There are those who minimize their behavior by saying they can’t be expected to “just stop” porn and masturbation and other acting out behaviors. In this case, they are giving themselves a pass and want others to let them off the hook. Giving them a pass is enabling.
Relapse is a part of the addiction cycle, not a part of recovery. A relapse occurs when a person is in the addict cycle (preoccupation, ritualization, acting-out, shame and despair). We could replace the word “acting out” with relapsing. The person may have long stretches of white knuckle sobriety, but every relapse does not indicate recovery starting again . . . it indicates a pattern in a cycle.
If the pattern continues to be the same, 3 weeks, 3 months, or even 3 years - THAT is not progressive victory over lust. My husband could be white knuckle sober for 3 years. That is not recovery, it is staying in the addiction cycle. He recognizes now that he was not in recovery, but most of the time was somewhere in the addiction cycle. There can be long periods of time with either shame and preoccupation with no acting-out. In this case, the individual is not in recovery; they are merely white knuckling.
When a husband wants his wife to give him a pass on relapse after relapse, he is not working recovery. We become enablers when we allow our husband’s to excuse themselves by saying it was “only a small relapse” or “that is the way recovery works” or “I go to 12-step so I am in recovery.”
On the other hand, lapses and slips may occur while an individual is working recovery. And this can get a little complex.
A lapse occurs when an individual has been working recovery, but then is triggered and then makes a choice to seek out lust. Then within a very short period of time he is honest and does not minimize the behavior. He chooses not to go back into the cycle. Instead he turns honestly to his wife and spiritual leader and is transparent and open. You can tell the difference between a lapse and a relapse because he will not try to hide, minimize, lie, manipulate, justify, defend, blame, or go victim after the behavior. He does hard work to stay in recovery mode.
Slips may also occur for individuals working on their recovery and progressive victory over lust. A slip is when a person is not in the addiction cycle. He does not seek after lust, but is accidentally triggered by it. For example, he may be driving down the freeway and see a new billboard with scantily clad women on it. He didn’t know it was there, and he was not searching it out to fill any kind of need. It is considered a slip when he chooses to stay in that lustful place briefly rather than flee from it immediately. Again, a man or woman in recovery will not hide, lie, defend, blame, go victim, or present addict behaviors afterward if it is a slip and not a relapse. He will be honest and transparent. You will know if it is a slip (rather than a relapse) because of how you feel when it is disclosed to you.
We can expect recovery. It is possible. Does that mean that we can be forgiving of slips? Certainly. But, we must not be enabling of relapse and the addiction cycle. If I am true to myself, and my emotions, I will know if I am being an enabler vs. having mercy and charity.
What I see more often is that we are sucked into the enabling of a “mood altering, belief changing, relationship damaging, socially harmful, spiritually deadening, life-crippling practice.” I refuse to enable that kind of behavior.
I have seen the most success in couples when women say “no more.” When women say from a place of faith and being true to what they believe to be right, “no more” and they mean it, and they stand firm on it, couples change and families change. In other words, when we get some understanding about this issue and then set appropriate boundaries for safety, our lives will change.
From my experience, it takes a paradigm shift from “it is just a little relapse” to “I can feel that you are in addict mode right now, and I don’t feel safe” to speed up the process of recovery for the entire family. There is no guarantee that he will change and there is no guarantee for the outcome of your marriage, but you will certainly have the comfort and peace of knowing that you stood for truth at all times and that you defended your family, your husband, and yourself by refusing to enable such a “life crippling” disease.
**Click here for a video on the topic!
Contributed by Rhyll Croshaw, originally found at rhyllrecovery.com/q-is-relapse-an-expected-part-of-recovery-2/