While I drive to work, I can compare my car, house, lawn, clothes and life before I get to the front door of my office. On a really good day, I can do all this before I even roll out of bed in the morning. Comparison – it is one of the greatest marketing tools to persuade us to buy products. We are bombarded with it every day. It is a battle we will never win. We will generally lose the comparison game, thinking and believing we are not enough, nor will we ever be enough. This just keeps us on the treadmill, never being able to get off. Yes, comparison can become an addiction or a character defect that drives our addiction.
Comparison is not all bad. However, generally it is more destructive than constructive. On some occasions, it can be constructive motivation. In my early recovery groups, I remember meeting men who had such a sense of peace and joy in their words and behaviors. At the time, I did not know what it was or how they got it; but that is what I wanted. Now, I can say I have achieved peace and joy in my own life by practicing and living out the principles of recovery.
Here are some areas where I have seen in my own recovery and in the lives of my clients when comparison becomes destructive.
- Men comparing themselves to other men. Week after week, if you sit in recovery meeting as men share about their victories and defeats, we can easily begin comparing our success or failures to others. The sharing of sobriety and recovery dates can become an issue of contention. Those with little sobriety can compare themselves with a great deal of sobriety. The men experiencing success can start feeling guilty because others are failing. Those who are failing stop attending or sharing, because they do not want to bring others down. Realize that we all need each other. Those who are struggling need the hope of those men who are succeeding, and those who are succeeding need to be reminded of their humble beginnings and the potential of relapse.
- Women comparing themselves to other women. Women get caught up in comparing their looks, appearance, pain, recovery stories, trauma and much more. However, the biggest difference is that men feel better after their meeting, but women may generally feel more hopeless and discouraged after attending a partner’s group for sex addiction or any addiction. Realize that even though your spouse is a sex addict (and it may have been his addiction that brought you to attend a meeting you don’t want to attend), sex addiction recovery not only exposes his faults but also exposes the good, bad, and ugly things in a woman’s heart unlike any other addiction. Your spouses’ sex addiction is a gift. This is a gift that can save you or destroy you.
- Spouses comparing themselves to one another. Women are generally more at fault than the men when it comes to the wife comparing their recovery work to that of their husband. Generally, women are much more skilled at recovery workbook work as well as identifying and sharing their feelings. They are more eager to change and learn. Men learn differently and are not as skilled in these areas. They are generally employed full time and do not have as much time to sit down and do recovery work. In the end, realize men and women very differently. Realize women process in their reading, writing, and sharing in therapy and group. Men process verbally in a support group, phone call to a sponsor and/or therapy. They generally have to learn to enjoy the tools of reading and writing. However, please know this does not give men any excuse for not doing step and workbook work.
- Spouses comparing their spouse to someone else’s spouse. The husband and wife are equally guilty of this comparison trap. Husbands and wives may share their recovery story to others they meet in support groups. They will also compare their story to married couples who are friends that are not in recovery. They will compare their marriage to their parent’s marriage. Generally, this is never helpful. Your story is unlike anyone else’s. What worked for one couple may not work for you. Realize what is wise for another couple you meet on this journey might be foolish for you and your spouse.
- Comparing ourselves…. Finally, it can be foolish, but it is sometimes wise to compare and measure your progress on the journey of recovery and how far you have come.
Realize it is not about reminding yourself of your badness. It is about beginning to embrace your God-given goodness and the man or woman He has designed you to become. You might not be their yet, and you will not do it perfectly. However, remember recovery is a process. It is about embracing your humanness. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, forgive yourself, and love yourself enough so you can begin to love others. You are worth it.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.