Recovering Addict

This page has a list of short video lessons for people struggling with pornography or sexual addiction. Each lesson covers a different topic in recovery and provides practical solutions to maintaining a steady recovery process.

Behavioral bottom lines are an important part of sexual addiction recovery.

This video:

  • defines bottom lines
  • gives examples of bottom lines
  • shows how late-stage recovery bottom lines differ from early-stage bottom lines.

Most addicts get involved in deceitful behaviors to cover up their involvement with their addiction. If you are in a relationship, this can seriously damage the trust you have built up with the other person. This video gives you three examples of specific steps you can take to facilitate the process of rebuilding trust in your relationship.

Why is Pornography a Big Deal?

You may find yourself wondering whether pornography or other sexual acting out behaviors are really as big of a deal as people seem to make them out to be. It’s common to hear people say, “I’m not really hurting anyone, or cheating on my wife. Why are people making such a big deal about this?”

You may or may not be ready to accept the ways your behaviors can be damaging to yourself and to those around you. Let us share some of the common ways people are hurt by pornography to help you begin to see why there is so much concern about it.

Pornography has a numbing effect

In the years we have worked with pornography users, we find that prolonged exposure to pornography begins to desensitize people to other’s emotions or pain. Many pornography users do not understand, or cannot accept, how their behaviors affect others. This is a huge threat to your ability to maintain healthy relationships. Pornography can prevent you from really knowing how to “be there” for your wife or other family members. Often, pornography users don’t realize how bad things have become until their wives are talking about separation or even divorce.

Pornography can be addictive

You don’t have to look at porn every day to be addicted. Addiction isn’t about how often you do something. It’s a pattern. You may already be in the middle of an addiction if…

  1. You use pornography to experience a different mood (lowering stress, getting a “high,” or escaping from reality)
  2. You have experienced consequences for your pornography use (like damage to your relationships or difficulties at work)
  3. You have made a decision to stop, but continue to go back again and again

The bottom line is that if you have tried to stop, but haven’t been able to, you are likely experiencing the effects of addiction. The sooner you seek help, the better.

Pornography encourages objectification of people

For frequent porn users, people become objects of lust. An object is something to be used, or something that gets in your way. Many addicts are surprised to find out that their wives feel objectified all of the time. Their comments, stares, or sexual demands can create deep trauma in their wives, who fear they are simply part of the addiction. The basic problem of objectifying others is that it makes it very hard for you to really connect with others or have real relationships. This inevitably leads to isolation and depression. And this just fuels the addiction.

Pornography presents lies about sex and relationships

Pornography is full of lies about what real relationships should be like, or about relational sexuality. These lies include the following…

  1. Having sex is my right. If I am married, my spouse is obligated to help me meet my sexual needs.
  2. Sex should always be spontaneous and easy. I should not have to work to have a good sexual relationship.
  3. My spouse should always be interested and ready for sex.
  4. If I don’t have sex regularly, I will die

Believing the lies perpetuated by pornography will almost always result in treating others as objects and becoming isolated from your own ability to empathize with others.

Pornography is real betrayal

Whatever you have told yourself about how your pornography use “should” or “should not” affect your spouse or family members, you may need to rethink things. Many women experience their husbands’ pornography use a betrayal of marital commitments and a betrayal of the marital relationship. Spouses of addicts feel compared, rejected, and betrayed. No amount of arguing or convincing will change their minds. It is crucial that you understand that however you think your spouse should respond to your pornography use, the actual emotional response if the only thing that really matters.

Is Change Really Possible

Most people who suffer from addiction have made countless attempts to change. Sometimes they try to change on their own. Sometimes they ask for help from others, like a spouse, a religious leader, or a family member. If you here reading this, chances are you have not yet found success in recovery.

It’s not uncommon to hear, “I’ve tried everything I can think of to change. Nothing has ever worked. I’m starting to doubt that change is even possible for me.”

Some of the things that may have blocked real change from happening are:

Insufficient accountability

In early recovery, there will be slips back into old behaviors. It’s part of the change process. In your attempts at recovery, if you find yourself saying things like, “It was only one time. I don’t need to tell anyone about it” or, “If I share this with my wife, we will be back to square one” you are not fully accountable in recovery.

Others choose to be accountable only when they slip or relapse in recovery. If you are only accountable when you slip, over time you will become less and less likely to be accountable because it easily becomes only a shameful experience.

Those who are successful in their recovery efforts are accountable, daily, to one or more people about two things. First (and most important), their proactive recovery efforts of that day. The question is: what have I done today to proactively combat my addiction? Second, a proactive accountability about slips or relapses. Proactive accountability involves honesty about the slip and sharing a specific plan to do things differently in the future.

Lack of total honesty

To avoid feeling deep shame, sex addicts often tell partial truths or polished versions of stories that do not reflect the real frequency or intensity of their addiction behaviors.

Ironically, this type of behavior actually increases shame. You know, deep down, that you have not told the whole truth. You still have to work hard to keep the real story from surfacing. It creates a chasm between you and the people you desperately need to help you in recovery.

Shame sinks in and says, “If I tell the whole truth, people I care about will be sickened, outraged, and will eventually reject and abandon me. They can only handle so much, so I have to keep them from my deepest secrets.”

For recovery to be real and to last, you have to be willing to be fully honest.

Self-isolation

The vast majority of people’s unsuccessful attempts at change are done in isolation. Driven by shame and fear, most addicts think, “I can do this on my own. After I’ve been in recovery for some time, then I will be honest about what I used to struggle with.”

The great problem with change in isolation is that it keeps people from the very thing they absolutely need for real recovery – real human connection.

Pornography is not real. It presents a distorted view of sexuality and of relationships. It provides little relational risk – a pornographic image cannot reject a person. However, it also provides no relational reward.

The most important need people are trying to meet (whether they know it or not) with pornography and sexual acting out is to be loved, valued, cared about, and to matter. Because sexual addiction behaviors will never meet that need, they never satisfy.

Real recovery requires real human connection.

These, of course, are not the only issues that get in the way of real change and real recovery, but they are some of the more common challenges.

When you are serious about change – serious enough to be willing to commit to the difficult tasks of real recovery – you will find change. Therapists who specialize in sexual addiction recovery work can attest to the fact that people who put in the work can achieve real change.

You cannot judge your ability to change based on your unsuccessful past attempts at change because it is likely that your past attempts were missing the critical ingredients that predict real change.

When Will My Spouse Trust Me Again?

Addiction usually involves some level of deceit, lies, and secrecy. Partners of sex addicts often feel a deep sense of betrayal. You may hear your spouse say to you, “I don’t know how I can ever trust you again.”

Early into your recovery, you may begin to change internally. Your desire to act out sexually may decline and your sense of success may be increase. You start to find hope again. In this more optimistic frame of mind, it can be incredibly difficult to have your spouse say, “You may feel different, but I have no idea how to know whether you really are going to change. I’m afraid you’ll just go back to the way you were before.”

You may ask yourself, “Will my wife ever trust me again?”

Years of experience indicates that yes, trust can be rebuilt. However, you have to be aware of a few things to help you work through the process.

It will always take longer than you want

This is true of all areas of recovery. There is no “fast track” to change. All good change takes time. As she is healing and learning to trust again, your best approach is one of patience. Impatience with slow processes is a characteristic of addiction. Learning to accept a slower pace will help you in your recovery and give her a chance to heal at her own pace.

Spouse’s recovery processes are on different timetables

Your recovery and her recovery will rarely be perfectly parallel. At times she may feel things are dragging along while you are simply trying to hang on. There may be other times when your recovery is rock solid and moving at a good pace, while you struggle to patiently wait for her to get past a roadblock in her own recovery. You will need as much patience for her recovery process as she needs for yours.

Trust is rebuilt with effort and time

Trust does not automatically come with the passage of time. Assume this fact in recovery: she can only believe what she sees. This is especially true in early recovery. No matter what is happening internally for you, your recovery needs to be visible enough to her that she can trust what changes she is seeing in your behavior. If you behave like a trustworthy person, she can start to believe that you are worthy of trust again. Persistence in doing trustworthy behaviors over time will help her to heal.

A little dishonesty does a lot of damage

Early in recovery, you will have a defining moment – a choice point. You will slip into old habits and patterns. You may relapse, or have a slip in your recovery. The denial of the addiction will sound something like this, “It was only one time. It wasn’t that big of a deal. We’ve made so much progress together. If I tell her what I did, I will damage what we have worked so hard to rebuild. I am doing her a favor by not telling her about this slip.”

Do not believe this lie. Either she will find out, or your need to get out of your shame will drive you to tell her the truth eventually. You have to trust that the damage caused by being dishonest and hiding is almost universally more damaging to trust than whatever addiction behavior you engaged in. Recovering from slips can be challenging. Recovering from being dishonest and going back into hiding is much more difficult.