We have had some great questions submitted. I again want to commend those who had the courage to reach out and be vulnerable. Truly a great example of being Unashamed and Unafraid! We had a great group to answer these questions. I was joined by Sherie Christensen, MFT along with James and Kristy who shared their recovery story with us last year and my wife Kayla (super excited! It was her first time on!). Questions in this episode deal with how to do disclosure, support a struggling spouse, and how to get long distance resources.
Question: I wanted to thank you for the blogs and resources. I heard your story from a podcast featured on LeadingSaints. I can sort of relate. I struggle with addiction to pornography and nicotine. These have been my struggles for the last 26 years. I have tried the ARP 12 step program quite a few times over the last 12 years. I have had moments of sobriety, but never recovery. Still struggling. I am currently attending ARP. Have been for a few months now. Made it to 74 days of sobriety until crash and burn. Now I am struggling to get back on the horse to try again. I would like to know how to find hope. I have lost any and all. I don’t feel like I can find recovery ever. I go to church and am totally numb. Just numb. This is affecting my marriage, our family. My sponsor says to pray. The bishop keeps giving me talks to read. I feel like the intentions mean well, but the responses seem to piss me off. My wife says my addict brain and ego are probably reacting. Pride, I struggle with pride too. I live in Maryland. LDS resources are more limited. Non-Mormon counselors don’t think porn addiction or nicotine addiction is necessarily a huge issue. How can Christ work in my life? I don’t feel worthy of His help and don’t think it will work. I don't see myself as a changed person. I carry a ton of shame. Any words of advice?
Answer: James can relate to how you don’t feel worthy of help, not sure it will work, and you don’t see yourself as a changed person. James struggled with this for over 20 years, so he can relate to that deeply unworthy and hopeless place. You aren’t alone in your feelings. One resource that could help is finding a Christian counselor. Sherie suggested connecting with a group out of Utah and do online therapy (Skype or Facetime). Sherie does online counseling and so do several of the groups on our resources page. Hearing other men’s stories has always been my big hope boost (so subscribe! Haha). For James, understanding that he had an addiction helped him dive into all resources for addictions and then applying them to his sexual addiction. One of the biggest paradigm shifting resources for James was Brene Brown and her research on shame. Also create support through family, church, and therapy all of which can happen on the phone! You’re not too far away!
“I remember being so pissed off when people would be like, ‘Here’s a talk I heard it’s really going to change your life’. We’ve all been there and felt those feelings and we want to love and support you” – Kayla
“There is no chasm dark or cave so scary that Christ cannot reach in and pull you out. There is always hope… It truly is for everybody.” - Kristy
Question: I’m 40 years old and have struggled with an addiction to pornography/sex for the past 25 years. I’ve been following your blog and listening to the recovery stories and they give me so much hope. I was sorry to hear about your struggles last year. I have had similar struggles. About 8 years ago I was disfellowshipped from the church after coming clean and confessing everything to my wife and bishop. I don’t know why my wife chose to stay but she did. She truly sees things in me that I can’t see.
About a year after being brought back into full fellowship I acted out again with someone I met on Craigslist and instead of being honest and confessing to my wife I chose to start lying and hiding everything. I was so ashamed of what I had done and couldn’t believe I was making the mistake I had repented of that I started to feel that all was lost and that this was just going to be part of me for the rest of my life. I continued to see this woman off an on for about 6 years. Although we never had sex our relationship certainly was sexual. I didn’t tell my wife and because I didn’t tell her I’ve struggled trying to overcome this all by myself.
This last year has been the worst. I have found myself going to massage parlors many times. I hate who I am and how I feel. I’m so tired of the double life I live. I wish I could just tell my wife and just be honest but I am such a coward. Sometimes I feel my family would be so much better off without me. Since I started listening to and following your blog I’ve heard so many stories of hope. I finally know and feel I need to tell my wife about everything regardless of what happens but I’ve never been so scared of anything in my life.
When you told your wife about everything from last year how did it go? Was it worth it? Did she want to leave you? How was the disciplinary council and being excommunicated? How was it on your wife and her family? I hate knowing that when I tell her I will cause even more pain because she thinks I’ve been in recovery all this time. I’m so tired of hurting my wife over and over. I’ve prayed so many times that Heavenly Father would guide me and help me to know the right time to tell her but I just don’t know how or when to tell her. Sorry for all the questions. Your blog has helped me to feel that if I could just be honest with her that maybe there still is hope for me after all.
Answer: Kayla shares how initially that she was extremely angry, but it has been worth it. I have tried in varying degrees to do recovery without being 100% honest. You can’t do recovery without being 100% honest. That is when God can really step into our lives. Kayla hasn’t wanted to leave me because she knows who I really am and that my addiction is not who I am. Kayla hates addiction and my decisions, but she described her feelings around this video (link) and how she hasn’t been ready for Satan to take our family.
Kristy talks about how she felt similar feelings with James and that God can heal their relationship. She also talked about how the lying is worse than the addiction. Being 100% honest gives your wife a choice and when you lie you have taken choice away from her. Our post on betrayal trauma (link) talks about all of this stuff a lot more and is worth a listen. Of the acting out and lying, most women will tell you the lying is the worse of the two evils.
Sherie talked about how honesty is key for the relationship, and honesty with self is also critically important. No matter how well your relationship is going without being 100% honest, it will be so much better if you are honest. Sherie also explained that if you are having a feeling about coming forward and being honest with your wife then the time is now. Now is always the right time.
Being excommunicated has been a powerful experience for me and helpful. I wasn’t really in sync with my Stake President going into it, but afterward, as we meet together, I feel like we have really clicked, and I feel his love and support. I believe this is because I went into both of my church disciplines with an open and willing heart. The men who struggle with church discipline tend to be either still lying and not in recovery or they are more worried about being “fixed” and “done with this” instead of on their own journey with God. Not that there haven’t been church leaders that have made mistakes, but generally that has been my experience.
The last comment James made that is key is that you cannot fight this battle alone. No one finds recovery alone. He related (and so can I) to wasting years trying to fight alone and getting nowhere. Start building the team around you and God will help you.
Question: How should I approach watching R - rated movies after looking at pornography?
Answer: IMDB parental guide is a good resource to know what content the movie contains that James and Kristy use. I personally don’t rely on the world’s rating system to make spiritual choices. The other key I have learned is that you cannot negotiate with your addiction. If you are justifying as to why you can watch something then you are probably wrong.
“Be willing to say no to the story. It’s just a story. There are a million stories out there” - Kristy
Question: My husband has been masturbating regularly. I confronted him about it and told him that it made me feel not loved and unimportant. He was defensive at first and told me we don't have sex enough but he said it wasn't an addiction and that he would stop. The defensiveness made me feel like it is an addiction but I decided to believe him and trust that he would do what he said. But he hasn't stopped and he has just gotten really sweet and affectionate especially after he masturbates. This just feels fake and like he is trying to cover up the fact that he is still masturbating. I'm sure he thinks he is hiding it from me but I can't pretend that it's not happening. I don't know how to tell him that this is a big problem. I'm afraid he will continue to deny that anything is wrong and just continue the behavior. He also has a huge fear of me leaving him so even the slightest hint at this being trouble for our marriage and it could cause more problems. How do I confront him in a way that he can recognize the problem, know that I love him and be willing to work on this?
Answer: His addiction is NOT your fault and it is NOT your job to fix it. It’s his job to fix his addiction. Your feeling and intuition is spot on and you should always trust them!
Sherie answers your question in a very direct way: How do you get him to change? You can’t. Separate out the real man that he is and the addict self that you keep seeing. Let him know that it is the real person that you want to be with. Then the biggest invitation to help him is to get help for yourself. You work on you and get your own healing and help. Kristy and Kayla talked about boundaries are something you need and must have. This will help you leave co-dependency. Kayla feels like in this last round she has figured this out more and she has found so much more happiness. When she does her own life that way it makes me want to work recovery so much more.
Question: I was unfaithful to my wife of 30 years. She found out last July, I was secretly seeing online prostitutes and had been doing so for several years. She did not leave me and we are working to restore our marriage. We have been to a marriage intensive and a sexual biblical wholeness intensive. Needless to say, I have had porn and sexual addiction for most of my life. I have really been trying to work on my walk with Christ and to be transparent with my wife. My question is, How transparent is too transparent? I mean, I don't want to overwhelm her if and when I have a lustful thought or desire. Part of me thinks she shouldn't be the one that I put the weight of this on. I just stumbled across your website (A God thing I'm sure) your input is appreciated.
Answer: Sherie talks about how there can be too much information. She also shared that it really needs to be the spouse who decides what they want to know. There isn’t really a specific line around this. The spouse needs to avoid information that will be toxic and shaming. As the addict, you should just always be willing to be 100% honest and let her figure out what is safe for her. We also talked about how your wife cannot be the total dumping ground for you. You need to have sponsors or men in your life that know your story and can support you in those moments and in your story. Also, your disclosure may not be a single moment. She may have questions that come up later, or she may need to talk about it again. Just be open and honest and with patience you will create a lot of safety for her.
Question: I ran into your website about 6 months ago right when my husband told me that he had not been honest our whole marriage and he had looked turned to pornography when our marriage got hard. He was also drinking to cope with marriage issues when he was on business trips. And because he was sure our marriage was about to end he thought about what the worst thing he could do, so he went to a strip club. This was all back in the fall. Your story, as well as other stories on your website, gave me so much hope in the months that followed. I still loved him and 100% believed that the Atonement could heal our marriage and both of us individually. We worked past that but I always felt like he wasn’t truly sorry. From what I have listened to your story and others, everyone had a grace moment or a rock bottom moment. He struggled a lot with feeling like he would ever make it to the celestial kingdom. On his mission he worked with counselors to overcome pornography and during his exit interview his Mission president asked him if he had overcome pornographer. It crushed him deeply to tell him no. When we were dating he told me about the pornography and I still married him because I knew that that didn’t change his worth. God still loved him and I thought that I would be able to help him. So a few months after everything came out in September we were still having issues. He wasn’t really connecting with me. He would go to a poker club to not have to deal with his feelings. I woke up one morning at 1:30 and he wasn’t home. He was still there. That triggered everything from the fall and I told him I was done. I couldn’t be with someone who would run to places like that every time his feelings were hurt. That was almost 3 weeks ago. Since we have separated. He told me he wanted to get divorced. I was still fighting for the marriage when he told me that he had viewed pornographers again and had gone to a strip club again. This was last week. This isn’t who he is. I know he is struggling with feeling worthy. I believe he is pushing me away because he doesn’t feel like he is a good choice. We have two beautiful little girls. I’m hurting because Satan has him right where he wants him. How do I reach him? What can I do? I still want our marriage to work. I have seen the miracles in your story and I pray God will give him a grace moment. Can you help me understand what he might be going through?
Answer: James and I know exactly what he is going through. He is hurting and he doesn’t know how to deal with that pain. He is looking in unhealthy places to numb out that pain and cover it. This is because he hates who he is. Him pushing you away is evidence that he doesn’t believe he is worthy of you or your girls. You are right, Satan has convinced him that he doesn’t have worth and that the mistakes he has made are who he is. It’s a lie, but he’s buying it. That is what keeps him in the pain and afraid to be honest and ask for help. He’s so convinced of these lies that reaching out seems hopeless. He is hopeless and needs hope.
Similar to the other question above, your love for him is awesome. You do know who he is really is. However, you can’t change him. It’s not your job and like above you need help for you. Helping yourself is the best way you can help him. You can be happy and have peace no matter what he does or doesn’t do.
Kayla talks about my last disclosure (which I would argue is the worst acting out I’ve ever done) and how it was different. It was the first time that she saw me in my truly lowest low. It helped her understand that she was in a relationship with someone who has his own problem. It’s not her problem. Kayla shared how what I always say is true… That although I as the addict am sick, I’ve thrown up all over Kayla. Yes, I need to get healed from my illness, but if she doesn’t clean the vomit off herself it will always stink and affect her life.
Kristy shares that in her group therapy she saw couples where the addict was dragged to therapy and didn’t want to be there. Kristy references when you shared that you know he hasn’t ever really been sorry. God will come and rescue him, but your husband must be willing to be rescued. God wants you to be happy and have an amazing life for you. It’s not your job to live a life of misery waiting for him. God’s path for you might be divorce and you should remain open to that. Be empowered and find recovery for yourself and follow God’s inspiration for you on your marriage.
Question: Hi thanks so much for all the stories and resources you share on your website! I'm a recovering sex addict. I'm looking for CSAT therapists or any professional that can help me work the steps and help my wife cope with my recovery. Any suggestions? I live in Austin, Texas and I'm willing to do online meetings if needed. Any general guidance would be great.
Answer: Kristy and all of us just think you are amazing that you are revved up for recovery! Way to battle for your heart and your wife’s heart! One general guideline that has helped me with therapy is to talk to the therapist about what they believe they can do to help and what tools they will use. Any therapist worth their salt will be able to give you general guidelines. I experienced this with individual therapy and Kayla and I experienced this with the couple therapist we eventually found as well.
Sherie talked about how the therapist works for you, not the other way around. If there is a personality problem, or lack of progress, or not the right tools then keep looking. If it feels like progress keep going. If it feels like a waste of time, it probably is. Trust your judgment.
James talks about having some different types of resources around you and your wife: group therapy, 12 step, church support, good friends who know your story, family, individual and couples therapy, good books, and more. God will guide you and your wife on your journey and you will feel inspired about the right resources as you seek them out.
I again just want to say the courage that it takes to share your stories and your questions is amazing. I hope we have connected you with resources that can help and that, in our sharing, you know that we are with you. You are not alone and many of us have experienced what you are going through and are with you. Reach out, reach up and remember you are worth it and there is always hope!
Sherie Christensen, MFT
Link to Sherie’s Boundaries Course:
How to find a CSAT (or other) therapist near you:
Groups out of Utah who will do long-distance FaceTime/Skype Sessions:
Video Kayla mentioned:
Our Post on Betrayal Trauma mentioned:
Boundaries book mentioned by Kristy:
Movie Steve & James recommend for men feeling hopeless:
(Heart of Man is available on most streaming services if you don’t want to buy the dvd)