Treatment providers working in the field of addiction know that accountability is an essential piece of the foundation of long-term, ongoing sobriety. There are even all kinds of slogans in the 12-step programs that speak to it, such as "You are as sick as your secrets."
Individuals struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, as with any addictive behaviors, often have a great deal of difficulty with accountability. There is a lack of awareness about sex addiction amongst treatment providers (who therefore don’t ask) and they often don’t share their problem with friends and family unless they absolutely have to. Often people with sex addiction drop out of effective therapy too soon to avoid accountability on an ongoing basis and there is a tremendous lack of a vibrant recovery community to help keep them accountable. There is also the added problem of shame and fear that if the person struggling with compulsive sexual behavior is honest with their spouse, family members, and friends then they will be judged, criticized and forever be seen as a terrible person and/or lose the relationship. And no one can guarantee this kind of reaction won’t happen.
What we at Pathways Institute tell our patients – and what is later echoed by the more experienced group members – is that they need to find one or two trusted people in their lives that they can call at any time and talk about their behaviors, urges, relapses and successes with regards to their sexual behavior.
It is crucial to find and work with people you trust to create an accountability network. Addicts have been known to hide-out at 12-step meetings for months or years and continue to relapse from time to time because they haven't developed a trusted accountability network which, when the urge to act-out arises, they can call upon to ride out the urge and then do the next right thing for their recovery. This is as true for those struggling with sex addiction as with any other addiction, and it’s why we encourage people to stay in our ongoing groups. If you currently don't have someone you can trust to share the truth about your addiction with, we urge you to work with your therapist to create this kind of support in your life.
Elizabeth Corsale, MA, MFT