Posted tagged ‘12 step’

I’m seeing about 3:1

August 6, 2009


This post is the 6th in a series about addiction recovery. If you are not an addict or married to one, then this probably won’t make much sense. To see a list of the entire series from the beginning, go to this page.

In the months since Mandy and I shared our story, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with lots of people who are facing similar, if not identical issues. The struggle with pornography and sexual addictions is rampant in our society, and sadly, the percentages are not that different in our church congregations.

As Mandy and I meet with these couples – sharing our story with them and walking them through the steps to recovery – we’re seeing a ratio of about 3 to 1. There are 3 individuals or couples who either will not or can not do what it takes to walk through recovery for every individual or couple that does.

A lot of men can’t bring themselves to be completely honest with their spouse. They fear rejection. They are ashamed. They can’t face it. And a lot of women just can’t bring themselves to go through it. They think they aren’t strong enough. They feel too betrayed. They don’t think they can ever trust anybody ever again.

But sometimes I get to have a great conversation like I did this past weekend. I talked with a guy who just got his 6 month coin from his 12-step group. This means he has gone 6 full months without any pornography in his life. He told me that this is the longest he has gone without it in years. He also told me that he has never felt closer to his wife, and that the love he feels for her is so strong he could hardly describe it. You could see it on his face. He had gone from shame to grace. He was walking the steps. And he was finding freedom.

I wish I could hear more stories like that. Why couldn’t it be 1:3 instead of 3:1? What could we as individuals and churches do to make that happen?


No Secrets

March 16, 2009

This post is the 5th in a series about addiction recovery. If you are not an addict or married to one, then this probably won’t make much sense. To see a list of the entire series from the beginning, go to this page.


When your addiction comes out and your spouse knows about it, it is time to enact a new modus operandi – “No Secrets.” In this mode, you voluntarily forfeit any right to privacy from your spouse. An addict will be resistant to this practice, but I have found it to be critical to my personal recovery, and for the rebuilding of trust in our marriage.

No Secrets mode is necessary for several reasons:

  1. Trust has been shattered between you, so you must do anything it takes to re-establish it.
  2. All addicts are good liars. “No Secrets” mode establishes new habits of behavior.
  3. Addictions live in the dark. The more light we can shine on them, the less power they will have over our lives.
  4. Spouses can usually sense danger, see warning signs, and predict patterns well before the addict can. Having no secrets allows the spouse to help in the recovery process.
  5. It helps build humility. It is humbling to submit to a spouse and admit you need help.

So what does it look like? What do I mean by No Secrets? Here are some examples.

No Secrets with Time. Your spouse has the right to know where you’ve been. Immediately. On Demand. Without hesitation. If you are separated at the department store for 10 minutes, and your spouse wants to know what you did in those 10 minutes – you’d better spill. And stick to the facts – no embellishment. The longer it takes to tell where you’ve been and why, the more suspicious it looks!

No Secrets with Companions. Who were you with? Who did you have lunch with? Who else did you see while you were there? Who was at the meeting? Was (name of a person) there? Who did you ride with? Addicts hate these types of quetions, but they are essential to rebuilding trust.

No Secrets with Money. Your spouse has a right to know what you did with every single penny. Period.

No Secrets with Technology. Your spouse has the right to look through your web browsing history, through your email, through your text messages, through the Pay-Per-View history and through the online banking accounts. Is your computer setup with multiple user accounts? If so, then your spouse needs to have your login name and password.

No Secrets with Acting Out. Did you stumble? Did you indulge in an addiction activity? Your spouse deserves to know. Immediately. The sooner the better.

No Secrets with Your Thoughts. Have you been feeling tempted lately? Have you felt depressed or stressed or angry or frustrated? Have you thought about other women (either real or imagined?) Have you seen something you shouldn’t have seen? Have you been in an environment that was difficult for you because it triggered an addictive response? Have you hung around people that trigger that response?

The Addict will hate this. It makes them feel like a child. It makes them feel nagged. It makes them feel like they have no control and no privacy. And here is my answer to that. YOU ARE A CHILD! (at least part of you is.) All addicts have an arrested development of some kind. You have proven again and again that you cannot be trusted on your own, and that you need the help of others to stay on track. So don’t resist this. It is good for you. Submit to your spouse. Let go of your “rights”. Embrace truth.

It could save your marriage.

It could save your life.


March 3, 2009

haltThis post is the 3rd in a follow-up series to Sharing Our Story (Jan 26). The 1st follow-up to that was the post called What Drives You To Act Out (Feb 19). The 2nd one was Counterfeit Intimacy (Feb 25). This series is targeted to people who struggle with addictions and their spouses. If you’re not an addict (or married to one) the following info might be really weird for you. I’m just sayin’.

That last post was pretty deep and heavy, so I decided to make it an easy read this time!

HALT is an acronym which is helpful in remembering those time when you are most succeptible to the addiction cycle. It stands for: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. When you get into those situations, you are more likely to be tempted, and are more likely to give in because your defenses are down. Recognize this fact and do two things:

  1. Talk to your accountability partner, spouse, sponsor, or counselor if you’re feeling run-down or succeptible to temptation.
  2. Fill the need appropriately. (ie: If you’re hungry, eat something, but don’t overindulge to deaden the senses. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re lonely or angry, find some time to talk with someone – an appropriate someone!)

HALT: It’s a simple and quick tool to have in your arsenal for defense!

Counterfeit Intimacy

February 25, 2009

This post is the 2nd in a follow-up series to Sharing Our Story (Jan 26). The 1st follow-up to that was the post called What Drives You To Act Out (Feb 19). This series is targeted to people who struggle with addictions and their spouses. If you’re not an addict (or married to one) the following info might be really weird for you. I’m just sayin’.

I wanted to write about the issue of Counterfeit Intimacy some more, as it has been a foundational issue in my recovery.


First, let’s define intimacy. I do not mean intimacy as sex – which comes immediately to a lot of people’s minds. Instead, I mean intimacy as an emotional connection, not a physical one. It is familiarity, a feeling of belonging together, closeness, of truly knowing each other, “to know and be known”, to not have secrets between you, to empathize with the other person, to share common experiences and goals, to be on the same team emotionally and spiritually, to be accepted and loved for the person you really are.

I never realized how important my need for intimacy, as defined above, was until I got into recovery. And then I came to learn that my addiction to pornography was linked directly to this idea of counterfeit intimacy.

Pornography is a fantasy – yes. It is an aid for physical pleasure and stress relief – yes. But for the addict, it is much more than that. Addicts are looking for something to fill the void which is created inside them by a lack of intimacy in their marriage. We crave that intimacy so much, that when our gauge gets low -and the need is not addressed in a reasonable amount of time – then we will turn to counterfiet intimacy in a lame attempt to fill that need.

Pornography is a counterfeit intimacy because it plays on the illusion of closeness and familiarity. It gives the user a cheap imitation of actual acceptance and love. But it is not real. It is hollow. It cannot fill up the void that exists within. It can only temporarily delay the feeling of isolation. Because the truth is – as soon as you’re done looking at it – the empty feeling wells up from within and is even more powerful than before. And on top of that – you pile guilt and shame on top of it.

It is at this point in the cycle, that you see why people get trapped with it. When you feel that guilt and shame, you can’t look your spouse in the eye (because intimacy and trust has been broken). You now have a secret that exists in the space between the two of you. This makes getting your need for intimacy filled all the more unlikely, because NOW you not only have the normal lack of connection with that person that has to be rekindled through communication and understanding, but now you have actual barriers you have to cross before you can even GET there.

The first barrier is honesty. You have to come clean with your spouse. This will take courage and humility. But most certainly, your spouse will react negatively (obviously.) So you will reach another barrier.

The second barrier is forgiveness. The spouse will need time to process things, to go through anger and frustration and letting their emotions out. And once they get through all that, (hopefully with God’s help and some time), they will offer you forgiveness. This will free you from the guilt and shame, but now you’re on to the third barrier to restoring intimacy.

The third barrier is rebuilding trust. There can’t be intimacy without a component of trust. After all, why would you open up and re-give your heart to someone who is likely to break it again? How do you rebuild trust? My counselor gave me this little tidbit to remember. Trust is easy to define, but hard to build. Trust is: consistent behavior over time. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for the addict, it’s very hard to get through. You have to consistently make right choices over a long period of time in order to earn back someone’s trust.


Once you’ve made it through those three barriers, now you’re back to ground zero and back to building intimacy between the two of you. Talking, sharing, laughing, crying, communicating, sharing experiences and setting common goals and just generally being on the same page. THAT’s how you create intimacy – and it is its own reward.

Sex between two people who are connected in that type of intimacy is always amazing – not because there’s anything diffeent physically, but because you are living out the biblical promise – “and the two shall be one flesh”. United as one. Sharing everything. Holding nothing back.

So the next time you feel that intimacy in your marriage is on the decline, DO NOT PUT IT OFF. Do whatever it takes to regain it. If your “everyday” efforts do not get you back to that place, then ramp it into overdrive! Take time off work. Get a babysitter. Go away for the weekend. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT. Once you settle for the counterfeit intimacy, you start a cycle of separation that will last a long time and lead to a lot of un-necessary pain.