At Unashamed Unafraid we know that women go through a lot. The Heart of a Woman Retreat can be a powerful tool to help women heal. This year we decided to give back in our small way by sponsoring one woman to go on the retreat this year. Find out how below! Heart of a Woman is a retreat produced by women for women. It is a three-day event starting on a Thursday and ending on a Saturday. It is held in Wanship, Utah (near Park City, Utah). The retreat is unlike anything you have ever experienced. Melanie started the Heart of a Woman retreat in 2010. It is the women’s version of the Warrior Heart Retreat for men. Melanie brought Lindsay and Becky on with her to discuss how their betrayal trauma affects their relationship with God, what the retreat is/isn’t, what to expect, and why it is different from therapy or a vacation.
“Looking back, I wish I had gone two years prior. I kind of mourn a little bit about not going sooner.” - Becky
“What I did not know coming in was that my relationship with Him [Heavenly Father] needed to be healed in order for me to give Him my heart to allow Him to heal me.” - Lindsay
(TS 13:45 - 15:45) Both Becky and Lindsay share a common theme of betrayal trauma from being married to husbands who are in recovery from addiction to pornography. They both said that the men in their lives hurt them and they could not be trusted. Although they have different stories both were left after these life experiences feeling like they couldn’t trust God either. (TS 23:50 - 24:30)
(TS 25:17 - 26:20) How did you come to realize that your relationship was broken with God?
Lindsay remembers talking with James about the frustrations and hurt and telling him about the anger she was feeling towards God. It wasn’t until the retreat that she realized just how broken her relationship with God was. (TS 26:40 - 28:00) Becky saw people who were at peace and it did not matter how many meetings she attended, how many people she talked to, or how many therapy sessions she went to, she could not find peace. She realized she was using distractions and stuff to fill the hole in her heart but did not feel at peace.
(TS 30:45 - 33:00) Why does this event work for someone trying to come out of betrayal trauma?
“Betrayal trauma is one of Satan’s big tools that he uses to hurt women and he tells us that we will not be loved and we will never be enough.” - Becky
This retreat explains Satan’s tactics and shows all women that there is someone who will fight for them! God loves you right now, right where you are. He will fight for you with His whole heart! NO MATTER WHAT! This is what changed Becky and her recovery.
(TS 34:00 - 41:00) Why do I have to come to the retreat?
The presentations (10 sessions) set up the opportunity for the women to ask really vulnerable and intimate questions of themselves and to God in personal reflection. It is something that you cannot recreate on your own. The retreat is a very relaxed setting and is for each person to get what they were supposed to get from God. There is no pressure for a woman to share her story. It is not a therapy session. It is a time for women to get away from the routine of their lives and reconnect to their Father in Heaven. It is also a time for them to get pampered and not worry about everything at home. It is a place where women can truly mourn with those who mourn and to give other women permission to mourn.
(TS 41:30 - 48:00) What keeps women from coming up?
Lindsay said it well when she stated that everything boils down to fear. They are afraid of feeling inadequate and not accepted. They don’t want to be alone in just another place. The awesome thing is, they are not alone from about two minutes after getting to the retreat. They also might be afraid that God is waiting for them. There might also be some apprehension that the women will come back and change religions or feel pressure to radically change but that is not the case. This retreat only enhances the belief in God and gives them ammunition to fight the adversary’s lies. Also, it might be scary but the retreat is not weird. (TS 60:00 - 62:00) - The retreat is not about anyone else but the person attending. There should be no expectations and no pressure.
(TS 62:05 - 67:00) Where do we go from here?
Information for the retreats:
Dates: October 10 - 12 (Thursday 10:00 am - Saturday 6:30 pm)
Registration starts at 10:00 am on Thursday
Signup @: theheartofawoman.net, Facebook: theheartofawoman, Instagram: theheartofawoman.
There are cabins and yurts - Accommodations are comfortable and you are not roughing it.
Delicious meals, flushing toilets, showers, and bunk beds.
Use the code “unashamed” at checkout for a $50 discount!
Here is what you have to do for a chance to attend the Heart of a Woman Retreat for FREE:
Like us on Facebook (unashamedunafraid)
Tag 5 people in our Instagram Post (unashamedunafraid)
Email James at email@example.com and tell us in one paragraph why you are the one who should be chosen.
If this message has inspired you and you know that others can benefit from this, please pay it forward and share!
How much courage does it take to send us an open question like this? I want to commend our anonymous question submitter for such great courage! Your question is likely a question many have. We hope this helps and we want you to know that you are also helping others by submitting your question.
In this episode we address a question which is centered around resentment. Resentment is a stumbling block in recovery we all have to face. But it isn’t insurmountable. It can be overcome. Steve, James and his wife Kristy talk about their personal experiences with and opinions about resentment, forgiveness, self-compassion, validation, and more. If you have an anonymous question, please submit it here.
The Question: I came across your podcast on Spotify recently and binge-listened to all of your podcast episodes at work. I loved them so much and I appreciate the mission you’re seeking to accomplish through this forum by helping people feel unashamed about addiction recovery and unafraid to let Christ take the pain for us.
I am a single 20-year-old man living in Utah and I have struggled with porn addiction since I was 10 years old. When I was 17 I went through rigorous recovery efforts so I could be worthy to be an LDS missionary and succeeded (I left for the mission field in May of 2018), but had to return home early after 2 months because of the severe anxiety and depression I had not fully healed from in my addiction recovery efforts. It absolutely crushed me to come home early and many of my friends didn’t know how to help me during this difficult time. My loneliness hit an all time high, and my depression became even more extreme during the next 6 months of being home. Consequently I’ve fallen heavily back into porn addiction, and I am going through addiction recovery again. It feels like a whole new ballgame compared to when I last went through rigorous addiction recovery efforts.
A big driving factor I have for my addiction is resentment towards everyone around me - for the mistakes my parents made raising me, for my friends who have left me behind and hanging out to dry, and to almost anyone around me who doesn’t notice how lonely and depressed I am, despite them professing to be followers of Christ and pledging to help all those in need. Struggling with porn addiction, along with anxiety/depression is an incredibly lonely path, and I easily get resentful towards those around me who don’t recognize how to help me. My question is, how can I let go of that resentment? My biggest fear about being honest and completely open about my addiction recovery is that I risk getting hurt more by people around me, thus giving me even more “reason” to have resentment towards those around me. But this resentment is really holding me back in my recovery, and I want to heal. What would you suggest to someone in my situation?
I look forward to hearing back from you, thanks for all the amazing work you’re doing. I am convinced that it was God’s hand in my life to happen upon this forum.
Answer: First, we want to validate that you are likely not getting the help you need from friends, family, and your church community. You probably are getting shamed for coming home early from your mission and other cultural boxes you haven’t checked. The reason why friends and others in your life likely aren’t showing up for you is they lack the capacity to do so. They probably just don’t know how to help you and show up in the way you need. However, that doesn’t mean your pain is less real or less relevant. Have self-compassion for the difficulty you are going through. This needs to be acknowledged. Todd Olson, Steve’s therapist, says, “It happened, it hurt, and it mattered”.
Holding onto resentment is like withholding forgiveness and it only hurts you. Having resentment toward your friends isn’t hurting your friends, it’s hurting you. You can move through your resentment and heal with God whether those around you change or not. James had to challenge his resentment with consistent forgiveness again and again and over time the resentment slowly faded. Becoming free of resentment is not like a light switch. A book that helped James overcome resentment was Viktor Frankl’s “Man's Search for Meaning”.
“The antidote to fear is faith, the antidote to anger is love, and the cure for resentment is acceptance of what happened in the past.” - Kristy
The glue that is securing your resentment in place is your need for validation from these people. As Lecrae said in his book, “If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die by their rejection”. God is the only person who can validate the wounds that have formed into resentment. Even if your friends, family, and church members come and validate you it won’t be enough to change your addiction, depression, or anxiety.
We suggest these steps (Basically step 8 of the 12 steps):
Write it down. What hurt, what happened, and how it affected you.
Self Inventory. What could you have done differently? Have you made any mistakes in the process? Anything you can change that is contributing to the problem?
“Forgiveness is to abandon all hope of a better past.”
Usually, when we have hard feelings towards someone else, we have those same hard feelings towards ourselves. If you are like most of the addicts we know you don’t have self-compassion, but self-loathing and self-contempt. It would be worth an honest conversation with Christ about why you might be resentful with yourself. Do you want to kick this conversation off to a big start? Come to the Warrior Heart Retreat. Taking things like this are what this retreat is all about. God will show up. We invite you to come. You expressed worrying about getting hurt more if you reach out. Pray and ask for God to put people in your life that will be safe for you to be vulnerable with and seek God’s guidance on this. He will put people in your life who are safe and can support you (So come to the retreat!). There is no neutral. You will have community and influences around you no matter what. And if you don’t proactively choose your community then the adversary will. James talks about regretting that there were good men in his life that would have supported him (and he could have supported) if he would have just reached out.
Resentment is hard. Also, it is usually a secondary emotion. One part of resentment may be tied to being “right”. Usually, resentment is not about resentment but something deeper that is hurting you that you likely have some fear around. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed? Maybe you don’t feel like you're enough? Or you feel unworthy of love and belonging?
We know you have been wounded and it matters. You are worthy and you are enough. Go to God to get validated on these wounds and don’t wait for the people in your life to come to you. Your past and life experiences have painted a picture of who God is that is not true. Reach out to him for validation. We hope this was helpful and we know you have helped others with your courage so we thank you!
“I thought if I showed people what I wanted them to see in me, they would deny that I was a child molester. Plus, I did not think of myself as one. I was in denial. The best thing that could have ever happened to me was to be on the front page of the newspaper and I am grateful it did. How many people can say that about their addictions?”
At UnashamedUnafraid we know this is a very sensitive and tough situation to be talking about. You may have a very visceral reaction to listening to this podcast. We hope you walk away considering just how far-reaching Christ’s atonement really is and know that no matter who you are or what you’ve done there is always hope for healing and redemption.
Paul lives in a small town. If you have ever been part of a small town community, you know that everyone knows everything about each other; whether they want it known or not. Paul grew up going to church with his parents on Sundays and it appeared that his life was full of good Christian values. He went to Bible School, and did all the “right things”. He did not realize that his life was not a life in Christ.
Paul was first exposed to pornography in elementary school but it did not take over his life until years later. Like most teenagers, he felt that he was not enough and less than everyone around him. While in college, he met his first wife. She was not religious and he soon found himself going to church only sporadically and started questioning whether or not he believed in God. Paul had an affair before his first anniversary. His wife ended up leaving him and their daughter for one of her co-workers, ending his first marriage. During this time, he earned a degree in teaching and landed a job as a high school teacher.
Reeling from his divorce, Paul met Bev at the high school where he worked. She would talk with him about how wonderful God was and how much she needed Him in her life. Soon Paul realized that God was missing from his life, he started attending church and he fell in love and married Bev.
Bev had a daughter who was in Jr. High and Paul chose to start molesting her. He tried to cover up his actions by telling her that he might have been asleep or did not know what he was doing. Paul told Bev about the incident and painted himself as an innocent person. He continued to justify his predatory behavior by lying to himself that his stepdaughter was just a rebellious kid. Paul worked hard at a dual life to make sure he looked like a great teacher, pious churchgoer, and solid community member to cover up his actions.
At this point, Paul began to spend hours downloading porn, fueling his lust. He was the girls soccer coach for the Jr. High and High School team and he would travel with the girls. Paul would make sure everyone knew he would get off the bus while the girls were changing to cover up his dual life and feed his justification and denial.
Paul’s stepdaughter reported him to the police but it was her word against his, which made it difficult for the police to prosecute him. Despite his stepdaughter coming forward, Paul found he was very good at deflecting the truth about himself by telling people his stepdaughter was making a lot of bad choices in her life. Later, when Paul molested a girl from the soccer team and she reported him there was enough evidence to bring charges against Paul which led to his arrest in 2000.
Six months into his prison sentence Paul was ready to truly start on a path of trusting God. His first step was being honest. He called Bev and told the truth about everything for the first time. He wrote letters to everyone he knew, confessing to his actions and his lies. Along with honesty, he also wanted to be accountable. Paul decided to call his step-daughter and told her he wanted to own the truth of the abuse. He told her that he wanted to be accountable and honest with everyone about what had happened. He had Bev on that phone call because he wanted his stepdaughter to know he wasn’t lying and manipulating any more and truly wanted accountability. This was the start of Paul’s recovery.
Upon being released from prison Paul tried to reintegrate into the town’s churches and they shunned him. He eventually found a pastor that would allow him into their congregation. Soon, the head pastor asked him to share his story and he agreed, after which, Paul was expecting to be shunned from this church too. Instead, Paul was approached by a guy who hosted a 12-step recovery group and Paul decided to go. He attended regularly and found hope, healing, and change in his life.
A major part of Paul’s recovery and healing is the relationship with his step-daughter. Paul remains accountable and open with his step-daughter. Over the course of many years, she has found healing from Paul’s abuse and has forgiven Paul. Fast forward 14 years to today, Paul has an active relationship with his stepdaughter and her family.
Paul has found healing through the acceptance of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice. He describes his recovery as one day at a time and one grace moment with God to the next. With his stepdaughter's and Bev’s support, he continues to share his journey of hope and healing with everyone he meets. He teaches in a prison ministry and co-hosts the Mess It Up Podcast as the “Bow Tie Guy” where they “turn your mess into a message”. Paul said, “The best thing that could have ever happened to me was to be on the front page of the newspaper” because it exposed the lies he had been living for years and started him on the road to recovery.
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)
Wild at Heart Retreats Mentioned:
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.
Dave’s Recovery Resource Recommendations:
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
Loving Utah Pastor Network
Standing Together Pastor Network
Find a 12-Step Meeting
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!
“ 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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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’.”
“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.”
“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
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.”
“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.”
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.”