what are my long-term options?”
That is the number one question I get asked from prospective clients going through betrayal trauma and sexual addiction. Below, I’m going to breakdown the various recovery paths and timelines so that you don’t have to waste time, money, or effort in the wrong places. I hope that as you read through this, whether as the betrayed partner or the addict, you take note on which path you feel you are on right now, and listen to that. Don’t second guess yourself. Trust yourself. This is key, as if you can be honest with yourself, you will have that much more power to make sure you are on a healthy path to recovery.
Recovery Path 1: Denial
This is a path where no healing occurs from either party. Each partner is in denial that there is a problem. The marriage continues to disintegrate almost as fast as each partner deteriorates into toxicity. The sexual addict continues to go down the rabbit hole, escalating into higher risk behaviors, and risking their lives – legally, career wise, and family wise. The partner with betrayal trauma continues to deny the problem, and thus reinforcing that they cannot trust their gut, and can fall into depression and avoidance.
Until one or both partner are ready to face the sexual addiction and betrayal trauma, they will become people they don’t recognize, risking even more health and addiction issues.
Recovery Path 2: Addict Denial & Betrayed Awakening
This recovery path is when the sexual addict remains in denial about their addiction – even when given evidence of the behaviors. The sexual addict minimizes, gaslights, neglects, avoids, and distorts reality to fit the “verbal reality” they live in – which often is taht there is not a problem with them, but with their partner.
The partner with betrayal trauma is aware there is a problem, they know they are not okay with their partner’s sexual addiction, and while they are aware of the problem, they don’t feel strong enough to leave the sexual addict. They feel hopeless, stuck, trapped, even isolated, and this “learned helplessness” mindset keeps them in an unhealthy situation.
A partner experiencing betrayal trauma can never heal the trauma when they live with the person traumatizing them on a day to day basis. If this path continues, the betrayed partner won’t heal from betrayal trauma and risks their health in the process.
Recovery Path 3: Addict Denial & Betrayed Empowerment
This path is exactly the same as the above with one exception.
The betrayed partner realizes their worth, understands how dire the situation is to their health (and kids health), and leaves the active sexual addict.
This is a very hard decision, and often the partner going through betrayal trauma will need support in figuring out how to leave, as many betrayed partners feel they cannot survive financially without the sexual addict. Some betrayed partners are stay at home parents with no income of their own, which is why Path 2 above can be common.
If you are looking to become empowered and leave to be healthy, please check out Divorce Coach, Debra Doaks, as she works with betrayed partners in trying to create a plan to leave with confidence.
Recovery Path 4: Addict Readiness & Betrayed Denial
This path is where the sexual addict is ready to recover, has scheduled therapy, coaching, gotten books, and is immersing themselves in recovery.
However, the partner with betrayal trauma is in denial that they need to work on themselves too. Betrayed partners, are not the cause of the addiction, but they have experienced real trauma that needs to be worked through in order to become healthy and reach their goals. When the betrayed partner has the mentality of “the addict is the problem! They need to do the work. I will just sit here and wait for them to fix it all,” this mentality completely sabotages the marital healing.
While the sexual addict is healing, if the betrayed partner refuses to do their individual work, the marriage cannot heal. The sexual addict can stay in an unhealthy marriage because of the guilt, thinking that they hurt their spouse and are obligated to stay. While that is admirable, it’s the recovering sexual addict that is putting their health, sobriety, and recovery at risk.
Recovery Path 5: Addict Empowerment & Betrayed Denial
This is the same path as above, except that the recovering sexual addict knows that the only way they will fully heal, recover, and move forward is to end the marriage. The addict is able to fully see that the marriage is over, but that their partner refuses to pull the trigger. The sexual addict is self-aware enough, and has enough self-respect, that they know they must end the marriage for their own survival at that point, much like Path 3 for the betrayed partner.
Leaving in Path 3 and 5 is about health and survival. Not about lack of love for their partner.
Recovery Path 6: Readiness & Realization
This is a path where both partners accept the sexual addiction and betrayal trauma, they each do their individual work while setting marital foundations, and after a year or so of working on individual and marital recovery they realize the people they are in recovery are not compatible long-term. They each have grown, evolved, changed for the better, however the people they’ve developed into during recovery are very different than what they desire in a life-long partner.
The couple respects this realization and will end the marriage and continue with their own recoveries and health.
Recovery Path 7: Readiness & Connection
This is the same path as above, except that the couple actually becomes more connected through recovery, and they stay married because they genuinely love who they have become and who their partner has become in recovery.
When anyone enters recovery, you are shedding the unhealthy to become healthy. This means many things that you might have believed to “be your partner” was the addiction or trauma. When they become “the real them” that was underneath the addiction/trauma, they find they fall in love with the new person and the couple is able to continue to grow together and be happy, healthy, life-long partners.
This is one of the questions I hate to answer because the reality is recovery time varies per person. There are so many factors that can influence recovery time – like having multiple recoveries, other mental health issues, etc.
However, I will give you a general guideline for recovery.
2.5 Year Minimum
The minimum time I see for healing is two and a half years. It takes a long time to rewire your brain and the neuropathways you’ve build in sexual addiction. There is no rushing rewiring of the brain. While you can make tons of progress, 2.5 years is the timeline that you should have in mind for serious hard-work, dedicated to recovery lifestyle.
I’ve said it many times before, but the betrayed partner follows the addict in healing. If the addict is clean for one full year, the betrayed partner is 6 months to a year behind his healing. So while, as the addict, you may feel so much better, your partner is not going to be where you are. They most likely are highly skeptical of the progress, and need more time to fully believe that you are committed to recovery and them (and please respect that!).
3-5 Year Average
Now, with that said, given denial is part of the recovery stages, it often takes between 3-5 years to feel “recovered.” I put recovered in air quotes because the wiring, while is rewired, is not 100% gone. That old neural pathway is still there and can be reactivated by going back to addiction.
Now this average takes into consideration the denial phase, trying to find help and not having the right fit and having to find other professionals. If you find the right professional, you can build out a new recovery lifestyle in this time frame.
If you don’t get outside help – specifically the right help – then the time line is much different.
This time frame is for the individuals who remain in denial for a long period of time, and refuse to get outside help. These people try to “white knuckle” recovery. They DIY recovery. They will not see a therapist, coach, or pastor for help as they are too ashamed or feel as though getting help is weak or “something’s wrong with them.”
I can tell you, from the sexual addiction and betrayal trauma clients I see that have waited 5+ years before reaching out, they truly regret waiting. Instead of recovering in their 20’s-30’s they are now much older (40’s-60’s) and near the last part of their life where they had hoped to be enjoying the last years in their career or looking forward to retiring… but instead of that, they are now in a place where instead of relaxing, they have to work hard to achieve sobriety and build out a recovery lifestyle.
My Recovery Path
Everyone goes through the stages of change – which stage one is denial. It’s a stage. It doesn’t have to last forever. I personally was in denial for an entire year, despite the evidence I had. I didn’t want to admit that my husband was a porn addict, that he was destroying me, hurting me… That reality was too painful for me to face. However, once I had the “big D’Day” where I saw everything that he had done, I put my foot down. I said, “You can recover and I will stay, or you can continue this behavior and we will be just friends and end our romantic relationship.”
I knew my boundaries, and I knew that my husband’s addiction would drag me down. I didn’t want to lose all the hard work I had done on myself in the previous years to meeting him to go away. I wanted to stay strong, healthy, and able to stand up for myself. That’s why I set my boundary of needing to be with someone active in recovery. Not only was it beneficial for my partner, but for my own well being.
My husband and I dedicated ourselves to recovery and we are Path 7 – we have grown closer, grown, become new people that we both admire and learn from.
Ready For Recovery?
At The Modern Mr. and Mrs. you will find no shortage of accountability, compassion, and support when becoming a client. If you’re ready to stop the addiction, end the trauma, and truly recover – whether as individuals, as a couple, or both – then I’d love to talk to you and see if we are a good fit to work together.
If you want to test compatibility, please schedule a free 25-minute Meet and Greet Session to discuss which service of ours you would like to pursue and see how our personalities, approaches, blend.
I hope to see you in my calendar soon!