He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

What Does Recovery Mode Mean?

Forest Benedict is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual treatment provider. As the clinical director of an outpatient sexual treatment program in Central Valley California and the program manager of the Sexual Treatment Provider Program at MidAmerican Nazarene University.

If Your Husband Tells You He’s “In Recovery” What Does That Mean?

Forest: What really brought me to do this work, like many people who get into this field, was that I was raised in a pretty difficult upbringing with an alcoholic father and had some difficult traumas. Even though I was raised to be religious, I found pornography at a young age and became addicted. I led a double life throughout my teen years. It wasn’t until I was about 24 years old that I decided I really needed to take my recovery seriously.

Thankfully it was before I was married. I got into treatment. I took full responsibility for my recovery and felt led to do this work.

What Is Recovery?

Anne: Forest, in your experience, why is it essential for partners to look for visible changes in their addict husband’s life instead of trusting the verbal promises of changes that addicts often profess? My ex would often say things like, “I have a plan…” but I never saw a plan.

Forest: I think it’s essential because so many wives of addicts have been lied to for so many years. There has been so much secrecy that once the addiction is discovered, the addict usually really believes they are going to change and they want to change. But I tell people, even in intake, that words mean nothing at this point. This has already been proven based on the past. An unhealthy and unsafe situation has been created because of words and so ACTION IS EVERYTHING–action that is not a performance, along with an attitude change.

What Does Recovery Mean?

The biggest attitude change is humility. They exhibit a willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process, and acknowledge the trauma they have caused. They get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything. There are different attitude changes such as learning to be patient with their wife. I talk about how the addict gets this burden off themselves and they feel this huge relief but then the wife carries it from then on. So they need to be patient with their wife as she adjusts to the truth that she has been a victim of lies and abuse for years. This is another attitude change that a partner could see happening. Unless there are visible signs, there is no foundation to know that a change is happening. Words don’t make a foundation. Only actions create a foundation for real recovery.

Anne: Yes. If you say, “You need an attitude change…” and they say, “My attitude is changed!!” …that’s a red flag. Because you would feel it if he’d changed and you wouldn’t think he needed one.

Forest: Exactly. The defensiveness and pride, the need to be right and not willing to listen are signs he’s not in recovery.

Anne: In my ex’s case, I asked him to send me a list of some of the things he thought were my character defects when I was working on Step 4. But I asked him to write my therapist to ensure my safety.

When my therapist received it, she wouldn’t give it to me or let me read it because she said it was too abusive, and she didn’t want to enable him harming me even more. I asked her to give me an overview. She said he made a few disingenuous statements about his abuse that did not amount to true remorse or accountability, and then spent 5 pages listing perceived faults in me. This clearly showed that he was not taking responsibility, and that his perception of me wasn’t based in reality.

Signs He’s NOT In Recovery From Porn Addiction

Forest: The prideful attitude, the defensiveness. A lot of addicts initially think that if they are sober they are recovering. But they’re not putting any effort into learning how to take care of themselves and manage stress or manage their emotions. Addicts need to actually learn, apply, and practice tools. They need structure. Everyone I work with is assigned things they need to do on a daily basis to connect with themselves, their higher power, and their wife.

Recovery is actually learning to care for themselves in a healthy way. Wives will notice if/when they began to do this. If they can see that the addict in their life is trying to change the way they relate to themselves and to others, this humble attitude makes a difference.

Husbands won’t be perfect at it, but it is definitely not an excuse to relapse or to go back into passivity that led most of them into the situation to begin with. It’s hard work, especially when an addict comes from emotionally neglectful or abusive family of origin. If they are willing to work hard and persist despite set backs, become totally honest, accountable, and humble, then it’s obvious they are investing in a lifestyle change and making themselves safer to be with.

Helping Women Know If They’re Husband Is In Recovery Is Our Goal

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our number one goal is to help women establish safety from lying, infidelity, porn use, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and some of the narcissistic behaviors that tend to come out in an active addict or someone who is “white knuckling” but may not be in recovery. Some of the signs I saw in my own situation were related to setting a “no contact” boundary after my husband’s arrest for domestic violence. I waited for him to show some signs of recovery, and instead saw things like him shutting down my bank account, him berating me about the clothes or diapers he wanted me to pack for the kids when he would have them. His obvious refusal to take full accountability for the children while he his care was just one sign he wasn’t in recovery.

There were so many things he could have taken responsibility for to show that he was applying the principles of recovery. Those ACTIONS are the things that are important. Part of what was so difficult during that time was that I was hearing from others that he was saying he wanted his marriage to work, but that he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him. He told everyone about his miraculous recovery that was non-existent in terms of real recovery behaviors. He would play the victim. It was frustrating and traumatizing to hear the statements he would say to third parties. My gut reaction was that I needed to write him letters or that someone needed to tell him what to do because he obviously wasn’t getting it. His solution was to file for divorce.

Know The Signs Of Addict Brain – When They’re Not In Recovery

Knowing what the signs of emotional abuse is key. We have a book section on our website and I highly recommend that women read all of the books so they can have an understanding of what emotional abuse can look like. Even if they don’t suspect that porn is happening anymore or that infidelity is continuing, emotionally abusive behaviors are a red flag that something is wrong.

From the wife’s perspective and from Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s perspective, the reasons for the abusive behavior don’t matter. Wives find themselves wondering if his abusive behaviors are caused by a personality disorder or the addiction or is he just selfish? Is it because he had a brain injury, is it his shame, is it his abusive upbringing?

WHY is is emotionally abusive doesn’t matter, and spending any time trying to figure out the root cause is a waste of time. Plus, you get abused in the process. The more she tries to focus on the behaviors, the more she is sucked into the vortex of abuse rather than taking a step out and recognizing that he is the one responsible for figuring himself out. In the meantime while he’s learning how to relate to her in a healthy way, she needs to stand at a safe distance and set boundaries until he is a safe person to connect with.

Women Often Struggle With Boundaries When He’s Not In Recovery

Forest: I found that when we start to work on boundaries with wives, they have a really hard time creating boundaries and enforcing them. As I help them work through what was stopping them from doing this, I felt like a lot of them had difficulty seeing their own worth, getting to the point of seeing that they deserve to be treated well and to be in a relationship with someone who is healthy. I really felt it was related to this, self-esteem or their own worth. Jennifer Lamprey did an event for women called The Quickening and she asked me to write a piece from a male perspective. She thought it would be powerful to have a man speak to women.

It was interesting to sit down and write this piece in an hour. This came to me and I feel like it was one of the most validating pieces I have ever written, from my perspective as an addict in recovery. I wrote about what my wife is worth, that she is worth my best recovery efforts. I went into detail about what that looks like, that it’s not about how much sex I get or what mood she is in, that I need to be working hard at my own growth and healing. I feel like it really communicated well to the partners that they deserve to be in this type of relationship so they can set boundaries that do protect that worth and do communicate to the addict that they do deserve to be treated with respect and to be cherished. This is how this came about.

Anne: As you read this next part, I want you to think about how you feel about it, and please scroll down and comment! We love it when you interact with us!

You Deserve Your Husband’s Real Recovery Efforts And So Much More

Forest: It says: My wife is a woman of infinite worth. Because of this, she deserves my best efforts. She deserves a husband who only has eyes for her. She deserves a husband in active recovery, not passively going with the flow. She deserves a husband who reminds her that she is not to blame for his past or present choices. She deserves a husband who actively opposes visual and mental lust in all forms, viewing it as the enemy of true intimacy.

It goes on like this…about being trustworthy, about not blaming her…It sets up this ideal but I don’t think it’s too unrealistic. It’s about recognizing that I do want to be treated that way, I do deserve to be the only woman. For the addicts, my intention is to call them up to a higher level of intentionality and commitment with their recovery. I find that often when this is read, it triggers shame but I hope this will be turned into the healthy guilt that leads to a realization that the addict can live up to this and that they do not want to continue living the opposite.

I love writing to inspire people. I feel like setting the standard and saying, “Let’s strive for this” is very helpful. I don’t want to sit in this mediocre place because it doesn’t help anyone achieve recovery.

Watch For Actions to Show True Recovery From Porn Addiction, Not Words

Anne: One of the things that happened to me because of my ex’s extreme case is that he went to therapy for years, I made him read things like this, I took him to conferences, etc…, and he really learned how to talk the language of recovery without actually doing the recovery work. I think the purpose of this episode of watching for those actions is critical…how is he actually treating you? Does he listen? Is he patient? If you ask a question, does he answer it without getting defensive? Is he willing to listen to your opinion? Is he willing to be, in John Gottmans’ words, influenced? Is he willing to be influenced by his wife or is he wondering why she is “bothering” him? When will the behaviors speak for themselves, is one thing wives always need to be looking for.

Forest: I totally agree with that. I love the idea of the wife catching him doing the right thing. It’s not like he is doing the right thing in front of her intentionally to perform or pretend but that she would be surprised when she walks out and he’s working on his recovery materials or when he says he can’t do something tonight because he’s really tired and might be triggered tomorrow by not getting enough sleep…catching glimpses of how he is changing his view. I know this is so difficult because of the lack of safety in the past when it’s all been a performance and when it looked like all the right actions. I am always emphasizing that addicts need to be seeing people who specialize in this and have certification because they may be putting on a performance for the therapist and the therapist needs to know if this is happening.

People Can Absolutely Change – Recovery Can Be Real

Anne: I connect with women all over the world about their experiences with their addict husband. I absolutely know that people can change. If they make the decision to change, they involve God in the process, and they are genuinely humble, accountable, honest and willing to submit to God’s will, anything can happen. Even right now, I, myself am in the process of changing and asking God to help me with certain character defects I have and things I am dealing with in my everyday life that I really want to improve. I’m not completely healed or changed yet but I have faith that as I continue to do these things, I can change. I believe this about everyone.

That being said, just because people can change does not mean they will. Sitting back and observing if they really are genuine and what they are doing to show that is what betrayal trauma recovery is all about. How do we establish safe boundaries while we observe from a distance to see if the change is real, deep and lasting…and is it sincere rather than just another way to keep me in the abuse cycle?

Forest: I think this is a really good way to look at this. I use a lot of language about wives keeping themselves safe and is the addict acting in such a way that makes it safe for them. I definitely wouldn’t recommend even trusting. It’s unsafe to trust unless there is real evidence of change.

Come What May, Wives Need To Stand At A Safe Distance Until Recovery Is Real

Anne: Our focus at betrayal trauma recovery is to know how to be safe. Whatever he decides to do, we will stay safe until we see these particular characteristics that we need to be safe.

I appreciate those working with addicts who have the expertise who can help them because, as a wife who has been injured by that, we are not able to do it.

Forest: Yes, this can definitely get unhealthy when you feel like you are responsible for making sure they are doing all the right things or making sure you need to catch them if they do the wrong things. It’s so important for the addict to have their own accountability and therapist–whatever they need. Your organization is doing a great work in helping wives to work on their own healing and maintain a safe distance when they’re not safe. It’s great to see.

How To Rebuild Our Intuition After Infidelity & Abuse

How To Rebuild Our Intuition After Infidelity & Abuse

Today I have Dr. Piper Grant. She’s a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. She’s also the founder of Numi Psychology. She specializes in working with individuals and couples on issues related to sex, intimacy, and trauma.

As a CSAT and Sex Therapist, Dr. Grant has extensive experience working with individuals throughout their healing process from sexual betrayal. Although based in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Grant seeks to reach individuals and couples internationally in recovery from sex addiction and healing from sexual betrayal by hosting retreats in Bali for women who have experienced sexual betrayal trauma and couples in recovery from sex addiction. These are the only retreats hosted in Bali that are tailored to help couples and partners on issues related to sexual betrayal and facilitated by a Psychologist and CSAT.

Welcome Piper! We are so happy to have you!

Piper: Thank you! I’m so excited to be here today!

Intuition and Gut Instinct Are Warning Signs, Both Negative And Positive

Anne: We are going to talk today about women’s intuition, getting in touch with ourselves and reconnecting to ourselves after betrayal or even in the midst of it in order to figure out what we need to do. I’m not going to call you Dr. Grant today, I’m going  to call you Piper because I love the name Piper. What is gut instinct and why is it so important for women?

Piper: It’s such a gift as women that we have this gut instinct and innate ability to have these signals throughout our life. It is the first warning signals about something, both negative and positive. I say both negative and positive because you can have somebody say something along the lines of, ‘I just knew that’s what I needed to do!’ Especially when we’re talking about partner recovery. We often will say something along the lines of, ‘I just felt like something was off.’, or that something was wrong or not right. So it helps us judge. It’s a warning signal.

Intuition Is Felt in Body and Mind

The thing that is interesting about our gut instinct and the way it works is that it works as an unconscious process. It’s something that we aren’t even always aware is going on. What happens is our conscious brain is looking at things and we’re making sense of them but our unconscious brain is working almost like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s putting pieces together. When pieces don’t fit together it’s like, ‘Something is wrong.  Something is different here.’  It sends a warning signal.

Studies have shown that when this happens and something doesn’t fit, there’s actually a surge of dopamine in the brain. You know when we say, ‘In my body it just didn’t feel right?’ That’s actually true. There’s not only a psychological process happening but there’s actually a physiological process as well.  Your brain and your body are saying, ‘Something is different here’.  Let’s be aware of this. Whether it’s good or bad, let’s be aware of this. A few years back in my work I would be like, ‘There’s this unique gift that women have.’ and then I would kind of say, ‘Well men have it too.’  But women have it so much stronger.

Intuition Is A Gift In Betrayal Trauma

I intrinsically feel that women have this gift given to us.  I started looking into it because I thought, ‘Is it true or do I just feel that women have it stronger than men do?’

There’s this belief that through evolution women actually have a stronger ability to make intuitive decisions or have intuitive guides within them. What is believed is that over time our female ancestors had to quickly evaluate a situation because they had to protect themselves and their children. They had to tune into their environment, make sense of their environment, see if things were off or on. Therefore, our brains as women evolved to have a larger ability to organize chunks of information much quicker. Giving us this edge of ability to read people and situations, quickly making decisions if something is good or bad for us.

Anne: That ‘quickly make decisions’ part is where I got tripped up in my betrayal trauma journey. I remember the sense of intense dread, like someone’s going to die. Something really, really bad is going to happen. I just thought, ‘I must be crazy!” I even remember telling my husband at the time, and he didn’t say anything but if I could go back in time and read his mind he might be like, ‘just lay very still and she won’t know what I’m doing right now’, right?

Betrayal Trauma Can Hinder Your Intuition

Piper: I think that is how betrayal trauma can rob us women of our gut instinct. Not rob us but negatively impact and sometimes hinder it for a while. I have partners I work with that are like, ‘I had no idea. There was nothing that was off to me’. I just want to put that out there because I want all women to know that it’s not to say there’s always a red flag.

Yes, in our work together when we start going back and unpacking things they might say, ‘Ohhh  that was a red flag and I chose to ignore it.’ Or, ‘There was that time that my body was like umm something is off and I chose to ignore it.’

So betrayal trauma can really impact our relationship with our gut instinct. It breaks our relationship with the gut instinct.

When I am looking at betrayal trauma and the impact of sex addiction, there’s not only a betrayal of trust by the addict but actually a betrayal of trust with self. This is where it can become really complex  sometimes for partner recovery.

The betrayal of trust with self is betrayal  with their gut instincts. If we ignore it, ignore it and ignore it,  we’re betraying trust with ourself! We’re saying this isn’t true, this isn’t happening.

That’s the impact of gas-lighting. When we’re a victim of gaslighting that’s what happens.

Anne: Right. Had he told me the truth in that moment. If I had I said, ‘something really bad is going to happen’, and he said, ‘yea because I’m having an affair’. Or whatever it was. I still don’t know to this day what it was about but had he told me the truth in that moment I would have thought, “oh, I’m not crazy!”

Piper:  So you and your body are kind of in war, you and your gut instinct. That’s the crazy thing. Because there is this betrayal of self or gut instinct then there’s a distrust in your reality.

Sit Back And Watch, Wait For The Red Flags To Fly

This can be difficult in partner recovery,  trying to re-establish your relationship with gut instinct and experiencing a trigger, and your gut instinct is sending off these red flares that something is going on, the question then is, ‘Is there ongoing trauma that you’re having this gut instinct reaction to, or is it a trigger from the past?’

That’s where it can be hard sometimes in recovery and re-establishing your relationship with gut instinct.

Anne: Absolutely! Especially when you’ve been lied to, right? A million times!

So now the red flags are going off and your husband is saying again, ‘Oh everything is fine!’ and you’re thinking, ‘Well, do I believe him now or not?’ Like, ‘Where am I in this process?’ Here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we try to help women understand the related behaviors so that you can watch what he’s doing and not necessarily have to trust his words.

Piper: You guys do practice what you preach. Just from listening to your podcasts, as well as from knowing from clients who have worked with you. It’s not just about the words. It’s the actions as well.

An Addict’s Actions Speak Much Louder Than His Words

Also, just how does it feel in your body as a partner as well. Does it feel right or wrong? I give this example sometimes. I live in L.A. We have bad traffic So the spouse can come home and he’s 5-10 minutes late and the partner can be like, ‘okay, he’s late, it feels off.’ The schedule is off pattern and it can be hard. Am I being triggered by something that is happening in this present moment or is this a reminder of something that has happened in the past?  And it’s really difficult.

Anne: Yes, it is very complex. This recovery thing is no fun. And then it’s also fun. There’s these two parts of it. It’s hard!

Piper: And it’s on going and it’s one of these things that I think changes with the environment and people around you. Forever modifying and changing.

Anne: In thinking about my recovery and talking with a colleague yesterday I said, ‘I haven’t been angry at all! Just so sad.’ I’m finally becoming angry and it’s weird! Because it’s way late. This anger has been welling up inside of me and I’m not really a yeller. Well lately I have been a yeller but it’s not something that’s natural to me.

Finally I thought, ‘okay, wow like this has got to be the trauma coming out.’ So I told my kids, There’s this thing inside of me and I’m trying to work through it and I’m really sorry.’ I said, ‘When I’m feeling it I think I’m going to raise my hands high above my head and I’m going to clinch my fists and I’m going to say, ‘Agnes, Amos, Jehoshaphat!’ They were like, ‘okay, that’s funny!’.

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And so I’ve been doing that when I feel it well up they just look at me and then they start laughing! I think wow, here’s a new phase for me! I don’t really know where I am and how to explore it. I think it’s the same with our gut instinct. It’s like, here I am I’m working through it and I don’t really know how to do this! I hope I can learn! Making an effort to explore it I think is the key.

Piper: Yes, I love what you say! They’re owning it and just being in the moment and not necessarily understanding what’s going on or what it is. You’re just like, ‘I’m going to feel it and embrace it in a safe and effective way.’ That’s what this is about, like you said. Just working through it and just being with it moment to moment. And maybe not always making sense of it.

Anne: Yea, because I think about the women who feel in their gut that everything is fine, for example. By the way, I don’t want this podcast to freak everybody out. This has happened where women have said to me after I give a speech and they say, ‘That was so impactful and I’m so grateful that I don’t deal with this issue! I just trust my husband and I just love my family!’, or whatever they say.

And then I get a letter like 6 months later saying, ‘I didn’t know!’ And their gut was telling them at the time that things were good! That’s what makes us go crazy. At least with me. I thought well, ‘I can’t trust my gut because I thought things were fine and then they weren’t.’

So how can a partner re-establish trust within herself?

Gaslighting Makes It Difficult To See The Red Flags

Piper: What you’re saying is actually a really classic thing. That’s why I was saying in the beginning that some women will say, ‘I had no idea! I didn’t have those red flags and flares go off!’

So after there’s discovery it really starts with love and kindness with self. Because I do think about this break down with gut instinct as a betrayal. Or as a breakdown with trust itself. It just starts first with loving kindness towards self. Sometimes as women we want to be hard on ourselves. We are like, ‘Why didn’t I see that? ” Or, ‘Why didn’t I know?”‘, Or ‘ Why did I ignore that red flag?” Or whatever the list is that can be read to ourselves.

When you think about actually being in a relationship with somebody else, if there’s been a break in trust, you have to rebuild that trust. There’s a process of rebuilding that trust. I think about that same thing in a relationship with ourself . We need to rebuild that relationship of trust with ourself. Especially if a women is one that says, ‘I had no idea! I didn’t have any red flags and this just came completely out of left field!’

There’s probably been some gaslighting going on. And especially then you’re just like, ‘Woah where is my radar? What just happened?’

So starting with love and kindness towards self and rebuilding a relationship with the voice within you. I start with little exercises.

While your showering, bathing or standing in the grocery line for instance, just integrate it into your schedule. Just check in with yourself.

Check in with the voice of your body. So what is your heart saying to you in that moment? What is your body saying to you in that moment? What is your mind saying?

What’s your experience of where you are in your environment? While you’re bathing are you noticing the soap on your body?

Hello Anxiety, I See You!

Or while you’re standing in line do you notice yourself wanting to get out and get on with your errands? Or are you dreading something that’s coming up at the end of the day? So what ever it is, start in conversation with your body.

Why I say conversation is because specifically I’m looking at bringing that voice of your gut instinct of what your body is telling you and bringing that to the surface.

There’s a woman, Anne Cornell, who teaches in her practice with mindfulness to welcome the feeling, whatever it is. Like, saying hello to that feeling. So if you’re feeling anxious you say ‘oh, I’m feeling anxious!’ and I say hello to that.

Anne: Hello anxiety!

Piper: Yea! Hello anxiety! I think this is so important because, especially when we’re talking about gaslighting or breakdown in gut instinct.

What’s happened is that your reality has been denied. So if you’re feeling anxious and you’re like, ‘I’m not anxious, I’m not anxious!’ Or ‘Nope, get past that!

I was thinking, ‘Piper, you’re not anxious! Get over it!’ I’m actually denying that I’m feeling anxiety at that time.

So instead if I’m like, ‘Okay I’m feeling anxious. Hello anxiety!’  Even if you don’t know the feeling, ‘I’m feeling some feelings. Hello feelings!’

Accepting Our Own Reality Provides Validation For Ourselves

I’m actually validating my body and my mind, spirit, whole being and what you’re experiencing in that  moment. And that actually is little moments of re-establishing trust with your mind and your body and gut instinct.

Then start to test yourself with just little things like taking a walk to the right rather than going left today. And if you walk right instead of left, notice. Does it work out okay for you? Does everything work out fine?

And if it does say, ‘Okay I’m listening to my inner voice and guide.’ And those are little things.

Then when we get to the big things where you’re like, ‘Nope, something is off here’ you’re able to to say okay, ‘I’ve already established trust with my inner voice and I know that my inner voice has guided me with little things. I can trust it now. I can follow it.

It’s starting with loving kindness towards self, rebuilding a relationship with that voice, welcoming what ever feelings that you’re having so You’re not denying your own reality within yourself. And then moving forward with little tests of that gut instinct.

Rebuild Confidence By Trusting YOU Again

Anne: I like that. Why is it so important to acknowledge this and work towards it? Why do women need to re-establish trust with themselves rather than just, ‘okay, now I’m going to just pick the most logical thing or I’m just going to ask my best friend!’ Or I’ve got to make a therapy appointment every ten minutes!

Piper: Sometimes doesn’t that seem easier though?

Anne: To just say, ‘Someone else tell me, what’s the right thing to do?”, right?

Piper: The truth is that it’s a guide! It’s this innate gift that we have. If we’re talking about whole recovery, that is a piece of us.

As a partner, whether or not you are staying in a relationship with the addict, you’re going to have other intimate relationships in your life. That should be part of recovery. I mean intimate in that it doesn’t  have to be sexual. I’m talking about friends, family, whatever that might be.

In order to trust in others we need to have a trust in ourself. That we’re actually choosing good relationships for ourself and making good decisions. So that’s what this gut instinct is about.

It’s re-establishing trust with self so that we know that we’re moving forward with decisions that are in alignment with ourself. So even if things go awry again we can say, ‘But you know what, I know that I made the best decision for myself in that moment.’

It also helps with rebuilding feelings of self worth. So often after discovery what we can see is that feeling of the ramifications of gaslighting.

With a victim of gaslighting there can be low feelings of self worth, confidence or trust of self. And what it does is rebuild feelings of self worth and confidence in self. This allows you to be free maybe of needing to call your therapist every ten minutes or always relying on your friend!

I Thought He Was Great And That We Would Be Happy…

Anne: So true. Thinking of the question, ‘Is it really possible to trust yourself again after sexual betrayal and trauma?”

For me, personally the jury is still out on this one. I’m still working through this. It’s almost like I have to see if the things that I choose end up being good for me and that takes time.

My life before when I met my husband I thought he was amazing and fantastic. I told everyone how great he was and how happy I was. And then we got married and things weren’t like that.

Now I think if I met someone I would be like, ‘I’m getting married. I’m not sure how it’s going to go.’ I think I would like hedge all my bets! I think I’d be like, ‘He seems really great and all of these things seem to be working but I don’t know if I can trust myself.’

The jury is still out on me. I don’t know how I would know, ‘Okay I really can trust myself again!’ Literally until maybe I got married and like sixty years later! I’d be like, ‘Yes, that was the right thing to do.’  It feels like I can only trust myself in hindsight now instead of trusting myself in the future.

Piper:  I love what you’re saying! I’m literally jumping out of my chair because this is what always makes it difficult!

Recognize The Little Things, The Good Decisions You Make Every Day

And I say look at the small decisions every single day! You’re probably making decisions whether it be with your children, with yourself,  your work or whatever. It starts with the little things. Because then as you said, what is the limit? If you were to get remarried, is it after ten years that you say, ‘It’s okay! Thirty years! That was a good decision!’

You could hit thirty years and be like, ‘Umm nope still, I don’t know!’ I think this is where it becomes so complex! What is the end goal? I always say let’s come down and look at the present. That’s why I mentioned the example of walking. I know it sounds so little but it starts with those little things.

Just every single day you make a decision, give yourself a pat on the back and be like, ‘You know what? That was a good decision! I followed myself on that decision. I should have gotten those Oreos for myself.’ That’s a funny example!

Anne: Yes, you should have! I agree!

Maybe You Made The Right Decision But It Was Hijacked By Another’s Choices

Piper: I hear what you’re saying and that’s the difficult thing. How do I define when I have re-established trust with myself? I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and look at the little successes. And know that yea, we’re not ever going to know the future but we also need to give ourself the little successes.

Anne: I think there’s one other issue. It could be that you are making the right decision. You are doing the right thing for you and maybe something else happened. Someone else makes a different choice. Someone else does something here or there and then it doesn’t go the way that you wanted or the way that you planned.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t do the right thing for you just because someone else chose something else. Those things are part of why I think I struggle a little bit. Because I thought this was supposed to turn out well for me and it didn’t. But the reason why it didn’t turn out well wasn’t necessarily because of my decision. It was maybe because of someone else’s choice.

Give The Gift Of Trusting Yourself And Reconnect With Your Intuition

Piper: Right! And so you made the best decision for yourself. And that is a gift you can give to yourself and help remind yourself of. That is where it starts! Trusting and knowing that you made the best decision. Not just you, but any of us that we made the best decision for ourself in that moment with what we had.

Anne: Piper, you are delightful! Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today!

Piper: Thank you! It was a pleasure! I’m so happy to!

Anne: We’ll have to have you on again talking about some other fun topic, like masturbation or something!

Piper: Or you can visit me in Bali and we can do a podcast in Bali!

Anne: Oh, that would be awesome! Piper’s site is www.NumiPsychology.com

As always if this podcast was helpful to you please rate it on iTunes. Each rating improves our visibility on search engines and helps women who are isolated find us. As always, we love to hear from you, so please comment below about how you feel about intuition.

Also if you’re interested in scheduling a support call or joining one of our support groups go to BTR.org. You can look at our services page which has all of our different support groups and services. Or to schedule a support call or join a support group go to schedule and join. And until next week, stay safe out there!

Finding Hope & Freedom After Betrayal

Finding Hope & Freedom After Betrayal

Am I In Denial About My Husband’s Pornography Addiction?

Today I have Lynn Marie Cherry who is an engaging speaker and the author of Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. It’s a daily devotional book that helps women find a way through the pain and trauma of betrayal. She is dedicated to inspiring hope and shining light on the path to freedom.

In whatever shoes you prefer–rubber, rain boots, tennis shoes, or sassy heals, she’ll show you how to take a step forward today. Lynn and her husband David have been married 26 years and they have two boys. You can find more information about her and her book at lynnmariecherry.com.

Lynn: Thank you so much for having me.

Anne: So Lynn, you decided to share your betrayal story by writing a book. Why did you decide to write about your story?

Lynn: It’s the book you don’t dream of writing when you’re a little girl in sixth grade, thinking you’d like to write someday! The book was birthed out of my journey and the pain that I experienced. It was so difficult and so altering but at the same time I felt like I found a way through.

I knew it was something I had to share. I knew early on in the journey that I would share my story, that my husband and I would both talk about it. This is how the book came to be. Going back to our story, it’s the most drawn out discovery story you have ever heard.

I Knew Something Wasn’t Quite Right—Even On Our Honeymoon

We were married in 1991 and even on our honeymoon I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. But at the same time, I was thinking it wasn’t a big deal. I really didn’t know what husbands were like. This was my first experience…and I did the best I could to dismiss those feelings.

In 1997 I was pregnant with our first son and it happened to be the same year our home was wired for the brand new amazing thing called the internet and the world-wide web. This was a set up. I was big and tired and commuting two hours and struggling with my body image and then my husband was in the office at home and I remember thinking that something was not right…what was happening in there…and then at the same time I was thinking that I didn’t care.

I was building a human, I was tired, I was working, I was commuting…whatever he wanted to do in the office, I didn’t care. I told myself this for another three years. It’s kind of embarrassing to recount the slow discovery.

Anne: Don’t feel bad. Everyone goes through this denial and pushing away of doubts. It’s totally normal! Welcome to the club!

Denial—My Coping Mechanism

Lynn: This was certainly my MO–denial! It was my coping mechanism of choice for so long. So then in 2000 our second son was born and I remember being awake in the night to feed him and I noticed the light was on in the home office and I thought, “Oh wow. My husband’s awake too.” I walked over and opened the door and instantly felt this horrible flood of emotions–shame and lost, and it felt so tangible. I saw pornography on the computer screen. So now this thing that I think isn’t quite right is right in front of my eyes but I shut the door and walked away and continued pretending and coping for another four years.

Anne: You didn’t say anything about it?

Lynn: We did not talk about it. I think there was an awareness on his part that I had seen what was happening but my mom was in town due to our new baby’s birth; she was sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room and she was with us for another week. I couldn’t go there. And then,  really, I didn’t go there for another four years. I was going through the emotions, and coping, and existing, and a busy life with two little boys…it dragged on.

Anne: Did you have a religious or ethical background that you felt pornography was wrong in and of itself or was it just from the feeling you got from observing him watch pornography that made you feel horrible?

Lynn: Definitely the ethical spiritual upbringing was the first thing that made me feel uncomfortable about pornography. That feeling was a confirmation of what I believed. I didn’t think pornography was okay. I remember the first time I saw it in the sixth-grade reading corner when someone flashed a magazine inside my book I was reading–I knew it wasn’t right. I knew it was degrading to women and that it wasn’t at all the way women should be perceived.

Coming Out Of Denial Of My Husband’s Pornography Addiction, With The Gift Of Anger

Anne: So what brought you out of this denial after four years of not talking about it?

Lynn: I like to say I got a gift. It wasn’t in a pretty package with a matching bow. It was a gift to me. It was the gift of anger. I ended up being a very angry woman. I lived with this constant low level irritation and blow up over little stupid things, really on the fringe with my boys, thinking I didn’t like who I was becoming.

This anger was scaring me. I was okay being sad and I was okay being lonely and depressed but the anger terrified me. It really was the catalyst that forced my hand and made me realize I needed help, that something had to change inside of me, that I couldn’t live like this.

Anne: For our listeners, I want to know what brought you out of denial. At what point did you realize you needed help? Please comment below, we want to hear your story and your experiences just like we are listening to Lynn today.

Recognizing The Trauma

So when did you realize that what you were experiencing was trauma?

Lynn: We would never use the words “pornography addiction” until we started therapy. I never used the word “trauma” until therapy, either. It really was the working through owning the reality of my life through counseling where, suddenly coming out of denial, I began to feel the effects of the trauma. I had chest pain, insomnia, anxiety–especially at night where I would lay there and feel like my heart was going to fly out of my chest. I was feeling so anxious about the reality of my life that I had denied and stuffed and coped with for so many years. It was traumatic to pull my “ostrich head” out of the sand and it was a shock to my system.

I remember learning about pretend normal in therapy and thinking I like pretend normal. Could we go back and live there because dealing with what was actually happening in my life felt worse than pretending. It really did for a while.

Anne: Yes, I felt the same way. My most traumatic experience was after my husband’s arrest. I lived with him being abusive for seven years, not feeling that much trauma because I was in denial or I was not understanding what I was living, living the “pretend normal;” after his arrest it really hit me. That’s when waves of it came and it was very intense for a long time.

Tools To Help Deal With The Trauma Of Betrayal From A Spouse’s Pornography Addiction

What tools helped you deal with the trauma of betrayal?

Lynn: I did 24 weeks with a betrayed spouses group. This was a lifeline for me because there were some women in the group who had not been in denial for 8 years so they were much more familiar with what they were going through. I remember listening to them and thinking that this is how I felt.

Being able to share the journey with other women was so helpful to me and really helped me deal with it. I discovered breathing; you don’t think about breathing but when you do think about it, it’s amazing the calming effect it can have on your body. The other thing that helped me deal with the trauma was my faith. To be honest, I was a little bit offended with God that this was my story–I didn’t deserve it, I never asked for this to be in my story but here I was and how was this ok with him?

So God and I were on the outs for a little while–I was on the outs with Him. The bottom line for me was that I didn’t know where else to go. When I began to seek God for comfort and help, He was faithful to bring it. And so my faith really helped me to deal with the trauma as well.

Right And Wrong Reasons For Staying In A Marriage

Anne: So knowing women are married to active pornography users also experience the related behaviors like lying, gas lighting, emotional abuse, and sometimes narcissistic traits…what made you decide to stay in your marriage?

Lynn: I think there are a few different reasons. Some are good and some are bad. An example of a bad reason was my thinking that if I stay, then at least I can keep an eye on my husband and I can be there to protect my boys. This became, “If I stay, I can make sure he’s moving forward and my kids don’t end up growing up with a pornography addict for a father”…because whether our marriage made it or not, this was a big question.

Neither one of us knew the answer to that. Where there was an addict and a trauma victim trying to live together in the same house and both were walking their own recovery journeys…and then somehow considering the fact that there is recovery for the relationship…things were iffy for a long time. I was staying to keep an eye on him–not the best reason of course to stay in a marriage.

Ultimately a better reason was that I began to see the fruit of change in his life. I watched him do the work of recovery. When I made that first call for us to go to therapy, he was not happy about going but 3-4 weeks in, something shifted and I think he finally found hope and that there was a life for him without this thing that he had kept hidden.

A Recovering Addict Is Kind, Gentle, And Empathetic

He was seven when he first encountered pornography–second grade. So he began to do the work and I saw the fruit. His behavior began to change and this is what ultimately weighed in on the decision to stay. Once he discovered the tools to break this pattern of behavior and he picked them up and used them, he realized there was hope and that he could live a life without this dependence.

Anne: In my experience as I have witnessed men in recovery who really are in recovery and their behavior proves it–they are kind, gentle, empathetic, understanding–a man really, truly in recovery is awesome! There is such a difference between a porn user who is not in recovery and one who is. It’s night and day.

Lynn: I can see that. I think about the porn my husband grew up with was mainly magazines and then VHS. I look at what men and women are having to deal with now with it in the pocket–live streaming, interactive video–and I think it is a completely different based thing and harder to recover from what is happening in the brain with this kind of pornography.

Anne: Yes, with really easy access and the types of pornography that they are viewing..the content itself.

Moving Forward When Your Spouse Is A Porn Addict

So knowing all of the women who are married to porn addicts and struggling with all of the related behaviors, how can women find help in your book?

Lynn: One of the things I love is that it is a small bite-sized serving of home. It’s a one-to-two page daily reading with one thought to carry you, and a couple of things to take action on or to reflect on. I love that it’s manageable for women in trauma. I remember getting some books to figure out what going on in my life, wondering how I was supposed to read them while dealing with the mess in my life.

My book is not about my marriage. It’s really about moving forward. There is a way for every woman to move forward. It’s not about whether or not your relationship is restored but knowing that there is restoration for your soul. There is peace available and regardless of what ends up happening in your marriage, there is a way for you to move forward…there is a life for you beyond the pain and trauma being experienced right now.

Anne: Absolutely. And I love that you said it’s in bite-sized pieces. I have the hardest time processing written information. Many of the women who come to BTR have this same problem too which is why I decided to do this podcast because a woman can listen to something while they are folding laundry or doing the dishes or while they are waiting for a son at soccer practice. Same thing for your book: you are making hope accessible for women who have a hard time processing lots of information.

However Your Story Ends, There Is Hope For You

Lynn: Exactly. In the middle of the trauma of owning the reality of my life, I couldn’t even read two pages. I wanted to be able to give women something they could chew and swallow that could carry them through maybe one day and maybe help them to take one step; something to hold on to for one day.

Anne: We are going to be having a giveaway for Lynn’s book Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. We have three copies she has donated to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Go to our Instagram account @betrayaltraumarecovery and enter the giveaway today!

Lynn, we are very grateful you have donated these books. Do you have any other thoughts before we conclude today?

Lynn: Sure. I just read an article this morning on Facebook by Gary Thomas that was so good. He just wrote a book entitled Cherished. I love what he said, “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.” I think this is such a relief for a woman walking through this and not knowing the end of her story. However your story ends, there is hope for you.

Anne: Thank you so much for being here today, Lynn, and thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope through writing this book. It’s very meaningful to a lot of women.

To schedule a support call or join one of our betrayal trauma recovery support groups, click on schedule and join. You can find a list of all our services on our services page. You can also find a link to Lynn’s book on our book page at btr.org/books.

If this podcast is helpful to you, will you rate it on iTunes? Each rating improves our search engine rankings and helps women who are isolated and need help to find us. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Protect Young Children From The Damage Of Pornography Exposure

How To Protect Young Children From The Damage Of Pornography Exposure

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m Anne. Kristen Jensen is here today – one of my friends from the anti-pornography movement. She’s amazing. I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

She is the founder of protectyoungminds.org, a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to reject pornography. Recently she was invited to testify before the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee on the public health crisis of pornography. Kristen is a frequent guest and speaker on podcasts, radio broadcasts, and is a leader in the Prevention Task Force of the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation.

Personally, she is a mother of two daughters and a son who is waiting for her in heaven. She lives with her husband in the beautiful state of Washington. She earned her BA in English Literature and her MA in Organizational Communication. Welcome, Kristen!

Many Parents Ask, “How Do I Check Cookies?” But, That’s Not Enough Anymore

Kristen: Hi Anne! Thanks for having me!

Anne: I LOVE Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr! Kristen gave me a copy and I’ve been using it with my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old. It is so helpful. I am so excited to announce that Kristen has donated three copies of Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr to our listeners. So if you have a child ages 3-6, you need this book! Please go to our Instagram profile @betrayaltraumarecovery. Follow us on Instagram; tag three of your friends who also have children ages 3-6 so they can be made aware of this really important resource for kids. The giveaway will end Wednesday at 6 pm. You will be notified via private message on Instagram.

Tell me, Kristen, why did you write a book about pornography for young kids?

Kristen: I saw that there was a problem. It took three years and then as I was speaking, I had parents of younger children–because our original book is for ages 7-11, even though therapists have used it for adults; the principles and concepts are for any age–ask if I could write a book for younger children. It took my breath away the first time I was asked that! Younger children are on the internet so we need to safe guard them and train them how to respond to bad pictures–to recognize what they are and have a plan of what to do when they see them.

Anne: I have your Can Do Plan taped to my 8 and 5-year-olds wall.

Kristen: Awesome! This is from the original book. It is great! The first three steps from the Can Do plan is to help children know exactly how to respond when they see it: close your eyes, tell a trusted adult, and name it when you see it. All these things help the thinking brain reject pornography. The last two, the D and O, are distract yourself and always keep the thinking brain the boss; I explain more about it in the book; these things help children deal with the shocking memories that pornography creates. These memories come back to haunt them and sometimes lure them back into curiously going and looking for pornography. It’s important to deal with the initial exposure and then the memories that this exposure creates.

Will Talking About Pornography With Children Make Them More Curious?

Anne: I talk with parents all the time. One of their concerns is that their kids are too young and that they shouldn’t talk about pornography with their kids because they are worried about curiosity and such. My response usually is that there is a generation of people who did not talk about sexual addiction, who did not talk about pornography, who did not openly speak about masturbation in their homes, and they are now a generation of porn addicts that my listeners are married to. We know that the “not talking about it” doesn’t work. I’m not sure what the consequences of talking about pornography with my children will be; I don’t know what they will be 30 or 40 years out, but I do know that the other way does not work.

So I am willing to say that this open dialog and layered communication about mental health, about sexual health is so important for our kids and this is a very appropriate way to begin the conversation and talk about it. I’m pretty comfortable talking about it because this is what I do for my job. I’m a professional in the industry. But for people who don’t say the word “masturbation” six times a day like I do, they may wonder how they do this. Your books are perfect for this. What do you recommend is the right age to begin talking about pornography?

How Do We Protect Our Children From Pornography?

Kristen: I always have been taught to not answer the question I am now going to answer! The question is, “How old are your children when they get access to the internet?” If they are 3 years old when they get access to the internet, then 3 is the time to start talking.

Anne: And the answer is not, “Then I will never give them access to the internet!” Access is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Kristen: That ship has sailed; that horse is out of the barn! However you want to say it, it’s gone. It’s all around. Everyone has a portal to porn in their pocket. This is a story that was told by a sex addiction therapist who did everything she could to protect her young son. She sent him to a private Christian school, hoping it would be safer than a public school. A classmate of his looked at his cell phone–at age 6!–and showed him pornography on it. We are living in a crazy world that allows access to this kind of material to children. T

he only way we can deal with it besides doing what we can with filters and having the family come together to work together to protect ourselves from pornography, the only other way I can think is to inoculate. We cannot control exposure. That is why inoculation started with small pox. A few could get rid of smallpox, to eradicate it from the earth because we went around and inoculated everyone. As soon as you start living in the real world, getting out of the bubble, we are going to have to face this head on…and help to make children safer as a result.

Women Who Are Married To Porn Users Want To Protect Their Kids From Exposure To Pornography

Anne: Our listeners live in the real world because they are dealing with their husband’s sex addiction. They are very aware of the pain and the chaos that this creates. They are trying their best to protect their children.

Kristen: I was just at the solar eclipse. During conversations, people ask what I do. When I tell them, you can tell they are clueless. They do not have a clue how pervasive this problem is. I tell them stats on marriage, divorce, kids being involved…it made me realize once again that so many people don’t even have an awareness of the problem.

Anne: It’s not on their radar or they think it’s just out there and their kids are great kids and would never do that.

It’s Normal For Kids To Be Curious About Pornography, But It’s Not Healthy For Them To View It

Kristen: That’s a real mistake because kids responding to pornography is the most natural thing in the world. It’s normal. We are all biologically excited by naked pictures. We are wired to biologically respond. We are basically trying to teach a child to do something that their brain is very curious about. This is why we say this in my book–how it can feel like the pull of a giant magnet. We own that, we admit it. This is where there is so much safety. We don’t shame the child. We teach the child the truth that this can make them really curious. And that it can also be like rat poison. It tastes really good to the rats but once they start eating it, it begins to destroy them.

Anne: My son is eight now and I have been talking to him about pornography since he was 3. Now he will say things like, “Mom, why would people look at pornography if it’s so bad?” I say, “Because it makes people feel really good.” It’s the same thing with heroine. People do drugs because it feels really good! When they’re doing heroine or looking at porn they’re not feeling the consequences of their actions. They aren’t understanding it’s affecting them and everyone else; it just feels really good.

Kristen: This is exactly what we say in the book. It’s one of the questions that comes up: Why would people look at this? It’s because in the short term it’s exciting.

Anne: Right. So in your new book Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr includes 5 saftey rules to help children stay safe from sexting and sextortion. Can you talk to us about these 5 safety rules?

Kristen: We have realized that since the publication of our first book, one of the things that has become a big problem is sexting; but not only sexting but sextortion–where children, teens, and even adults are groomed online–where they get in a situation where they think they are in a friendship or a romantic relationship and they give pictures of themselves that are compromising at the very least. When pornographers (my word) get these pictures, they call it sextortion, meaning they are threatened if they do not produce more graphic photos. They are threatened with telling parents or putting it on the internet; they are told to give money…the FBI says it is the leading growing problem among kids right now. This is why we included these safety rules.

  1. If someone tries to show you bad pictures or videos, look away. Remember to turn, run, and tell.
  2. If you ever see a bad picture or video, never show it to another child. There is research that shows that this is exactly what kids do. They show it to another child. This is rampant. When I first saw a pornographic magazine, who did I show? My little sister! So this is the most common thing for little kids to do. They need to be taught, outright, and specifically, never to show a bad picture to another child.
  3. They should never let someone take a picture of them without their clothes on. If someone ever tries that, they should tell their mom or dad or a trusted adult.
  4. Never take pictures or videos of yourself without clothes on. Kids these days are unfortunately producing pornography. They are producing child pornography.
  5. If you see a bad picture or video and it keeps popping up in your mind, go and tell mom or dad or a trusted adult; say, “I need your help to make the bad picture go away.” We have specific instructions in the back of the book on how to help children minimize those shocking memories of exposure to pornography.

Last fall I was invited to testify at a Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee about the public health threat of pornography. With me was Mike Edwards who is the specialist on internet crimes against children for Washington state. He gave a lot of grim statistics. Then he told a story about a video they have of an 8-year-old boy who made this video of himself having sex with a 4-year-old. He put this video on the internet. Kids are doing this and it’s in greater and greater numbers. If we don’t want our kids to fall victim, we need to teach them.

Anne: Like I said before, I use this in my home and it is so helpful. For my listeners, Christmas is coming up and I want to tell you a funny story. The Porn Kills Love t-shirt from Fight the New Drug came out awhile ago. I bought one for my then husband who was “in recovery” and he wore it on Christmas. His family told him I had ruined Christmas!

I would like all of you to go to our books page and purchase the books right now. Begin talking about it with your kids. If you’d like to ruin Christmas, give it to someone for Christmas!!

Kristen: The first year we sold Good Pictures Bad Pictures I thought there would be no sales during Christmas. The absolute opposite happened. Our sales went way up! And then I started hearing how people were buying them as gifts! What better gift than to provide the gift of protection from something so destructive. I think it makes perfect sense.

Anne: So this is my goal: everyone get the books and a Porn Kills Love tshirt and wear it on Christmas! Let’s start a revolution! We’re going to take back Christmas!

So Kristen, besides your books, what other resources have you created to help parents?

How To Help Protect Children In Your Community From Pornography

Kristen: we have lots on our website protectyoungminds.org. We have three free guides. One is a quick start guide to begin giving people an overall foundation of information. We then have the smart parents’ guide which is for those whose children have already seen pornography or for proactive parents who want to prepare for the eventuality; it helps parents face this without shame and freaking out; it helps them to know what questions to ask their child. It is very helpful in this regard.

Then we have a kit for people who want to take this to their community. We have an outline of a presentation to do your own presentation in your community or school or church. We are trying to help everyone in every situation, all parents who want to help their children. Whenever we do a blog, we usually have some kind of free download, whether it’s a series of questions or conversation starters, questions to ask a school administrator or a principle about how safe the school is; what have they done to protect kids from porn exposure; have they trained kids about what to do if they see pornography on the school computer or school grounds?

Anne: So for our listeners who are interested in getting more assistance, Coach Rae runs a group called How Do I Protect & Heal My Children?

Coach Rae and Lori Rubinstein, a child advocacy expert, will be speaking. Please register! Also, Coach Sarah is very good about coaching women about how to talk to their children about their dad’s pornography addiction and some of the things that happen around that….such as if police have been involved, criminal action, etc….Coach Sara is really good about helping you navigate helping your children in these situations.

I am so grateful you are here today and that you wrote these books, Kristen. Again, if you are interested in purchasing these books you can buy them on Amazon. They are Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. or you can go directly to Protectyoungminds.org to get more infomration. Remember we have this giveaway on Instagram. Go to @betrayalrecovery and tag your friends who have children and we will announce the winners through a private message!

Thanks for being here today, Kristen.

Schedule a support call with one of our trained APSAT coaches, trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists; they also understand emotional abuse and can help you navigate your husband’s emotional abuse…or the abuse from your ex-husband. Many women are still being abused by their ex.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Each rating increases our visibility on search engines and helps women who are isolated and who need help to find us. Until next week, stay safe out there!

Understanding The Behaviors Of Pornography Users

Understanding The Behaviors Of Pornography Users

I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Amy Kate is an advocate for partners of sexual addicts. She is a survivor two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six amazing children. She is trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She is also trained by the American Association of Sex Therapy. She is also a customer service representative at Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an accountability and filtering software that is one of many tools that we need to use in our own recovery, both for the safety of ourselves and families.

Amy: Hi. I’m glad to be back.

Anne: We are going to talk about demystifying the behavior of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict I’m sure has its advantages when you are talking about your ex-husband’s sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was. Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of serving your husband’s behaviors and being in the chaos and not able to figure out exactly what was happening?

When we are in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there some much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on?

Amy: To a non-addict person, when you see these behaviors that are insane–this is kind of what they look like–and they make absolutely no sense; you are unable to wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think this all comes from cognitive dissonance.

The brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and moral standards and your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and a super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

So we have someone who knows that porn is some version of cheating, they know they aren’t supposed to, they know they are hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they are still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced within the brain, something has to change.

They have three choices:

  1. They can change their beliefs so they can decide that cheating is somehow ok. They can decide that porn is ok. This doesn’t usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs.
  2. They can change the action: they could stop doing the behavior but that is not as easy as it sounds.
  3. Or they can change their perception. When they change their perception, this is where you tend to see all the other crazy-making behaviors that drive us insane.

Anne: talk about that. Do you mean their perception of their wife?

Amy: Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they are changing their perception, they are changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We’ll use lying which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

But the addict will change the way he views things like the female he is talking to all of the time and ends up having an emotional affair with, “she is just a friend; I don’t even think she is pretty! I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus…” He is creating this reality that is not even real. The ironic part is he starts to believe it. T

he brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things have to make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. So they start to believe their own lies which is insanity! This is what it feels like to me as a recovering addict. When I am in this place, it feels like insanity.

Anne: Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you are this good person where you don’t engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense; and then your other life where all of these things are actually really happening. You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying so it is almost like you’ve got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

An Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Like Jekyll & Hyde

Amy: Jekyll and Hyde was originally an analogy for an alcoholic. The boxes and compartmentalizing is a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn’t exist; he closes that box and it doesn’t exist. And then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family does not exist.

They are two completely separate worlds so when they collide, like the wife finds something in the history on the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad. It’s not cheating. I’m a man; I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn. It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Women In Pornography Are Exploited & Abused

Anne: Yes, these justifications are very interesting I think, especially when they say, “The woman in pornography want to be exploited and abused.” When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well. Many of them are on drugs. Many have been exploited. they are miserable doing their job. The time they spend in the pornography industry is very, very short. Many don’t spend a lot of time because it’s so difficult for them. 

I’ve talked to someone on the other end, who produced porn for a while and then stopped producing it, and he said, “I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women I filmed but I just never thought about the people who were watching it and how their lives were also being ruined.”

So I think it is very difficult for them to realize they are hurting their wives, themselves, and also the woman who is being exploited, the women in the pornography. And so it is very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation and that demand must stop…that as long as people are viewing pornography there will also be exploitation and sex slavery.

All of these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and harming themselves and other family members. So instead of accepting this, they end up blame shifting and lying and all the things you are talking about.

Amy: My analogy that I have for my own addiction is like I have this little person in my head–I say it’s a little demon–it has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn or like mine was drugs. It will do the craziest things and twist words to convince me that these lies make sense–like I deserve to take this pill because I have had a really bad day…or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won’t have sex with me. and the addict literally believes it even though a sober brain knows that it doesn’t make any sense. So it’s all balancing back to the cognitive dissonance where it needs to balance itself out.

Anne: Let’s talk about blame shifting. This is another way addicts balance themselves out.

Blame-shifting Is A Form Of Manipulation & Emotional Abuse

Amy: That’s a super fun one – I’m being sarcastic of course! It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do . . .” if she did such and such sex act I wouldn’t have to watch porn . . . or if she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to look at porn . . .or if she wasn’t such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn’t need all of this stress relief . . . or I’ve had a really bad day at work and all my customers are awful and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss and I deserve this treat.”

When You’re Husband Tells You, “You Ask Too Many Questions.”

Anne: In my case, I was “too much.” I asked too many questions, I was too consistent, I was too demanding and controlling because I am a woman of my word and I have integrity. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers. In my marriage, I was “too much” although in the end he told me that I was not attractive and he began to go down that route. It was very hurtful to me. These comments ring in my ears still…the blame types of things. You can’t get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

Amy: Right. My ex was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things we were going to do, like carve pumpkins. I would invite him to come and he would say he was working in his office and he wasn’t. Or I’d say, “Let’s go to the park”–anything I tried to get him to engage in with the family he continued to refuse.

When Discovery Day came out, he said he cheated because I did not want him involved in his life. He literally would flip everything around. Then he would say things like, “I didn’t want sex enough.” The reality was that I was sex-starved and turned down all the time.

Anne: Mine stopped initiating. Mine didn’t initiate to begin with, I did, and then I stopped and I’m sure he tells people that I would never have sex with him. He only initiated twice during the six months when I didn’t initiate. Both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused. I wasn’t safe and then he didn’t ever try when I did feel safe. But he doesn’t tell people that because he didn’t initiate safe sex for six months…that gas lighting is pretty intense and traumatizing–part of the emotional abuse.

Amy: Yes. And the gas lighting for me made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me in the beginning–I didn’t have anyone to tell me this wasn’t making sense or it wasn’t right–I didn’t know what was up or down due to the gas lighting. He would say something and then 5 minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.

Anne: Or they say, “I know I said that but it’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing…” And the woman remarks that it is in fact what he said and meant…

Educating Women About What To Expect When They’re Married To A Porn User

Part of the reason we bring this up is not to rehash our own trauma; it’s to educate women about the behaviors they can expect so they know they are not crazy, so they can observe their husband’s behavior to know if he is emotionally safe. My number one goal with Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to teach women what safe behaviors look like so they can begin to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from trauma if trauma continues to happen. 

I want to review these things quickly. We have lying, justifying, blame shifting, and gas lighting. We’ve talked about gas lighting before. We have several podcasts at btr.org. We also really recommend the book, “Why Does He Do That?” It can be found at btr.org/resources. There are many books we recommend to become more educated about these things. The one we recommend most is the “Why Does He Do That?” by Lindy Bancroft. This book will teach you the safe behaviors you are looking for in terms of emotional safety.

I’m so grateful you were here today, Amy Kate, and for all that you have been through and the fact that you are using this now to educate women, especially in your job as a customer service rep for Covenant Eyes.

Amy: Another awesome book that is one of my favorites is, Worthy Of Her Trust. It gives a very clear picture of what true repentance in recovery really looks like. I know for me, I went through a lot of “Am I expecting too much; do I have this crazy vision of what recovery looks like?” When I read that book it helped me to realize that yes, what I was imagining should be happening was actually supposed to be happening. For me this helped to undo the gas lighting that was happening to me.

What A Man Can Do When His Wife Won’t Talk To Him

Anne: That’s really great to help women understand what they are looking for. My ex tells people, “What could I do? She wouldn’t talk to me.” I think that he doesn’t understand that I could very clearly see through his behaviors exactly what was happening.

Someone who really loves his wife and wants to be back with his family doesn’t shut down their bank account. He doesn’t stop giving them money. He doesn’t go to a singles congregation. He doesn’t threaten her and say, “I’m giving you a three-week deadline. If I don’t get back in the house in three weeks then I’m going to do get my own apartment.” These are not the types of things that people in recovery do. So I could clearly see even though I was not talking to him during his behaviors. I love that there is a book that helps with this. Thank you for recommending that.

Amy: The APSATS difference is literally night and day compared to any option out there when it comes to the healing. The coaches that are at BTR are great. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two in person and the others I have talked to multiple times online and they are amazing women with hearts of gold; they are so, so passionate about helping other women change their lives. If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own recovery, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better. You don’t have to stay stuck right where you are. It will get better.

Anne: You are worth it! This is what I want to say to these women. YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe. There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think that God wants me to submit to my husband or he wants me to be a loving, kind, service-oriented wife…so there is the cognitive dissonance with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole, peaceful, loving family. God is telling us, “Please, I love you. You are worth it. Establish safety for yourself.” Starting with an APSATS coach is an excellent way to do that because from the get go, they can help you establish safety in your life.

Amy Kate, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you being with us.

If this podcast was helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating helps women who are isolated and need our help to be able to find us. Your donations are what makes this podcast possible, so please donate today!

Until next week, stay safe!

Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Today we have Amy Kate, an advocate for partners of those with sexual addictions and a survivor of two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six awesome kids and is trained through The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS), as well as the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). She is a fierce warrior determined to point women to freedom and healing found at the feet of Jesus. She is also a customer service representative for Covenant Eyes and can be found at psalm40warrior.com. Welcome Amy Kate!

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Discovery Day: The Day Everything In Your Life Falls Apart When You Find Out About Your Husband’s Affair

Anne: We are going to talk to you about your personal story. We know that you went through two marriages due to sex addiction. Let’s focus on the second marriage and what happened there. Can you tell us what your life was like before D-day in your second marriage?

Amy: I was divorced from my first husband who was a porn addict and I met this guy who was everything I never imagined existed. He was soft, sweet, feminine but not in a weird way; he was just a super, awesome guy. I was actually not a Christian at the time; neither was he. We dated for a couple of years and then we bought a house together and we went to church where we both were saved. When we got saved we got convinced for living together so we got married.

I already had six children from my first marriage and he was a very good step dad. My children were rather young. It was a pretty normal like. I had the kind of relationship that my friends were jealous of because my husband was always home, he would do chores, he didn’t leave his underwear on the floor!, he looked like a model man. Life was good. I had all kinds of health problems but despite this, he was just good.

In 2010, after a couple of major surgeries and a foreclosure on my house, we moved and everything began to change in the relationship. He was very different and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course I thought it was me or my kids; it couldn’t possibly have been him. I started to create my own world outside of him. I had been a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, but I opened up a photography studio. We were a pretty normal couple.

Should You Believe Your Husband When He Says He Doesn’t View Porn?

We didn’t go to church which is unfortunate; I kept trying to get him to try new churches but he was resistant. As time progressed, he got more and more distant; I began to see more anger and our sex life pretty much disappeared. One day, September 20, 2012, I was on his computer (we had each other’s passwords)–we didn’t have anything to hide, right? I looked at his history even though I’m not sure why–he swore he never watched porn – and I believed him.

I saw a bunch of meet-up groups in his history and all of the profiles he looked at were female. I thought this was really weird but I brushed it off thinking he was looking for a tech meet-up group because he is a tech guy. As I kept looking and seeing the female profiles, it was literally like a lightbulb went off and out loud, to myself, said, “My husband’s having an affair.”

But I couldn’t see anything so I ended up combing through his computer to find something and I couldn’t find anything. So then I went upstairs and got his phone and I began to look through it; I didn’t find anything until I found the Google voice app. At this point I took the phone downstairs and I promptly read two years worth of texts from his affair partner. This was my first D-day. As I am telling this, I can still feel the emotion I felt when reading the texts from her. At first I thought it was just virtual but it wasn’t. By the end of the texting I realized that they had actually met in person.

What Happened The Day You Found Out About Your Husband’s Affair?

Anne: For our listeners, maybe some of you are not familiar with the term “D-day” which I have used a lot on the podcast. It means “discovery day.” The day the addiction was discovered, the day you discovered your husband was lying to you, that he had a secret life; in my case, my worst D-day was when my husband was arrested for domestic violence and I realized the behaviors I had been experiencing for the last seven years were emotional abuse and physical intimidation.

That day, when everything came to a halt. This is what we refer to as D-day. We would love to hear about your D-day and experience. If you go to btr.org you can find this podcast and comment anonymously about what happened to you. We also have a secret FB group if you would like to join our community. You can join for free and share your stories there as well.

Amy: If I can actually piggy-back on your story, I think this is one of the most healing things a spouse can do–to tell her story. The more you tell your story, the more healing that happens. This is what I have experienced as well as the women I have worked with. Telling your story is super hard but there is so much healing in sharing. Please tell your stories. 

I confronted my husband and he tried minimizing and lying. Then I decided to relapse myself. I am a recovering drug addict and in my cabinet in my kitchen was some tequila.(one of my clients had flown me down to Florida to shoot their wedding and they had party favors of tequila that had their names on it). This day I grabbed it and my own relapse began and did not end for quite awhile. I wanted to kick him out but I was too busy yelling at him so I didn’t kick him out.

Then I tried to get to the whys and of course, it was all me–everything that I was doing wrong. I went into the “I have to be a perfect wife” because I drove my husband to an affair. It lasted a little while–longer than it should have and then the relapse got worse for me and he was still doing things that I didn’t know he was doing yet; Ied the “recovery” by handing him books and finding him therapists and trying to teach him how to help me. The entire time everything was getting worse for us.

When Pornography Addiction “Recovery” Is A Way For Your Husband To Abuse You

There were more fights. He was getting borderline violent; he didn’t actually hit me but he would trap me in rooms when I wanted to leave a discussion or he would try to force his way into rooms if I didn’t want to have a discussion then and there. The behaviors really escalated. About 15 months of this chaos and unfortunately I did my own sexual acting out; I thought it was revenge and that it would make me feel better. All it did was make me feel worse. T

o this day, it still breaks my heart that I did that. So 15 months later, nothing was better; everything was worse. I clearly had PTSD at this point. The symptoms were there. I was a twitching mess. So I kicked him out. Two days later, the floodgates opened and I found out about all of the porn and the men and the prostitutes and everything else that went along with the sex addictions. For 15 months I thought it was just an affair. And then everything else came out. When he did all of the admitting, he was really broken.

You could see he was legitimately broken. Because I have so much history about recovering from addiction, I know that change is possible. I let him come home because now I had an answer. This is why we haven’t been able to heal–because of addiction; and now we could fix the addiction. I tried to control his recovery because he still wasn’t doing it.

Can I Sleep Around Because My Husband Did (Should I)? Will I Feel Better If I Act Out Too?

Anne: Were you still active in your addiction at this time?

Amy: Yes. I wasn’t fully committed. I would have bouts of sobriety and then I would relapse again. I was still active. Apparently this is my response to a D-day–it was my response; I don’t do this anymore.

Anne: You’re having ups and downs with your own recovery during this time and then you get the bombshell of finding out that he has been looking at porn, that he has been with other men, he’s been visiting prostitutes…where were you then?

Amy: I was a weird mix of terrified and shocked yet hopeful. Again, I believe in the power of recovery. I know that an addict can change. I know it because I changed and I know a ton of addicts that have changed. Actually, some of the addicts I know who have changed are some of the most authentic people you will meet. So I know that change is possible. But I was terrified.

Anne: I feel the same way. Even with what I have been through, my ex-husband is not in recovery…but I have been praying every day that Christ will revive him–literally bring him back from the dead. I watch him and I want so badly for our family to be together even though he is my ex-husband now and even though I hold a no contact boundary because of his lack of emotional health, I still want our family to be together.

I am with you there! I absolutely believe that addicts can change. This is really what breaks your heart. And also what gives you hope! As you are hoping for him to change, what were you doing?

When Gaslighting Leads You To Feel Crazy

Amy: I did my research but it was the wrong research. I ended up in the female co-sex addict codependent books and didn’t find the right path to healing for a long time. I was slowly starting to recover me because I had lost me at this point. I was unrecognizable. Within a couple months of him moving back home after the second large disclosure, that is when the PTSD got insanely bad. Nothing changed when he came home.

All of the behaviors that come along with addiction were there–he was still lying to me, he was angry, he was blaming me for stuff, we were having circular conversations that were making me feel insane. I did not know my reality. Is what he just said true? Am I going crazy?

I really wrestled with this one for a long time. And then I got some form of agoraphobia. I was so triggered whenever I left my bedroom that I basically lived in my room for a year. I remember there was a period for a couple of weeks where just going to the bathroom was traumatic, which sounds traumatic but it really was…I would put my hoodie on and put my hood over my head; for some reason this made me feel safer. I would then literally run to the bathroom like there was this monster in the house going to get me and then run back. My bedroom was like my cocoon. It was the only place I felt safe.

C-PTSD Symptoms Found In Wives Of Sex Addicts Due To Their Related Behaviors Of Abuse & Manipulation

I missed a lot of my life for almost a year in this place. During this, my husband was acting out and claiming his sobriety from the rooftops and that “she’s just crazy.” Actually, later I found out, just after the divorce so not long ago, that his therapist had suggested to him multiple times that I needed mental help because he was afraid for my own safety. My ex-husband chose not to address it with me. He didn’t even acknowledge it despite a trained therapist saying, “Your wife needs help.”

Anne: Was he sleeping in the bedroom with you at the time?

Amy: After he moved home, he was in the bedroom for a very short time and then he was on the couch.

Anne: Ok. So he was not in the bedroom with you and so thus you felt like you had a little bit of a safe place.

Amy: yes. It was my cocoon. We were in a chaotic cycle where the behaviors progressed and he pushed me; once he grabbed my arm because he was arguing and I said we needed to stop the conversation, and he tried to force me to talk to him; he did it so hard that my arms bruised. I didn’t realize this was physical abuse. This thought never crossed my mind. One time he pushed me into my car. He began to get mean with the kids. Everything was escalating and my children were really suffering because mom’s locked in her bedroom and Dad’s gone crazy. It was a really, really rough time period.

Many Women Hit Rock Bottom Before Seeking Help For Betrayal Trauma

Then the depression really kicked in. I stopped eating. I literally did not care about anything. I have a brain condition that gives me migraines. I was on meds for it and I did a bunch of research on how many I would need to take to commit suicide. I counted them out and went out to my car to take them all. This part is a little hard because I have kids I love and I was so depressed that they didn’t even matter. As a mom, this is really, really hard to admit but this is how low things got. I should explain that I have no family and my ex had isolated me from my church and from my friends and so I was literally alone.

Betrayal Trauma Can Lead To Thoughts Of Suicide

So I was sitting in my car with this bottle and I hadn’t been to church in a couple of years and all of the sudden I kept hearing, “Call Robin.” She is a woman from my old church. Robin and I were never close. I knew her and I liked her but it’s not like we were good friends. But I kept feeling this, “Call Robin. Call Robin. Call Robin.” I was like, “I don’t want to call Robin. I’m done with life. I can’t do this anymore.” Somehow I summoned up the nerve to call Robin and I went over to her house and I vomited my entire story onto her. This is the first time I had ever told my entire story. She had no advice. She just listened.

By the end of it, I got angry. All of the sudden I asked her for a sharpie. She was looking at me like I had three heads but she got the sharpie and on my wrists I wrote, “Live free.” That day, I decided I was done and that I was not going to end my life because he couldn’t fix his. This is really when recovery started for me.

Anne: Wow. You have a really powerful story and I really appreciate your candor in sharing this with us today. I am really sorry for all of your pain. I can hear it in your voice. So many of our listeners have felt similar feelings to what you felt. When you decided to recover yourself, what were your first steps?

Amy: The first thing I did was go back to church. I knew that I was so far in a pit that I could not get out of it by myself. I began to read my Bible all of the time and I stopped to listening to secular music and surrounded myself with the word of God. I actually sought out people for the first time and told them my story. I needed help. I was desperate that I didn’t care if you were a rock. If you could help me, I was going to tell you my story because during all of this, I found out that one of my six children was struggling with pornography. It was really bad.

Many Women Loose Faith In God After Experiencing The Lies, Gaslighting, Narcissistic Behaviors Of Pornography Addicts

I began going back to church. I found a couple of different websites that had me doing exercises on visualizing what I wanted my life to be, what my values are; I learned the word “boundary.” I had never heard it. I started reading books and piece by piece, I started getting better. Then I found a FB support group and this is where things began to take off because people understood and I wasn’t crazy; I needed people to tell me I wasn’t crazy because I wasn’t sure. Now I call them my tribe. It’s what it felt like–a tribe, people who had my back.

Anne: Like I said earlier, you can join our secret FB group by going to btr.org, scroll down, and select to join our community. Add your email and we will send you an email with the instructions about how to join this group. It’s so fantastic that you were able to find a support group through FB. Now that you had this support, what happened next?

Amy: I figured out what boundaries where and I made them. He faked it for a little while; he was good at faking. Things were not changing and I kicked him out and I filed for divorce. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was literally dieing and so I felt like I had no other options. Somewhere in there I got the job at Covenant Eyes which also significantly helped my healing. We were a month away from divorce when I heard about a program called Teen Challenge, designed for drug addicts. It’s a year-long, live in program.

I felt led to tell my husband at the time that I would stop the divorce and see who he was if he would commit to go to Teen Challenge. At first, when I felt like this is what I was supposed to do, I told God no. We argued about this a lot because I was done and did not want to do this anymore. But I listened and resentfully submitted.

Anne: I totally get it! I have had so many moments like this where I did the surrender process but I did not want to.

Amy: It was like, “I know you want me to do this. I don’t want do this but I will obey anyway because I trust you. So I offered it to him, mostly because I didn’t think he would say yes, but he did. He went away for a year. He quit his job. He lived in the program for a year. He got better for a couple of months and then relapsed in Teen Challenge–or so he told me.

Now he says he didn’t relapse. He has changed the story so many times I do not know the truth, but either way, we was not getting better. He graduated Teen Challenge and seemed better but not good. I was still very afraid of a relapse. There were a lot of red flags to me. He moved in with our pastor for awhile so I could see how he could handle life on the outside. My landlord in the house we lived in gave us 30-days notice because he was selling the house. So I had to find a new rental that would accept my brood of children and animals, while I’m working full-time and still dealing with trauma, so I actually let him move home to help me.

We got the new house and it spiraled very, very quickly over the summer. He went from a fairly soft, sweet guy back to the old bad behaviors of physically threatening me, the anger, the lying…and then I caught him with porn and I kicked him out.

Anne: I can’t imagine what you are feeling–actually I sort of can…so you send him away for a year; you’re doing what God asked you to do; you have faith in God. He has been through the program and he moves back home and it all falls apart again. Right? I’m imagining you were completely devastated at this point?

Amy: I began to go back into PTSD land, where I lived with all of the PTSD symptoms. What made me make the decision to kick him out was the agoraphobia came back again. At this point, I had regained my life. I was an active mom. I was who I was–fun, light, doing things outside in the world, I could handle football games with my son, I was me again–and then this relapse during the summer began and I said, “no. I’m not going there again.”

I gave him a two-week warning and literally, nothing happened. He made no steps towards fixing his relapse. I gave him two-weeks notice and kicked him out.

Anne: How are you feeling about God at this point?

Amy: I’m angry. 

Where Is God When We Are Experiencing The Pain Of Infidelity, Abuse & Abandonment?

Anne: I would be too! I’m thinking God’s told you to send him to this year thing, you’ve been doing life alone, he comes back and he basically hasn’t changed at all. So it’s like, “God, why? Why didn’t you have me end this a year ago?” we’ve all been through this thought process before.

Amy: I just went through a year of basically hell while he was in rehab and he isn’t out even two months and relapses…what am I missing here? Something isn’t adding up. Yes, I was angry. I felt betrayed by God

Anne: I can imagine. What did you do to repair your relationship with God?

Amy: I had to tackle a couple of big triggers: music. I love worship music but all of my worship music reminded me of my husband so I stopped listening to this. One song talks about taking back what the enemy has stolen. For the longest time this song resonated with me and my husband; we were going to take back our marriage. I decided to flip this song around. It wasn’t about my marriage anymore. It was about what the enemy stole from me. One of those things was my faith in God. He didn’t get to have that. He got my marriage but he doesn’t get to have my faith. He doesn’t get to take the pieces of me that I like.

Recovering Your Faith In God After Betrayal

Basically, I declared war on Satan so I tackled every trigger I had around it. Honestly, I yelled at God a lot. I yelled at him some more and more. Every time I did it I felt like he was saying he understood but he had it. I kicked out my husband and he moved 900 miles away. In this process I met Coach Rae. Between Coach Rae and learning what I learned at APSATS, it was like everything flipped and made sense and just in that short period of time, I have done more healing than I did in the two years before that.

Anne: Coach Rae is amazing!

Amy: She is. We got divorced and it was final and I offered reconciliation. If it required repentance and recovery, this has not happened. He has abandoned the kids and has no contact with them at all. Right now this is the hardest part watching my teenage girls going through this abandonment.

Anne: Yes. My ex moved from a city he was living in temporarily back to the city where we lived. He told his friends that he was so excited to move back so he could spend more time with his kids and then from the day he moved back, he did not see the kids for 4 weeks…I know this is not completely abandoning them but it is so interesting that these men do not realize the impact their decisions are having on other people.

I’m so sorry for your children. It stinks but it is so good to know that so many other women understand and are walking this path with us and that we do have support from them. We have amazing professionals like APSATS coaches who help walk us through. We do have God. We are not alone in this journey even when we feel like we are.

Amy Kate will be with us again next week, talking about demystifying the behaviors of sex addicts, a theme she has learned being trained by APSATS and also in her training with the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). I look forward to talking about his aspect of how to understand these behaviors if they do not make any sense.

If this podcast was helpful, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating increases our visibility with women who are isolated and need our help. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a 501(c)(3) and your donations make this podcast possible. Please click here to donate and keep this information coming. Women need it badly!

Thank you, Amy Kate. I will see you next week. 

If you need support, consider joining Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Stay safe out there!

How To Enjoy Healthy Sex After Betrayal, Lies & Abuse

How To Enjoy Healthy Sex After Betrayal, Lies & Abuse

Is Sex Possible After My Husband Cheated On Me?

If you’re wondering who I am and why I do this, I am a woman who has experienced betrayal. My ex-husband is a sex addict and he exhibited lying, gaslighting, and emotional abuse when he lived in the home.  He is still exhibiting these behaviors; he is still a sex addict who exhibits lying, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and narcissistic traits. I am here podcasting through my own recovery process. We have MJ Denis here with us again this  week. She is a licensed counselor, a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, a certified sex therapist, and she is a certified APSATS coach as a clinical partner trauma specialist. She works in Austin, texas, in private practice at Crossroads Counseling Associates where she counsels individuals and couples who have experienced or been affected by sex addiction. Welcome back MJ.

MJ: Hi, thank you for having me. It’s good to be back.

Anne: Today we are going to talk about healthy sexuality after sexual betrayal. Last week we talked about that a person has the right to say no, that they can say no, that saying no may be in a person’s best interest by helping to establish safety. Today we are going to talk about the other side of this. How do couples get from D-Day to healthy sexuality with someone who has betrayed them, especially if the betrayal involved chronic compulsive behaviors.

MJ: The first step is to create safety and stability. In order to get from discovery to healthy sexuality a couple must have safety and stability in their relationship. Sometimes we start by making sure the betrayed spouse has food, clothing, and shelter; that her basic safety needs are met. The next step is to make sure there is no more cheating, no more betrayal, no more active acting out. Also in creating this safety and stability, I believe a disclosure is necessary so the betrayed spouse knows what has happened and can make some decisions to stay safe and whether or not she wants to continue with the repair process.

Safety Must Come First When It Comes To Healthy Sex

It’s very important in this first stage of moving moving from D-Day to healthy sexuality, that a safety plan is in place where boundaries are discussed to keep both parties safe so the couple knows about communication, about visitation, about topics they can talk about so everyone is on the same page.

Anne: As we talked about last week, part of the establishing safety process is making sure the emotional abuse has ended as well, although this is a long process. I think the D-Day to the healthy sexuality is like, “Fasten your seat belts! This is going to be a process and going to take awhile. It is not going to happen in three weeks.” Someone in my group recently stated that they have made a goal to be emotionally healthy by October.

I laughed because I thought how we are all working towards emotional health. I think addicts must look at it this way: I’m going to go into this recovery process and I am going to check off the 12 steps, be sober for 6 weeks, and then we can have sex again…However, the process is not linear nor is it something to check off a list. Learning to determine our safety is part of the process.

At the beginning, at least with me, I didn’t really know what this meant. So part of my process was to determine how I felt being honest with myself and then to figure out what I really needed to do to feel safe. MJ, what gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal in terms of the betrayed spouse?

What Gets In The Way Of Healthy Sexuality

MJ: there is a list of things that get in the way of healthy sexuality. One thing that comes to mind are triggers. After betrayal, so many ladies become triggered or overwhelmed or are reminded of their spouse’s betrayal. When they get hit with these reminders and they experience fear that more betrayal will happen, it can take them back down to their knees and cause them to experience “ground zero”. This certainly can get in the way of healthy sexuality. Ruminating thoughts will impact healthy sexuality. In the aftermath of betrayal, triggers and ruminating thoughts are expected. This is a normal response to betrayal so I don’t want to pathologize or judge someone for having triggers or ruminating thoughts. That makes sense. This is expected. I just want to be clear that ???? healthy sexuality in that place (around 5:38)

Something else that gets in the way of healthy sexuality is shame and insecurities from the betrayal. Every woman that I have counseled who has experienced betrayal has woundedness around her self esteem, her self concept, her looks, her character, who she is as a sexual being…The betrayal really causes her to wonder if she is less than, not good enough, broken…this certainly will get in the way of showing up in healthy sexuality. Another thing that gets in the way is really not knowing how to create physical intimacy with a partner who has an intimacy disorder.

Anne: That’s a big one! Especially since it takes two to tango! Even you saying this puts some of the responsibility of his disorder onto her, which is unfortunate.

Wives Of Porn Addicts Usually Do Everything They Can To Heal Their Marriage – But They Can’t Heal What They Didn’t Break

MJ: Well, so many times partners will do everything in their power to try to have a healthy relationship. She will do as many actions or behaviors to try to have a healthy relationship. She will read books, listen to podcast, try to learn how to have healthy communication….she’ll do many things to try to have a happy, healthy relationship, sexual and non sexual and she is only going to be able to get so far because someone with an intimacy disorder is in this relationship, and they have to learn how to be intimate.

Anne: And there is nothing she can do about that. I’m just thinking about the question I asked, what gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal and the answer is, “Someone who is emotionally and sexually unhealthy.” One of the major things here is the health of your partner! There is nothing that a woman can do about this. I think so many times a woman gets shamed around this by thinking things like, “Your D-Day was three years ago; what is the problem now?” Well, it’s because he is still exhibiting these behaviors.

I had Barb Stephens on the podcast a few weeks ago. She talked about how she gave a speech regarding when spouses and partners are not getting better and the reason usually is they are still involved in gaslighting and emotional abuse. The addicted spouse is still not fully in recovery and not exhibiting healthy behaviors. In this way, it is almost like the trauma is a gift to us. Sometimes we blame our trauma and think we are being crazy.

But in some ways I think it is a gift that helps us know if we are safe or not. Sometimes the trauma is there for a reason. Sometimes the triggers are triggers because we are actually not safe or sometimes the shame or insecurities are happening because gaslighting is still happening. What gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal?  Many things: abuse, sexual addiction… We know what gets in the way. What does healthy sexuality look like for partners after they have had sexual betrayal?

MJ: There are four components of healthy sexuality while in relationship with someone with a sex addiction. I would like to name them and then go back and talk a little bit about each one.

The four components of healthy sexuality while in relationship with someone with a sex addiction are: safety, communication, respect, playfulness and joy.

In thinking about safety, for women who have experienced chronic betrayal, healthy is often synonymous with “safe.” 

For the whole interview, please listen to the audio up top.

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Establishing Sexual Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal | Betrayal Trauma

Establishing Sexual Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal | Betrayal Trauma

I am so honored and excited to have MJ Denis with us today. She is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed marriage therapist associate, a certified sex therapist, and she is APSATS certified as a clinical partner trauma specialist in Austin, Texas.

She works in private practice at Crossroads Counseling Associates where she counsels individuals and couples who have experienced or been affected by sex addiction. Today we are going to talk about safe sex after sexual betrayal. When we say “safe sex,” we mean emotional, physical, and sexual safety. 

Anne: MJ, in thinking about this topic, where do we even start?

Sexual Safety After You’ve Found Out About Your Husband’s Lies, Affair, Cheating, Porn Use, & Abuse

MJ: We are very much in the “buddy system” when we choose our spouse. It’s really a matter of, “Hey, I’ll get your back; you get mine. I’ll keep you safe and you keep me safe and we’ll look out for each other.”

When we are in relationship with someone and our person has secretive behaviors, whether with another person or with pornography, this betrayal registers as a safety risk. Our amygdala–the part of our brain that helps us detect danger and threat–registers betrayal as danger. Our brain actually registers betrayal as a matter of life and death.

Anne: It sure feels like that.

MJ: Yes. In working with partners I often hear stories about how they discovered their partner’s sex addiction or their betrayal behaviors. Ladies will tell me when they found out about the betrayal, it took them to their knees. Some women throw up. Some can’t breathe.

Some can’t get off the floor because their person is their person for safety and when they are betrayed and their brain says, “I’m not safe; I’m not okay in the world,” ladies really loose their ability to function at times. Many partners report to me that they get sick, they lose weight, they can’t go to work. This discovery registers as a crisis, as a danger, as a matter of life and death.

Anne: I felt that, right after my husband’s arrest, when I realized things were as bad as they were because before I did not understand my true situation with his addiction and then related behaviors. I lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. I couldn’t eat or sleep; it was really bad, especially realizing that my person who I was relying on was never safe; I just didn’t know it until that moment.

A Spouses Betrayal Registers As An Extreme Safety Risk

If our spouse betrays us and it registers as a safety risk, how can wives of addicts ever feel safe with an unfaithful spouse again?

MJ: People really experience dissonance when their spouse betrays them. Going back to us being in a relationship that registers to us as “safety; I’m your person; I’ve got your back; I’ve with you; You’re with me…” we turn to our spouse as a source of safety. When there is betrayal, the person who was supposed to be safe is the source of pain.

So many times in the aftermath of betrayal, ladies will tell me they will experience a “come here, go away syndrome.” “Come here, my husband, come here for safety…but wait, you’ve betrayed me and lied to me; you’ve cheated. Go away for safety….wait, where are you going…come back for safety.”

This can happen emotionally–wanting to go to our husband for safety so he can understand us and hold us emotionally; we can also go towards our husband for sexual safety, for physical safety. We are so vulnerable when we are going to be sexual with someone.

When we take off our clothes and naked with someone, that leaves us tremendously vulnerable. For women especially, the sexual act is one of our most vulnerable times ever. We are allowing someone to be close to us; it doesn’t get more vulnerable than that. So women must feel safe with their sexual partner in order to be sexual.

After the ravages of betrayal trauma, and from being in a relationship with a sex addict, someone with chronic betrayal behaviors, partners often need to feel safe in order to show up sexually. For partners who choose to stay with their sexually addicted spouse, this means they are choosing to stay with the source of pain and the source of their safety risk.

These ladies then try to navigate to function daily with someone they don’t trust, but they also do this tough job of trying to figure out how to maneuver physical and sexual intimacy.

Anne: It’s interesting that you talk about when they stay with the spouse. On the other hand, when a person has been betrayed similarly to my experience, once I realized my husband was not safe, I set a no-contact boundary with him until I could see he was safe enough to be able to communicate with.

All I then observed was him taking money away, not seeing the kids, accusing me of things…he would tell people he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him, I wouldn’t have sex with him . . . and he would say that because I wouldn’t interact with him, he could not do anything. He was not trying to establish safety.

The trauma comes in both cases – when a person decides to stay and when a person decides to impose intense boundaries which often leads to the other person attacking. In both of these cases, determining safety is the first step.

This is why I love APSATS. The first phase is safety and stabilization to make sure the level of safety is apparent before moving forward, even in just having a conversation with them, let alone having sex down the road. Am I making sense?

Emotional Safety Is Necessary For Healthy Sex

MJ: Yes, I agree with you. Establishing safety and stabilization has to be the first step. We cannot allow ourselves to be that vulnerable with someone unless we know we are safe with them. It makes sense to me that you needed to establish a no-contact rule so that you could re-establish safety.

Anne: Many women may be thinking about sex when perhaps they should take a step back and determine if they are emotionally safe to have a conversation.

MJ: In my experience in working with partners who initially have learned their spouse is cheating on them, betrayed spouses will frequently become really fearful that more betrayal will happen again. Sometimes partners will choose to be sexual with someone with a sex addiction to try to keep him from cheating again.

Women will often compare themselves to their husband’s affair partner, be it a pornographic image or a prostitute. Betrayed spouses will compare themselves to that affair partner and wonder what is wrong with them and why they don’t measure up to the affair partner.

Sometimes partners will choose to be sexual in ways they wouldn’t otherwise to try to measure up to what they imagine that affair partner was like, or to measure up to the person in the pornography.

To Have Healthy Sex, Your Partner Cannot Use Porn

Anne: Which is so sad because we cannot compete with pornography. If a person tries to compete with it, they will always, always lose.

MJ: Always. Comparison is dangerous for us, no matter what, because we are at risk either way. If we compare ourselves and we are better than, we risk arrogance. If we compare ourselves and we are less than, we risk shame and self condemnation.

Either way we go with comparison we really come out on the loosing end. Sometimes partners who make the decision to be sexual with their spouse who has betrayed them are really at risk of compromising their own values.

When women become scared and become sexual after betrayal, maybe feeling like they need to do this so he won’t cheat on me again or he won’t leave me…sometimes they can compromise their own values and find themselves doing something they don’t even want to do, that they might never have done but are now doing out of fear and desperation.

I think this is really heart breaking. I know it happens and sometimes women really experience distress from this.

Anne: It’s sad too because the only thing they are trying to do is establish safety for themselves. This attempt at safety will not get them what they want.

MJ: Yes, thank you for bringing it back to why would we have sex with someone who has betrayed us? It goes back to safety. If this is my person and go back to them for safety, I might be sexual with them in the aftermath of betrayal because they are the person I go to for safety and I’m trying to maintain it.

When I am working with partners, they often ask me, with despair, why they want to stay with him after he has hurt them so much…in this place it is important to realize she isn’t staying because there is something wrong with her or she is broken. She is staying because this is her person and she is attached to him.

Often I hear ladies saying it’s their fault that they have been betrayed; it must be–If I had been thinner, sexier . . . If I had been more or less – asked less questions, not shared my opinion as much, not stuck up for myself as much, etc.

Anne: In my world it was “if I had been smaller…”

Healthy Sex Requires Emotional Intimacy

MJ: Really, there is nothing you are another betrayed partner could have been or done or acted like to keep the betrayal from happening.

Someone with a sex addiction who is in their active addiction and not in active recovery will make choices to betray and that is their choice; it’s not because you are the betrayed spouse did or said something wrong or weren’t enough or were too much. It’s because that person chose to betray. That’s on him.

Anne: In this case, the only thing we can do is get support and reach out.

MJ: Absolutely. I’m a big proponent of a care team. I believe that recovering from the impact of sex addiction really takes a team. We need a safe support system–a therapist, a coach, a support group–each can be instrumental in helping partners to heal after they have been impacted by their partner’s sex addiction.

Anne: When I get into a group where I hear women speaking about similar behaviors in their spouses and then I look at how each woman is so different. For me, it was that I asked too many questions, shared my opinion too much, and “too controlling.”

For others, it is that they didn’t say enough. Then I realize that it doesn’t matter what we are like, the behavior of sexual addicts are very similar and they use the same tactics regardless of what their spouse is doing.

MJ: Yes. I recently had a client who joined a support group and she said there were women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, ages, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds; it didn’t matter the differences. What she recognized is that they were all betrayed by someone who had a sex addiction.

It proved to her that it didn’t matter how she showed up in the world. She was in a relationship with someone with a sex addiction who was active in his addiction. She was going to experience betrayal and that was not her fault.

Healthy Sex Is Emotionally Safe

Anne: What typically keeps partners from saying no to their sexually addicted spouse when he is not in recovery?

MJ: Partners get really scared here and often wonder if it is ok to say no. I think what gets in the way of saying no is a list of fears. Sometimes women have a fear of further betrayal and it keeps them from saying no or causes them to hesitate saying no to being sexual.

Ladies fear being criticized for saying no or being condemned by their spouse. Ladies have a fear of being a bad wife or a fear of being alone. There is a huge list of fears that get in the way.

Anne: One of those fears could be that her partner would say she isn’t giving him sex….in society this isn’t acceptable. Society says a sexless marriage means it’s the woman’s fault…they don’t understand all of the reasons why I might be saying no. Just the fact that a partner can use the weapon of, “She refuses to have sex with me” is terrifying to women.

MJ: Yes. And addicts tend to use this as justification for their betrayal. It isn’t fair or accurate. He will choose to betray not because she is or is not sexual with him.

Anne: Yes. It doesn’t matter. Let’s talk about values conflict in this situation.

MJ: In thinking about why partners feel scared to say no, sometimes they experience values conflicts. Some examples: on one hand, she might value being a good and loving wife and she might tell herself that being this kind of wife means she is sexual or she shows up sexually.

A conflicting value that might happen at the same time is that she values safety and wanting to pull away from him in order to be safe. On one hand she values that she thinks she should show up sexually and in the same moment she values that she thinks she should not show up sexually. Do I go toward him or do I pull away from him?

Another example: Ladies often tell me they value keeping an intact family unit. They have a high value on a cohesive family. They might also value separating so the kids are not exposed to sex addiction, or abuse or gaslighting or other safety issues in the home.

She might feel like she has to have sex to maintain an intact family. At the same time she values safety and feels like pulling back from being sexual with him.

Another value in this discussion is described when women talk about honoring God. For some women, they think that honoring God is submitting sexually to their husband. A conflicting value that often happens simultaneously is they may feel they are honoring God by being authentic and protecting this body God gave me, by protecting my heart that God gave me….so now what do I do?

Am I honoring God by being sexual when I don’t want to? Am I honoring God by not being sexual and protecting myself.

Anne: I think it comes down to being honest; honoring God by being honest with myself about how I really feel.

Setting Boundaries Helps Establish Sexual Safety

MJ: this is gets really confusing.

Anne: It does, especially when so many are distanced from their emotions because they have been so concerned about our addict husband–how does he feel, what can I do to help him, what can I do to help our family stay intact?

Sometimes we are distant from feeling unsafe. So many women have told me they didn’t even recognize that they felt unsafe; and that they don’t even know what that means. I don’t even know if I’ve felt emotionally safe.

With all of this being said, why do you think it’s ok for betrayed spouses to say no to sex after betrayal–or even before? If they feel unsafe, do you think it’s okay to say no?

MJ: I do think it is okay to say no. I would like to talk about saying no after discovering sex addiction is impacting the relationship. Let’s start there.

We can view sex addiction as an intimacy disorder. In -to- me-C disorder means not working. People who experience an intimacy disorder tend to not know how to be close and connected well, authentically. There is real value in taking sex off the table during sex addiction recovery, for a purposeful period of abstinence. The purpose of this period of abstinence is so the couple can work on establishing emotional intimacy.

As safety is building, the couple can begin to take steps to reestablish safe, non-sexual touch, then establishing safe sexual touch. I think there is an order to sex addiction recovery for the addict. The order involves creating emotional intimacy, being close and connected emotionally, then learning how to have non-sexual safe intimacy; then learning how to have sexual intimacy.

Setting Boundaries Around Sex Is A Relationship Barometer

Anne: This is very interesting to me because about six months before my husband’s arrest, I decided I needed emotional intimacy and that I was going to stop initiation sex; I told him that I didn’t feel emotionally safe and that I was not going to initiate sex.

I told him that he was welcome to initiate if he wanted to but that I would not be initiating. I told him I needed to see more from him in terms of being emotionally connected. Nothing happened.

He didn’t attempt in any way to reestablish emotional intimacy. In fact, I had purchased a workbook and we started it one night. He said he was so excited. I told him that he would need to be the one to pull it out and get us to work on it; I needed this to feel emotionally safe. He never pulled out the notebook; not once.

I think this type of boundary is also helpful in seeing where they really are…I am establishing abstinence to determine if they are really going to work towards emotional intimacy…or are they going to say, “Oh well. She won’t have sex with me so what can I do?” 

MJ: I’m glad you’re bringing up this kind of dynamic. There is something called excess vs deprivation. Let’s apply this dynamic of excess vs deprivation to sex addiction. Imagine in a relationship the husband has the sex addiction and within his marriage, deprivation is happening.

Let’s imagine he is not reaching for his wife; she is not having emotional or physical intimacy–not to the degree she would hope for. Instead, he is acting out sexually, having excess sexual experiences outside of the relationship.

A Sexless Marriage Is A Result Of Pornography Use

During attempts to change this, maybe before recognizing the sex addiction, he might make attempts to not be sexual outside the relationship–“I’ll do a workbook; I’m going to try to not have excess outside of the marriage”–and very often what happens is he might shut that down but it doesn’t teeter totter and make the intimacy within the marriage get better.

I see with couple I work with when they are in the first stage of creating safety and stability and making sure that sexual betrayal is not happening outside of the marriage, the hope for the marriage is if excess is shut down, will the marriage teeter totter and will there be intimacy inside the marriage? This isn’t typically what happens.

Usually there is now deprivation across the board and sexual behavior is not happening inside or outside of the marriage–because he still has an intimacy disorder; he still does not know how to be intimate. The couple has to go through the process I will describe later on of moving through emotional intimacy with non-sexual touch and then on to physical intimacy. Sometimes sex addicts are learning this for the first time.

Anne: That being said, MJ, I imagine some couples worry about when they will start having sex again. What is the process for this?

MJ: One of the common beliefs of someone with a sex addiction is that sex is their most important need. There has to be a retraining of the brain to help someone with a sex addiction wrestle with this, to help them learn that sex is not their most important need. Quite frankly, we could live without sex; someone who is not sexual is not going to die or spontaneously combust!

While we want couples to be both friends and lovers, we want to help the couple to initially create safety in their relationship–this is the part where we stop the acting out behaviors and betrayals…

Anne: and stopping gaslighting and related behaviors…

MJ: Absolutely. I see that sometimes this is harder to change for some addicts who can stop the betrayal behaviors and sexual acting out but changing their emotionally abusive behaviors such as how they show up in conflict and how they use humor–this takes more time.

It’s a relearning of how to communicate and how to respond to their person. This actually takes a lot of work. This is part of the recovery after sex addiction.

First we achieve safety and stability. Next is disclosure and transparency which I think is so important because disclosures that are done a little at a time takes a spouse back to ground zero, takes her to her knees.

There can be real trauma in getting little bits of information of betrayal at a time. Ladies need to know what they are dealing with so they can make choices about whether or not they want to stay and work on the marriage.

A therapeutic disclosure where the couple is being kept safe and being walked through about how to disclose all of the information is very necessary. There must be transparency before communication can be worked on.

Anne: We recommend that women in conjunction with a theraputic disclosure consider a theraputic polygraph as well.

MJ: Yes. This can help to make sure all information is out. It can help partners really feel another degree of safety with the person who has betrayed them.

Anne: So when we get to the communication phase, one of the things I have been learning about abuse is that it is really a perception issue. The reason why it happens is because the abuser perceives his victim in a certain way which continually causes the emotional abuse. Changing these mental processes is going to take a really long time.

If these abusive behaviors are happening, couples therapy is contraindicated until two years after the last abuse episode. From a sex therapist point of view, can you talk about this? What is the process of someone deciding they are not going to be emotionally abusive anymore, in the context of sex addiction?

MJ: When it comes to sex addiction, I find that many addicts exhibit profound gaslighting behaviors because they are trying not to get caught, they are trying to get their spouse to back up and not find out about their secret; they will be manipulative, bullying, mean, and say critical and contemptuous things to get the wife to back up.

In recovery from sex addiction, there is this period of teaching them how to recognize how they respond to being questioned, to having conflict…they have to learn how their brain wants them to gaslight and they have to challenge this and learn how to respond differently.

This really is a process and validates again why, in some ways, they might have more immediate success in stopping the betrayal behaviors, the sexual acting out, and then it could take a long time to learn how to respond kindly, not defensively, being able to accept influence.

This goes a long way to helping the couple start moving toward reestablishing a sexual relationship. the safety has to come first.

Feeling Isolated When Your Sex Life Is Unhealthy

Anne: If you feel isolated, confused, or trying to cope on your own and things are not working, your therapist doesn’t understand, you’re not making progress, please join a BTR group.

Our groups are specifically for you with trained APSATS coaches. We know there are individual differences and that each situation is unique but we have all had similar challenges. Everyone at BTR is going through what you are going through and we understand.

Join a support group today – Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is a very inexpensive way to have up to three support groups a week that you can drop in and out of. 

If you are interested in immediate assistance through a peer-to-peer FB group by joining our community below. The BTR Secret Facebook group is peer-to-peer, and not APSATS led, but a good place to start. 

We are a 501(c)(3) and your donation help keep this podcast up and running. Please donate today.

MJ, thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. I appreciate the time you have taken to talk with us today. We are going to have MJ on next week to discuss healthy sexuality after betrayal!

Teaching Children Personal Safety To Avoid Sexual Abuse

Teaching Children Personal Safety To Avoid Sexual Abuse

I’m interviewing Kimberly Perry, author of Say “NO!” and TELL! A Creative View of Personal Safety for Maisie (girls) and Daxton (boys).

Her professional underpinnings for this endeavor include 15 years of teaching and coaching in public and private schools in California, Michigan and North Carolina while specializing in preschool to 5th grade. I also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and a Masters of Arts in Teaching.  After teaching Personal Safety to over 1000 elementary students, she was inspired to write the Say “NO!” and TELL! book series.

Inspired After Discovering The Heartbreaking Statistics On Ever-Increasing Instances Of Child Sexual Abuse

Anne: Why did you write a book about personal safety for young kids? 

Kimberly: While serving as a Health and Physical Education Teacher in the Michigan public school system, I taught Personal Safety for over 1,000 elementary students and wondered why I had not been taught these prevention strategies when I was a child. The need to empower children with self-care skills and people safety tools is critical for well- being.

My professional underpinnings for this endeavor include 15 years of teaching and coaching in public and private schools in California, Michigan and North Carolina while specializing in preschool to 5th grade. I also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and a Masters of Arts in Teaching. How can it be that at least 2 out of every 10 girls and 1 out of every 10 boys are estimated to be sexually abused before their 14th birthday (childmolestationprevention.org)? Every eight minutes, Child Protective Services responds to a sexual abuse report (rainn.org). According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abuse before the age of 18. 

Kids need to be empowered with Personal Safety skills and tools so they know what to do when a questionable encounter happens. 

Kimberly: Personal Safety is learning how to keep your body safe or sexual abuse prevention for kids. Kids learn to say NO to unsafe touches by protecting their bodies with boundaries to prevent or stop sexual abuse. The Say NO! and TELL! books empower kids with Personal Safety by using a THREE-phased approach ™ based on a proven and straight forward sequential method.

  1. Teach body awareness with basic hygiene (bathing), health (nutrition) and safety (swim) concepts
  2. Explains boundaries with more unique safety concepts such as Internet, stranger and people safety.
  3. Introduce Personal Safety – prevention awareness of safe boundaries for private parts.

Boundaries define personal property and allow us to take care of it by setting limits on others and internal limits within ourselves. The boundary of saying “NO!” defines ownership, lets others know that we exist apart from them and we are in control (Cloud 29, 43-44).

Part I has a story about Maisie Monarch or Daxton Dolphin where the characters embark on a journey of growing up and preparing for a migration trip. Parents teach them Personal Safety before they go and ask open ended questions throughout the story for you to define your family terminology and values. Part II of the book has 8 scenarios, in which I researched the predator and turned those tactics into life skills for kids, such as privacy, private moments, guard your eyes and ears, safe secrets, bribes, threats, safe games, etc.

The solutions section has numerous tools like a quiz, a Personal Safety Family Plan, resources and a removable section for grown-ups with stats and the THREE-phased steps in details with practical ideas.

Talking Point #3: Grown-ups need to empower kids with Personal Safety early because kids develop a natural curiosity about the human body when they are young. Say NO! and TELL!  is a creative faction, read-aloud book for grown-ups to read to their young kids age 5 to 9.

What Is The Best Age To Begin Talking To A Child About Body Safety?

Kimberly: Kids develop a curiosity about the body and the gender identity parts early and is a natural part of developing body awareness. Pre-school through elementary school age (3 yrs. to 9 yrs.) is an important time to teach kids about private parts (using real anatomical words), boundaries, safe touches which feel comfortable, “your body belongs to you!” and it is okay to say “no thank you” to any touches, and privacy is okay too as you grow independent. Only safe caregivers may see, examine or clean your private parts, while you are really young, when you still need help.

In the Say NO! and TELL! books, each child-friendly concept builds on the others forming a strong foundation of wellness, while being considerate of preserving innocence and balancing naivety with wisdom. Please note this book does not cover reproduction, which is saved for an age-appropriate time at your discretion.

Grown-Ups And Kids Need To Have A Personal Safety Family Plan In Place For When They Encounter A Questionable Encounter

Anne: Talking to kids is important, but what should they do when they are exposed to a questionable encounter?

Kimberly: A basic Personal Safety Plan includes: memorizing address and phone number, a family code word or “danger” plus a check-in rule. Kids need to know how to dial 911, understand who are the safe givers and trusted grown-ups and make a list of the top five to contact, TELL if ANYONE ever tries an unsafe touch or does anything inappropriate with private parts, and keep telling until it stops.

Also, kids need to memorize (SAY NO, GET AWAY, TELL and KEEP TELLING):
Remember to say “NO!”
GET AWAY if you can!
TELL someone
KEEP TELLING until it stops! Take a stand!

Say NO! and TELL! books can be purchased at www.SayNoandTell.com. You can see more about the program at www.WeStandGuard.com.

Make Peace On Earth – Set A Boundary

Make Peace On Earth – Set A Boundary

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have a heart-wrenching share from V. She’s talking about holding boundaries during the holidays which is so difficult.

During this holiday season, please consider donating to help other women in pain

Holiday Boundaries To Keep Myself Safe From Emotional Abuse

V is sharing today about her Thanksgiving experience. So many of us have experiences like this: experiences where we desperately want our families to be a safe and peaceful place, but because of our husband’s behaviors it’s not an option at this moment. I have felt the terror of realizing, my husband hates me or my husband is always angry and irritable. That terror caused me to ruminate about our interactions instead of taking action to keep myself safe.

I’m so grateful for V’s share today about how she sets boundaries, even when it’s the holidays and even when her greatest desire is to be with her family.


My husband and I are currently separated. We’ve been separated for three months. He is not working recovery right now. That is what led to me asking him to move out… because he was lying constantly and was emotionally abusive. And I felt like I was going crazy and it came to a point where I said you have to be working recovery or you can’t live here.

The First Boundary I Set

He said he would go to a meeting. I found out that he lied and didn’t go. I asked him to move out at that point. And that was one of the first boundaries that I enforced.

I remember feeling so desperate for a peaceful home, that it was as if I had no other choice than to ask him to leave because I was so surrounded by trauma and pain constantly because of his lack of recovery.

I’ve held that boundary. It’s been really difficult. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I did spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family and he was there. It was very uncomfortable because I don’t spend much time with my husband other than interacting when he’s coming by to watch our son while I’m at therapy or group.

So Thanksgiving was really hard. Physically being around him was very triggering.

We talked about getting a Christmas tree. I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday and I love the idea of my family being together and doing the holiday traditions together.

There’s so many things I want to do as a family. But I realized this morning that I needed to make a boundary about the amount of time I spend with him. I thought about it for a long time, and I talked with a recovery contact, and I prayed about it.

I came to the conclusion that I didn’t feel I was safe to go get a Christmas tree with my husband as much as I wanted to. He has not shown me that he is safe for me to spend that time with him and that time as a family. And I don’t feel comfortable spending that time with him.

So I wrote out what I would read to him.

I told him I wanted to feel comfortable with him. I expressed that the way I would feel comfortable is if he would work recovery with a sponsor and a therapist. After I was finished reading, he ignored what I had to say and asked about our plans to get a Christmas tree. Even though I had made it clear in the boundary I had made that that’s not something I’m comfortable doing when he’s not working his recovery. When I restated my boundary to him, he immediately started verbally attacking me.

It was aggressive. He started asking “What are we going to do about Christmas? Am I gonna get to spend Christmas with my son?”

I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t expect that. And so I tried to restate my boundary, but then I realized I had to remove myself from the conversation because I wasn’t going to get anywhere with trying to explain my boundary to him.

And so I said, “How about you take some time to think about this and we can talk later.”

I got off the phone. Since then I’ve felt uneasy, but not because I did the wrong thing. I strongly believe that I’m protecting myself and doing the right thing by holding a boundary with my husband when he’s not in recovery. But I feel uneasy because my desire is to spend time with him and to enjoy the Christmas spirit and holiday because I feel very lonely sometimes.

My Boundary To Avoid Emotional Abuse Caused Me To Doubt Myself

His reaction to my boundary caused me to doubt myself–am I doing the right thing? All those questions ran through my head. I was able to get back in contact with my recovery friend who helped me realize I was putting my husband at my center, and I needed to re-center myself. Which is what I’m doing this evening.

This has been the hardest boundary I’ve had to hold with my husband because it seemed like getting the tree as a family would be a positive and harmless thing. But I know that even though I’m excited to see my husband, once I’m in his presence I realize how uncomfortable I really feel. And how his lack of recovery makes being around him so undesirable.

I really do love my husband, and I really sincerely desire to work out our marriage. And it’s really hard when it doesn’t seem like that’s what he wants. And I’m trying one day at a time to connect with God and follow His will for me.

But I definitely don’t do it perfectly. I struggle with knowing what His will is for me. I’m just trying to be open and to let Him know that I desire to carry out His will and surrender my desires and my will. Because I know that He has a plan for me. And His plan is the best plan.

Boundaries have been really important in my recovery. I’ve learned a lot about God through boundaries, and how He holds boundaries with each of us.

Why Boundaries Are So Important

I’ve also gained a stronger testimony that He desires me to hold boundaries to protect myself. He wants me to keep my son safe because it’s my responsibility to keep my son safe physically and emotionally–that’s where boundaries come into play for me and when I think of it that way, it gives me a lot of strength.

I do feel like I’m carrying out God’s will when I protect myself and my son. And I pray for my husband that he will find healing and recovery and that he’ll find God. But I can’t make him do any of those things.

I’m grateful for the support I feel from my sisters in recovery, and the strength I get from them. I’m trying to take life one day at a time, even one moment at a time right now. And I believe that things will get better. I have found peace and happiness through working my recovery. There are hard days, and today is one of those days.

I have faith that it will get better and I’ll have good days again.


V is a trauma warrior and I love her so much. I’m so grateful for all of you listening.

We’re grateful for your donations. Again on this #givingtuesday please donate so we can continue to bring you free content. Also we’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and I’m still going to try to get the podcast up on Youtube. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m working toward it because those of you who do not have iPhones can access it through a Youtube app on whatever phone you have. I’m so grateful for all of you. Keep coming back. It works when I work it, and I am worth it.

How To Protect Young Children From Harmful Pornography Exposure

How To Protect Young Children From Harmful Pornography Exposure

We LOVE the book Good Pictures Bad Pictures. The giveaway is over! Thank you for all of those who participated. Our winners were announced on Instagram! Thank you so much for helping us get the word out about this amazing resource and also helping women in pain find hope with Betrayal Trauma Recovery!

You can also get a FREE Poster To Help Children When They Are Exposed To Pornography
Text: CanDoPlan to 44222

Then reply with your email and a pdf will be sent to you!

How Good Pictures Bad Pictures Came To Be A Resource For Protecting Children From Pornography Addiction

Protecting kids became Kristen’s mission after she received a late-night phone call from a traumatized mother who was dealing with the tragic consequences of her porn-addicted son. That’s when she linked arms with Dr. Gail Poyner and spent the next three years writing the Amazon #1 best-selling book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Since then, Kristen has become a frequent speaker and guest on podcasts and radio broadcasts. She’s a member of the Prevention Task Force of the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation. She actively blogs at ProtectYoungMinds.org where she helps parents empower their kids to reject pornography. 

After hearing tragic stories of kids getting exposed and addicted to pornography, Kristen wrote Good Pictures Bad Pictures; Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids to fill a much-needed resource gap.

“It all started when I received a late night phone call from a traumatized mother who told me about her 17-year-old son. He had been sexually molesting his younger siblings—imitating the pornography he’d been viewing from the time he was in elementary school. The next morning I searched for a children’s book to explain the dangers of pornography addiction and provide an action plan for how to keep kids safe online.  But I couldn’t find any. So I linked arms with my dear friend and licensed psychologist, Dr. Gail Poyner and we wrote Good Pictures Bad Pictures to fill this much-needed resource gap.” 

Learning How To Check Cookies Isn’t Enough

Anne:  Why did you start Protect Young Minds?

Kristen: I started Protect Young Minds to begin educating parents about the risks of their young children seeing pornography.  So many parents are not aware of how young  children are when they begin seeing it and how accessible it has become.  Also, I was writing my best selling book Good Pictures Bad Pictures. I have a friend who called me one night and started pouring out her heart.  Her 17-year-old son was molesting his siblings and was involved in pornography. When she called me and told me this sad, tragic story, because not only did he have to leave the family and go into a program and be prosecuted, the younger children had to go into counseling–and I realized what a huge trauma this was. When it got out to their friends, the kids became more isolated because no one wanted their kids to play with them. When I woke up the next morning after hearing her story, I realized there needed to be a resource to help parents teach their young children about this danger.  So I went on line and did searches and I could not find anything.  I began doing research and felt compelled to write this book. I thought, “Even if it’s for my own future grandchildren, there needs to be a resource out there.”  Happily, it became a number one bestseller on Amazon and it’s growing and growing and getting out there!  We are really happy that it is helping so many families.

Anne:  It’s on our bookshelf and sometimes we pull it out and talk about it.  My son talks about his frontal lobe and if he’s throwing a fit I’ll tell him his frontal lobe isn’t working.  He’ll say, “Let me reattach it!” So is your book for kids or parents?

Kristen: Both! I have parents tell me all the time that they learn as much from it as their kids are because what we are trying to do is start a conversation.  It’s a read-aloud book that gives parents a script.  You and I inherited scripts from our parents to deal with certain problems. When I was a child and I got bullied or teased, my mother had a script that she got from her mother. She told me, “Kill them with kindness. Don’t let them see this bother you.” This is a script that she learned from her mother. But we don’t have any scripts about the reality of internet pornography. Parents don’t have a script in dealing with this so I thought, “I will write a script.”  It took us 3 years.  It models a proactive approach so that parents get in there and begin the conversation, hopefully before their children are exposed or soon after so that they know how to process it and respond.    

Kristen:  The first year we sold the book I thought our sales would plummet in December because who wants to think about this during the holiday? But actually they went up a little because people were giving this as a gift. I’ve heard from so many that they give this as a gift. I want to tell you a few of the things we do in the book for parents.There are five things: 
 It defines what pornography is.  If a child has a simple definition they can recognize it and have a vocabulary to tell about it.

It gives kids a plan for when they see it. We have the CANDO plan.  It includes closing their eyes, telling a trusted adult or parent about the exposure, naming it when they see it so they label it and recognize it. How to deal with the memories. Pornography creates shocking memories.  Many of us can still remember when we were first exposed and can call up the memory if we want. 

The third is it gives children the power over porn by teaching them how their brains react to it. You were telling me about your son and his frontal lobe.  Kids learn about their thinking brain and their feeling brain.They learn to keep their thinking brain in charge so that pornography can’t hijack their feeling brain.

Number four is that it protects kids from addictions of all kinds. Although we are focusing on pornography, the addiction process is very similar, no matter if you have a behavioral addiction like pornography or gambling or video games or a substance addiction.  It’s really important for children to understand about all addictions and how they can avoid them.

Number five may be the most important. It unifies the family to fight the dangers of pornography together by getting it out in the open.This is a common danger for all of us.  We need to fight this together. You aren’t going to be alone. Kids whose parents aren’t talking about this are fighting this alone, whether or not the parents know it. These kids are fighting alone and many are losing the battle.  So let’s pull together and help our kids and hopefully Good Pictures Bad Pictures will help parents to begin this conversation and empower their kids with the skills to fight the effects of pornography.

Anne: Absolutely. If we want to protect our kids, the number one thing we can do is be in recovery ourselves. If we need to be in recovery, we are attending our meetings and we are becoming healthy. For me, this is a process and I am still in the process and I am on the path but it is a process.

The second thing is to be able to talk about anything. Your book helped me to have a script to talk to my kids. One day we were watching some simple show on Netflix and my son said, “There isn’t any pornography in this show!” I said, “Nope.There’s not. It’s a great show!” This is something he could say and we could talk about.

Kristen:  If you can talk to a 4, 5, or 6 year old about pornography, when they are 13 it’s not going to be awkward. If you wait until they are 13, it is going to be more awkward. We’ve been asked to write a junior version. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Kids is geared towards kids ages 7-11. Although many have read it to their young children, many parents have asked for something simpler because every 3-year-old is on the iPad.  We’re coming out with this in February 2017:  Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr:  A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds.  It’s a picture book, all good pictures, a simplified version of our original book.

Anne: If you’d like to read more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures, you can visit Kristen’s site protectyoungminds.org.

If you’d like to purchase Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, visit our supply page: btr.org/supplies

Kristen, thank you so much for being on our show today!

Kristen: It was wonderful talking to you Anne.  I’m so glad for people like you who are getting out there to help others with this problem, helping women to recover from betrayal trauma, and then in turn helping their children get healthy. It’s a challenge in today’s environment. There are a whole lot of problems because of pornography, as you know.

Anne: Yes. My family was destroyed because of pornography. It’s a mess. So many women all over the world and our children and the addicts themselves are dealing with the effects of it constantly in our daily lives. We have true heroes who are healing from the trauma and setting good boundaries to keep themselves and their children safe from the behaviors of active addicts and learning to heal.

Kristen, you are a true hero! Keep coming back.  It works when I work it.  

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

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 bythelightofgrace.com and more at ldsaddictionrecoveryblogs.blogspot.com 

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