I would like to share my experience, strength, and hope related to disclosure (that is, letting others know about my past sexual addictive behaviors), from the basis of having much practice over the last twelve years of recovery and relapse, in disclosing both in the big and the small things. After practicing too much disclosure and then too little disclosure, I seem to be coming to what seems for me a comfortable middle ground. I like lists, so here is mine.
- For me, disclosure starts with intimacy. I yearn for the “real connection,” not the one that bypasses intimacy. First with the God, then with my wife, and then with Sexaholics Anonymous fellowship and others. Unfortunately, I cannot have a real, deep, joyful, abundant connection with others without revealing myself and taking the risk of rejection. Intimacy means letting others see me as I am.
- For me, disclosure starts with being rigorously and comprehensively honest with myself and with the God of my Step Two. This applies to both daily Ten Step work as well as the “big disclosures” that are rightfully part of Step Nine Work.
- For me, disclosure is the means of letting God and others see into me. The first disclosure I make is to myself. I need to be true to myself in order to recover.
- In recovery, most of the disclosures I make now are about defects of character and what I desire from others. I have spent a lifetime learning to cope, survive, and go along in order to get along by suppressing what I need or desire from others. In SA recovery, one point of embarrassment and growth for me was discovering that I did not have a clue of what I really wanted. I think I learned this from my family.
- My wife has yearned for years to know what she does that makes me happy. I have come to the conclusion that, after nearly 22 years of marriage, she probably can’t read my mind. Probably. Maybe this time she will…! But seriously, I need to tell her. I need to figure it out and tell her.
- Then there are the BIG DISCLOSURES. I hope no one has to do this very often. Once is fine for me, thank you. I had a serious relapse after seven years, and if I thought the first disclosure was painful, explaining why I had a relapse after seven years was truly excruciating. I had not let go of my old idea that my main value in life was taking care of women.
- The purpose of a big disclosure is the same as an ordinary disclosure: to be accountable and make amends. If I’m not doing both, I should not disclose. My sponsors have a big help in me getting this one right.
- For me, what gets in the way of disclosing at any level is my fear of rejection and abandonment, and beneath that the fear that I will not be cared for and will be alone forever.
- For me, prayer and practice are what helps. I ask God to show me how to disclose. I get into the space of remembering that the God of my Second Step will care for me even if my marriage fails, even if I lose my job, even if I lose my family, even if I go to jail. I get into the space of abandoning myself to God. This is hard and takes work, but it is the most empowering and abundant work in the program. I have learned that my Higher Power loves me and cares for me no matter what.
- When I made my first Big Disclosure in 2004, my wife had discovered part of my sexual acting out, and she set an immediate appointment with our marriage therapist. I disclosed with the support and guidance of this man before I got into (or even knew about) SA. When I made my second (hopefully last) Big Disclosure in 2012, I wrote about it for a couple of months, consulted closely with my sponsor, and not only disclosed acting out activities, but offered the root cause and plan to prevent a recurrence. This helped, because the work I did to earnestly make things right gave me a sense of self-esteem and connection with my Higher Power to be present, vulnerable, and open with my broken wife.
- In any disclosure, big or small, what seems to work for me is to offer a full accounting of the harm I caused, to a level of detail that I determine in prayer and consultation with my sponsor, therapist, and others. (Remember, we are urged in the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” to make use of professionals also, because we don’t claim to offer everything.)
- After I disclose, I answer every question my wife (or other person) asks until they are finished asking. The rule that seems to work is, “If they want to know the answer enough to ask, they can manage the truth.” If I am concerned that answering a question for my wife may cause harm, I might check in and ask her about it or maybe ask for 24 hours to think about how to answer. I think this is okay and is not refusing to answer, it’s refusing to answer foolishly.
- I have found that it’s a leap of faith to put myself out there without support and without knowing what might happen. God has always rewarded me for doing this the right way. Not necessarily with my wife, at least in the short-term, but always with my Higher Power. And the crazy thing is that my wife and I are still married, and we have a better marriage than we ever have – significantly as a result of disclosure.
My final thought is this: In recovery, I have learned that it’s a lot easier to disclose if I stay clean and sober. Funny, that. It only took me 12 years to figure this out.