by Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT
Director – LifeSTAR St. George, UT
I recently spoke with an individual who described some of the changes he had gone through over the past year of recovery from pornography addiction. He talked about his decision to literally throw away a trash bag full of over 150 DVDs that had inappropriate content. He said that he deleted and threw away over $1,000 worth of CDs and audio files of music that were full of suggestive and trashy lyrics. Additionally, he talked about dietary and other changes he and his wife had made to further balance their lives and create healthy living. His final commentary on this significant lifestyle transformation was, “I would give away everything I own to feel the way I now feel.”
As amazing as it is to hear of the efforts and sacrifice this individual was willing to make in his recovery, it doesn’t completely surprise me. It matches the pattern I’ve seen over years of working with hundreds of individuals and couples working to break free of the chains of pornography and sexual addiction. True recovery comes when the individual goes beyond simply trying to stop the acting out behavior and begins to change the other areas of life that support the addiction.
The “life” in LifeSTAR is a reminder that lifestyle transformation is the foundation for long-term recovery. If we only focused on behavioral control, we would set everyone up for long-term failure. Eventually, the lifestyle choices would create an environment where the addiction would return, sabotaging all of the genuine efforts at changing their life.
We have observed that there are five areas where these lifestyle transformations have the most impact on long-term recovery. They are: physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and relational. Even though there are lots of areas we should all be improving, these five areas seem to have a special influence on sexual addiction recovery.
I encourage you to take a minute right now and survey your own individual recovery efforts. Are you simply trying to “behave?” Or, are you actively working on these five areas to make improvements? Do you feel like a different person? Or, are you the same person, but just not acting out? The individuals who experience the deepest changes know they aren’t the same individuals they were when they entered recovery.
If you are simply “behaving” and don’t know where to start, I encourage you to sit down with your counselor, sponsor, or support group and design a specific plan that addresses these areas. Explore each of them in detail and see how each one could both support and undermine your recovery efforts.