(The following is an excerpt from my book, Repair Your Life. This is such an important part of recovery that I feel the need for it to reach as many as possible who are beginning recovery)
One of the most important needs you will have is the circle of friends and family who make up your support group. Not everyone will be on this list. Your nuclear family may not want to dredge up old family stuff. Worse yet, they may not believe you and may ridicule your efforts. Anyone who does not take your recovery seriously has no place in your inner circle. Mom may not want to desecrate Dad’s image. In patriarchal families, keeping Dad on his pedestal is mandatory. Secrecy is the biggest reason incest is epidemic. Why would you want to protect someone who has physically violated you? Why would you want to choose someone who encourages you to protect that person as part of your support group?
Eliminate those who might hinder your progress. Emphasize that you are on a journey and that arriving at the end is the only thing that matters. Keep only supportive people in your life. Any attempts to sabotage your recovery will keep you from reaching the end of that bridge.
Seek those willing to listen, those who genuinely care and encourage you. You will be surprised how many who touch your life, will soon be touched by yours. Often, during recovery you meet kindred spirits who, if it were not for your courageous efforts in coming out of hiding, would not be able to face their own childhood traumas. The sad truth is that more people have been traumatized by sexual abuse, either to themselves or a loved one, than have not.
As we have already learned, the trauma of a victim of child sexual abuse has an impact on all family members. Two healthy people have a great chance of finding happiness in a relationship. One healthy and one not so healthy have a more difficult chance, and two unhealthy people stand very little chance of having a happy life together. That is not to say that once one begins the journey, the other will not follow, but do not enter recovery with this as your goal. Your primary purpose is getting yourself healthy, not your partner. If something beyond that happens, it will be an added blessing.
Many of us enter recovery while living with an abuser. A variety of responses, not always to our liking, occur. They may, at first, be supportive—a pleasant surprise. Beware and be patient. If the support is not genuine, their real motives will surface quickly. Often, changing our own behavior through recovery prompts our mate to begin to change. But it is not something to count on.
What may happen instead, is that they find new ways to manipulate, thus discouraging you from committing to your program. Adopt a feeling of detachment. There is no way you can convince an abuser that what you are doing is not only vital for you, but could ultimately be best for them. They won’t listen. Refuse to cooperative with any maneuvers they employ to distract you. If their abuse accelerates, find a support group in your area for battered women. Don’t let the title mislead you. Battered does not only apply to physical abuse. Battered women’s support groups and women’s shelters are familiar with the cycle of violence that begins with emotional threats, then swiftly leads to economic abuse, isolation, emotional abuse, patriarchal power plays and using the children as weapons. It is all about power and control, the twin demons that set you up to be molested in the first place.
Keep in mind that as you cross that bridge, you will begin to see your mate—if he is an abuser—in a different light. Power plays, manipulations and controls will be more obvious and you will be less willing to buy into them. As you begin to set boundaries, they may retaliate by accelerating their own unhealthy behavior. This is no time for a faint heart. If separation from an abuser gives you the courage to work through your own recovery without faltering, that may well be the choice you have to make.
If friends or family harass you to split up from an abuser before you are ready, your despair will deepen. You never walk alone until your legs are strong enough to hold you. Let those who care know what you are going through and that all changes have to be done in your time frame, not theirs. When you are ready, although it may still be painful to go through a separation, you will have the strength to walk through it. If your loved ones choose to abandon you because they can’t bear your pain, that is their decision. If the bond is strong enough, this will not happen. And if it does, they may return when you have completed recovery.
Codependents are hampered in their progress by focusing on their mate’s needs rather than their own. It is extremely difficult to pull away from this trait. Keep in mind that as you build strength by working through REPAIR, in time it will be easier. While crossing this bridge, it is imperative that you put your progress in the program above all other needs. If your mate, abusive or not, can not be supportive of this, you may eventually decide to go it alone.
A word here about those fortunate enough to have a supportive mate. It can be hard on them to help you work through recovery. They may be confused. As you begin going through the recovery process, some things will be difficult for them to understand. Certain facets to your relationship may be put on hold. This adds to your mate’s confusion. Using clear communication to keep them posted on your progress will enable them to be supportive of your journey. They may not always understand what you are going through, but letting them know it will improve not only your own life but the relationship the two of you are building, will go a long way towards enlisting their support. Twelve Steps Programs are available to them as well. Encourage them to attend. Working a Twelve Step program is always an improvement in anyone’s life.
It is not a good idea to attend Twelve Step meetings together. This can serve to inhibit both of you as well as create enormous conflicts once you leave the meeting. Many a couple has gone their separate ways because one or the other was dismayed at their partner’s revelations at a meeting regarding disputes in their private lives. If you go to a meeting alone, while there, you may arrive at the appropriate way to approach your mate on an issue that has long been churning, but blurting it out while he or she is sitting next to you is an almost guaranteed way to sabotage accomplishment. The Twelve Steps were founded on anonymity and as such, all participants are bound by their word to not repeat anything they hear. This makes it a safe place. Twelve Steppers new to the program are fragile and it is taking all the courage they have to keep going in recovery. They don’t need more conflict in their personal life.
(For more information regarding the Repair program take a look at our website at www.thelamplighters.org under The Repair Program and also under Books.