Category Archives: Recovery coaching

Recovery requires the willingness to think differently … which is harder than you think

The process of recovery involves learning to think differently, which is much harder than most people realize. It’s not a matter of simply adding a few select pieces of new information onto what you already know.

That’s easy learning. Hard learning is when you’re forced to learn things that contradict what you already “know.”

It’s true that recovery involves taking in some new information that is easily assimilated, and fits into what you already believe to be true. If that were the bulk of it, recovery would be easy, and most everyone would be successful at it. But much of the learning in recovery forces us to evaluate what we’ve believed or assumed to be true … and it challenges us to re-think those ideas. It frequently challenges us to unlearn things, discarding the lies, distortions, and half-truths we’ve accepted — about ourselves, God, our past, other people, how life works, what makes us happy, etc.

We’re often told that recovery requires us to “trust the process.” This is just is another way of saying that we need to be willing to accept that some of the things we’ve thought (in the past) were stupid, are in fact really wise and important. And we must become willing to accept that some of the things we’ve thought (in the past) were wise and important, are, in fact actually stupid, and dangerous for our well-being.

How do we deal with new and contradictory information?

Does it make you uncomfortable to deal with information that contradicts what you previously thought was true? There are two kinds of people: (a) people who plug their ears to contradictory information, and refuse to change (b) people who are willing to accept the new information — after verifying its accuracy of course — and rethink their position. This is wisdom.

A principle I’ve gleaned from Chinese philosophers like Lao Tzu and Chuang Zhu is that it’s healthy for living things to remain flexible and soft … like a green branch that is able to flex in the blowing wind. When things become old and hard, they become brittle … like a hardened tree branch that is liable to crack and break. That which is alive is soft and flexible, and that which is dead is rigid and brittle. Of course it’s not a perfect analogy, and it’s not the Gospel truth for all occasions, but there’s an important truth there.

There is a fine line between having firm convictions (good), and being rigid and closed to truth (bad). For people in recovery, this mental flexibility is essential. It’s really important to come to grips with the things you need to UN-learn about yourself, your beliefs, your ways of relating. For people in leadership, this mental flexibility is also essential. You have to be willing to learn, to see things in new ways, to challenge your assumptions. Otherwise, you will lose touch with the people around you, and the environment your organization exists in.

John Maynard Keynes once was challenged for altering his position on some economic issue. “When my information changes,” he said, “I change my mind. What do you do?”

What we mean when we talk about addiction – Part 1


Getting clarity about an important – and often misunderstood – issue

What is addiction? In the church, in counseling, and even in the field of recovery, this deceptively simple question gets really confusing really fast.

Susan Cheever, in her wonderful book Desire, has this to say about the challenge of getting clarity about addiction:

“For all the definitions that have been written by the hundreds of addiction specialists and doctors, addiction is still mysterious and baffling. In many cases it’s hard to tell if someone is an addict or just a passionate amateur.”

In order to overcome addiction, we need to have a clear understanding of what it is, exactly. How is a doctor supposed to treat people for illness if she doesn’t know what these illnesses look like?

We dismiss it because we don’t understand it

Related to the confusion about what addiction is — and maybe in part because of that confusion — some people are dismissive of the concept itself. I’ve heard people complain that it’s a modern invention, compared to the (idealized) past, where people seemed to just “deal with” their problems. “If someone drank too much, they just stopped” (did that ever really work?).

Continue reading What we mean when we talk about addiction – Part 1

Personal Update: Where we go from here with and our recovery work

Moving Crew: me with son Alex and nephew Tyler

This year has been time of a major transition for our family. In June of last year, I started pastoring Jacob’s Well Church, a small church in the Chicago area. Jacob’s Well allows me to serve as pastor on a less-than-full-time basis, thus allowing me to continue doing my coaching and recovery teaching.

For the past year, I’ve been leading two weekly coaching groups that “meet” over the phone, as well as a face to face coaching group just for pastors. I also travel to Minnesota and speak at the Sex Addiction Workshop with Mark Laaser of Faithful and True Ministries once a month (most months).

With these transitions, I slowed down the writing I did on this blog ( and transitioned the “Recovery Journey” (a recovery program I established in 2010) to be more of a stand alone program.

For much of this past year, our future has been uncertain. My work at Jacob’s Well was that of a transition pastor, working to help the church decide what to do for its future. As a transition (or interim) specialist, it was quite possible that I would have relocated again sometime in 2012 to work full-time in a different church.

To make a long story short, I have agreed to continue as the pastor of Jacob’s Well church on a long term basis. In doing so, I will continue to work not-quite full time at the church, leaving some space to continue my work with Recovery Remixed.

Another milestone for us is that this year Charlene finished her Master’s in Counseling and Psychotherapy, with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. She has been doing some teaching with me, as well as counseling women and couples … and we anticipate that her counseling load will be growing this year.

It’s not clear all the ways that Recovery Remixed will transition this year, but at this point, several things are clear:

1. I will be re-engaging with the writing I do on the blog. It’s amazing to me to see that even though I’ve only been posting sporadically, we are still maintaining 10,000 visitors a month, and every day new people sign up to receive our newsletter.

2. I will be re-engaging with social media, to continue to get the message out. If you don’t already, I invite you to follow me on Twitter (use button below). I use Twitter as a way to share recovery insights and information (articles, videos, etc.). I’m not chatty. I’m not going to tell you what I ate for dinner, or how I feel about the Minnesota Vikings or the Kardashians. Just recovery, with an emphasis on emotional and spiritual health.

I’m also launching a page on Facebook for Recovery Remixed. It’s going to be a work in progress for a few weeks here, but by all means “like” it, so we can get the party started!

I promise that with Twitter and Facebook, I’m going to be focusing more on recovery in general and not be super sex-specific — we don’t want to get into any NSFW territory, or things that might freak your mother-in-law out if she saw it.

3. I will be re-engaging my email news list, establishing an “Ezine” called “Recovery Remixed Report” that will go out every week. It will be worth your time: a feature article and an update about the ministry of Recovery Remixed. This year I haven’t been doing much with this list, and I want to reengage people with more information. Let me know about anything you’d like to hear more about … any ideas for articles?

Have you signed up for the newsletter yet? If you signed up to get the free book, you’re already on the list … but if not, use the form below:

4. The message I want to extend has clarifiedI want to focus more and more on Recovery in general, not just on sexual struggles, and especially on emotional and spiritual health as the foundation and ongoing work of long term recovery.

I am still convinced – in fact, increasingly so – that the key to ongoing recovery is nothing short of reinventing one’s life in ways that nurture emotional and spiritual health. Without that, our “recovery” efforts, are simply white knuckling it … and they won’t last.

Looking forward to the next season of our work!

Hacking Recovery: what makes 12 Step Programs work, and how to make them work better (part 1)

Many sexual strugglers find help in 12 Step Programs – such as Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous – which adapt the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program to focus on sexual addiction. To be sure, 12 Step groups are not universally praised. Many people fault them for being “too religious” or “too Christian,” while at the same time many Christians reject them because they are “not Christian” enough. I have written other articles about the religion/Christianity issue, and today I want to focus instead on a different question:

Why do 12-Step programs work? What is it about the way these groups function that makes them effective? If we can figure out why AA and the 12 Steps work (what the “active ingredients” are) we might be able to improve them, reconfigure them in ways that work for other people. Continue reading Hacking Recovery: what makes 12 Step Programs work, and how to make them work better (part 1)

Recovery Journey Launches December 6

The Recovery Journey is a new support program for sexual strugglers and their spouses/partners. It builds on the program I developed as a follow up to Men’s Workshops with Faithful and True Ministries (that program was called “90 Days to Sexual Sanity”).

The Recovery Journey offers:

  • more teaching resources (weekly teaching videos, also available in audio format)
  • more ways for participants to network and support one another (through a members-only forum website)
  • separate modules for newcomers to recovery, workshop or treatment alumni, and spouses
  • two large-group live calls per month (will also be recorded so people can listen that way)
  • ability for couples to go through the program together, so spouses can get the help and support they need as well as the sexual strugglers / addicts Continue reading Recovery Journey Launches December 6

“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:

Make a new start with “90 Days to Sexual Sanity”

We’re excited to announce a new program to help people break free from compulsive sexual behavior and live spiritually free, sexually healthy lives! “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” is a program that offers direction and help to start a process of recovery (or re-start one that is drifting). This program is for people who are struggling with sexual behavior – whether or not this struggle is at the level of an addiction – and want to make positive change. Here’s what the program involves:

Daily “90 Days Guide” sent via email each morning

Each day participants will receive an email each day that provides teaching, next step ideas, and a recovery meditation … all designed with help for the sexual struggler in mind.

(1) You’ll get teaching about an important aspect of personal recovery and sexual health.
(2) You’ll get a specific assignment – a tangible action step – that will help you move forward in your recovery. These action steps are designed to be accomplished in a few minutes’ time.
(3) You’ll get a meditation from one of the many excellent meditation books published by Hazelden. The meditation will be specifically selected and targeted for its relevance to recovery from sexual struggles.

The goal of these daily guides is to provide brief reminders about the “how” and “why” of recovery, and to help participants take some tangible action that moves them forward in recovery.

Weekly coaching and support call

Along with the “daily next step” guides, participants in the “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” program will receive a weekly coaching call, facilitated by Mark Brouwer, which will offer a combination of teaching, accountability, and coaching around issues that participants are facing in their recovery.

For those who will be making the call from an office environment – or other place where they are unable to talk freely – opportunities will be available to get a message to the callers via instant message, so you can check in or ask a question without being overheard by someone nearby.

Continue reading Make a new start with “90 Days to Sexual Sanity”

What is Recovery Coaching?

Message in a bottleHere are some helpful distinctions about what recovery coaching is — and isn’t. This list comes from Jana Heckerman, in a recent article from Addiction Professional journal.

What recovery coaching is NOT

Let’s first address what coaching isn’t. It is not:

  • Therapy. Well-trained coaches are very aware of the line between therapy and coaching and are careful to honor that line and refer out to therapists when indicated.
  • A replacement for primary treatment, a 12-Step program, or clinical care.
  • A substitute for or the equivalent of a “sober companion” or “sober coach.”
  • For anyone still actively involved with their substance of choice.
  • About affirmations, positive thinking, or platitudes.

What recovery coaching IS

Now let’s look at what coaching is and how it is useful in the recovery process.

Continue reading What is Recovery Coaching?