Those of us who are seeking sexual purity and those who struggle with sexual addiction, all have to deal with grief. Grief is the way we deal with loss.
Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance
This model is very helpful as we think about our own sexual addiction recovery. Several people I’ve read, including Dr. Doug Weiss add on a sixth stage… that of shock.
Let’s talk about these six stages of grief and how they relate to our sexual addiction recovery and our desire for sexual purity.
The Shock Stage
This is the stage where something has thrown you into crisis. You are off equilibrium.
The revelation of a sexual addiction can easily send us into this Shock Stage. Secret behaviors may have been found out or terrible consequences may have occurred. A life has gone from normal to a car crash. A bomb has suddenly gone off and carried you with its explosion.
At this stage, you are numb, and can’t feel or process the pain yet.
You can’t think straight or see beyond the explosion.
You’re in survival mode, just trying to get to the next moment.
Denial – The “No, not me” stage
“I feel fine.”
“This can’t be happening, not to me.”
“I don’t have a problem.”
In denial, we shift the blame. We think it’s normal to do this. It’s a stage where we are trying to make sense of things. It’s a stage of detachment. It couldn’t be me.
It’s a stage of minimizing. Trying to pretend it’s less than what it really is.
Denial is a defense mechanism that we use so we don’t have to face the pain. It helps us continue to cope with very difficult situations.
In our sexual addiction, we can be in denial about our sexual behaviors and how are affecting our life. Look at your own life. Are you shifting the blame? Are you detaching? Are you minimizing your behaviors?
Anger – The “Why me?” stage
At the anger stage we start saying things like: It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”
Once in the anger stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.
Our anger could be directed toward anyone: our self, our spouse, our friends, our parents, our pastor, and God.
We are wrestling at this stage with the truth of our addiction. We are realizing that it’s not going away. The truth is hitting. The consequences are hitting, and we’re not happy about it.
When are hitting the anger stage, it’s our first movement out of denial and into acceptance and real emotion. We can’t bypass the anger stage. It’s not healthy to push our anger away.
I’ve noticed that for the sexual addict, there’s a lot of anger issues. Their anger usually stems from being selfish, self-centered, and not wanting to change. We want the pain to go away. We want to be able to continue having sex, searching out sites on the Internet, masturbating, and continuing the way we are.
When anger hits, it’s crucial to recognize it and work through it in healthy ways with healthy, safe people.
Bargaining – The “If I do this, you’ll do that” stage.
This is the stage where you think you can stop your behaviors anytime. You can stop for a while. You rationalize that you can do certain things, but not others. You start bargaining with yourself. You’re still trying to cope, and to hold on.
We get very creative with our bargaining.
You say, “Well, maybe if I tone it down a little.” Or “if my wife would just be more sexual.”
You want to delay accepting your addiction and working on it. You want to negotiate for your addictive behaviors to continue. “If I could just have more time.”
You want to have one foot in your addiction, and one foot out.
You’re trying to relax the sting. You try to protest. You hope that you can somehow postpone or delay the reality of the addiction.
“Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
Depression / Sorrow – The “It’s really happened” stage.
“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
At this stage, the reality is hitting. You begin to understand that you are an addict and are facing a lot of uncertainties and fears.
You know you’re going to have to change. You may start going through withdrawals at this stage. The consequences of what has happened makes you sad and may send you into a pit of despair and hopelessness.
During all of these stages, you’re learning to disconnect from your old lifestyle and make the transition to a new lifestyle. Grieving is a very important process, and a sad, sorowful, depressing time is normal.
Our period of sadness may take a long time. There are a lot of things we have to let go of and detach from. It may take a lot of time.
Acceptance – The “This is what happened” stage.
“It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
This final stage comes with peace and understanding of our addiction. We recognize ourselves as an addict, or a recovering addict. We begin to accept responsibility. No more blame. No more avoidance.
This is the point where we start to become active in recovery.
We start coming to terms with who we are, and with the recovery process.
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