Dave's Recovery Story

I first heard Dave’s story in 2014 and it was amazing. I apologize that this episode is so long, but his story is amazing. I just couldn’t edit anything out. I hope you take the chance to listen to his whole story—there is so much openness and wisdom to gain from Dave’s journey.

Dave was raised LDS in a small town and, like most of us, ran into pornography randomly when he found a magazine with some friends. This did something emotionally for Dave. Dave knew what he was doing was wrong, but didn’t really connect everything together. Also, like most of us, Dave ran into a number of things in his childhood years that made him feel less-than and shame. For example, Dave shares how he did not have nice clothes and was made fun of for the way he looked. These themes and challenges led to him becoming somewhat of an outsider and introduced him to the drug culture.  

 In high school Dave started to smoke pot and start sexually acting out. By the time Dave was in his early twenties he had found his drug of choice: meth. He also experienced a big emotional difficulty when his younger brother died. Dave took his brother’s death as his fault for not being a good example, which put him deeper in shame. His sexual addiction and drug addiction were big addictions that continued to run his life. At one point in time, Dave robbed a grocery store with his girlfriend. He spent time in and out of prison and went through different sexual relationships that were toxic and unhealthy.

However, a big turning point for Dave was the second time he went to rehab. He talks about how in rehab two big things finally stuck with him. First, he had to be accountable and quit shifting blame to others or circumstances. He finally wanted to be accountable for himself and his life. A book that really helped was, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, by Melody Beattie. Second, as Dave would say, “Leaning into the wind.” Meaning, if you stand there the wind (difficult emotions and experiences) will just knock you over. However, if you lean into the wind by being unafraid and face those difficult emotions and experiences head on, you do path through them. It had also become clear to Dave that he did indeed have a sexual addiction, not just drug addiction. This made all the difference for Dave.

Another important thing to highlight in Dave’s story is how his parents reacted. Throughout his entire drug-using years his parents always met him with unconditional love. His mom used to leave him letters on his pillow bearing testimony of Christ and her love for Dave. They would let him come live at home every time he would be dusting himself off and looking to get clean. After being a year and half sober of drugs, Dave moved from his small town to Salt Lake to pursue college and move on in life.

This is when he met his wife. She knew of his history and that he still struggled with sexual addiction. This helped him and his marriage, as they hit some rough spots during continued recovery. At one point he came into prescription pills and again relapsed. He was a congregational leader in his men’s group at the time of this relapse and it hit his wife really hard. Dave got put on formal probation at his church. At this point, Dave and his wife had already been going to a sexual addiction recovery program and doing 12 Step. Again, Dave and his wife found a key recovery component: leaning into the wind and having accountability. For Dave’s wife, it was realizing that it wasn’t her job to change him. In their marriage, Dave had several rounds of relapse with both drug and sexual addiction. However, being completely honest and continuing to work recovery allowed for the full change to happen. 

Today, Dave is still accountable and honest; still leans into the winds in his life. But he doesn’t let shame define him anymore. He’s let a lot of those feelings go and given them to Christ. He talks about becoming honest about all of these feelings and truly accepting his story. This includes letting his wife go through her own process, not just trying to fix things so she won’t be mad. He doesn’t know his exact date of sobriety but it’s somewhere around 7-8 years. Addiction isn’t something Dave thinks about everyday or something he worries about all the time. His marriage is a place of growth, joy, and connection. He is humble, honest, open and broken, not perfect.    

I imagine if we all could have met Dave as a meth addict in his early twenties, it would have been expected for all of us to write him off as a lost cause. I first heard Dave’s story five years ago. Hearing it again five years later, it’s the same amazing story. His wife came and shared with him then and she’s in a great place too. You can see the trust and love between them. Dave currently services in his bishopric (congregational leadership), has a busy job, and is raising kids. However, his addiction is not a part of his life anymore. His story is a reminder that none of us in addiction are outside of God’s reach and healing power.

Our Invitation to Be Unashamed and Unafraid

“You don’t have to be perfect to be unashamed.” - Chris  

It has been three years since I first launched UnashamedUnafraid and it has been amazing. We have shared a lot of insights, stories, and hope and have had so much shared back with us. It is amazing how God finds us in the most dark and hopeless moments. Starting our fourth year Chris and I would like to again invite any men struggling with sexual addiction to be unashamed and unafraid.

Unashamed: about sexual addiction recovery. Chris, who now has just over a decade of total sobriety and recovery, talks about how becoming unashamed was key for him. I, who am still struggling with addiction, have already seen how being unashamed has helped me in recovery so far. Unashamed means not isolating-not taking on this addiction alone. It means being honest about what is going on, and sharing to create an honest community of help. It means sharing with our spouses and other family and friends who can help us. It meaning being willing to reach out, not in, and get help. Being honest is so hard when you are in addiction, but it is key to getting help. If you are willing to take the risk, there are “plenty of people like me, all outsiders like me” who are willing to help you and have been where you’ve been.

Unafraid: to come unto Christ for healing. This is still something I am really working on. Chris and I talk about how he has had many rock bottom moments, but didn’t change. Finally, Chris realized he didn’t ever give Autumn (his wife), his church, or God 100%. Chris talks about how he was not unafraid, but very afraid. As addicts we often hide what we’re afraid of with good posing. Whether that’s isolating or being over-charismatic we all know what this posing, faking or hiding it looks like. I still struggle with my fears a lot and Chris talks about how he finally chose to be unafraid and see what God had for him. It changed his life and allowed him to become healed.

Our invitation to be unashamed and unafraid can be illustrated by the pill scene from the matrix. At this point in the movie Mr. Anderson (Neo) meets Morpheus who invites him to take one of two pills. If he takes the blue pill he can continue to “believe whatever it is you want to believe”. Meaning living in a life that he knows is false and unfulfilling. Or he can take the red pill and “see how far down the rabbit hole goes (Alice in Wonderland reference)”. Meaning, to break free from what enslaved him and live as he truly was made to.

So it is with our invitation: You can continue to tell yourself that you don’t have a problem and you don’t live afraid (even though you know you do) and watch your life play out in black and white and wonder why you’re not happy. Or you can take the risk to be unashamed and unafraid and see that you are worth of a live-in-full-color HD. God does have a wonderful life for you that is addiction free. You truly can have peace and love your life and who you are. All the shame, unworthiness, too far gone, not worth it is a lie. I admit, a very good lie, which I have struggled with. But it is a lie all the same.

This year we are working to share with you ten men’s/couple’s stories of recovery. We will continue to take anonymous questions and post those with answers from experts and men/couples who have been through recovery. We invite you to visit our Resources page and find other resources to help your recovery. One we strongly suggest is the Warrior Heart Retreat.

You are not alone. There is hope. We are here for you and so is God. We wanted to leave you with Fear is a Liar by Zach Williams to bring you hope to be unashamed and unafraid.         

We hope to see you all at UCAP this Saturday. Also our podcast can now be found everywhere podcasts are found! Not just iTunes. So sorry this took so long! Subscribe wherever 

 

Anonymous Questions Answered - Ep 4

Q and A.Ep4.Art.jpg

In this episode we have only one question, but it’s a good one and one that I can very much relate to. The question in this episode focuses on serving in church leadership while struggling ,and how to get help. My guest for this post is Josh Whitney, a pastor at the Rock Church in Draper, Utah. The Rock is a non-denominational church (website) which Josh has been pastoring at since 2006. Josh has served in church leadership while also personally knowing the struggles of sexual temptation. He has found his way through those struggles and has some great perspective for those who walk this line of personal struggle and leadership. 

Josh Whitney - Pastor at the Rock Church Draper, Utah Contact: josh@trc.life

 Anonymous Question:

I am in a difficult position. I lead a church and have for years...and I've also battled sexual addition at various levels for years. I was introduced to pornography by my older brother when I was eight years old. Thanks a lot. As is the case in so many stories, I 'win' for a good while, and then 'fall off the wagon'. I know all the right answers -, even Biblical answers. I have accountability software on my computer, but sex addicts 'find ways', and most reading this know what I mean. I've counseled scores of people on scores of Biblical issues -, though I purposefully haven't done much 'counseling' in this area. All said, it's extremely difficult to find a 'community.'..a brotherhood because of my position. I've been burned and betrayed in the ministry before and know the fine line I'm walking. As to becoming part of a '12 Step' type group in the community,

I can't imagine how that would work either. It's possible, of course, that nobody from my church would stumble in and find their pastor there. Maybe this is unfounded paranoia, but it's real for me. That said, I DESPERATELY want to get off this merry-go-round. I'm hoping being a part of a blog like this will at least help me get into a community of other - albeit on line -who can understand my struggle and I theirs. Before I close this out, let me say one more thing. I DEEPLY love Christ and his church. I'm not purposefully and knowingly leading a double life. I know it's dead wrong when I succumb and I deal with it strongly when it happens. I just don't want it to happen anymore.

Answer:

Josh brought up two major points in answer to this question. First, open up to the right group. You need to be wise on who you open up to. Josh used the analogy of a father dumping all of his adult problems on his children. There does need to be thought in which group you go to for support. Josh talked about two groups here in Utah that are circles of pastors that get together for support (see below).

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”- James 5:16

The second point Josh made was that you have to talk. Josh talked about a pivotal turning point in his recovery, when, in college, his pastor asked the group to anonymously submit if they had any sexual sins going on. This empowered him to confess and opened the door to years of mentorship which help him find lasting healing. Although confessing in an anonymous setting, like a 12-step meeting, is powerful and a great first step, Josh recommended that you have some people in your life who know. These should be some godly brothers who can really support you in your journey through this. Another key person is your wife. You cannot do recovery behind her back. These confession moments are so scary and initially don’t always go well, but Josh said it well, “God is gracious and He will help us in these moments”. The one thing I would add is I have NEVER heard a story of someone who found recovery without confessing to others and being fully seen by those in their life. Never.

Confession and Possible Outcomes

Josh and I discussed that confession could cause a lot of change in your life. It could cost you your marriage, Job, etc. But you have to do it in order to really find healing. I’ve tried it, with the best of them, to not be 100% honest while attempting recovery. It just doesn’t work. Another point we brought up is that you’re not happy. You don’t want to confess because it could cost you this life…that if you’re honest, you’re not happy. Trust God. He will make healing happen for you and those in your life, but you have to confess.

Both Josh and I have had personal experiences and heard many stories where those in the church and in leadership weren’t helpful. It could happen to you, but it will just be a road that leads you to a better place. It goes back to trusting God’s will for your life. The life you are living now is not what he intended for you. You can have better! Go for it! One recommendation I have as a first step is a LDS 12-step meeting. If you are not LDS, it is very unlikely you’ll see anyone from your congregation there. It is very Christian and would be a great first step. 

 “I’m going to do what’s right, and come what may I’ll deal with it” - Josh

Serving in the Church and Being a Sinner

Josh talked about how the man who mentored him moved to plant a new church and ended up falling into sexual sin and losing his testimony. It doesn’t mean that what he did for Josh was wrong or that he gave Josh bad advice. This is a good example that we all sin. Your leadership and faithful actions to build the church and help your fellow brothers and sisters is awesome. As you know, I started this Blog not being sober and I’m still not. Yet I’ve been able to help a lot of men in their recovery find resources and hope. The adversary would have you believe it’s an all or nothing game. Either you’re perfect and a good leader or you’re not perfect and your leadership is crap. It just isn’t true.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord”. - 1 Cor. 15:58

Self-Disclosure and Leadership 

There is often a belief that if you self-disclose as a leader it will discredit your leadership efforts. Josh and I believe the exact opposite. Josh shared how he spoke at a men’s conference a couple of years ago and talked openly about his story of sexual sin and recovery in his congregation and its been used to change lives. It only enhanced his leadership in his church community. Although there have been some who are negative about it, his experience has been overwhelming positive. 

 “That self disclosure piece as a leader in my mind is foundational. You have to be able to say, ‘I’m a real person like you too, I’ve blown it too, and here is how God is helping’.”  – Josh

Brother, I have no doubt that you are a game changer in building God’s kingdom. Both Josh and I can relate to you, seriously. We don’t offer our advice from the bleachers but shoulder to shoulder with you in the trenches. I commend your courage for reaching out here in this place as I know there are many who have the same questions you do, but not the courage to voice them. Thanks for sharing that courage! I asked Josh if you were sitting in front of him, what he would say to you. Here is his answer:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” - 1 Cor. 10:13

God is going to provide a way out. He wants you to confess it to find healing. That verse is true or it is not. Test your faith against God’s promises. Josh’s recovery road was years, and it is for most men, but he’s seen change, as he has now been sober sexually for 18 years.  

Resources Mentioned

Loving Utah Pastor Network

Standing Together Pastor Network

Find a 12-Step Meeting

Betrayal Trauma Resource: The Heart of a Woman Retreat

Last year I posted about my top-secret recovery resource: The Wild at Heart Retreat. This retreat is a game changer! I hope that you have taken the chance to listen to my post with Dorothy Maryon, CMHC about Betrayal Trauma and understanding our wife’s experience. Our wives get put through the ringer with our addiction and recovery and it’s not their fault. If only there was a top secret resource for their healing too…turns out there is!  

For this podcast I sat down with the founder and two members of the prayer team for the Heart of a Woman Retreat, the sister retreat to Wild at Heart for men. Here they describe the retreat. I strongly encourage you to listen to this one and feel the spirit of the experience this retreat can be for the women in our lives. To the women: you deserve this. To the men: show this to your woman and let her know you’re sorry for hurting her, you support her finding healing and recovery, and you are more than happy to take the kids for a weekend. Battle for her heart men! Here is a way you can! 

 Come join us October 11-13, 2018                                                       Register at www.theheartofawoman.net                                                 Use the code UNASHAMED and get $25 off!

“ I showed up. I remember saying the prayer, ‘I am giving you all I can right now and that’s not a lot, but I need you to show up for me.’ …He showed up for me every way possible. I’ve never felt more accepted and loved by God in my life, right where I’m at.” –Lindsay

The Heart of a Woman Retreat  “cracks the code” for many women looking to restore their trust in God, connect to Him in deeper ways, see themselves as they were created to be, and heal their battered and wounded hearts. This three-day retreat is designed especially for women who are exhausted, numb, and overwhelmed. You unplug from the world for three glorious days and plug into God’s messages for you—you are enough, you are loved, you are beautiful, you are important.

Held each fall in the mountains near Wanship, Utah, the Heart of a Woman Retreat is a faith based, Christian women’s retreat based on Stacy and John Eldredge’s book Captivating – the sister book to Wild at Heart. Women of all ages and places in their spiritual journey find hope, peace, and acceptance as they are immersed and enlarged in learning how God loves them, have time alone with God, enjoy some amazing adventure, and make friendships that last a lifetime.

“It was huge for me to disconnect from my roles back home. I got to matter for three days and that was really powerful for me. It was so important for me to reconnect with me as a person and connect with other women.” – Anarie

At the retreat, many women learn how God really sees them and loves them for the first time in their lives. This is not therapy, self-disclosure, advice giving, or sensitivity-groups. This has nothing to do with your husband’s addiction, but everything to do with the restoration of your own heart.

Come join us October 11-13, 2018. Register at www.theheartofawoman.net using the code UNASHAMED and get $25 off.

James & Kristy's Recovery Story

It’s time for another couple’s journey through all the difficulty that addiction is and finding hope and healing. James and Kristy took 14 years to finally start their real journey with God, but it was worth it. As you read and listen I hope that there are parts of their story that resonate and that you can relate to. Their story is a great example of becoming unashamed about who they are and the mistakes they’ve made and unafraid of really connecting with God and seeing the life He has for them. 

James first found pornography at 8 years old. In a more typical type of experience he knew it was wrong, but as he went through his adolescence and teenage years it kept coming up.

James’ father was an alcoholic who he mostly remembers as drunk. Then had a stepfather that was very strict and not emotionally available. He describes his childhood as holding a lot of shame and that he didn’t have a safe place or person to talk to. He did have one friend whom he did talk to about his masturbation issue, but also other friends who helped him find pornography.

“He spoke to me ‘Neither do I condemn thee’, I was the woman in the story, and it lifted all that shame and self-condemnation away from me. All that judgment, self-hatred, and loathing started to be lifted and healed within me. For the first, time I could start to accept myself, even with my weaknesses.”                                                                                  - James  

            Addiction really took off for James when the Internet came out, which happened right when James got back from his LDS Mission in England. Working at a tech company, pornography addiction started to “sink its teeth in.” During this time, it was happening on a daily and weekly basis. For a while he was working the “try harder” gospel on one side of the dual life and addiction on the other. He was in this state when he met Kristy.

“Sex was how I gauged if I was loved or accepted.”                 -James

            Kristy was brought up in the Mormon Church but her family wasn’t really that into God. As she became a teenager she started to move away from a life with God. When she and James met she had started on a path of making changes in her life to get closer to God. When they got married she disclosed her own past and gave James the opportunity to be honest about his demons. To James’ credit he was honest about his pornography addiction (although at the time he didn’t really know it was an addiction.) They both figured after they got married it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Like the rest of us, crossing marriage didn’t make the difference.

            James and Kristy spent the next 14 years on the rollercoaster of addiction. Sometimes James would tell the truth sometimes he wouldn’t. Even though James was only viewing pornography around every 3 months they talked about how it really damaged their emotional intimacy. Having an alcoholic father who was a mess it was hard for James to think of himself as an addict. His dad was the picture of an addict, not him. They both had shame around seeing this "Occasional" porn use as an addiction.

“The once every three months...the part that sucked about that was it was long enough to make you feel like you did not have that much of a problem with it, but it was often enough to remind you that you had a problem with it.” - James 

“Anyone that is a liar knows what a heavy burden that lying is.” - James

            One day James felt the temptation coming on and asked God to help him avoid it this time, but again he slipped. This really made him downward spiral. Then he was reading about pornography in a book. On the back of the book was a question asking, “If you have told yourself that you are never going to look at pornography again, and you go back to it, you’re probably an addict.” This was a light blub moment because James believed if he was an addict that meant he could get help. This was the start of their recovery. James and Kristy did group and individual therapy at LifeSTAR. Kristy was not happy about it at first, but found her own journey in healing and self-discovery.            

“At some point, when you’ve been hurt repeatedly by the person who is supposed to be the one who loves you the most, it shuts you down emotionally.” -Kristy  

            James has had some great sobriety and found some big changes in his life with Kristy and his relationship with God. One of the first things that was big for James was embracing full transparency both with Kristy and with himself about his past and who he is now. Honesty is so hard to start doing, but James talked about the heavy the burden of living a lie was. The next big thing for James was working on understanding how much shame he had. Working to recognize and heal from shame was another burden lifted. The other big “ah-ha” moment is when James was really able to reconnect with God on a personal level. For him, he felt his experience with God was like the woman taken in adultery. He finally felt God’s love and acceptance and this was a huge part of removing shame and self-hatred. These experiences also helped him have a greater capacity to love others. He still had some anger with God, asking, “Why did you take so long?” In our post on the Wild at Heart Retreat, James talks about how he was able to get past this anger with God and how God really showed up for him there.

“Wanting not only her to know me, but to start to fully know myself and to start not hiding from my own demons and my past.” - James 

“God told me, “I love you right where you are at.” And that was unbelievable to me.”                                - James

Both James and Kristy have made big changes in recovery and seen some big miracles. They have changes in their happiness, intimacy, and relationship with God. They both talked about how a lot of these changes aren’t easy, but so worth it! They have a new way of life with God that has passion and joy and purpose. I hope you take the opportunity to listen to their story.     

“The most beautiful and wonderful things that happen to the human heart are a result of the brokenness. It is the broken heart that God can take and fix. The one that thinks it’s whole, God can’t do a lot with that.” - Kristy

Anonymous Questions Answered Ep: 3

We are back with our third edition of answering anonymous questions. I want to give large props to those who submit these questions. Also, so sorry it took us so long to get this one out! I hope our answers are helpful. To answer this episodes question I was able to catch up with Brian Murdock, LCMHC of Brian Murdock Counseling. Brian has been in the mental health field since 1992. In private practice he currently works with sexual addiction and traumas connected to those addictions.

Your Question: I'm grateful I found this site. My life situation is such that I don't have any "safe" people I can talk to besides my wife, who is amazingly supportive and understanding. There limits though to how much she can help. So my question for you is, what do you define as "being sober." I find for drug addicts and alcoholics, it's easy. You can want to drink. Think about drinking. But as long as you don't drink, you're "sober" and thus "worthy" in the eyes of a bishop. I feel with any form of SA, there's such a continuum. My brain and emotions have been broken for so long that phrases like "do your best" "when you feel worthy" "when you feel forgiven" "when you no longer want it" are of no help. I want to be sober and past this so badly. But I don't even know what that is other than "not having any arousing thought about anything except my wife," which seems impossible. Thank you.

Answer: To get to the first part of your question about defining sobriety. It sounds like you are asking ‘When do I finally know I am ok?!’. I’ve asked myself these questions a lot. I can also relate to feeling like you are on a merry-go-round that you can’t get off. The first thing is understanding the difference between sobriety and recovery.

“You can have those same thoughts and not be acting on those behaviors, which Steve just defined, and that’s being sober. That’s not recovery in my mind; recovery is what I think you're craving and what you want. In recovery, I felt there was almost a physical change in my brain.” – Brian 

Sounds like you get sobriety. When you start working on recovery Brian described it as a lifestyle change. Having more awareness around your emotions and thoughts.  “I don’t have to constantly be on guard. I don’t have to constantly be fighting those thoughts. And it is absolutely possible to get there.” Recovery is a little different for everyone but some themes are honesty, self-compassion, and connection with God. Brian also talked about how the work of real lifestyle change just seems like a lot of work upfront, but we can tell you, it’s worth it. I’d recommend listening to Chris & Autumn’s story and Mack & Melissa’s story. The idea that you’ll always be fighting this just isn’t true. With sobriety and recovery, you can be free.

“One of the biggest things we have to remember is self-compassion and self-care. We know that God loves and always will no matter what. If we can take that knowledge that he loves us and have that be our core versus “I’m bad” then we can move forward…Just because we’ve made a bad decision (or decisions) doesn’t mean we are bad.” - Brian

Lastly, you talked about how you feel alone. Haven’t we all! I highly recommend connecting and participating in a 12-step group (ex: SALifeLine), group therapy (ex: LifeSTAR), or retreat (ex: Wild at Heart). “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection” – Johann Hari. In my experience, I have not found any men that find recovery without having connections with some other men where they can talk about the addiction out loud. If you have men that are organically in your life (bothers, friends, etc) all the better and I promise there are men close to you that also struggle with sexual addiction.

We hope these answers have been helpful! Thank you for having the courage to ask and be an Outsider. By doing so you give other men courage to reach out and connect as well.   

 

 

Anonymous Questions Answered – Episode 2

We are back with our second edition of answering anonymous questions. I want to give large props to those who submitted these questions. I hope our answers are helpful. This Episode I sat down with both Chris and Todd Olson, LCSW, one of the Co-Founders of LifeSTAR, to help answer these questions.

Question:  I am wanting information on sexual addiction and marriage.

Answer: Aren't we all! Our resources page can be a great place to start (click here). If you are an addict, I recommend 12 Steps as a first stop. They are free and very de-shaming and hopeful meeting.Todd mentioned LifeSTAR St. George, which has some really great blog posts (click here). I would recommend HopeandHealinglds.org, which is a good resource to find information if you are a spouse or family member (click here).   

Question: I will try to be concise, and thanks in advance for your open site and welcoming energy. You probably hear from a lot of guys and I am wondering if I can leverage that experience and advice. 

I am coming here tonight because I gave in to pornography and masturbation. I was clean for many months in 2017. But how many is enough? Only forever is enough. I had 1 slip in December and now 2 in January 2018. I have my life's score in my mind right now. It is probably faulty logic to think that way, but how else to measure? My slate has been wiped clean many times and then I mark it up again. Coming up on 4 decades of life. Decade 2 seemed to sow the worst seeds. Media addiction to numb from work /job; I probably had 15 severe indulgences to pornography videos, and half that number again in masturbation. The sins made me shake in my soul sometimes praying for forgiveness in the very act. But not yet shaken enough to be free. And the monster returns to feed.


2017 had so much momentum with 11 months of clean and free. I felt free, I felt clean. I had lost much of the desire for any media and therefore built up time and space against my opposition. But now, I worry the gains I had been blessed with in 2017 are evaporating. Am I an addict and do I need to confess to my wife? I have never told her. Maybe she knows in her soul already. I am terrified to open up to her to confess I have let in monsters. But I am more terrified of failing to my sacred and divine purposes and privileges.

My #1 question for you is this: Can it be just Christ and me? Working it out until I am free?


I know about afflicting and unclean spirits and that I succumb to the natural man that I am. But I believe in Christ who believes in me to overcome it and to change and no more be influenced by it. I know the Lord. Even if tonight it is as a wretch. Yet still, he has been free to me with love and grace. I have promises from him I trust. If I say I have not sinned then I am a liar, but can I say I will not sin in this thing anymore and be true? I believe it is possible.

Answer: First off, yes we believe being 100% healed is possible! This is not something you need to struggle with your whole life. Second, you are not alone in your story. 

-  I have my life's score in my mind right now. It is probably faulty logic to think that way, but how else to measure? -

Chris says, "Sobriety and recovery are two different things, but they go hand in hand." He's right. We can also understand your frustrations of relapse and wanting to get off the merry-go-round. "I kept thinking why do I keep slipping? This is terrible I'm never gonna stop! But then I started looking at it as, 'today I'm going to be sober,’ instead of looking at it as I need 5 years of sobriety or 10 years of sobriety. That's when I really started seeing sobriety when I focused on recovery."

Todd shared, "I think he thinks that just stopping is enough and it's just way bigger than that...sexual addiction is more of an intimacy (emotional, spiritual, and sexual) and attachment problem. He is kind of missing the boat if he thinks if he just stops that will fix it...here he is seeking some knowledge and I think he'll figure it out." 

In my experience, Todd and Chris are right on. If you can change your focus to recovery you'll see your life and sobriety take off. 

- Can it be just Christ and me? (asking, should I disclose to my wife) -

"What I see is an avoidance of telling wife is a way of managing to make sure the marriage works and that's not what intimacy is. Intimacy is that we have each other's backs and that we can talk about anything with each other. 'And we are not just talking about sexual intimacy we are talking about'[Chris]...relational, emotional, closeness and connecting. so how close am I? If I'm not telling her because I'm afraid of what will happen, that's just managing outcome...aren't we supposed to talk to those that we are close to?"  - Todd Honestly, I don't know how to say it better than that. This also goes along with the earlier answer about recovery vs. just sobriety. It's about you gaining a great relationship, and you and your wife being happy. 

Next is the how do you tell your wife. We all HIGHLY recommend doing a full-disclosure. Meaning you don't keep it all, nor do you let little pieces out slowly. However, we recommend that you go to a counselor first and do full disclosure with them and then with your wife. "That's how addiction feeds by isolating yourself. You not disclosing that information to your wife makes it so that addiction can still breed and allow the monster to come back. You're trying to do it on your own and I don't know anyone who has ever done it on their own." - Chris. LifeSTAR has a great workbook for you to fill out and one for your wife. I'd also do the actual disclosure with you, your wife, and a counselor in the room. To give you a ray of hope I asked Todd how many couples stay together after a full disclosure. You ready?...(drum roll)...80%. Ps. the national average is 50%, right? Full Disclosure is worth it. "If you do your disclosure our of fear, you'll leave some stuff out. If you do your disclosure out of guilt or shame, you'll leave some stuff out. If you do it out of vulnerability in that 'I'm choosing to share all of me with you, and show all of me to you, to give you (wife) a choice as to whether you want me or not' and it's really respectful." - Todd. It may take you a little time to get to that vulnerable place and really be ready to disclose, so start the process today! 

"Trust and safety don't come from sobriety. Trust and safety come from, [the wife saying] 'this guy has changed. He's different. He does life differently and he's honest. That's what I trust.' It's not just the sobriety." - Todd. Chris talked about how his relationship is so different as he focused on recovery and did full disclosure. He gave Autumn (his wife) the choice to stay or leave. And if you listen to their story (click here) she talks about how she saw him become a different man, not just sober. Chris is coming up on 10 years of total sobriety and 20 years of marriage. I highly recommend you listen to his story.       

Brother, we are with you and can very much relate to your questions. Thank you so much for your courage and we know you can find sobriety and a recovery life that is full of happiness and fulfilling relationships. Jesus heals and we know it! Chris and I are just some regular dudes who have done some super messed up stuff but have seen the miracles of Christ's atonement. As we always invite all, come be an Outsider with us and see what God has for you!   

 

AMCAP Presentation—Training for Leaders and Family

I hope you have listened to our post, Why Trying Harder Never Works: Trauma. I believe this is one of the least understood parts of sexual addiction. So, if you haven’t listened to it, I strongly encourage you to.

I did this post with Angela Russell, LCSW, who specializes in trauma work. In May 2017, Kayla and I presented with Angela at AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists) in Virginia. AMCAP does events to help train therapists and lay church leaders on various issues. This post is the recording of our presentation with Angela.

 

The first part of the presentation goes over addiction basics and the definitions of terms, such as shame, trauma, etc. The second part is a discussion of these terms in the context of our addiction recovery story. The last part is an open and anonymous Q&A, which I think is very insightful and helpful. Below is the handout we gave out at the presentation. To date, this is the longest podcast we have done, but well worth it; as a large portion is the Q&A at the end.

Hope you enjoy and find it helpful!      

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Anonymous Questions Answered - Episode 1

This post has been a long time coming and I apologize to everyone that we have taken so long. With that said…drum roll…here is Anonymous Questions Answered Episode 1! We encourage anyone who has any question(s) about sexual addiction recovery to submit questions and we will get therapists, men in recovery or whoever is needed to get a real effective answer. I give huge props to those who had the courage and were unashamed and unafraid enough to submit these questions. Thank you for helping us built a larger open conversation around sexual addiction recovery!   

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Question: Hi Steve! Thank you so much for coming and sharing your story with your wife at AMCAP in Virginia this past weekend. Do you have a recording somewhere of you and your wife sharing on your website? I want to share your story with leadership in my stake and hope a video exists somewhere. Wishing you and your family well. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story with others...I was so touched and inspired! Caitlin

Answer: Thank you for your kind comments and glad you were able to be with us! Our next post will be the audio from that AMCAP presentation. I will also do a later post of two different audios of just Kayla and I sharing our story. 

Question: So what do you do about wanting to have a temple marriage when it will deprive you of seeing your girl in lingerie? Temple garments mean no girl in undies and most secular guys wouldn't make such a sacrifice I think.

Answer: Chris talks about how the church does not have any guidelines against women wearing lingerie. Chris, Duane, and Rocky talk about their own experience. I think it was best expressed by Rocky’s unofficial “three S's” “You have your three S’s right? Sports, Sex, and Swimming which are all areas where active garments wearing members often do not wear them. We did a post with Corey from LifeSTAR on Healthy Sex. The men talked about how sex, which is about safety and connection, is the best sex, so we recommend not forcing the issue on any woman who is not comfortable.

Question: Is there help for women who have sexual addiction? This isn't a gender-isolated addiction. It runs the same gamut as for men, but there is very little help available. Is there an online group?

Answer: Excellent question! Yes, there are a lot of resources. SA.org and addictionrecovery.lds.org are two that you can go to to find meetings for women. Lots of the SA meetings are for men and women, which Rocky, Duane, and Chris all have been to and talk about how it wasn’t really weird with woman there. Don’t worry: I had the same initial reaction you did! Also, you can go to any CSAT (Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist) and they will be able to help you.

Question: I know I need to start somewhere I am just too fearful of the effects it's going to have on my wife.

Answer: Haven’t we all been there! The first thing the group brought up was to do a full disclosure. Chris makes a great statement on this: “When you decide to do disclosure, do full disclosure so you’re not leaving anything out. (This is KEY) Try not to control the outcome by minimizing what you're doing. Nothing was more freeing to me than letting my wife know everything.” I recommend having a counselor in the room. Rocky commented that this is key for her and that she needs help to deal with all the aftermath. Duane brought up a good thing: “It sounds like you’ve got some fears that it is going to harm her. I can promise you, in the long-run you will bless her life immensely by being in recovery.” I would also recommend having some recovery plans in place for when you disclose. So you can say, "Here is what I’ve done and now here is what I’m going to do about it to change". This will help you create safety. Also, realize if this is all new to her she will likely need sometime to digest the disclosure and deal with it. Be patient and let her be hurt, mad, etc. But remember that Duane is right, and that this group of men all have different marriage scenarios and disclosure timing. Yet these principles have worked for all of us. Rocky also made this great comment: “It’s okay to recognize that you don’t know how to do this and tell her that you need to learn. [For example, you say,} 'So here is my plan, but I don’t know how to do this and I need to find some help.'”  

Question: Listened to your podcast on Leading LDS this morning. It was excellent. Wow! What a ride you've been on. I have much respect for your desire to reach out and help others. My question is, do you know of any software that will monitor the words your kids type into their computer and if a bad word is detected, immediately send a TEXT to the parent? I know many of the monitoring software’s send emails, but I haven't found any that send immediate texts. 

Answer: Chris talked about Uknowkids.com which monitors texts and all social media. I think Duane summarized our thoughts well: “There has to be a balance and you have to be careful to not be too controlling as well. Remember to not let co-dependency creep in, because that will foster your own addiction if you are trying to control everyone in your life. ‘My kids will…’ It’s just going to create problems for your kids down the road if you’re too controlling. You need to have open dialogue…if do it in the right way to where your kids are willing to share with you.” We recommend monitoring/accountability software (I like, EverAccountable). Most importantly have an ongoing open conversation about pornography and sexuality. However, this doesn’t mean you should not have boundaries and attempt to create safety. Chris, Rocky, and Duane all talked about how their kids aren’t allowed to have devices in their rooms or at night, etc. But you won’t be able to stop your kids from making mistakes fully. Yet if you have a relationship where they are willing to be open with you, that will make the biggest difference.   

Question: I have just learned that my husband of 15 years has a "sexual addiction"…says that he feels dead inside, and as he doesn't even recognize the heartbreak this is causing…I am heartsick for him and us. I just am not sure how to proceed. Does he need to be the one to see that this is an addiction?...He said that there are things in his past that he will not talk about that is between him and God., and Satan was right there too. He says that he is ashamed and used to have integrity. He will then say that "this is just the way I am". What am I to do to help him/us? I love my husband…He wants to tell me everything, but I don't feel that he is emotionally connected, and doesn't understand the depth of pain that this is. Advice please.

Answer: Chris starts by saying, “Love him for who he is, but this doesn’t mean you have to stay with him.” He also gives the advice that you need to pray and decide how long and to what extent you are willing to be with someone who actively chooses not to be in recovery. That is a personal choice for you. I would add that God wants you to be happy. That path is different for everyone, but if you feel “it is what it is” “this is my lot”, “I’m stuck in this”, or “I just have to deal with this forever” then that’s not the answer God has for you. He wants you to be happy and emotionally connected and there is a path to that. Duane said, “Be careful to not get into a place of co-dependence, because the addiction is his battle to fight (and his problem that he need to be accountable for)” There are a lot of resources out there for women who have experienced betrayal trauma (psst this is you) and you need to find healing and recovery for yourself. No matter what he chooses to do with his recovery, you can get health and start on your recovery today. I recommend listening to our post with Dorothy at LifeSTAR about betrayal trauma and go to Bloom, and HopeandHealingLDS.com (join the forum). All of these will be helpful.

Question: Hi, I am 21 years old and I have been addicted to pornography and masturbation since I was about ten. Like you, I spoke with my bishop and also shared most of my issues I was having. I felt forgiven and went on my mission. I acted up on my mission with pornography, spoke to my mission president, felt forgiven and kept serving. As soon as I came back, it started again. I've been home for a year and I've had the issue for a while. I even had sex with a few different girls. Of course, I'm keeping it hidden as I also go to church weekly. You seem to have a similar experience, so I was really hoping to hear what you have to say. I know what I'm doing is wrong, but the issue is I have no desire to change. I'm currently single if that helps. Any advice? Thanks

Answer: There are a lot of things we could talk about around this, but my largest recommendation is to listen to all of the men’s stories here at UnashamedUnafraid. All of our stories are different, but each describes how in addiction, we were living in denial and that when we could see through our denial we could easily see how the addiction had huge negative effects. Not just on others but for ourselves. I have yet to find a man who having worked through real recovery and had any regrets about it. Also, statistically the odd of you getting married and not having your addiction come up in a major way and disrupt the relationship is a virtual zero. I’ll end with the quote that inspired the name of the site and invite you to come join us in recovery, “I said there's plenty people like me, all outsiders like me, and all unashamed and all unafraid to live out what they supposed to be.” -Lecrae

Question: My wife has always been sexually .... shy, I guess. Reluctant to try new things, and always seemed bothered by the suggestions. Recently, I found out she had been sext-ing a coworker, but not before I noticed she was easing into more pornographic sex…Should I worry? If so, why? If not, why?

Answer: This sounds very much like addictive behavior. Duane talks about how addicts act in denial. Ask the questions you need to ask and if she is defensive than it is likely that you have addiction going on. “You got to have open dialogue and talk to your spouse about this stuff and it needs to go both ways” - Chris. If her risky behavior is affecting your safety, that’s obviously a problem, but if you are fine with the risky behavior it is likely that you both might be struggling with sexual addiction behavior. I would seek as many resources as possible to start working on sexual addiction recovery. We have outlined many resources throughout this post and here on the resources page. 

My Best Recovery Resource: Wild at Heart Retreat - Boot Camp

Wild at Heart. If you are a man, and I know you or have met you it’s likely that I’ve given you a copy of this book or recommended it. I feel like it creates a great outline for men to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This book was BIG for my recovery and just finding my heart as a man and coming alive. However, the real magic sauce was in attending the Wild at Heart Retreat, which they call Boot Camp. (Website here)

No matter what your Christian background is or where you are at in your relationship with God this is for you! I have been to Boot Camp several times and each one has been life-changing. In this post, I talked with Chris, James, and Lee who are on the volunteer staff for the retreat. They answer a lot of questions about the retreat and talk about their first time going and how it has affected them. I also want to point out that it is a great way to better the relationship with your wife and children. Often times telling your wife you’re going to be gone for 3 days doesn’t seem helpful, but I promise it will be.

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If you have read Wild at Heart and the message in any way resonated with you, come! I want to add here that I have no doubt there will be opposition, fear, and doubt to you coming. There always is. If you're worried about coming alone, don't be, come! John Eldredge actually holds some retreats in Colorado at different times. This is the Utah chapter of that same experience. The next retreat is November 30th –December 2nd (Thu-Sat) this year. If you sign up by the end of October the cost is $350 instead of $400. The Utah Chapter holds one in the spring and one in the fall every year. 

I strongly encourage you out of all my posts to listen to this one. If in listening to Chris, James, and Lee you feel this might be a good thing follow it and come! This is a great way to start the recovery journey or help you break free if you feel stuck. If you are the wife of someone who struggles with sexual addiction, make them come! I can make this promise: If you come you won’t regret it. Hope and pray to see you there!  

Sign up at the Website: http://www.awarriorheart.com/

“[At the retreat you learn] how to battle for the hearts of those around you, ‘and yourself’.”

-Chris/Lee

“It would be a very personal journey with God and yourself” - Lee

“I was at a place where I was really angry at God, so this didn’t sound really appealing to me.”

- James

“Being at camp got me way closer to God. Closer than I ever thought I could be.” – Lee

“We’ve all tried doing it alone and it doesn’t work…it is a whole new level of connection I thought I would ever achieve or knew was available.” – Chris

“It has had huge positive ripple effects in my life and in the lives of the women around me.” - James

“Going up to boot camp changed the spiritual trajectory of my life.” – James

“It completely changed my view of myself...I’ve seen it heal and change relationships” – Chris

“This was a life-changing experience.” – Lee

"COME!" - Me 

Rob's Recovery Story

Nothing gives me more hope in recovery than hearing men who have become warriors in recovery. Rob is one of those warriors. I first met Rob in 2014 at the Wild at Heart retreat. Rob’s story, like all men in recovery, has a theme of honesty and faith. The largest thing for me was hearing how Rob’s core beliefs about himself changed and how his relationship with God helped him come alive. His story is definitely worth a listen.   

“It was all shame-based at that point…it wasn’t really about the excitement of pornography or the excitement of the release of masturbation. It was all shame-based and trying to cope.”

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“It’s not about the sex. It’s not about the fantasy or the depictions that are portrayed in pornography it’s not about that at all.”

“There was the hope, but there was also the fear that my motivations were more out of fear than out of hope. It was fear of losing everything…fear of being discovered as a complete fraud…Doing recovery that way is bull shit.”

“I would feel the weight of what’s happened. It would become more and more clear to me that I can’t keep this up…I’m exhausted.”

“All the things that I feared, all the things that I was using my addiction to cope with, because of the fear, came true. It just left me with absolutely nothing. But looking back on that experience now, that was exactly what I needed. It stripped me of everything that I thought made me me.”

“It was in that state that for me real recovery happened. I started to have some real key experiences that changed the dialog in my head.”

“Slowly line upon line, just putting one foot in front of the other I was able to start coming out of that darkness.”  

“For the first time in my life, I was more connected to God than ever. On a very deep and personal level, I had gotten a relationship with God.”

“I know without a doubt that God loves me and that I have a purpose in this life, and that it doesn’t really matter what I do. I will always be loved because I’m his, and because of that one abiding principal and assurance in my life it motivates me in everything that I do.”

“I’m alive.”

Betrayal Trauma– Understanding The Wife's Experience

This is a post that I have been wanting to do for a while. I was able to sit down with Dorothy Maryon, CMHC (Clinical Mental Health Councilor), and talk about Betrayal Trauma, or our wife’s experience. Dorothy has been working with wives for over 18 years. I asked her to share with me what we needed to know, as addicts, about Betrayal Trauma, and how we can help to restore trust and heal the relationship.  

Whether we drop the bomb all at once (my story) or it comes out gradually, Betrayal Trauma happens. I think we as addicts want to isolate our addiction as just one piece of the relationship, but Dorothy explains the impact this way:

“[from the wife’s view] I have no place in my world to make sense that the person I love and care for the most has gone outside the relationship…‘whatever it was it wasn’t me,’  And it feels betraying and it is a betrayal.”

The other big revelation for my recovery was how we handle our wife’s trauma responses coming up.

“Addicts tend to respond to betrayal in mistaken ways.”

Dorothy uses a good analogy of us handing our wife a big rock of pain. Here are the ways not to respond:

- She is triggered back into the betrayal trauma, so it’s not about the facts. Trying to explain that the situation is a 2 when her reaction is a 10.

- Defensive/Blaming – Whacking her with the rock. If you weren’t so mean I wouldn’t act out.

 - Victim – Wake myself with the rock. I’m a loser. I’ll never be good enough for you, etc.  

- Reasoning/Logic – The rock that your holding is not really a rock. Denying the reality. This isn’t a big deal, don’t worry about it so much, why do you get so bent out of shape over this, etc.

- Ignore the rock – Withdraw, leave, and avoid. I see she is triggered, so I go walk the dog or run to be with the kids to avoid talking with her.

“Your #1 job is to become an honest man. And her job is to learn how to be around an honest man, even thought it’s painful. Because sometimes, your honesty will be painful.”

“What creates safety is honesty.”

“You are not going to heal betrayal trauma if there is continual deception.”

I have two big take a ways:

1- It doesn’t matter where my wife is in her recovery, if I continue to be honest and move forward with my recovery the relationship will get better. My recovery is not contingent on her changing or her acceptance.

“You can’t fix this quietly. You can’t do it the old way, you can’t just medicate this and go on.”

“If you change you, it will change the relationship.”

2- Her healing will take time, so when those big trauma response moments come up don’t freak out and think you’re back at square one. It just takes time, but healing will happen.   

“If you think about it, most addicts are dealing with a life long addiction; it’s been 10 or 15 years. And yet you get frustrated because your wife isn’t over it in 6 months.”

“If you can, get a bigger perspective and say, ‘regardless of the outcome, my job is to be honest and work at creating safety with [my wife],’ and that will give her time to create safety for you.”

“I see people do it. I see people get better all the time. It’s doable.”

 

 

The Stumbling Block of Denial

When you sin, you feel guilty. You can do one of three things with that guilt:

1.     Get real and repent - change

2.     Lie to yourself and others - denial

3.     Live in open rebellion against God’s laws

Realizing you have been in denial and changing is gut-wrenching. God will help you, and while it may be painful now, your life will get better. It may be helpful to discuss your denial openly with a group, or a friend(s). Recognizing you’re in denial is a huge step in the right direction.

Here are a few forms of denial:

Rationalizing – Making up reasons why my addiction is OK.  God knows I’m trying to do better, so it’s fine that I still slip sometimes.

Minimizing – Telling myself my sins aren’t as big of a deal as they are.  Viewing porn isn’t really hurting my marriage.

Comparing – At least I’m not as bad as my friend. I’d never cheat on my wife, so the fact that I look at porn sometimes isn’t that big of a deal.

Uniqueness – Making up reasons why I’m special, why the rules don’t apply to me. I have a lot of pressure at work, so it’s ok that I look at porn sometimes.

Creating a Distraction – Avoiding my problems by creating a different persona or posing. A couple examples are being the center of attention or using anger to intimidate.

Omitting - Admitting to small parts of my problem. Admitting you’ve viewed pornography, but leaving out how often you view it and that you masturbate.

Blaming – Putting the responsibility of my actions on others. If my wife and I had better sex this wouldn’t be a problem.

Compliance – Acting like I want to stop to pacify others, but deep down I’m not getting real about what needs to change. Agreeing to meet with a church leader or therapist, but never following up and actually scheduling the appointment.

Intellectualizing - Getting lost in irrelevant details as a way to take the focus off the behavior. When I’m confronted about my behavior, I talk fast or ask tangential questions to confuse my partner and avoid being direct.

Helplessness – I don’t really believe I’ll ever stop my addiction, so why try? I’m never going to be happy in my marriage anyways, so who cares if I view porn.
 

Compartmentalizing – I live a dual life. I sin on the side, but this doesn’t affect my real life, family or kids. I view porn at work, but never at home. When I am at home I act like I would never do that and can talk about how bad it is. At work I continue to preoccupy about my addiction and act out.

These forms of denial are general guideposts to point you in the right direction. You are likely experiencing more than one of these and often the lines between them can be blurred. For all of us in recovery there are a lot of similarities, but each person’s experience is different. Working through your denial is always a part of overcoming addiction. Although painful, we know you can win and overcome your denial.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” – Paul (Phil. 4:13).

Extra Motivation: The Truth About Pornography

It’s difficult to change. Our purpose in sharing this video is to show the reality of what pornography is. Shelley Lubben was a Porn Actress who found Christ and got out of the sex industry and shares her story. We hope that understanding what actually happens in the production of pornography will provide you additional motivation to change. We found seeing and knowing what really is can help us break our denial and strengthen recovery.

A few things that stuck out to us were:

·       Porn stars don’t actually like the sex they’re portraying

·       They hate men

·       They use men for money and want to ruin their lives

·       90% of them are on drugs

·       Most of them have been sexually abused

·       Human trafficking, rape, physical abuse, and STDs are the norm in pornography production.  

Where Do I Start?

When starting the battle of recovery and being clean you may wonder where to start. At UnashamedUnafraid we have a lot of different resources. Most people who are clean have some things in common, such as the points below.  

First Things First

you need to stop your addiction. When you clean your mind it becomes clearer and easier to allow God to be a bigger part of your life. I know I wondered why I had to stop or if somehow God could make an exception for me. I don’t think anyone starting the battle has a clear vision of why they need to stop, or how their life will be better.

That’s where faith and hope come in, “for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it”. I promise you that your life will be better without your addiction. The best advice I can give to someone starting out is to identify times, emotions and situations where you give into temptation and then commit to avoiding those situations. Also, it’s important that you reach out for help, find at least one supportive person that you can be honest with, even more is better. You cannot do it alone. 

Second

After a period of being clean, you’ll become stable enough to where you can deal with unresolved painful experiences or trauma. If you start digging into trauma at the beginning, you may make your addiction worse. Trauma seems to surface on its own when God knows you’re ready to deal with it. You’ll need to find ways to process your painful experiences. Many men work this out in groups or by reading books, to fully experience the emotion of what happened to them earlier. 

Third

Your life will gradually get better as you start to overcome your addiction. You’ll experience ups and downs and sometimes you may even feel like your life has gotten worse. Like the children of Israel after the exodus from Egypt. But I promise you that being clean is better than being a slave to your addiction, no matter what it seems like in the moment. This is when you’ll truly experience peace, joy and stability in your life that was absent during your time of addiction. Becoming clean involves changing your lifestyle permanently, not just stopping a habit. You’ll start to become who God wants you to be and you’ll live for a purpose outside of yourself.

Mack & Melissa's Recovery Story

Every story of recovery I hear gives me greater hope. We share similarities, but each is so unique and inspiring. Mack and Melissa have a passion for life that is infectious! But life wasn’t always that way. Melissa was blindsided like my wife was and Mack walked without God.   

 “Now looking back I didn’t realize the lost that existed in the moment [I discovered his addiction].” –Melissa

“I was really trying to break pornography on my own. It’s like I was drowning, but not asking for a life jacket” – Mack

 “I would cry out to the Lord every morning, ‘either kill him or fix him. I don’t care which one you do’ but I can’t keep going like this.” – Melissa

Their story shows how God is always reaching out for us. As they both connected with God in their personal journey, recovery started. Mack and Melissa do such a good job of describing the changes in their mindset and actions.

From anger and despair to hope and happiness. As I sat with Mack and Melissa in their home listening to their story I could feel the hope. I could feel the change and it made me want to reach for God in faith more. I know as you listen to their story you can feel of that same hope.

“I started down this spiritual walk with God again and through that is where the healing came in. I’ll never forget the first men’s group that I was involved in. I realized other people did {porn} too. I wasn’t alone.” – Mack

“Do I feel completely healed? Absolutely. We can sit around and say I’m an addict, but that’s an identity. You are owning that you are an addict. You can also say I am a child of God, I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. That’s what you want to own.” - Mack

“The closer I got with God and I saw how much more he loved me the last thing I wanted to do is look at porn.” – Mack   

“Everyone who is there [porn], is looking for life in a dead place.” – Melissa

 

 

Reach Your Heart, Not Your Mind

 

In June Derek did a post about the small and simple things. In my recovery I have been surprised by the biggest small thing for me: Music. As I started listening to music that focused on the hopeful messages God has for us about his love, forgiveness, and power it has made a HUGE difference.

Now I know there are a whole bunch of eye rolls here from skeptics and non-music listeners alike. But God tell us, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

I have found a lot of men in recovery who listen to hip-hop and rock/heavy metal. One friend in recovery told me why he listened to it. He said it was relatable because they talked about depression and anger, things he felt. That is what rap was for me a voice, a message and that felt empowering to me.

These three songs have meant a lot to me in my recovery journey. I invite you to find a quiet moment, a place where you can feel God, and give them a listen. I know listening to music that contains our Father’s messages greatly helps combat the constant shame messages we are getting from the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Then You look at this prisoner and say to me 'son
stop fighting a fight that's already been won' " - Big Daddy Weave

"And I know that I was meant to be, More than just a melody, I know that you had hopes for me, I hope you still believe in me." - The Film Grace Unplugged

"This one thing remains. 'Cause your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me." - Kristian Stanfill with Passion

Attachment - Our Need to Connect

Todd Olson (LCSW, CSAT)* is a founder of LifeSTAR Network with over 25 years of experience with Sexual Addiction. He explains that we are wired to connect (see Still Face Video). 

"Everything I can get from an Addiction is what I wish I could get from my secure attachment person. It is either in my mind as a hopeful someone down the road or the one I'm in a relationship with right now that I wish was different."

Attachment is our ability to make emotional connection with others attachment links to addiction because if we have negative attachment (every style except secure attachment) we are most likely turning to our addiction when conflict, rejection, or negative emotions arises.

"You are at high risk to numb out [the emotional pain] with addiction if you have attachment issues."

If you don’t have secure attachment there is hope! Chris and Autumn’s story is a good example of changing from insecure to secure attachment. Our attachment style is often times linked to trauma.  

“You’ve got to learn to regulation your emotions. You’ve got to learn to regulate your thoughts and feels and stuff that comes to your system, so you can live in that balance.” 

Secure – If you relate positively to yourself and other people. No fear or anxiety. “You feel accepted and loved and respond to other peoples needs.”

Anxious – You experience anxiety about what other people think of you and make decision based on eagerness to please other people. “You’re kind of worried and you want to make sure things work out. They often doubt their value in relationships.”

Avoidant – “If you’re uncomfortable with close relationships, even though you desire them.” You just don’t trust them. You’re not good with conflict and want to avoid that. “When you are faced with rejection you’re more likely to just turn away from the relationship”.

Fearful – “If you think you aren’t capable of meeting needs. You are uncomfortable with closeness and building intimacy with other people.” It’s too scary to get close, so I make sure I’ll stay away.   

*LCSW=Licensed Clinical Social Worked CSAT= Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist. 

Feeling Stuck?

Sometimes we forget that God is all-powerful. He keeps His promises 100% of the time every time! (1 Kings 8:56). He parted the Red Sea, raised the dead, showed up the priests of Baal (1 kings 8:22-40) and maybe more importantly has the power to forgive us (Mosiah 26:30) and turn our lives around (Psalms 40:2).

He wants us to be happy. The nature of God is fixed and unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). He wants you to overcome your addiction. If we have an addiction, something is wrong with us. If we’re humble and allow God to help us change we will become clean. It works 100% of the time because God is who He is and will never change.

To take an oversimplified approach, if you’re struggling with addiction you’re most likely struggling with one of the four subjects below. The intent of this blog post is to point you in the right direction, we won’t discuss how to fix what’s wrong.

Healthy Life Habits – This includes things like keeping a structured schedule, not staying up too late, and exercising. For example, if I know I get bored and tempted while I watch TV late at night, disciplining myself to avoid that situation will help in avoiding the temptation itself and the struggles associated with it.

Spirituality – How is your relationship with God? Are you praying regularly, reading the scriptures, attending church, serving others? Also, are you being real about your worship or just going through the motions?

Emotional Health –We all go through moments where we feel misunderstood, rejected, excluded, alone or insecure. An example may be not feeling loved or appreciated by your family or friends. How do we respond in those moments?

Unhealed Wounds – These wounds can be from childhood or could happen while we’re adults. For example, if your spouse left you before, now, every time something negative happens in a relationship, you feel like you will be alone for the rest of your life.

If you’re reading this and thinking that none of these four sections apply to you then you’re most likely in denial. Denial can include blaming, minimizing, rationalizing or making excuses. I would encourage you to get real with yourself and figure out what’s missing in your life

Steve's Recovery Story

“As long as I was living a dual life Satan had a firm grasp on me.”

 “The good Lord spoon-fed me along the way until I finally had the courage and the strength to shove the last of the secrets out the trap door and close it. That was the hardest thing for me. My life has changed today. I’m a different person. I lead a different life than I did before. I’m a happier person.”

I first met Steve at the Warrior Heart Weekend retreat and Steve is indeed a warrior. All of our stories vary and each story of recovery that I’ve heard has brought me hope in a new way. Steve’s story is no exception and gives me an immense amount of hope. I love how he describes how change and true recovery came about in his life after many failed attempts. I know that as you listen to him you will feel his passion and healing and sense his authenticity.  

You can e-mail Steve (recoveryinak@gmail.com) if you have any question about recovery or his story.  Also you can comment here and he will respond.  

“My addiction started at a very early age, somewhere around 9 or 10, when I found pornography under my father’s bed…that began a process in my life of secrecy and shame.”

“In terms of a dual life, I was the ultimate hypocrite.”

“I found myself embedded with this secret so deep down that if I ever told anyone about it would just completely blow my cover in terms of that dual lifestyle.  So I just worked really hard to keep it under wraps.”

“I was looking for the perfect sexual experience, I never found it, because it doesn’t exist.”

“In July of 2012 I was arrested for solicitation of prostitution.”

“I was able to truly admit to myself and recognize, ‘hey I’m a sex addict.’ I’m not going to be able to fix this the old fashion way.”

“For the first time in my life I came forward without being caught.”

“My wife had an inspired thought and that was for us to move to Utah for 3-6 months so I could work my recovery from addiction and she could work her recovery from trauma…I went to a therapy, or 12-step meeting, every day for 12 weeks ”

“(Steven) You’ve tried to recover a lot of different times. What was it that changed this time for real recovery? (Steve) 10 weeks in I did a full disclosure and shared my entire sexual history with my wife…Until I was able to do that and get that out of my secret box, Satan still had a hold on me.”

“My recovery will end when I become my own customer, and just so you know, I’m in the funeral business. I’m happy to do that because it’s a huge blessing in my life.”