Category Archives: 90 Days to Sexual Sanity

Learning to Trust Others Helps us Recover from Addiction

Recovery is as much about developing new skills and intimacy in relationships as it is about developing and maintaining new boundaries around our sexual behavior. One of the abilities we need to develop if we want to build healthy relationships is trust. We need to develop our capacity for trust, and the wisdom to discern who is – and is not – trustworthy.

Look back on the last couple months. Are you trusting others more? Sometimes experiences from our past make it hard for us to Continue reading Learning to Trust Others Helps us Recover from Addiction

How addiction wrecks relationships

Addiction is like a tornado that leaves behind a path of destruction. It not only damages our lives as addicts, it also takes a tremendous toll on the people around us. Sex addiction in particular wrecks relationships (especially families). It creates sadness, anger, confusion, and a host of varied reactions from people who care about you.

Friends and family may resent us for Continue reading How addiction wrecks relationships

Why step two is complicated for Christians in recovery

In the Twelve Step program, step two is: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

In step one, we admit that we are powerless over addictive sexual behavior and our lives have become unmanageable. We learn that we’re not evil, rotten people, but loved by God and others, in spite of our faults. We don’t have to be alone – isolated from authentic relationships – any longer. By ourselves, we are unable to overcome the power of our dependence on sexual behavior. In essence, Step one is about admitting that we need outside help.

As old-timers in 12 step programs say, step two is about learning to see addiction is a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution. This point is tricky for people who have a background in Christian teaching to understand. On the one hand, it seems to be an obvious reinforcement of the essence of the message we hear Sunday after Sunday: our problems have spiritual solutions … we need to turn to God for help.

The important question here is: “who is this ‘God’ we are turning to for help, and how do we expect to receive that help?”

The genius of the 12 step movement is also the thing that causes many Christians to view it with suspicion: the vague nature of how the Steps speak about God. This makes Christians nervous, because we want to be sure that we’re focusing on the God of the Bible.

But I have come to believe that many Christian people carry around in their heads ideas about God that have been filtered and distorted by their unprocessed abuse and abandonment, and further complicated by spiritually messed-up spiritual teaching they received during their formative years. Various views about who God is and how we relate to him can sound very “biblically-correct” but contradict other clear teaching in the Bible about God, and be very damaging to our souls.

The founders and early participants of the 12 step recovery movement recognized that overcoming addiction is tied to a spiritual awakening. But they also understood that nobody comes into recovery with a blank spiritual slate.

Some people have very little spiritual interest or experience prior to recovery, and so recovery involves embracing a faith they never had.

Other people come into the program with ideas about God that are distorted and childish. For them, the “spiritual awakening of recovery” involves a shift in their understanding and experience of faith, not moving from no-faith to faith. This is usually a process, it doesn’t happen overnight.

In my life, recovery has taught me to appreciate more fully that God’s grace in its various forms comes into my life through other people (I Peter 4:10). I have come to suspect any supposed spiritual insights that don’t get validation and reinforcement from the circle of trusted friends in my life. I also have come to suspect the validity and power of spiritual movements that move people away from honest interaction with others and into isolation and subjective spiritual experiences.

I mention this because it might help you understand that “coming to believe that God can restore us to sanity” is a lot less simple and a lot more profound than it first might appear. I invite you — and encourage you — to really reflect on this step, and talk about it with other recovery friends. What keeps the people I work with from an authentic Christian experience of life with God — and from recovery — is not irreligion … it’s bad religion.

* Note: this is an excerpt from the teaching in one of the days installments of the 90 Days to Sexual Sanity program. You can learn more about this program here.

“90 Days to Sexual Sanity” now available as a home study program

NOTE: this program has been updated to what is now called: The Recovery Journey. The Recovery Journey is very similar to the “90 Days” program, but it includes video as well as audio, and lasts longer (for the same price as the 90 Days program!). The links will take you to the Recovery Journey page.

After years of working with people in recovery from sexual addiction, I have developed a program to help people make a new start in their recovery. Originally, this program was developed as a follow-up experience for people who go through our men’s workshops, but I have come to see that it’s also helpful for many people who want to make a new start in working on their sexual issues.

Each week you’ll get “daily guides” that contain meditations, teaching, and action steps to take each day that week. These guides average 35 pages per week (formatted to be readable on computer screen as well as printed out). The idea is to be doing some work every day towards recovery.

Along with the daily guides, each week you’ll get an hour-long audio seminar on a recovery topic. You’ll get the audio recording of the teaching session, along with the “action guide” (outline and space for notes). These audio seminars are usually recordings from teleseminars I’ve done, and include topics like:

  • “What is relapse and how to prevent it”
  • “How to find a local recovery group that fits your needs.”
  • “The spiritual questions and challenges of recovery”
  • “What spouses and parents need to know about sexual struggle”

To learn more – and/or to purchase this program … go to the new program website:

http://recoveryjourney.com

Facing denial in recovery from sex addiction

Denial is a refusal to admit the obvious. Denial is at work when you minimize, rationalize, justify, or blame. When you were in your addictive behavior, you may have denied your addiction by telling yourself things like: “I am no different than any other man (or woman) — everyone does this.” or “If I was addicted to sex I wouldn’t be able to control myself the way I do … I can go for long stretches without looking at porn (or going to a strip club, etc.) It’s not like I’m doing this all the time.” or the most common: “I just have a stronger sex drive than other people.”

Another form of denial is “forgetting” how often we engage in certain behaviors. We can practice selective memory when the truth is too painful to admit. For instance, a person might think he or she masturbates once or twice a week, when in reality they are masturbating every day.

A subtle form of minimizing often surfaces when people are first telling me their stories. As they start talking about their sexual acting out, they will include lists of things that they have not done. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to spend more time listing the things they’ve never done than the actual things they have done. The reason for this is obvious: by placing the focus on the things they have NOT done, they can feel a certain reassurance that they are not such bad people. It’s a way of letting ourselves feel better about avoiding certain behaviors … and not having to face the reality of the damaging things we HAVE done. I am especially sensitive to this because I remember how much I used to do it myself.

Continue reading Facing denial in recovery from sex addiction

Let go of worry

Very little of what we fear actually happens, which means that most of our fears cause us to worry unnecessarily. Doesn’t it make sense to learn how to better cope with fear?

I love the saying. “If you can’t do anything about it, why worry? And if you can do something about it, why worry?” This has helped me deal with many struggles in the past years of recovery.

So many of the things I worry about are things I can’t do anything to change anyway. So why not just let go of the worry, and deal with problems if – and only if – they come up? I think it was Mark Twain who said: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

On the other hand, if there are things I can do about a given situation, nothing will help ease the anxiety I have more effectively than taking action. It’s hard to worry when you’re taking action about something. This is not to suggest that we take action for action’s sake, or that we charge forward without thinking or planning ahead. The point is, if there are steps (or courses of action) we can take to deal with a situation that is causing us worry, stop worrying and do them!

If you can’t do anything about it, why worry? And if you can do something about it, why worry?

The following strategies can help, but of course, if you fear for your safety, get help right away:

  • Accept that fear is a normal and temporary way of feeling
  • Face your fears each day without resorting to addictive behavior to numb your feelings
  • Remind yourself that worrying about things you can’t control is a waste of time
  • Hand your fears over to God
  • Use the serenity prayer to let go of stress and worry
  • Keep working the steps of recovery, especially when your motivation is low
  • Spend time in fun, sober activities to take your mind off your problems

New email and phone coaching program to start April 7

We’re getting ready to launch a new group of the “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” program. The new program will start on Tuesday, April 7, with an email being sent out that morning, and our first call that afternoon. Click here for more information about how the “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” program works.

The program offers daily teaching about recovery that includes a suggested task for the day … designed with the goal of deepening our understanding of addiction and recovery, as well as getting a daily reminder of our commitment to this new way of living. In addition, the program involves a weekly coaching call, which gives you an opportunity to talk about any issue related to your recovery, and get the insights and encouragement of a trained recovery coach (that’s me), and feedback from a group of peers.

For the program starting April 7, the weekly coaching calls will be held on Tuesday afternoons at 4pm, Central Standard Time.

Some people are hesitant to enroll in a program that involves phone coaching, because they have little experience with having meaningful conversation on the phone. Let me just say this: if you try it (phone coaching), and follow recommended guidelines to help you focus your attention, you will be very surprised at how effective it is. Check out this article about recent research on telephone counseling, or this quick run-down on doing work over the phone.

How addiction hurts relationships

Addictions wreck relationships. Addictions lead people to lie, steal from, and neglect the people they love. Sex addiction creates a unique havoc in marriages, because it strikes at the heart of the marriage commitment to sexual fidelity. But it doesn’t end there. Our addiction ultimately affects all the relationships in our lives. It creates sadness, anger, confusion, and a host of varied reactions from people who care about us.

When the truth about our behavior surfaces – and it always eventually does – friends and family will likely resent us for the hurt our addiction caused them. Sometimes mixed in with that anger are feelings of sadness and worry that they may have been in some way responsible for our addiction.

Spouses sometimes take on the belief that if they were more attractive, attentive, or available that they could have kept us from doing what we did. Sometimes we as addicts believe this too, and this blame-shifting is part of our denial. Many men I work with carry a secret reservoir of resentment towards their wives, mistakenly thinking that if their wives were more sexually available, they wouldn’t have such a hard time controlling their sexual urges. But the reality is that no spouse is capable of meeting the needs of a sex addict. There is not enough sex to satisfy someone who is using sex to cope with the pain, stress, and/or boredom of life. Even so, sex addiction is unique in the devastation it creates in the marital relationship.

Friends and family can heal during our recovery, just as we heal. Each person must concentrate on his or her own issues while learning how to detach with love. There are groups and therapists that offer support for spouses of sex addicts.

What makes sex addiction especially toxic for families is the wall of secrecy that is usually built around the addiction. Since sex is so personal, and fear of other people finding out about our struggles so overwhelming, many couples try to go about recovery while living in a bubble of secrecy and shame. Children, extended family, and friends experience various forms of suffering because of the addiction, and are often left in the dark about what is really going on.

Sometimes it’s necessary to withhold the truth of our addiction from people who were affected by it, because they can’t be trusted to handle the information. Discussions about how far to extend the circle of disclosure are ongoing and complex, especially during the early years of recovery. But even if we decide not to disclose the truth of our addiction to family and friends, we must honest with ourselves about the level of damage we have brought into these peoples’ lives.

Our addiction touches all the people in our lives, whether we realize it or not. It causes us to neglect people we should be attentive to, to isolate ourselves, to be withdrawn or cranky, and sometimes to sexualize people and situations that should not be sexualized. Our awareness of this damage will grow over time, and we must be careful not to drift into shame and self-hatred when it does. Our shame dissipates as we keep working our recovery, and as we make amends to the people we have harmed in whatever ways are appropriate.