Saturday, August 25, 2018

Headlines: Part II, The Process of Change

You might be wondering what it takes to recover from a betrayal trauma as a spouse, or what the process is for the betrayer.  I wanted to take some extra time to address the process of change.

The process is not short.  It takes time to grow a painful reality, and it will take time to heal.  Typically 3-5 years.  But, if a recovery plan is followed in the first 18 months, then the individuals have a chance for a transformed life by the end of that time span.  Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. predicts sexual addicts may not relapse again if they follow the treatment plan he (and we) employ within the first 18 months.  Now that's freedom!  No more fear of negative headlines...maybe redemptive headlines though!

For a spouse, this means working through grief after the discovery/disclosure of the truth, and then working on themselves.  It is important to do this as the betrayal is not about them but their identity work, boundaries, and self care certainly are.  Marriage counseling is secondary, meaning less often than individual counseling.  Typically people go to marriage counseling as the only treatment option, but you need two individuals to make a healthier marriage and that takes individual work.  

For the one who has betrayed, assessments are important (addiction, mental health, family history).  70% of Sex addicts have untreated ADHD.  So many people are self medicating and self destructing in relationships instead of treating the underlying issues.  Accurate assessment is helpful, which leads to resources like groups, medical professionals as needed, trauma work, polygraphs, and individual therapy.  

All of the above, to me, is spiritual formation.  To be so broken that you injure yourself and your family reveals a spiritual need.  The process of this recovery is just that... recovery, and also forming your spiritual bond.  It is as if the clouds clear and the sun breaks through.  You begin to hear the voice of the Lord and understand His Word like never before because your brain is healing.  For pastors, they are not just living their "optimal selves" in the pulpit but most of the time (we all have our days).  For their spouses, they are seeing congruency which helps trust to be rebuilt.  We can be so much more of who God intended us to be.  How do I know?  This is my life now, and Shane and I have walked so many others through this journey as well.  

In the early days of our ministry, Shane said to me before we were speaking at our denomination's yearly pastor's conference on this topic, "I hope when people think of pornography they think of us."  Umm.  I paused and laughed because I knew what he meant but it came out in a way I couldn't help but address: "I don't really want people to think of us when they think of pornography!"  I got his point though.  How about when people think of us they think about recovery from pornography addiction and the like? 

This is the topic that joined Shane and me in our ministry.  It is certainly not the only issue I treat, but because of the headlines, it will likely always be a portion of my practice.  Shane holds several weekly pastor's groups where he does an excellent job leading men through the process of growth, creating bonds of friendship and accountability that is useful accountability because it is based upon recovering individuals.  Change is possible if you are willing.  Richard Blankenship, LPC, CCSAS says that brokenness and humility are the hallmarks of recovery.  Neither are easy to start but once you do, half of the battle is won.  Blessings to you and those you may know who need a process of change to avoid the headlines.

For more information on our seminars on this subject and others, visit

God-sized Dreams

I grew up with horses.  My dad gave me his horse "Mike" (A.K.A. Gold Admiral) when I was about 10 years old after the horse I was riding decided to roll around in the dirt with me ON him.  Now, Mike was a gentle, 16- hand, chestnut-colored Morgan.  He and I wandered the canyons of my hometown, found a waterfall to picnic near, often walked to friends' houses, and raced up the steep road home until he was foaming hot.  I grew up with him.  He was my buddy.  We spent years in 4-H together doing horse shows, even making it to the California State Fair one year.  When I would meet people named Mike I would exclaim, "Hey, that's my horses name!"  My friends would shake their head in embarrassment.

Fast forward to my counseling internship 17 years ago.  I was excited at an opportunity to learn about Equine Assisted Therapy (Therapy with Horses).  What could be better than using my new skills as a Marriage and Family Therapist with my love for horses!  The day came for the training but, sadly, I had a miscarriage.

Proverbs 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

My heart was sick for quite a while, especially with the loss of the baby.  But God was gracious in eventually fulfilling our dream for children.  Our tree of life now consists of three growing teens!  The thought of equine therapy was shelved for another season as I was busy with my family and work, then going through medical issues.  Life didn't allow me to take on this type of therapy training... until now.

Last weekend I attended my first CE course in Equine Assisted Therapy (for Veterans).  I made friends with a horse named Chief, so it's not likely I will meet anyone named Chief and have another socially awkward first impression "Hey, I know a horse named Chief!"

Chief is the biggest horse at the stable, a beautiful Bay that is so friendly you just want to hug him.  At least I do.  He is part Clydesdale.  During the training we were observing the horses and I realized that I was drawn to him because big horses feel safe to me.  Having been given a big horse by my dad when I was 10 allowed me to feel this way.  So, proportionately, as an adult, Chief is about the same size as my horse Mike would have been to my 10 year old self.  Leading him in the arena felt normal.

During my initial meeting with the founder of the program, she mentioned that she began 17 years ago.  She began when I originally planned to start.  It was her program that I had signed up for all of those years ago. She was the trainer.  Full circle moment, eh?  Turns out she is a MK herself, so she understood my passion for missionaries to find places to process their trauma.  Horses have a way of helping you connect to your memories, your feelings, and that helps you heal.

Timing... God's timing.  Do you have a dream that began long ago that has been deferred?  The Lord is trustworthy to bring it about in His timing as He sees fit.  It takes patience though, doesn't it?  We, as humans are not always good at that.  This journey is going to take lots of time.  I live in the city, I do not have a horse, and have a full life.  So, the preparation now might be to practice for later.  But I can take all of the classes that are currently offered.  I even found some comfy cowboy boots!  Preparation can be hopeful and fun.  If you have a God-sized dream that has been deferred, I wonder what you might do to prepare for your longing to be fulfilled.

Psalm 34:14
"Seek peace and pursue it."

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Headlines: How it all Began

Headlines.  We see them all too often.  A pastor gets accused of acting out sexually with someone who isn't his wife.  Willow Creek Church is no exception over the past few months.  Sadly the way it was handled has left the church in a free fall of loss, all because of a leader who admits to "placing himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid" though more serious allegations are unfolding.  The phrase I have heard so often (you'd think it was taken from a handbook on what to say when you confess) is: "I thought I would take that to the grave."  Charm is deceptive indeed.  That is why I became trained in the field of sexual addiction treatment in 2006, 12 years ago this Fall - Headlines.

I was called by the Lord to help clergy.  Called to help them so that they would have healthy minds, relationships, spiritual walks, and as a result, healthy churches.  By 2006 I had been counseling for 6 years, then had the opportunity to be trained in the field of sexual addiction.  The reality of the frequent headlines like this is what drove me to accept the opportunity to transfer posts and learn what would change the trajectory of our lives and the lives of so many.

My husband Shane was an associate pastor while I was an interning therapist and we were often referred couples on a lay level that were struggling with betrayal and boundary issues.  We were not trained though, so it made sense to become trained formally so that I would have the skills to know how to help.  During one training, the description of an intimacy disorder felt all too familiar.  You see, I always felt like there was something missing between Shane and I.  It was easier to talk about other peoples issues than our own marriage.  I often felt rejected by him, and as a Pastor's wife I struggled with who to talk to about it.  I asked him after one of my trainings if he thought he was a sex addict.  Quite a question, eh?  He didn't even know what that meant, but in his defensive posture denied it.

Then one night after I came home seeing clients he handed me a letter that spelled it out.  We do not recommend that way of disclosing the truth, by the way.  Why?  Because that was the day I felt like I was hit by a Mac Truck.  He felt such a relief.  He finally came clean on his addiction to pornography and how he had kept it from me all of these years.  But that was the day I became a Relationship Trauma Survivor.

I was in shock at the reality I was in, now seeing clients and going through the same things they were enduring.  But, the Lord led us to a confidential ministry that could treat us with groups and therapists who were trained.  We began.  Just like he needed treatment for his addiction, I needed recovery for my wounds.  We did our own work, and the sex addiction that is better named an intimacy disorder has shaped our lives for the better.

What can help you avoid those headlines?  Don't assume the lie that you will be able to take a secret to the grave.  God's grace won't allow it.  His grace is sufficient for every wound, even your hidden one, maybe even especially your hidden one.  His power is made perfect in your weakness.  The beautiful thing about recovery is that you don't have to do it alone.  There is a treatment plan that works to bring freedom to your life.  All you need is the willingness to stop trusting yourself and trust a process, willingness to set boundaries you've been rationalizing and justifying for years, willingness to lay down your pride and charm, willingness to lean into your wife's pain.  It's not easy, but trust is SOOOO worth it.  Will she ever forgive you?  I don't know, but it's not for you to ask. Learning how to apologize will work better.

I was told in an interview one time that I don't act like a "normal wife of a sex addict."  Now, someone could get bent out of shape over a comment like that, but what I wish I'd said in response was that I am not angry or worried ANYMORE because I have done recovery too.  Spouses of addicts are not enablers (an old unhelpful label), they are traumatized.  But I am thankful I made the choice to join Shane on the healing journey and found what I needed all of my life too.  So we both grew.  I got the husband I'd always dreamed of, and I've grown in ways I'd always needed to.  Now we are both so much more of who the Lord needs us to be, and we keep growing.

If you are clergy and need help keeping out of the headlines, give us a call.  We are here for you, keeping people out of the headlines one person at a time.


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