Working The 12 Steps Is The Best Way To Be Close To God

We have Sidreis, author of the recovery blog By The Light of Grace, here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery with us today. She’s also the creator of LDS Addiction Recovery Blogs. She works the steps–even when she’s grumpy! Welcome Sidreis!!

Sidreis: Even when I’m grumpy! Thanks, I’m happy to be here!

Anne: So Sidreis and I were texting a few days ago and she said, and I quote, “I’m not shiny-happy right now.” 

Sidreis: There’s this added layer of perceived expectations on my part that other’s are expecting me to be shiny-happy. As if they are thinking, because she works recovery (and because of my perceived expectations that they think that recovery looks shiny-happy) I have to be shiny-happy. It’s this back and forth assuming of what other people think. 

Using The Surrender Process In 12 Step

Anne: So pause there for a minute. I often surrender in my program, and the process that I use is this: I write my surrender first, then I pray, then I call my sponsor, then I put it in my box. That’s my process, and I often surrender other people’s perceptions. Actually, my surrender box is my husband’s old sock drawer.

Sidreis: Nice! Does it stink? Were the socks clean or dirty? 

Anne: They were clean before he moved out. It was just this empty drawer and it reminded me of all my sadness and all my pain. So that’s where I put all my surrenders now. And it literally fills up with post-it notes. I look through them occasionally and some of the things I surrendered I don’t even think about anymore! I don’t even worry about them. 

Sidreis: Because you surrendered it to the drawer.

Anne: Well, to God. Like surrendering the world’s perceptions so you don’t have that pressure.

Sidreis: Yes! And then you’re free to be who you want. And sometimes I’m, I’m shiny-happy people! and sometimes I’m not. I’ve been struggling with depression lately. Another added layer of another expectation that tries to push me into the shame thinking of, But you have a good life, and your family is so awesome, and you have recovery, and you have good jobs, and you’re a good member of the church, you have no reason to be depressed, so why are you depressed, you are so awful for being depressed. It’s just like dangit, I can’t get away from it! But recovery has allowed me to voice when I’m depressed. So to people who ask, “How are you doing”, I can say honestly, “Not so good. I’m not feeling real good right now and I have no idea why.” But surrender in recovery also allows me to show that “weakness” if you will and ask for help, because if I don’t show that weakness that disallows me from asking for help. Sometimes asking for help, for me, is literally saying the words, “I need help with this.” But most often it’s just creating the space where I can voice it. Going to group or talking to my support group network and saying, “I’m having a crappy day right now. I’m not shiny-happy people right now.” Group creates a space between us where I can be honest about that and not expect to be judged or fixed. Instead, I can expect to hear, “I’m glad that you’re being honest about where you’re at. That’s what we are wanting to hear.” It’s so validating.

Anne: Absolutely. There are days where I am very down, and then sometimes I realize it’s because I forgot to take my antidepressant medication.

Is It Okay To Take An Anti-Depressant When I Work 12 Step?

Sidreis: Yes! Actually, it’s funny you said that because I recently reduced my own dose. It was a couple of months ago, but last week the spirit was like, Did it ever occur to you that you were doing well back then because of your dosage, and now you’ve cut it? And I’m like, Oh, kay! So I think I’m going to increase the dose and see if that helps, but if it doesn’t, then I move on to the next thing. Maybe I start therapy again, you know, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Anne: You mentioned going to Group helps you, and I know that you work a different program than I do. I work SA Lifeline and you work Healing Through Christ. Our podcast and our Betrayal Trauma Recovery organization specifically promotes SA Lifeline, but we also want to make people aware of other programs that are available. Can you tell us a little bit about Healing Through Christ?

Sidreis: Healing Through Christ is a non-profit foundation that offers recovery material for all those affected by sexual addiction. It originally started as a manual for the family members, and right now we are in the midst of writing a manual for the addict.

Eventually, down the road, we are planning on writing a Healing Through Christ manual that can apply to all circumstances. We have been asked to write a manual that is not so specific to any addiction, but that can be used simply for life! Right now, we have many groups going. It’s LDS focused or Christ focused.

We are just a whole bunch of people who have been affected by sexual addiction–whether it’s a family member or we are struggling ourselves–who are working a very hefty Step 12 to do what we can to pay forward that which has been so graciously given to us by God and by others. We just want to take everything we’ve learned–not just about the skills and basics of the 12 steps–but everything we have learned about emotions, trauma on the family side, what drives the addiction on the addict side, and then pick it apart and surrender it to God so that we can be healed. Because ultimately my view, and I was talking to someone about this last night, my view on recovery from the addict side it’s not about just stopping the acting out. 

It’s so much more than that. Not acting out is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more below that. So many women ruminate on statements like, my husband is not attracted to me, or my husband cheated now what? Ultimately, I want my recovery to feel like this: residing in the presence of the Savior without feeling conflict, being comfortable there, being comfortable with myself enough to be there. Working on that vertical relationship with Him is ultimately what I want. I don’t want to just be sober. I want to be recovered. That’s what recovery is to me–recovered by Him. 

Anne: For those of you who don’t know Sidreis, she is a Betrayal Trauma survivor working recovery to heal from Betrayal Trauma. She is also an addict herself. She’s working through sexual addiction. Sorry to push you out of the closet there, Sidreis.

What Does It Mean To Work My Own Program?

Sidreis: No, it’s totally fine. I don’t talk about the Betrayal Trauma part of my journey as much as I do about my own addiction, because my recovery has been about me.

Anne: That is what we focus on in Betrayal Trauma recovery: not worrying about what our spouse is doing, not trying to control them. We do that through learning the tools of boundaries, surrendering, self-care, and forgiveness and trust. How did you discover the 12 steps, Sedreis? What was your rock bottom?

Sidreis: It’s funny that you say that because in my group we recently went over the step in the Healing Through Christ material that we have written on sobriety and what that looks like. It talks about “rock bottom” and whether it’s required or not required. There’s one phrase that says, “Rock bottom is the point at which the pain of the problem finally begins to outweigh the pain of the solution.”

The pain of my addiction, the shame, the secrecy, feeling disgusting, hating myself, that pain finally outweighed the pain of the solution which is, Oh my gosh I have to tell my secret? What are people going to think of me? I have to talk to my bishop. That’s terrifying, so scary. And so for me, I didn’t have a big crashing rock bottom where I got caught in some big lie or act or anything like that. It was a tipping of the scales, like a teeter-totter.

It finally just tipped so that the pain of my problem finally outweighed the pain of my solution. And I had decided at that point I cannot survive like this anymore. So I was like here it goes! We talk a lot about how in recovery we’re finding our tribe. I found my tribe there. And that first day I went I thought, I’m never not coming again. And I think really I’ve only missed a handful of meetings due to severe illness, vacation, or having babies.

Anne: That’s a good reason to miss a meeting. Having a baby. Absolutely. My rock bottom was my husband’s arrest. 

Sidreis: Yeah, that’ll do it.

Anne: That was it for me. I thought I cannot do this anymore. I do not know how to do this, I do not know what to do, I just can’t do it. But I think it’s interesting that some people don’t maybe need a rock bottom, or maybe, I don’t know. The rock bottom thing is interesting to me. Sometimes I worry, Was that my rock bottom? Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it’s going to get worse, I don’t know! That was a really bad time.

Whether or not it was my rock bottom or not I don’t know. But it was a really bad time that brought me to the steps. Brought ME to the steps instead of focusing on my husband doing the steps. So what would you say to someone who’s hesitant about attending a meeting?

Sidreis: Me, too. I’ve been there. Every single person that has attended a meeting has been hesitant about attending a meeting. And every single person who has attended a meeting continues to be hesitant about attending meetings for a while. Because it’s not like we walk in one meeting and come out shiny-happy people. We actually might even come out worse for wear because all of the sudden we have the space to feel the emotions that we’ve been stuffing for so long. And then to leave that place that’s safe–that meeting–we’re like, Oh crap, I’ve got to put them back in! What do I do with them? They won’t stop coming.

And so yeah, it’s scary and it’s painful, but at the same time it’s cathartic and so healing. We’re starting to process all that pain. It’s purging out of us. It’s coming out of us. So we’re processing it and we’re putting it in the hands of safe people that have struggled just as we have struggled and it’s scary. But we have this one thing called trust, and we have to get to a point where we can trust the process. I remember when I first started recovery I just felt really lost and thought, How long is this going to take? I was freaking out. I felt like I was crazy all the time.

My sponsor (who actually wasn’t my sponsor at the time), took me by the shoulders and she kind of shook me and said, “You give me a year. You give me a year and I will send you back to your family a completely different person.” And I thought, Well, I don’t have anything else left but to trust her. I have nothing left cause I have tried everything on my own. I have to trust her. That’s what we have to do. We have to go in, and even if we want to gag because everybody is happy, we have to trust that. We have to trust that we can get to that point. We can pray for tolerance for the happiness in that meeting even though we my want to punch people because they’re so happy.

Anne: So when I started going to meetings, there was literally a four month period where I would cry every time. I was working the steps, I was calling my sponsor everyday, and I was like, I hope this works! Because it does not seem to be working right now. Right? I was like it does not seem to be working. Then suddenly, I came out of this dark fog. It was really bizarre, and I was happy, and I looked back and I thought, It totally was working. It was completely working it’s just I had to have faith, I had to keep doing it.

And I think a lot of people get to that very difficult phase of recovery where they think, Is this really working? I had a friend who recently decided to push pause on her recovery. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I was very worried when I received the text. I wonder if she’s in this fog phase where she’s questioning if it’s really working when she works it. I don’t know. She’s having a faith crisis a little bit, and I hope that she comes back. We will always be here for her when she is. I just think that’s normal for everyone. Continuing to work the steps is the solution for that fog phase. It’s like with church attendance. If you feel, I don’t like this, that’s not when you stop, that’s when you keep going.

How Do I Get Through Recovery Rough Patches?

Sidreis: Two things come to mind when you say we hit these “rough patches.” 1.) During a recent rough patch the spirit whispered to me, “This is what faith looks like.” Faith isn’t really in existence when we are doing well because we don’t have to rely on faith. 

Faith is something to store up for when we need it. It’s in those darker moments when faith is put to the test. That’s when we rely on that supply that we have. 2.) I have this recovery app on my phone that brrrrings at 9 o’clock every morning. It says, “You’ve been sober ______ days.” Sometimes it has recovery sayings with it.

A fews days ago, a recovery saying popped up that read, “Although I’m feeling lost, I’d rather feel lost on the right path then lost on the wrong path.” It was the very next day that I got my church recommend signed so I could attend our temple (a sacred place of worship). I haven’t had one for a few months, and I knew that even though I’m feeling lost and I’m feeling depressed and I’m feeling low, I’m still on the right path. I’m not doing anything that would jeopardize myself in any way physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

I’m persevering right now. Dr. Skinner once said, referring and speaking specifically to wives, “We wake up in the morning and say, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t do it, I can’t do it.’ But then we do it.” I’m sitting here right now getting goosebumps. Every time I say that I think, YES! We do! That’s what resilience is. We are resilient people. God made us resilient. I just love that. Even though we say we can’t, we do. We do it anyway. I am 100% at surviving life. I have survived life 100%. So I think that is pretty helpful.

Anne: Me, too. That’s good, I like that. When things got really, really bad I would say, “A good day is when no one dies.”

Sidreis: Yes, yes, yes! 

Anne: No one has died today, so it was fine. In working the steps on a daily basis I have come to think of the 12 steps not as steps, but as principles. I remember when I first attended meetings I thought, Am I really going to have to do this my whole life? Nobody thinks that about going to church, right? 

Sidreis: Sometimes they do.

Anne: Maybe they do. In my mind, there will never be a time when I don’t  have to go to church anymore. There’s never that time. And so I think of church as the “what.” I attend church, I have faith in christ. I remember to be honest, be kind, serve your neighbor, you know, etc. The “what.” And then when I go to group I see it as my weekly “how.”

So I go to group and I do the “how” of the gospel and the 12 steps are those principles in action. It’s how to apply the principles so I actually take action. I’m actually living them. I’ve found a lot of addicts, my own addict for example, that know exactly what to say. My husband always said the right thing. His words were exactly what I wanted to hear, or what other people wanted to hear, but the application was not there. The doing.

And that’s where the 12 steps come in. Can you talk to our listeners about how you work the steps in your daily life?

How Do I Work The 12 Steps?

Sidreis: So it’s funny because back when I started recovery there would be people in group that could rattle off the 12 Steps. A story would be told and they’d say, “Oh that’s totally a Step 9,” or “That’s totally a Step 12,” and I’d think, What the freak are you talking about? I was so overwhelmed. So when I started recovery I wanted to memorize the 12 Steps. I did it by associating each Step with one word to describe it.

For example, Step 1: honesty, Step 2: hope, Step 3: trust, etc. That’s all I needed. It didn’t take long to get that down, but eventually learning the 12 steps led to this beautiful thing. I started to see the steps everywhere. EVERYWHERE. In everybody around me, in me, in my interactions with other people. I saw them as opportunities. If something happens, I’d think, Hey I get to be powerless right now, I have no control over it, that’s Step 1. Hey, I have this memory of something I did or said to someone back in my childhood and because I just saw them pop up on Facebook as a suggested friend well, ok, here’s an opportunity to work a Step 8 and 9 to make amends to them.

And I’ve done that a number of times. I’ve searched for people that I’ve remembered. Here I am praying and seeking personal revelation, that’s a Step 11 in action. I feel like when we initially work the 12 steps we do work them in order and for good reason. But once we have worked them and we adopt them into our daily lives, when people ask me, “What step are you working on?” I say all of them because I really am working on all of them all at the same time. And it’s beautiful because I don’t just work the 12 Steps now, I live them. They are part of me, they are my life. So all of them. There’s your answer.

The Atonement and the 12 Steps

Anne: That’s awesome! Well, it’s the “how”. It’s how to apply gospel, God-given principles in our lives. 

Sidreis: They are often called “The Atonement for Dummies.” We just don’t get it, but it’s so easily broken up.

Anne: Well, I love in church when you’re in Sunday School and people say, “So how can we invite Christ into our lives?” People raise their hands and they always say, “Read the scriptures, pray, and go to church.” I’m going to start saying, “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4…” I mean it would take me a while. I’m sure they’d think, When is she going to get done saying step step step.

That is the “how.” And the “how” includes reading our scriptures. It includes prayer. It includes attending the temple. It includes these things, but there’s also these very real, tangible things that we can see, that we can do that will bring us closer to Christ.

Sidreis: To invite Christ is to invite love. Christ is love. And how do you do that? By connecting with group members and sharing your story and listening to their story. So that is inviting Christ into my life: it’s sharing my darkness with others at meetings. Getting Christ into our lives doesn’t have to look shiny-happy. Honestly admitting where we are isn’t always pretty. It’s not. So that to me is inviting Christ in. It’s beautiful.

Do The 12 Steps Have To Be Worked In Order?

Anne: I do encourage people, in their the first year of recovery, to definitely work the steps in order. I think that’s really important. Because knowing your life is unmanageable and feeling that honesty and humility and everything that comes with really being able to admit that helps you naturally move forward.

For example, Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 bring you to a real place of humility and change in order to actually be able to do steps 8 and 9 with a humble heart. Before my rock bottom I thought “I worked recovery.” I thought I was working it because I was “working” step 12, but I had never done Step 6 and 7, like really, actually done them. I had just prayed and asked God to remove some things. For me, it’s just cyclical.

You have to develop at least some level of honesty and some level of humility. Before working the steps I think I was pretty honest for what I understood at the time, but now I feel I’m a lot more honest. And I was not humble. For sure. I was super, super prideful. And now I laugh at myself cause I say I am so proud of my humility now. 

Sidreis: That’s funny. I’m proud of it, too. 

Anne: I definitely think, Whoa, I didn’t even know what humility was and now I really feel it. You have to establish those basic levels of humility, of honesty, of trust, and they have to be pretty high basic levels and then once those basic levels have been established then they will continue to grow over time. But I think that first time is all about building a strong foundation.

Sidreis: Absolutely, yes, yes, yes! Well, and you think, Oh I’ve got this. I’ve had people come into group and be like, “Oh Step 8 and 9 I can do that.” And they are brand new to group and they are going out and apologizing to everybody and everything they’ve done. And those people are like, “How dare you ask for my forgiveness when I haven’t even seen any change in you.” You know? So yeah, there is definitely a reason to do it in order.

It benefits us and it benefits everyone around us as well. I’m totally going to go back and do another Step 4 and 5. I’m finding that there are some people coming back on my list. I want to take time to be very thoughtful and prayerful about it. It’s peeling an onion. So if we get to a layer of onion that’s especially aromatic, I want to peel that one slowly and carefully. We work with Heavenly Father and say, “Heavenly Father, for my Step 4 and 5 please bring to remembrance those things that will benefit my recovery so that I can give them to you.”

Or for 6 and 7 I ask, “What character weaknesses are getting in my way of our relationship right now? Please bring them to the forefront of my mind so I can ask you to turn them into strengths, and so that I can recognize them and work on them and refine them.” The first time we do 8 and 9 our list will not be 100% complete because I feel like we only put people on our list who are going to benefit from it. Some people we are not supposed to contact at that time, so later on more people will come to mind. And we do the steps again.

Is There A Time-Table For The Steps?

Anne: It’s interesting how 8 and 9 are in the Lord’s time. You can work them, but you have to have patience and humility. Whereas with the other steps you can ask God for help and move forward in them. It takes work, and you can do that work. But 8 and 9 are almost asking for God’s grace in His time.

Sidreis: We have to allow Him time to prepare those at the other end, too. Ultimately it’s not just about, “Oh I said sorry.” It’s not about that. It’s about each other’s healing. Optimal healing on both parts. And sometimes that’s the ideal. We hope that hearts will heal, but that doesn’t’ necessarily mean we have to trust people again or even be friends with them. It’s about not having hate, resentment, and anger towards them anymore. We can wish them well and mean it.

Anne: Genuinely feel that charity towards them. Well thank you for coming on today, Sidreis.

Sidreis: I’m happy to be here.

Anon: You’re awesome. You can find Sidreis at and more at 

How Betrayal Trauma Feels To Me

Today we have a woman in recovery for betrayal trauma talking about what betrayal trauma feels like to her. She also shares some tools she uses when the trauma is triggered.

What Does Betrayal Trauma Look Like?

Guest: Today I kind of wanted to talk about what betrayal feels like for me. I had never heard about betrayal trauma before. When I first found my husband’s addiction three years ago I obviously went deep into betrayal trauma, but I didn’t have a word for it. For me it just felt like anger, first of all, a lot of intense anger. I had never been a “swearer” before but when I am in trauma mode I turn into a sailor and swear a lot.

A lot of anger, a lot of guilt–that’s what it felt like for me. When I first came across this feeling after my D-Day I tried to cope with the situation by freezing. I just froze. I did nothing. Many women find out how to check cookies or focus on why their husband is always angry and irritable. I pretended that everything was hunky-dory, completely ignoring the fact that my husband betrayed me. I lived in freeze mode for a good two years.

During that time I had another baby, and along with that I had some anxiety attacks that I really think were worse because of the trauma I was in. With my other kids I had never experienced anxiety attacks. I always got postpartum depression, but I’d never had those anxiety attacks and so I went on medication for those, and then just a bunch of different mental health problems. I feel now that I’m in good recovery I can look back and say I think that part of my mental health was due to the trauma that I was not dealing with, and did not know how to deal with at the time.

So I experienced anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. When I’m in trauma mode I cannot sleep at all. It is so hard for me to fall asleep. And my brain just thinks and thinks and thinks and thinks and it’s really hard for me to shut it off. I can remember the first time I really heard about betrayal trauma it was when I first started attending the SA Lifeline Groups. And I remember they were using all these words like boundaries, triggers and betrayal trauma and I thought, “what is this foreign language? I don’t know what they are talking about!”

But as I learned more about it, I realized I needed help, that all this anger and the guilt and the anxiety wasn’t me just going crazy, because that’s really what I thought. And I think when I’m in trauma a lot of times I get in that mindset of ‘oh my gosh, I’m crazy. I am a psycho person and no one else is crazy like this!’

But the more I learned about betrayal trauma the more I realized that I’m not alone in these symptoms and these feelings and that there is a way to get help–which is awesome! And it actually reminds me of in the SAL script that we read, each time. Near the beginning it says “Without spiritual help, living with, or having lived with, a sex addict is too much for most of us. We become nervous, irritable, and unreasonable; our thinking becomes confused, and our perspective distorted.” And that just kind of describes how I feel when I’m in trauma mode. Just irritable, unreasonable, confused, with a distorted perspective. And I love that we get to read that weekly in our meetings to kind of remind us how that feels, and then we can go on and talk about how we can overcome that. 

Using 12 Steps To Help With Betrayal Trauma

Now that I have been in recovery, I’ve been in good recovery for about 10 months now actually. It kind of changes the betrayal trauma. I mean I definitely still get in that trauma mode, but now I find more often than not I’m able to recognize it more quickly. I used to go weeks without realizing I was in trauma mode.

The more into recovery I go the more able I am to recognize sooner that I am in trauma mode and then I’m able to kind of track back the days or the hours and pinpoint what the trigger was that started that. And as I go back through it I am able to see the steps I need to take whether it’s a surrender, whether it’s a boundary I haven’t been holding, so that I can get out of that trauma mode. I really think that one of the most healthy coping mechanisms that I have learned from SA Lifeline is surrendering. Before I started coming to SA Lifeline I didn’t know much about surrendering. I had read Rhyll Croshaw’s book “What Can I Do About Me” and she talked about surrendering and I really liked it, but until I went to the group and was able to talk to women about how they surrender and those steps that you take I didn’t really understand it.

But the more that I have used that process that I’m able to write down those things that have triggered me or have set off trauma mode and I can surrender them to my Higher Power and to my sponsor or other support person and put them in my surrender box or burn them, as the case may be, however I’m feeling, then that is one of the healthiest coping mechanisms I have found for getting out of that trauma mode and not going back into that freeze.

Because that is my go to coping mechanism–I just go back to freeze mode where I bottle up my emotions, especially negative ones, and I stop being open and vulnerable and just start in that cycle of anger and fear and anxiety that is my trauma mode. 

Betrayal Trauma Is Like PTSD

The thing that surprised me about betrayal trauma is how close it is to post traumatic stress disorder. I actually watched a class by Dr. Andrew Skinner specifically on this topic, on Bloom for Women, and he discussed that people who have been betrayed by someone close to them, like a spouse, actually have almost all the symptoms of someone who has been in combat and has post traumatic stress disorder.

And he talked a lot about how when you are in that trauma mode you either go into fight or flight or freeze mode. That’s why you get the emotions that you do, like the anger and the anxiety attacks for me where my heart beats faster and it’s like my body is preparing me for battle or to run away, or to play dead, I don’t know. 

Learning about that, and connecting those ideas, was really amazing to me that it really is something that not only affects us mentally, but affects us physically as well. It affects me physically so that was another good resource that I found on recovering from betrayal trauma and learning about it. But honestly I think that the number one thing for me is still just attending the group meetings. This last week I was in trauma mode again for a bit.

I started off a day and I was just feeling that anger, that uncontrollable need to punch something, and I recognized that for what it was and I thought, ok, I’m starting into trauma mode, what has happened? And I was able to backtrack my day and realize that I had had an interaction with my sister and it had made me come to the realization that maybe the relationship I had with her was not as healthy as I thought and it had kind of spun me into this trauma mode where what I really needed to do was surrender that and kind of grieve the relationship

I thought I had had with her so that I could surrender that and kind of move on. Set some boundaries in that relationship so that I won’t be spiraling back into trauma mode. So really going to group is what keyed me into that situation and I think I honestly can say that if I did not attend weekly SA Lifeline meetings I would be in trauma mode a lot. It really is going to those meetings, reading through the scripts, doing my step work that helps me be able to live in a healthy way and stay out of trauma mode, and I am so grateful for that! 

How To Be Centered When Your Husband Is A Sex Addict

A Sexual Addict Can Exhibit Narcissistic Traits That Create Chaos

Most people when they think about a supportive wife, think about what she is doing to help her husband. In most of the discussion about this, therapists or others are trying to help women learn to cope with the fact that their pornography addicted husband is in their center.

What I love about SALifeline, is that it provides the solution to this problem. Instead of just learning to cope with the problem, I have learned through grounding techniques to get my addict husband out of my center and to get God in my center.

For the first ten months, I didn’t even know what this meant. I knew I needed to get my husband who had emotionally abused me, physically intimidated me, and cheated on me, out of my center, but I didn’t know how and I didn’t even know what it meant. So many women go through this process. Trying to figure out what to do after your husband cheats is confusing and traumatic. 

I put my faith in the process and started to work on recovering, not even knowing exactly what that would look like or where it would lead me.

Often I would call my sponsor in tears, in trauma, in so much emotional pain, and my sponsor would say, “I can tell that you have your husband in your center today. What can you do to get God back in your center?” Sometimes, I would pray and pray and pray and pray, and feel like I got nowhere.

But I kept working my recovery. Hoping that in my humility, God would help me understand what it meant to have God in my center, rather than my husband. Because dealing with an unfaithful husband takes so much energy, it often removes us from the love of God. If we are focused on learning how to check cookies, sorting through our husband’s lies, wondering why our husband is always angry and irritable, we don’t have time to feel God’s love for us and use our relationship with God to solve our problems.

If you’ve listened to this podcast since I started, you’ll remember many episodes where you could hear my pain. Where I cried. Where I sounded so sad and hopeless – I can tell you that during those moments, my husband was in my center – not God. I knew that, but I didn’t know how to get my husband out. So I just kept working the steps.

To Get Centered, You Must Take Action

Now I look back, and realize that God replaced my husband as my center as a result of working the steps – but I really can’t tell you exactly how that happened. I just know that now I know what it means. Now I can say that God is in my center rather than my husband. And I feel so much more peace!

Some of you may hear this and think – well, that’s the answer, I just need to put God in my center. But I can tell you that’s not how it works. You must work the Steps and God will move into your center. Just deciding to put God in your center, does not do anything. And if you think you have God in your center, like I thought I did one year ago, after working the steps for a year, you will realize in humility that you didn’t know what you were talking about a year ago.

Working the Steps is inviting God into your life to change you, really change you from the inside out. He does this in His own way, in his own time. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how He does it. But I do know that The Steps made it possible. That setting boundaries, focusing on my own recovery, somehow invited God into my life in a way that He could actually change me.

So I invite you all today to stop thinking about the WHAT. Stop thinking about what you need to do, and go to an SALifeline meeting and start learning HOW to do it. Until you start doing it, you won’t know how to do it.

You have to do it to learn how to do it.

Thanks to all the amazing women who are in recovery who have shown me HOW. Thanks to my sponsor who has led me through her own example to have a deeper, actually useful relationship with God.

And thanks to God, Himself. I haven’t said that yet, but I need to now. Thank you God for changing me. I don’t know how You did it, but I am starting to see it and I’m so grateful. You are amazing, and I don’t understand how You work, but I know it’s You. Thank you for leading me to start this podcast to tell other women that they can – without money and without price – learn HOW to become friends with you – a real, true, helpful friendship.

And thanks to God for making this all available to us, so He can bless our lives with peace and serenity.

How Boundaries Keep You Safe From More Heart Wrenching Trauma

Today we have Dr. Adam Moore, owner and clinical director of Utah Valley Counseling, creator of, and a co-founder of We’ll talk about each of these organizations, but many of you know Dr. Moore from Utah Valley Counseling, which specializes in treating women with Betrayal Trauma. Welcome Adam.

Adam: Thank you very much, happy to be here. 

Anne: Adam, since many listeners might be here for the first time, they can hear my story from the podcast. I produce this podcast to share my story and let other women know that they are not alone in their pain and their trauma, and that there is a path to healing.

I am on that path to recovery as a survivor of domestic violence, the wife of a pornography addict, and the path is working! God is really working in my life! Other women also share their betrayal trauma recovery stories here on this podcast.  Now that the new listeners are up to speed, tell us a little bit about you, Dr. Moore.  You run Utah Valley Counseling . . . 

Adam: My wife and I own Utah Valley Counseling. We have two offices in Utah County, and we have seven therapists that work for us. I’m also full time at Brigham Young University as an administrator there.

We also have other side projects like and our newest endeavor, if you will, is this non-profit called Sending Light which I’m really really excited about. So yes, I have a lot going on in my life. But I can’t sleep at night unless I’ve done something meaningful, so that’s how I sleep.

Is There a Way to Heal From Betrayal Trauma?

Anne: Your therapy practice focuses on pornography addiction recovery and treating women with betrayal trauma. In your opinion, what keeps women stuck in that trauma?

Adam: Part of the “stuckness” comes from living with the person who is continually traumatizing them, a person who is not changing. For example, a pornography or a sex addict who is really not in recovery, and continues to do the same types of behaviors; not only the behaviors of sexually acting out, but things that addicts often do: blaming, controlling, the manipulating, gaslighting, and often even abuse depending on the person.

Because of this, it is extremely difficult to work through trauma when you are in the middle of trauma. For most women there has to be a stopping point which either is going to come from the other person making some behavior changes, or more likely when she starts setting up some boundaries for herself. That’s when the healing really can begin. 

Anne: That’s what I found in my life. I was doing public speaking about this topic. I thought my husband was in recovery. I was just spinning my wheels and I didn’t even know it.  Which is part of why I’m doing this podcast as restitution as my Step 8 and 9 for my ignorance. For me the trauma affected me with anxiety, trying to control the situation, depression, obsession.  How do you think it’s affecting other women across the world in similar ways?  What do you see in your office?

Adam: It affects women really differently based on so many factors, things like: their own temperament and personality, probably genetics, their life experiences. But what we’re seeing in our office is women who are experiencing legitimate trauma. So the flashbacks, the nightmares, the panic attacks, all those types of things.

Only in the last few years is this becoming more obvious in the public eye, and we still have a lot of work to do. Some people still don’t really believe this is real, they think women are overreacting, or they are just being dramatic. But for women who are experiencing it, it is extremely real; it is as real as getting in a car accident and breaking all your limbs. So, not only is there all of the pain that’s happening with traumatic things recurring in the relationship, but I think an additional issue is then when they reach out to other people they are being dismissed and they’re being told that they are making a big deal out of nothing.

That really compounds the traumatic experience. You know, I don’t know which one is more traumatic, the experience of being betrayed, being lied to, being manipulated in your own marriage, or then reaching out for help and having people tell you that you’re crazy.

Anne: That is exactly what happened with me. My husband wasn’t changing, but he knew all the right words to say. It was like I had gone crazy. People didn’t believe me and it was fascinating to be in that situation when I had watched other women go through it for years but I had never been “that woman.” Here I was going through that experience that I’d heard about, and that was the most traumatizing part–going for help, screaming and yelling saying “I need help!” and having people just look at me and say, “Well stop asking him questions. Stop making such a ruckus.” It was so awful.

Adam: One of the really sad things is that there are therapists out there who say, “I treat this, I treat addiction, I treat trauma,” but they are participating in some of that. I’ve heard terrifying things about therapy sessions where therapists are telling the wives, you know you just really need to stop worrying about this, and it’s not that big of a deal. These are clinicians who are supposed to be helping. So, you know and I don’t like throwing therapists under the bus because everybody is trying and they are doing the best they can, but that is just part of the systemic problem.

What Is Adam Moore’s Non-Profit Sending Light About?

Anne: You are one of the co-founders of Sending Light, your new non-profit. Tell us about that: how it started, what it does, and how it helps women who are experiencing the same types of things I experienced. 

Adam: The woman in charge of the Lightkeepers Instagram account held a retreat last April. As part of that retreat, the women that were involved got together and started talking about how we can do more to help women in trauma because of their husband’s sexual acting out behaviors. She had shared an idea with these women about providing care packages specifically for women in trauma, but doing it through community and religious leaders.

This way, you’re not only helping women, but also educating the leaders and others who are often the first line of support for women, so that they understand better what they are really dealing with. Last month she and some of these women got together and had an evening of putting together these boxes. They actually made 107 boxes. 

Anne: Wow. Yes listeners, there are 107 women out there in trauma, times 70!

Adam: Yes, plus a million. They experienced a lot of healing themselves and were able to physically do something. Making these boxes and writing notes they knew would possibly affect other women, and their families, and that really sparked an idea for doing something larger. Interestingly enough, around that same time my wife, who runs our business with me, started feeling strongly about something similar.

We knew what the Lightkeepers had done and so we reached out to her and said, hey, is there anything we can do together with our pooled resources? Pretty quickly we decided to join forces and form this non-profit. When we did that, we realized something really important–that is that no single person can have the impact that many people combined can have.

The idea began to transform a little bit and we wanted to offer help and support through what we call “Light Boxes” to women all over who are struggling not only with addiction, and relational or betrayal trauma, but also other traumatic life events like infertility, pregnancy loss, mental illness, suicide in the family, so many of the things that are painful to deal with especially when women feel alone. 

Now people who are participating and joining with, us with Sending Light, become “lightkeepers” and they are getting involved in something that none of us on our own could accomplish, but together there are amazing things that can be done. We are already starting to see some really cool things happening.

You asked the question, “how can this help women who are experiencing trauma?” I think there are a number of things this can do for women. First of all, if you receive a light box the first thing they are going to recognize is– “I am not alone. Not only am I not the only one struggling with this but someone out there cares about me. Even if they don’t know me, they care about my experience enough that they would put this package together.” And as part of the box, as mentioned above, there is a handwritten note.

Our goal is to have women writing notes who have experienced something similar. For example, if we were to do a box event around the concept of abuse or domestic violence, then the women who are going to create the boxes, and who are going to write these notes to go in the boxes will be other women who have experienced the domestic violence themselves, or the abuse themselves. Then the note really comes across as both sincere, caring, knowing and understanding. So that’s a big deal.

The boxes will also have some self-care items to help give women permission to take care of themselves while they are in the middle of their pain, which sometimes is not the first thing that comes into their minds. They are often trying to figure out how to fix everybody else or fix the situation or control the situation.

We received a thank you email recently from one of the women who received one of the boxes and she sent a picture of herself opening the box and she said “Thank you, you have no idea how much this helps me to not feel alone. I am so grateful and I’m excited to be a part of being a light keeper.” So not only did she receive help, but she immediately then said what can I do to help other women, and that really is our primary goal is to help women turn around and offer support to other women. It’s a big deal.

Anne: It is a big deal! In my situation because our story was so known, even church members didn’t know what to do because they thought, “I don’t want to pick sides.” With me, I felt like my husband had died – he was gone. He had abused me and betrayed me and then he was gone, and didn’t do anything to try and change or resolve the situation – which felt like another betrayal. And I felt so alone. My three children and I were abandoned.

With a death, you would get meals and support and love. But in my situation, my relief society secretary said, “We don’t want to take sides, so there’s nothing we can do for you.” I had no visitors. No meals. Then I waited for months, alone, working my steps and focusing on my own recovery. Eventually, my husband decided to file for divorce.

Adam: And for most women something like this actually feels worse than a death because it is not a concrete loss because the person is still there and oftentimes there is this hope that maybe he’ll change, maybe he’ll figure things out, maybe he will ‘come back from the dead,’ if you will. 

Pauline Boss is a researcher on loss and she calls this ‘ambiguous loss.’ It’s similar to a chronic illness where the person is dying but is still with you, so you don’t really know when to start grieving because there’s no event that triggers the grieving process. Because people can’t see that they don’t know when, if, or even how they are supposed to come in and start offering support, or whether it’s appropriate, or whether you deserve it, or whatever they’re thinking.

Anne: Well in a lot of cases they don’t know. This is not something you announce to the whole neighborhood. I do because that’s my personality, but most women don’t. They are not in the situation to be able to do that. Usually don’t want their neighbors to know that their husband was just arrested, like mine was. So if there are listeners right now listening and they think ‘I want a box, that would really help me feel less isolated right now.’ How can they get one?

Adam: I hope we can get one to them. There are two ways that women can receive boxes for themselves. The first is to participate in one of our box making events. These are local, in person, events right now happening in Utah. We’ll have some in Southern California, and we hope to expand those to all over, wherever there are women who are willing to host and participate. At the box making events typically we will have a relatively small number of women so we’ve got one coming up on Oct 15–it is limited to 12 women and they’ll make about 50 boxes.

After they’ve made a box, then each woman gets to take one of the boxes home with her which she can either keep for herself, or she can actually gift it to another person that she knows personally, or pass it along to someone through another channel that she knows really needs the support. Then Sending Light as an organization will send the remainder of the boxes created at the event to women, usually through community or religious resources.

We have the gatekeepers who know the needs of the community and have the support so they can pass those out. We want to do this in a way that we’re not just throwing boxes out there to whomever, we want to do this in a way that we’re getting it into the hands of the right people, through trusted channels. We are very cautious about that.

The second way is to participate in one of our ‘give one get one campaigns.’ The way this works is that the person would come to our website, go to the donate tab on the main menu–if they donate $50 during that campaign they will receive one box for themselves. Again, they can either keep it or give it to another person. In addition, we will send out another box to a stranger, someone who is in need.

But the biggest part of how our mission works is that we really want women to be focused on participating in getting boxes into the hands of other women. We believe that there’s something much more special that happens when women participate in creating a box, write a note, and make some of the items that go into the boxes, and getting them into the hands of someone who is hurting. There is so much healing that occurs in that process. We are hoping that women will be both interested in receiving support through having boxes themselves, but maybe more importantly getting them into the hands of other women.

Anne: I also love that you make education part of these boxes. Like I said, in my experience the church leaders didn’t really understand what was going on. They were doing the best that they could. I was further traumatized by the experience that I had and although I feel healed now, and I’ve forgiven them, it was such a traumatizing time–it makes me love that you are sending the boxes through those church leaders and pastors and at the same time they are receiving education about how they can actually help the woman in trauma, keep her safe, and perhaps help her husband through educating them about sexual addiction at the same time which is paramount.

Adam: Right, absolutely. And the very fact that this community or religious leader is getting a handful of boxes is indicative of the fact that there’s something else they could be offering or doing that they are just not aware of. So we’ll immediately come in and provide that education for them so that they understand trauma.

Unless you are educated about trauma you don’t know anything about it. We want to provide that education. In the packages, in the white boxes themselves, there are also educational materials. We want to educate women who are receiving them because not everyone who gets a box will have any idea that they actually in trauma. Some women are still in that space where they are thinking, ‘maybe I’m just crazy, maybe I’m just being mean, I’m not being forgiving enough.’ We want for these women, as they open this box, not only to receive support and care; but we also want them to receive education so that they understand that what is happening to them is real, it’s real pain, it’s something they deserve to be able to talk about and to receive help for.

Anne: In addition to receiving a box, which is very healing, what, in your opinion, should women do first when they realize their husband is betraying them, or that they may be experiencing emotional abuse as a result of their husband’s pornography or sex addiction? 

Why Should I Attend a 12 Step Meeting for Betrayal Trauma?

Adam: I think one of the most important first steps is to find and participate in a healing community. Too often women try to get better on their own. Either because they think that they are supposed to get better on their own, that their not supposed to ask for help, or they don’t deserve to ask for help. Women will say, other people have problems that are worse than mine, they have other things to be worrying about in their lives, I can’t be adding one more thing to their plate. It’s important that women find a healing community, and one of the places that I think is so important for women to go, as far as a healing community goes, is to a 12 step recovery group. A lot of times women don’t understand that 12 step is not just, for instance a sex addict, or in other cases a drug addict, but there are meetings for the affected partners or family members so that they can get grounded themselves and learn how best to respond to sometimes really crazy behavior at home. The groups that I really like, that we send probably the vast majority of our therapy clients to are the SA Lifeline groups here in Utah County. Actually we have people that we’ve spoken to all over the country and will often say, hey get on, go to an SA Lifeline online meeting. 

The reason I like the SALifeline groups so much is because first of all, there are a lot of very healthy people in the groups. There are a lot of people who are not only going to 12 step but are getting therapy, and so they are getting help on two ends of things. When they go to group they’re saying things that are healthy, so I trust when I send a new person, who is brand new to the process into the group, there’s going to be 5 or 6 women in the group who have been at this for a while, who know what they are doing, who are very safe. That really helps! The other thing that I really like about SA Lifeline is that it really feels like a family for people, so they’re not just going to a meeting, but it’s almost like going home for a lot of people. Sometimes the safest place in their world is those 12 step meetings; and not every 12 step meeting is safe. It’s possible that there could be toxic people who could show up to those meetings, but with SA Lifeline I feel extremely confident about where things are for them because of the type of the women who are currently showing up to the meetings.

Anne: If I miss my SALifeline meeting, I feel it. I talk with my sponsor and I do a surrender almost every day. I think that’s why I’m doing so well. I’m feeling peace, I’m feeling happiness, and as my regular listeners know, this whole podcast is about me working the 12 steps with my sponsor. It has been life-changing for me. So apart from 12 step SAL Betrayal Trauma groups, what else would you recommend? 

What Is The Importance Of Receiving Qualified Therapy When Healing From Betrayal Trauma?

Adam: Two other really important things: first would be learning about boundaries and learning how to set boundaries. Boundaries are one of the most complicated and confusing things initially for women. Once you understand boundaries it’s a lot easier to do them but initially they really are hard for people to wrap their heads around because it’s not how people do normal life. Partly because women feel like if I do a boundary it must mean I’m being selfish, but boundaries are really for self preservation. Setting boundaries is actually the most compassionate and caring thing you can do for another person; what you’re saying is ‘I’d like you to grow with me.’ When you don’t set boundaries with people, when you enable them you are kind of saying to the person, hey, I’m totally fine with you never growing up or getting better, I’m just going to let you flounder around.

The other things is, depending on the situation, often women really need to seek professional help. Because the truth, the sad truth, is even the most well meaning people out there, moms and dads, and church leaders and friends who are trying to provide support and offer recommendations on what people should do, no matter how well meaning they are, can sometimes give really terrible advice because they’re just sort of shooting from the hip with no training or experience, so I typically recommend you look for support, get help, but check that with your 12 step sponsor, check that with the recovery literature, check that with your professional therapist so you can make sure you have a well-rounded set of pieces of advice or information to help you make better decisions. If you only have one person you are going to and they’re not trained, you may be getting really terrible advice, and that’s just really sad when that happens.

Anne: Yeah, especially when a sex addict is looking for help. The person they’re going to advice for is an addict themselves, or an abuser themselves, and they end up in the same cycle that they’ve have been in for a long time. I did a whole podcast episode on your article Defining And Enforcing Boundaries that is an amazing document and I was really grateful to be able to go over that with my listeners. For me boundaries has been the most important part, well I can’t say most important part, they’re all really important! Had I not kept the boundary of the Do Not Contact order so that I could seek healing for myself, had I not gone to 12 step, had I not had a qualified therapist I would be having a hard time right now. But because I had these resources and I worked the program I am feeling much better and I’m really grateful for that. I think that before I said, “Well, ‘I’m in recovery’ I’ll figure out boundaries later.” Now I know there is no recovery without boundaries. And there is no recovery, for me, without 12-step, and also without qualified therapy. I’m really grateful, Dr. Moore, to know you, and know that your practice is one of the practices that I would trust to send someone to that knows what they are talking about. If you do not live near a qualified therapist, or you’re wondering where you could get therapy you could contact Dr. Moore at Utah Valley Counseling.

Adam: I will often receive phone calls, emails, from people all over the United States and sometimes even from outside the country– people asking for help and support, access to resources, women often saying things like ‘I can’t find a therapist I feel confident about.’ So I developed the website to be able to offer some educational resources for people at a low cost so that they can get the same information we teach about in our therapy sessions through online resources. Normally we can’t provide therapy across state lines for various legal and ethical reasons. It’s not a substitute for therapy, but it is another resource that’s available to people.

Anne: If you would like to visit that site, that’s 

Anne: I think a lot of women in trauma don’t like surprises anymore, you know, so this is kind of fun that it’s a fun surprise that they know they don’t have to be afraid of.

Adam: This is a fun safe surprise.

Anne: That’s great. Go to Sending Light to get a box for yourself or to send one to someone else that offer is available to you until Oct 10. I’d like to thank all my listeners. You are amazing.

Sending you love. I know that we’re going through a lot right now, and just know that I love you and that I care. Thank you again Dr. Moore.