Utah Coalition Against Pornography (UCAP) Annual Conference Presentation

I’m excited to share the presentation I gave this year at the UCAP conference! The title is “Eight Things Couples Need in Recovery and Why Your Goals Are Causing You to Fail” and it’s mainly for couples in which one or both partners are struggling with an addiction to sexual behaviors or pornography. Couples who start recovery work can really struggle to get traction, especially in the beginning. Most couples tend to set goals, usually revolving around the addict’s sobriety. In the presentation, I share the latest research on motivation, goal setting, and ways in which the way you manage goals may actually undermine your recovery efforts. Even though the presentation is focused on couples, much of what is said is applicable to individuals struggling with compulsive pornography use as well. You’ll have to watch the whole presentation to really get into the things I believe are crucial for couples to have going for them in addiction recovery, but here are the eight items: engage in recovery dailies facilitate a curiosity-focused approach to healing highlight relationship patterns see couple conflict as diagnostic seek personal serenity replace fairness with acceptance create recovery narratives give yourself permission to breathe I hope you enjoy it. If you find it helpful, please share the video with others!...

Online classes and webinars now available!

I’m incredibly excited to announce two new developments in my offerings for those seeking recovery from pornography and sexual addiction. First, Saturday, January 16 at 10:00 AM (Mountain Standard Time) I will be hosting my first in a series of webinars on recovery topics. This webinar will be FREE, but limited to the first 100 attendees who register. If you are interested in learning more about this and future webinars, please go to the home page of this website and sign up for the email newsletter. YOU CAN SIGN UP TO ATTEND THE WEBINAR BY CLICKING HERE If you are unable to attend the webinar for any reason, I will also have it available to view on my website for a small fee. Second, starting on Saturday, February 6 at 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM (Mountain Standard Time), I will be hosting two weekly online classes on addiction recovery. One group will be for recovering addicts and the other will be for partners of addicts. Each set of classes will run for 12 weeks and will cost $35 per class (each month paid in advance). Please sign up for the newsletter for updates. Again, I’m very excited to offer these options to help those who don’t live close enough to see me in person or for those who want additional help and support. Whether you’re looking for a recovery booster or need more personalized, in-depth help, I have solutions for you. The best part is that you can participate from your own home or from a internet-enabled mobile device anywhere in the...

FAQ – Defining Safety in Recovery

What is safety in recovery? Safety refers to being protected from or unlikely to experience danger, harm, or injury. In recovery, safety typically refers to emotional or relational safety, although it can also be physical safety. You have a right to be safe from: Emotional manipulation Lies or deceit Control or unhealthy use of power Threats of any kind (harm, relapse, abandonment) Safety is more than this. Safety means working toward dealing with and confronting fears Safety means freedom to be emotionally vulnerable Safety means freedom to work toward trust CAUTION: be careful not to overuse the word safety—meaning, be careful not to apply it to things that aren’t really about safety. Overuse of a word makes it lose meaning and power. Examples of overuse: I don’t feel safe because you didn’t do the dishes when I asked I don’t feel safe because you aren’t helping with bed time for the kids I don’t feel safe when you don’t agree with me It’s possible that the behaviors listed above are signs that the addict is in resentment and addict mode—which may create a sense of lack of safety. But the behaviors themselves don’t generally make a person feel unsafe. Learn to distinguish between the frustrating behavior (or lack of behavior) and the underlying reason you would not feel safe. Safety is not freedom to always get whatever you want or need, immediately Safety is not having people agree with everything you believe Safety is not an absence of any fears or distress in your life Safety is as much a process as it is an outcome—it’s creating mutual understanding...

FAQ – How Do I Share My Triggers With My Spouse or Partner?

Many recovering sex addicts I work with have concerns about sharing their triggers with a spouse or partner. If you don’t know, a trigger is something you see, hear, remember, or otherwise experience that has the power to send you into the preoccupation stage of the addiction cycle. Triggers can put you in danger of relapse if you don’t address them well. People give a lot of advice about whether or not you should share your triggers with a spouse or partner, and how much information to divulge. Let me share some of what I have seen work most effectively for the couples I work with. First principle Let the affected partner decide how much they want to know, in terms of level of detail. Some may want to know exactly when the trigger happened, where, and the nature of the trigger. That is a right they have to help them feel safe about the seriousness of your recovery. Addicts tend to avoid sharing information about themselves with others. When you are willing to share, you look like a person who is taking recovery seriously. Your partner may not want to know anything about your triggers. It may be too much to handle at this point in their recovery. Respect that. But most spouses and partners of pornography or sex addicts tend to want at least some level of detail. The reason this is valuable is that it demonstrates what we call a “recovery narrative.” Sharing triggers in a healthy way helps tell the story of your recovery to your partner. This narrative is a key part of rebuilding...

FAQ – My husband seems to be doing OK in recovery, but I still don’t feel safe. What can I do?

First, I want you to learn to trust your intuition. Being married to an addict can make you question everything–including your own ability to intuitively know when something is wrong. With my clients, in nearly every case where a wife feels unsafe, she has good reason to feel that way. Either her husband has slipped and hasn’t told her yet, or he is in danger of slipping. Often he’s just emotionally checking out or avoiding recovery work. You have a right to ask him to proactively work toward helping you feel safe. It’s how your relationship will heal over time. One resource I love is Doug Weiss’ DVD set: Helping her Heal. It’s expensive, but in my opinion, well worth it. Your husband may be sober, but that doesn’t mean his recovery is solid. I strongly recommend that he create a daily set of measurable, visible recovery routintes that you can see. These routines will help you trust that he is serious about recovery. I have a booklet online that you can review on this subject. It’s called How Do I Know if He is in Recovery? Additionally, he should be telling you when he’s feeling triggered so that you can see that even if he’s sober, his recovery struggle is real. If he says he’s never triggered, you’re unlikely to believe that because it’s just not realistic. Here is what I recommend in terms of how to share triggers: 1. take ownership of the trigger 2. share the underlying emotional pain or shame that is likely driving the trigger 3. discuss a relapse prevention plan, which will usually...

BYU Campus Education Week

I have been invited this year to speak at Brigham Young University’s Campus Education Week. I will be presenting on four different days, with a total audience capacity of around 1,200. My presentation series is called: Confronting Pornography in Your Individual and Family Life: Real Help for Real Problems Below is the series schedule with class titles. Tuesday (Aug 18) – How to Protect Your Children from Pornography’s Harmful Effects Wednesday (Aug 19) – Confronting Pornography in Marriage Relationships Thursday (Aug 20) – Key Elements of a Healthy Recovery from Pornography Addiction Friday (Aug 21) – Dealing with Your Future Husband’s Past Pornography Use All classes will be in room 250 of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower (SWKT) at 8:30 AM and will run 50 minutes each. If you want to attend my BYU Campus Education Week presentations, you can sign up on the Campus Education Week website. Registration is required to attend any part of the...

FAQ – Emotional Protection Versus Emotional Numbing in Recovery

    A very common question I receive is voiced something like this: My husband is a pornography addict. Even when he’s not acting out, he is very often resentful toward me and blames me for our problems. How do I protect myself emotionally without crossing over into something unhealthy? How do I keep needed emotional distance without disconnecting entirely from my emotions? There are many terms people use to describe a healthy emotional distance between yourself and an active addict. We might use the term “serenity” from 12-step or “emotional boundaries” to name this process. Others may use different terminology. With my own clients, sexually addicted men who are regularly moody, who blame, who are unkind to their spouses, etc. are still very much in ‘addict mode.’ Even when they’re not acting out sexually, the addict part of them harbors resentments and still deeply feels shame—both of which will drive mood swings and unhealthy relational responses. Blaming others is one of the more common addict responses to their own internalized shame. My sense is that this is a way to push away intense feelings of unworthiness onto others to temporarily relieve the shame feelings. Shame becomes blame. So in cases where the addict is still very much in blame mode, his recovery should be challenged. When recovering addicts are open to feedback, I share these concepts with my clients to help them combat blaming. 1. Surrender The 12-step program offers a beautiful approach to letting go of resentment. He would call his sponsor and say, “With you as my witness, I surrender the right to blame _________ for...

Defining and Enforcing Boundaries in Sexual Addiction Recovery

Defining Boundaries   What are boundaries? Boundaries are like fences between neighbors. They define the limits of the relationship. They provide safety and structure, define appropriate and inappropriate engagement in the relationship, and delineate responses to inappropriate or unhealthy engagement.   In sexual addiction recovery, boundaries are crucial. Addicts in recovery need to set boundaries around their media usage, who they talk to, how they spend their time, how they manage difficult emotions, and many other things.   Sometimes wives of addicts struggle with confusion about how they set and enforce their own boundaries. The struggle is how to determine the difference between healthy boundaries and the many other unhealthy ways people may respond to their spouse’s addiction behaviors.   First, let’s define what boundaries are and are not.   Boundaries are…   used to define limits of relationships healthy responses to violations of self in place as trust is rebuilt in relationships protection against repeated harm   Boundaries are not…   punishments methods of coercing and forcing behaviors ways to avoid dealing with pain used to emotionally disconnect   Boundaries are often the remedy for unhealthy ways of responding to an addict. Because boundaries are the opposite of becoming responsible for his behaviors or recovery, it is wise to self-assess occasionally and determine whether you are crossing the line into becoming responsible.   Some warning signs that you may be crossing into becoming responsible are:   Providing constant reminders of recovery behaviors he is “supposed to be doing” Experiencing consistent, intense emotional reactions to his lack of recovery behaviors Punishing or shaming him into doing things he has committed to do Basing your...

Is sexual fantasy about your own partner appropriate?

In my work with the LifeSTAR program, an interesting question has been brought up by men in recovery from sexual addiction. The question is, “Is it OK for me to have sexual fantasies in my mind about my own wife?” I recognize that the question of the appropriateness of sexual fantasy is not so simple as to merit a few paragraphs only. However, in the context of individuals struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, such sexual fantasies can be concerning. I think that the above question actually gets at a common, but flawed, assumption about sexual intimacy in marriage. The assumption is this: once I am married to someone, “anything goes” sexually. There should be no limitations or boundaries around how I approach my spouse sexually or engage in my sexual relationship. So what harm is there in creating mental sexual fantasies about one’s own spouse? First, fantasy sexuality and real sexuality are not the same thing. In fantasy, you do not have to put any effort into the relationship, and sex is “free” and without the obligation of emotional engagement. Second, in sexual fantasy, even when the subject of the fantasy is one’s own spouse, the person in the fantasy becomes objectified. In the fantasy, the spouse actually becomes a sort of sexual puppet, subject to the whims of the person creating the fantasy. This is the opposite of how real relationships should work. Fantasizing about one’s own spouse creates a false version of that person that the real person cannot, nor ever should, try to live up to. The fantasy person is not human, does not have emotions,...