Someone who compulsively engages in sexual behaviours knowing that doing so is harming their loved ones are often called selfish. The addictive behaviour often begins to take priority over everything else. Other responsibilities take second place and as the addiction escalates even other forms of self care can become forgotten. Addiction is a selfish disease that can eventually rob the addict of everything else that matters to them. The truth of this is widely known by anyone with an addiction and anyone who has loved an addict, but what is often not realised is that recovery is also selfish.
Recovering from an addiction requires commitment and vigilance. Complacency is probably one of the biggest causes of relapse and hence someone in recovery needs to ensure they prioritise their recovery. Indeed, in the early days, they would be wise to be preoccupied by it. It’s often said that in order to look after others, you first need to look after yourself and this is so true. Unless you can identify your own needs and meet them healthily, how can you possibly expect to be able to recognise, understand and care for the needs of others.
For partners of people with sex addiction, who have already been betrayed and hurt, the reality of ‘selfish’ recovery can come as an unwelcome surprise. Many partners initially experience anger and frustration at the time that may be devoted to recovery activities. For example, going to support meetings, keeping in touch with others, perhaps taking more time to relax and wanting to spend more time socialising with friends. But in reality, demonstrating an ability to identify personal needs and maintain boundaries around self care, can be one of the surest signs of recovery and hence begin to rebuild fragile trust.
Addiction is a symptom of a lack of adequate self care. A demonstration of an inability to maintain appropriate boundaries and prioritise what matters in life. Recovery means prioritising self care; ensuring that the circumstances that led to the addiction and maintained the addiction do not occur again. Yes recovery is selfish, but the consequences are a happy and healthier life for the person with the addiction and a genuine ability to care for others.