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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Chris/Lee

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

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

- James

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

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

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

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

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

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

"COME!" - Me 

Rob's Recovery Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m alive.”

Betrayal Trauma– Understanding The Wife's Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What creates safety is honesty.”

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

I have two big take a ways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Stumbling Block of Denial

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

1.     Get real and repent - change

2.     Lie to yourself and others - denial

3.     Live in open rebellion against God’s laws

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

Here are a few forms of denial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Motivation: The Truth About Pornography

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

A few things that stuck out to us were:

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

·       They hate men

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

·       90% of them are on drugs

·       Most of them have been sexually abused

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

Where Do I Start?

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

First Things First

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

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

Second

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

Third

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

Mack & Melissa's Recovery Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reach Your Heart, Not Your Mind

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Attachment - Our Need to Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Stuck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve's Recovery Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Derek's Story: Blessings of Being Clean

When I was in the middle of my addiction I didn’t realize what it was costing me. I didn’t think it was affecting my life negatively. I just thought it was something I had to stop doing because God said so. I wished God’s commandments would change or somehow He would make an exception for me. Looking back I can see that my life was negatively affected by my addiction.

-        Insecure. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but rationalized it anyways. I especially rationalized things that were in the grey area, things that “weren’t technically evil”, but I knew would lead me down a wrong path. Because I rationalized this part of my life I began questioning myself in all aspects of my life. With things as simple as saying something wrong in a group of friends or being afraid if I made a mistake at work. Also whenever I would make a decision and try to move forward I would have a ton of doubt associated with that decision and constantly be looking back.

-        Blamed Myself. I knew what I was doing was wrong, so I thought that anything bad that happened was a result of my disobedience. This messed me up pretty good, and definitely led me to have pharisitical tendencies. Even after being clean for years I thought anything bad that happened was associated with my disobedience. I went through a phase where I was super uptight about keeping the commandments. For instance, if I didn’t read my scriptures one day I would assume that that day would be horrible and there was nothing I could do to have a good day. I beat myself up a lot.

-        Time. This one is super practical, but when I was actively fighting against addiction Satan didn’t start out tempting me to do the addiction. He started out small, with things that weren’t technically evil but were even good in other situations. For instance, it would start out with me watching TV or playing video games, then I would get bored, start dabbling in things I shouldn’t then eventually go to things that I was addicted to. For me this process took hours each time I fell. Looking at the situation from a purely practical standpoint, if I would of either worked or hung out with friends instead of repeating this cycle. I would have had way more friends and way more money.

-        Godly Sorrow. I knew I was capable of being better it was sad to me that I failed so often. Especially after thinking I was over my addiction so many times. I definitely had feelings of guilt and knew I needed to change.

When I started to stop my addiction my life “immediately got better” each time. I would notice that things seemed to “magically” get better. I think that there are practical reasons for this (like time mentioned above) but also God does bless us for obedience. A couple things I would notice were getting more sales at work or having more friends.

-        Peace of Mind. Possibly the best thing I got from being clean was peace of mind. I knew I had been forgiven and I wasn’t worried about the judgement of God coming down on me. I also felt more confident that I could fulfill God’s plan for me and now was able to help people come back to him the way I knew he wanted me to. From a practical standpoint it freed up a lot of mental energy I spent worrying that now could be focused on positive productive things.

-        Confidence. It took me years to realize how my addiction hammered in my insecurities and how Satan twisted my addiction to make me blame myself when bad things happened. It took a dramatic life event, after years of being clean, to wake me up from the negative thought processes I had been living in. This is why prevention is always better than redemption, but thank God redemption is always possible.

 I now spend a lot less time worrying about what other people think, less time worrying that I will fail and realize that “the Lord sendeth rain on the just and unjust”. So when bad things happen I now have the confidence to know that all things will work together for the good of them that love and serve God.   Also that I live in mortality a time of being tested and tried, that trial and challenges are part of the plan and no one is exempt.  

-        God’s Plan. I always knew that God wanted me to help lift other people, but during my addiction I wasn’t capable of doing so. My confidence “has waxed strong in front of God” D&C 121:45 knowing that I am worthy to receive inspiration to help others in sometimes dramatic and urgent situations. I’m at peace knowing that my addiction isn’t inhibiting me from fulfilling God’s plan for me.

These are just a few ways that I’ve noticed my life get better after being clean. There is definitely an increased amount of confidence after years of being clean. I’ve felt closer to God, confident I’m where he wants me to be in life and more settled. Life still does have its ups and downs, it’s not like everything automatically goes your way once you decide to be obedient. For instance I’ve been clean for 8 years, and am now in my upper 20’s and am still single. This definitely isn’t what I planned for or intended and it has been challenging for me.

Everybody is different, people experience addiction in different ways, so logically will experience different benefits from being clean. However you are experiencing addiction, no matter how deep in denial you are and no matter how little you think it’s affecting your life. I can promise you without hesitation that your life will indefinitely and undeniably be better when your clean.

In a previous post I shared my addiction story which you can read here (click here).

 

 

How to Have Healthy Connective Sex - Part 3

This is the last segment of our 3-part series with Corey Holmgren (AMFT) on healthy sex. As before, we recommend that you listen to all 3 posts in order; as it’s all one long message. I learned a lot as I walked through this model with Corey, especially about how sex goes WAY beyond just the physical act. As I’ve reflected on my feelings on this subject, I’ve recognized that it does run deeper than just my physical “needs” or urges. I hope this message will help you reflect on your intimacy and give you hope that greater connection lies ahead.

“The opposite of what we see in porn is actually what healthy sex is. We gotta do a complete 180 and I hope that this is what I’ve been able to show.”

“The whole purpose is to create safety and a level of relaxation so that you can create complete connection with each other.”

“Try to listen to each others’ bodies and stay connected.”

“Don’t make orgasm the goal. Just make connection, relaxation, and safety the goal. If that’s it, you are always going to be pleased with the outcome.”

 

Derek's Recovery Story

Where My Addiction Started

I can’t remember the first time I masturbated. It was just something I always did. I believe the first memory I have of masturbating was when I was 5 or so. There were a couple pornographic images that were just around when I was growing up; I never gave much thought to them. I remember being exposed to more graphic porn when I was around 12. I didn’t start actively seeking out porn until I was 13 or 14, around the time my family got our first computer.

The Battle

For me my addiction was always associated with being bored. I would get bored, start watching TV or playing video games, get bored of that, then start dabbling in things I shouldn’t have. I don’t remember the first time I realized that masturbating was wrong. By the time I was a teenager I definitely knew it was wrong and was trying to stop. I always knew porn was wrong and that was relatively easy for me to stop. Masturbating, however, was extremely difficult to stop and I often times wondered if I could stop or if God really even wanted me to stop because it was so difficult.

The battle for me consisted of sheer grit and determination. My strategy was to simply increase my will-power enough to fight temptation the next time it came around (I highly recommend not battling addiction this way). I really didn’t have access to alternative ways of battling addiction, like establishing healthy habits, reaching out for help, or different ways to handle emotional setbacks. I would only talk to church leaders about it after I had gone a while with being clean. I hardly ever had the courage to talk to them while I was struggling.

Throughout my teenage years I would go for long periods of being clean. I believe the longest time period was about a year. I loved being clean and no part of me wanted to slip back into addiction but inevitably I would eventually get super bored, super tempted, and fall again. I just figured I was horny, I didn’t see the link between my unhealthy life style and my actions.

The Victory

I had always wanted to serve a mission. While I was on vacation I talked to someone who told me about how they left to serve a mission, weren’t worthy, came back, repented and left again. I decided that didn’t sound like a good idea. So I got real. I decided no more rationalizing. I was going to get worthy.

My church leaders established that I had to be clean for one year before I could serve a mission. Some people view this as harsh, a little over the top and even somewhat unrealistic. For me the goal of being clean for a year set the expectation that winning was not only possible but it was expected. It was the first time I felt like someone really believed and knew that I could win (because I certainly didn’t believe I could). I will forever be grateful to my church leaders for establishing that expectation. If they would have been more “lenient”, I’m not sure I would have won. I will also be forever grateful to one church leader in particular. He had a young family, and I’m sure plenty of other things on his plate, but he was always there for me, spent a lot of time with me, and helped me much more than he knows.

With the goal of one year of sobriety in mind I found the increased amount of will-power I needed. I eventually left, served my mission, and have been clean ever since! As of right now I have been clean for a little over seven years!

Lessons I Learned

I believe my path to recovery was different than most men in that I didn’t really realize what was contributing to my addiction until years after I was clean. I believe it was only the grace of Jesus Christ that kept me clean until I realized the contributing factors to my addiction. On my mission I was busy doing missionary work, I can only remember one time of being super tempted. When I got home I immediately went to college and also had a hefty workload so I didn’t really have time for my addiction. I can only remember one time during a break between semesters where I was super tempted and could have gone either way. So essentially for years I was “too busy” for my addiction (again I wouldn’t suggest this path for anybody).

I started to notice that the times I was most tempted was right before I went to bed and when I woke up. So gradually over time I established the habit of going to the gym right when I woke up (like out the door in less than ten minutes). This does a few things for me: 1- it helps me be less tempted 2- it helps me wake up (I’m supper groggy in the mornings and life seems hard until I start working out) & 3- it just helps me feel better about life. Then I study the scriptures and go to work. I also read, usually something spiritual, as I fall asleep. This helps stave away temptation. I know I’ve been healed and am not just running away from being bored. I’ve had significant health challenges that have required me to rest a lot. Yet even with that much downtime, I have not fallen.

When I was battling addiction I didn’t understand the link between my daily habits and my addiction, I thought I just had to try harder. Church leaders tried to help by giving me a schedule, and I would have won a lot quicker if I would have listened, but I just didn’t have the faith to believe that it would really help. It wasn’t until years of sobriety that I could see the link between my daily habits, my lifestyle, and my addiction.  

My path to recovery consisted of countless times of being clean and then falling into temptation again. This was super discouraging. I wondered if God even wanted me to win. I know that God wants you to win and He wants to help. He has His arms outstretched to us continually, and He will help us fix what is wrong in our life and become 100% clean and at peace. 

How to Have Healthy Connective Sex - Part 2

In our first part Corey Holmgren (AMFT - Associate Marriage & Family Therapist) set the stage for the beginning of a healthy and connective sexual relationship with our spouse. In the second part of this series, Corey walks us through the Safe Sex Model. If you haven't listened to Part 1 I strongly encourage you to listen to that first. Health sex is such a foreign idea to us sex addicts, but this model blows the doors open! Healthy connective sex is so possible for all of us.  

"Your safety protects your intimacy"

"Your bedroom is the most sacred room in your house, because if you really think about it the most sacred act is going on inside of your bedroom"

 

The Small and Simple Things

The goal of this blog post is to increase your faith that doing small and simple things really will help you win the battle of addiction and make your life better.

  • Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. Alma 37:6

  • Question: Do you believe there is something you can do specifically in the next seven days that would make your personal, family, and business life worse? Okay, next question: Do you honestly believe there is something you can do in the next seven days that would make your personal, family, and business life better? Chances are astronomical that you answered “yes”. -Zig Ziglar

  • It took me a long time to develop the habit of going to the gym in the morning. I’ve always had a hard time waking up in the morning. I would guess it took me about a year of trying and failing to develop the habit. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the times I lay out my workout clothes the night before I almost always end up going to the gym. If I don’t, I have a much higher chance of not making it.

I can’t say that my will power is much different between the times when I wake up with gym clothes laid out versus having to find them, but I definitely have provided conditions in which I’m more likely to succeed.

When battling addiction sometimes we fall into a trap of thinking if I just had more willpower I wouldn’t do this or even worse, I’m just evil and desire bad things. I found that if I paid attention to my circumstances and triggers, I really did have a great degree of control in how much I got tempted.

God knows what you need. We often times know the small and simple things we need to do. It’s just a matter of doing them. Your triggers may be harder to identify. For instance, they could be more emotionally based, such as feeling left out, not listened to, or feeling depressed. God will help you. He wants you to win.

How to Have Healthy Connective Sex - Part 1

A common theme I found in recovery is that I'm not the only one who had a lack of education about positive and fulfilling sex. The more I've searched the more I've discovered most men (and women) don’t get taught anything either. Corey Holmgren (AMFT - Associate Marriage & Family Therapist) from LifeSTAR joins us in a series to talk about how safe, relaxing, and fulfilling our sexual relationship in marriage can be. 

For those of us in addiction this is like, what? All we've learned is what TV, pornography, and those who had a poor sexual education taught us. Corey walks us through these, frankly terrible, ideals we promote in society and how there is a way to really connect with our spouse through sex, beyond physically. 

"It changed our perspective on sex and our enjoyment of sex. We've actually been able to not only turn it into something physical, but something that's emotional, spiritual, and relational. We come together and we become one."  

"[Sex Addicts] really do want something healthy. When a sex addict is trying to engage in sex, what they are trying to do is engage to feel connected. They just don't know how to do it quite yet. They are used to numbing out through sex, not connect through sex."   

"Our attitudes towards sex play such a vital roll into how youre going to be able to open yourself up physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually to your partner."

"It's so fun to see their eyes just light up. Both the recovered addict and the spouse are like, "this is what we were looking for the entire time!"

 

Faith In God's Healing Power: Naaman

When I was struggling to overcome addiction I didn't understand how powerful God is and that if I would listen to him and act He had the power to heal. I found that I was like Naaman. (2 Kings chapter 5)

  •  Naaman had leprosy, which meant certain death - I had a sexual addiction. I always felt guilty and wondered if I was ever going to be able to stop. 

  •  A little maid suggested Namaan go see the prophet - I often missed opportunities because answers came from seemingly minor places. 

  •  A servant of Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and Namaan was wroth - I often times visited with church leaders about my addiction. I never was mad at the advice they gave me, but I didn't have enough faith that their advice would fix my huge problems.

  •  Naaman's servant said if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? - This was certainly part of my problem. I was searching for huge solutions to my huge addiction that I couldn't control, but the solution lay in the small and simple things that God new would help me.  

  •  Naaman finally pulled it together, washed seven times and was healed - When I finally became disciplined enough to do the small and simple things I knew I should, the temptations I experienced became much more manageable. 

Take Away - Only God knows what you need. The solution to your addiction may be prayer, counseling, introducing small changes to your daily habits, or addressing deep emotional wounds. Everybody's path to healing is different, do some honest soul-searching and try your best to act on what you feel God is telling you to do. 

How Do You Win The Battle? Surrender.

Scott Peterson (LCSW, CSAT) (Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist) has over 20 years of experience with sexual addiction recovery. When I asked Scott to do a post with us I asked him to think about it and let me know. He immediately answered, "Surrender". It took me a while to start to understand the principle of surrendering my addiction, but it has made all the difference. . .or you can just keep trying harder. . .

"The paradox of Surrender: When we want to hold on tighter, when we want to exert our selves in terms of how much self-control or will-power we have. . .we in fact have to let go."  

"Vulnerability occurs when we take the two most important risks there are. The first risk is knowing our selves as we really are. There's no pretense, no attempt to deny. As well as allowing others to see us as we really are."  

"We need to make what is implicit inside of us explicit. If we are able to make it explicit it means we are able to do something about it."

"This is the heart of Surrendering, transferring our weaknesses from our hands and placing them in Jesus' hands. The opposite of 'white knuckling' it."  

 "Typically when we say, "I'm going to try harder" what that means is is I'm going to take all the methods I've used with addiction and just do them with greater intensity and greater strength and energy. But it's the same old way. It's the same old way that has not worked in the past and no matter how hard we try it won't work in the present or the future."

Dallin's Recovery Story

When I first met Dallin I never would have guessed he had an addiction in his past, or that he’d been through a divorce. It wasn’t until after a couple of months when I knew him really well that I found out. He’s always positive, really genuine and gets stuff done when it comes to serving Jesus. I wanted to share his story because I think the majority of men can relate. His recover shows us that victory is obtainable for the “normal guy.”

 “I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when (my addiction) started. I was up late watching TV . . . It was soft porn.” Dallin


“at that point my worst fears did come true . . . My wife said, ‘you’re going to go tell your parents and you’re leaving.’” -Dallin

“Well at least we know you’re normal.” -Dallin’s Parents

“Do what’s best for you, if you know it’s not working don’t sit there and try and make it work… if it’s not working try something different.” -Dallin

“Sometimes it takes multiple different try’s and multiple different methods.” -Dallin

“You’re still loved.” -Dallin

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ really does matter, the Atonement really can help with this, the Atonement really can help solve this.” -Dallin

“I am a child of God, no matter how big the sin, He is always there.” -Dallin

Dallin’s story wasn’t a fairy tale story, he eventually got a divorce and took years to become clean. Now he’s engaged, just graduated with a post-graduate degree and is starting a great career. I can’t promise you that everything will automatically get better when you start recovery, but I can promise that God has an individual plan for you to be happy. Don’t give up, even if your plan takes longer than you want it to to unfold.