Category Archives: Recovery

What about relying on God’s power to help you heal from addiction?

addiction and lightMany of the talks I give are in settings with evangelical Christians, and there is sometimes an unwritten expectation that the solutions offered in these settings should fit a specific schema. If the steps suggested for healing and recovery don’t sound “spiritual” enough, people get nervous. I recently gave a talk, and got the question “What about the power of God? Where is the power of Christ to bring healing in all this?”

I had emphasized the need for people to get into recovery groups with other guys, to get honest, and establish boundaries around sexual behavior (among other things). But to people used to hearing messages where the solution to every problem boils down to more prayer / Bible study / evangelism, this probably sounded a little spiritually weak.

I have great respect for people who are devout, and who seek growth and healing in life from habits that arise out of their faith. But too many Christians make the mistake of seeing God’s work only in the mysterious and subjective. In an email response to the organizers of the event, here is what I said about this issue:

Continue reading What about relying on God’s power to help you heal from addiction?

HOLDING HOPE: a telephone seminar for partners, parents, and friends of people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior

Holding HopeThis February I am offering a four-part telephone seminar for spouses, friends, and parents of people struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors. I keep hearing that more help is needed, not just for sex addicts, but also for the people who love them — the wives, children, parents, and friends in addicts’ lives who are hurt, angry, anxious, and struggling to know how to help. Sexual compulsivity undermines marriages and families like no other addiction, and tragically, most spouses and family members suffer alone. Sex addiction carries its own unique and powerful shame, and many people don’t know where to turn for help and support.

Some specifics about the teleseminar:

Dates: Wednesdays in February (the 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th)

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A profile of 12 step programs for sex addiction

groupIf someone is an alcoholic, and wants to participate in a 12 Step Recovery program, it’s simple … go to AA. If someone wants to find a 12 Step Recovery program for sexual addiction, it’s more complicated. There are a variety of 12 step programs addressing sexual addiction. What follows in an excerpt from an article on the “Christians in Recovery” site (with some slight edits from me, to update errant info):


People often ask why there are so many fellowships and how we differ. The nationwide fellowships originated between 1973 and 1979 in widely separated parts of the country. Each had already begun taking shape before learning of the others. As a result, each developed differently, and most formed separate networks. The differences have much to do with the personalities and needs of the founding members, especially the experience, strength and hope penned by the founders in their pamphlets and texts, often called in the AA tradition our “big books.”

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How to recognize safe people

For people in recovery, one of the most important issues is finding safe, genuinely intimate relationships. Many addicts have built walls of isolation around them, and don’t know where to turn for support and authentic friendship. Obviously, getting involved in recovery groups and finding friendships there is ideal. But even within a group of like-minded, recovering people, some are more likely to be supportive and helpful than others. Discernment is called for.

And what about other relationships, beyond the confines and relative safety of a 12-step or LIFE group? What about old friends, neighbors, or family? Some people have very limited access to recovery groups, and must develop safe and intimate friendships with people who don’t have the shared experience of a recovery journey. How can you discern who to trust? How can you recognize “safe people” who are candidates for genuine friendship?

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Wishing and Fantasizing

Wishing wellAt the workshops I do with Faithful and True Ministries (for people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior), we talk a lot about the role of fantasy. We help people “take every thought captive,” not by trying to shut the thought out and make it go away, but by evaluating it, and trying to learn from it. When we look with sober and compassionate eyes at our fantasies, we find that they reveal hidden longings that often have arisen from unmet needs in our past. And when we learn ways to meet our needs in healthy ways, and work through the pain in our past, our fantasies lose much of their power.

This is true both of sexual and non-sexual fantasy. Many people have money fantasies (about winning the lottery, for example). Or sports fantasies. To this day, I find it hard to listen to certian types of music without fantasizing about being the musician on stage, playing the music I am listening to. These fantasies create scenarios where our desires for attention, esteem, security, and/or a host of other needs get met.

In my work as a coach, I also have come to see that fantasies can often be a barrier to healthy action. The more I fantasize about something, the less mental energy (and physical time) I have to devote to actually doing something about it. If I’m fantasizing about money, chances are I’m not doing the things I should be doing for my financial well-being. If I’m fantasizing about playing an instrument onstage, then I’m not working to develop my skills as a musician in real life.

All of this brings me to an extended, yet elegant, quote from Jim McGregor. Here’s what he says about wishing and fantasizing, and its role in recovery:

Wishing that I were someone else – more famous, wealthier, stronger, more beautiful, or more serene – is destructive to my well-being.

By changing my attitude of wishing and fantasizing to that of acceptance and gratitude, I will no longer be devastated by disappointments and losses.

Being famous, wealthy, strong, beautiful or serene is fine but not required for my well-being.

The reality of the present moment is my starting point. I can choose to let go and allow the growth process to begin, or I can continue to fantasize and stay where I am.

Living the Truth

Ablow book coverKeith Ablow has written a great book about our tendency to minimize, deny, or otherwise try to hide from the pain of our past. It’s a great book for people in recovery, because it encourages people to face the reality of their pain, and therefore to heal from it. Many people get stuck in their recovery, continuing patterns of relapse, because they haven’t dealt with the soul wounds that drive their addiction. In early life, they turned to sex or chemicals or food to help them cope with their pain … and in adulthood, when those old wounds get triggered, they reach for the old solutions.

The book is so good that I’m going to include some quotes here. He opens the book with the following:

“The origins of delf-deception run deep inside us. Continue reading Living the Truth

Addiction and recovery over time

People respond to an addictive substance or behavior because it improves their sense of well-being for a short time. But over time the addiction helps less and less on each occasion of acting out, and one’s overall sense of well-being deteriorates. The forecast for well-being for an addict is always bad. Eventually the peak of a person’s “high” is a worse state of being than when they started the addiction, and the high only staves off the negative effects of withdrawal. David C. Bissette has created the following charts, that illustrate the sense of well-being on the divergent paths of progressive addiction and recovery. Check out this chart: Continue reading Addiction and recovery over time

Disclosure of extra-marital sexual activity to spouses

The topic that generates the most discussion – and anxiety – in our workshops is that of disclosure. Sex addicts who are in relationships need to come clean with their partners, but they are afraid that doing so will cost them the relationship. Knowing this, many addicts disclose the truth of their activities to their partners in stages. We call this “the installment plan” of disclosure, and it’s an exceedingly bad idea. Many wives I talk to are frustrated and confused because their husbands had used the “installment plan,” and they worry that they still don’t have the full story. “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop,” they say. “I always wonder if there’s something more that he’s been holding back from me.”

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