Ask An Addict

45 Responses to Ask An Addict

The following was from a previous question and answer session that we hosted on our site.  Although we've migrated the site and updated the look and feel, we wanted to preserve the  overwhelming response we received to this session.  Stay tuned as we may host another one in the near future.

Jamie says:
September 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm
Hi Jeff,
So I’ll start you off with a tough question! I can sort of understand how viewing porn/masturbating can be acts of compulsion and/or addiction (my SAH did both). I can somehow explain those things to my brain because they are quickly and easily accessible, and maybe lead to quick stress relief/immediate gratification. What I can’t explain (to myself) is his use of escorts/hookers over the past few years. I’m trying so hard to understand what was “in his head.” He claims he loves me. However, I don’t understand how “love” is possible with well thought out plans to contact prostitutes, set up appointments, pay money, and then expose himself and me to STD’s and possibly even HIV. I’ve read about the addiction cycle, and yet I still can’t internalize it. I know what I’m asking is ALOT here, and that it may be very personal. But if there’s any way you can explain, as a recovering addict, what is going on inside the mind of an addict to justify these types of actions, maybe I can start to understand more, and maybe forgive?? (Just as background, my SAH has not been in recovery very long; about 6 months. He is not able to answer my question, other than to say, “I don’t know.) Thanks so much, Jamie
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Jeff says:
September 27, 2011 at 8:38 pm
Jamie,

I’ve been asked this question several times and I’ve had to work through it in my head as well so I hope my answer helps. How can your husband love you if he did this? I don’t think I have to tell you that men and women think differently. Because of this, men are able to compartmentalize (a term I’m sure you’ve heard). A man’s brain is like a waffle, it has little compartments and each compartment is filled with different thoughts, memories, etc. As long as the compartments don’t spill into each other he can go about life. Soldiers do this when they’re deployed in order to deal with combat and the separation from loved ones. If you are thinking about your wife and daughter in a combat zone you’re not going to be very effective. In contrast a woman’s brain is like a bowl of spaghetti where everything touches. My wife can recall an event from ten years ago and connect it to an argument we are having in the present. It’s why she’s always right.

It may be easier for me to use the analogy of a drug addict. If I were addicted to crack and phoned my dealer to set up a meeting, drove to a bad part of town, got beat-up, and put in the hospital, would you question if I loved my wife? It’s so difficult because of the way we medicate; I mean why’d it have to be sex addiction? Why couldn’t he be an alcoholic? Nobody wants to be a sex addict. It tore into the sanctity of my marriage and undermined everything I believed in and wished I could be. I wish I had the ability to think of my wife and family and how much I loved them when I was in my addiction, but it’s not like that. You just don’t think about love or consequences. You think about what a terrible person you are and why you’re not good enough and all the problems in your life and how to run from them or make yourself feel better so you don’t have to think about it. That’s how an addict survives.

I guess the honest answer is, love isn’t possible while those things are going on. What you are describing, as you know since you mentioned the addiction cycle, is preoccupation. A better word may be obsession. I loved my wife deeply, but when I got into that preoccupation phase, I was obsessed with all the planning. It was more exciting that the acting out. Driving to my ultimate destination, there was nothing coherent going through my mind. Just a one track mind, focused on what was about to happen. But let me assure you of this and maybe it will bring you some comfort. No matter where I was going, who I was going to meet, or what I was going to do, I was ALWAYS let down. NEVER satisfied. Instead I was left feeling sick and disgusted with myself. And yet, I’d go do it again, sometimes even the same day, to try to take away the shame of what I already did. And every time, I promised myself, never again.
Jeff
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Jamie says:
September 28, 2011 at 7:58 am
Thank you, Jeff. I love analogies, and your answer made a lot of sense to me. I really appreciate it.
Jamie
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Sharron says:
September 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm
Jeff-Thank you so much for giving your perspective from the SA’s point of view.
I am at my wit’s end. I have a husband who is working toward recovery, but still has the tendency to deny, have passive behavior, and is intimacy and sexually anorexic. He can perform sexually with Levitra, but only intimate on an on and off basis.
By deny, I mean most recently my husband objectified his own daughter. His previous addiction’s have been working, domination/submission porn of very fat women, and objectifying women. (Has not done the porn for 1 yr. that I am aware of. The women he objectifies are less than average looking. It is my opinion he moves from addiction to addiction. Working obsessively, porn, objectifying women, and now objectifying his daughter. Do you think this is a new addiction, or something more to it?
He is 67 y/o and was sexually abused as a child. (maybe) I am a psychiatric R.N . who did regression therapy with him, and many memories came out regarding abuse by a neighbor and his mother. Memories vs. fantasy network??? I was very careful not to introduce any suggestions regarding the memories.
I have been with him 3 yrs. Married 1 1/2 yrs. I have separated from him twice because of his attempting recovery, and intellectualizing it-he never was in recovery until 6 mo. ago when he began seeing a certified therapist in sexual addiction. He is in the process of doing D-tur. Don’t know if you are familiar with that or not.
One of our biggest issues is lieing and intimacy/sexual anorexia. He does not find me physically attractive nor get turned on by looking at me. (I am attractive and have a nice figure.) He can perform sexually most of the time, but it is mostly sexual. I have felt intimacy from him, but not consistently.I feel like I am being emotionally abused.
I see some progress with him, in otherwords can manage his addiction in certain places, but when under stress really reverts back to the addiction, the PA and intimicy
anorexia.

He says objectifying his daughter was just like objectifying any other woman- “it is
his addiction.” I am not buying into this, because who would choose they’re daughter to sexualize. He always maintains he has no sexual thoughts when objectifying, ( says did not with the daughter, however objectified her 5-6 times, and I witnessed it.) does not take the thoughts home with him, and does not fantasize. I say, highly unlikely. He also maintains this is the case with objectifying women- then I say, what is the pay-off for him?
Anyway, The passive-aggressive behavior, objectifying of women, and the minimizing or omitting of issues is killing me. Most devestating is the intimacy anorexia.
I would like your’e opinion on what the odds are my husband can learn to manage his addiction. He is 67 y/o and his trauma began at approximately 8 yrs. of age.
We are supposed to move to the country in a week. (I am presently living with him).
I am dependent upon him financially, so am thinking about just co-habitating with him and living in a different part of a very large house.
I really would appreciate your’e ideas.
I want to add that I have severe PTSD from what he has done-especially with the daughter, and I don’t think I will be able to resolve that particular issue with his addiction.
Thank you so much. It will be very nice to hear it from the perspective of an SA.
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Jeff says:
September 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Sharron,

First of all, let me remind you that I am not a therapist or doctor. Some of your questions would be better answered by a professional. I cannot speculate about how likely your husband is to succeed in his recovery. However, the intellectualizing you mention is a red flag. I hear rationalization and justification. Excuses, in other words. I also am not clear as to what you mean when you say he objectified his daughter.
Sex abuse is common in sex addicts, but it says nothing about his ability to recover. When a woman is unclear as to whether her husband is really serious about recovery, there are signs to look for. Many addicts say they will do whatever it takes, but are they following through? Consistently? Lying is always an issue, but what is he doing to change? Is he willing to take regular polygraph tests, give up masturbation, change his TV viewing habits? These are the kind of things that are required, in addition to therapy and regular meeting attendance. Resistance to recovery is never a good sign.

It sounds like your husband might benefit from inpatient treatment. His addiction is deeply ingrained and the longer a person has been living with an addiction, the harder it will be to stop. The fact that he continues to regress every time there is stress in his life is also not a good sign. Your husband’s acting out behaviors sound like they were/are about control and the desire for a feeling of superiority. This fits with his passivity in other parts of his life. My best guess is that his anorexia stems from the fact that he cannot create this fantasy with you. Simply put, he’s not in control of the relationship and it scares the heck out of him. Many addicts are most prone to acting out when they feel out of control because it can trigger thoughts and emotions from childhood. That’s a reason not an excuse. One last thought, with recovery comes responsibility. Don’t stand for constant slips or relapses.
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Kelly says:
October 9, 2011 at 2:17 am
Jeff,
My husband is on “recovery attempt #4″ from M/P and whatever else he chooses not to tell me or can’t remember or simply doesn’t know according to him. I won’t go in detail as you are somewhat familiar with the routines and cycles. I would love to know how it is possible to know the damage being done to your spouse and declare to stop actin out……and yet choose to shove it in a box and hit the delete button and never remember so that one can “act out” as often as he wants…… with that being said….at any given time he has the ability to decide and choose to get help and stop the behaviors as you and many others have done…..no one made you………. it took something to shake you up whether it be hit rock bottom…..loose your family……get a disease…..whatever the reason doesn’t matter. What does it that at same point you chose to stop and get help. That option is always there yet never taken until a tragedy or soemthing else. The truth is the acting out satisfies a desire and it must be met……and that would be the need for that euphoric rush that one gets with following through, yet what is missing is intimacy, emotional, spiritual and physical bonding that only can be satisfied with a loving spouse. So the emptiness and lonliness and shame guilt etc start to surface and reality of actions set in and then comes the lies to cover up and promises to stop. Yet the pattern is repeated….. It is a choice and yet can be stopped at any given time…..everyone has their rock bottom and is different for each… It is about being selfish and entitled….. You guys have no idea what you do to us wives…… Did you blame your wife for not making you feel the way that P/M did, and did it efffect how you viewed your wife sexually and did you become dis satisfied with her “performance” and lastly did you start to get angry with her when she shared her hurt about your behavior? Also, is it possible to only do P/M and nothing else…like chat rooms. prostitues, strip clubs etc? I appreciate you helpimg the rest of us try to wrap any thought around what has happened to us and our lives…….
I am forever changed!!!
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Jeff says:
October 11, 2011 at 6:14 pm
Kelly,

Let me start by saying how truly sorry I am for all the pain you’ve had to endure over the years. I wish I could take it all away but as you know that is impossible and my words today will probably bring you little comfort or distraction. My only hope is that I can give you some kind of understanding in a time of chaos and confusion. Once again let me state that I am not a clinician and I can only speak from my own experiences in dealing with sex addiction and from what I have learned in recovery. I struggled to understand some of the specific questions in your post so I’m going to break it down and try to answer them to the best of my ability. I hope I address everything but if I should leave anything out or if you feel there has been a misunderstanding please let me know. Here is what I think you are asking.

How can an addict go back to his acting out (relapse) after he has seen how much he has hurt his wife?
Relapses can occur for numerous reasons. I believe it’s any one or a combination of the follow three statements. 1. The addict never fully surrendered or hit bottom and has been “white knuckling” it.
2. Something changed in his recovery plan i.e. he cut down to one meeting a week from three, he may have stopped using his accountability partners or meeting with his sponsor, etc.
3. A significant life event happens in which the addict has not developed healthy coping skills to deal with and relapses into old behaviors in order to cope.
Those are what I believe to be the major reasons for relapse but what I hear you saying more is why isn’t seeing me in agony enough for him to stop? I believe that once daily life is disrupted and denial becomes necessary, acting out to takes priority over everything. It becomes the main coping mechanism.
Why does it take a “tragedy” or “hitting rock bottom” to stop when you could choose to stop anytime? I’ll use the white book of SA to answer some of this. Sex addicts take themselves out of the whole context of what is right or wrong. He has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself that I would never act out again. Sometimes crying and screaming at God and each time I would do it again. It wasn’t until I was broken till I hit my true bottom that the change in attitude began. When I admitted I was powerless. I want to talk about the word powerless because I know how much some wives hate to hear it and I know how often addicts use it as an excuse. I had to understand that I wasn’t God and that I could not control everything, up until then I was miserable but I could get by because I was great at denial, justification, and my coping mechanism worked. Hitting rock bottom gave me no other choice but to surrender, address reality, and come out of the fantasy world that I had created.
Is it possible to watch porn and masturbate without progression to more extreme activities involving real interactions with other people?
For me, no, for others, sometimes. Every addict is unique in this regard to a certain degree. What I can tell you is that sex addiction IS progressive. Just take a look at the kind of porn that was viewed at the beginning of the addiction and the kind that is viewed now. What makes a person go farther down the scale than another? I don’t really know, but if you were to tell me twenty years ago that I would do some of the things I’ve done I would have laughed in your face.

Did you blame your wife or get angry at her for sharing her hurt about your behavior?
At times I did become quite frustrated with my wife for frequently bringing up the issue, although I never expressed anger toward her. This was one of the most difficult parts of my recovery and I’ve talked to many men who have, who are struggling with this same issue. The problem is we just don’t get it. We can’t understand why you would want to relive the most terrible time in our lives. We’re addicts and we don’t like confrontation or anything that reminds us of the bad stuff. Confront an addict and he’ll often go into fight or flight mode. Since healthy coping skills aren’t something we generally possess in the beginning, anger comes out. Is it the right thing to do? No. The selfish nature of addiction can be blinding and addicts have to learn that in recovery part of their responsibility is to support our wives. Trauma is a horrible thing to deal with and it is constantly rearing its ugly head at the most uninspiring times, right after a good date night, anniversaries, or the second we walk in the door after a meeting, feeling all good about ourselves. I had to learn that the more I listened to my wife and didn’t get defensive the further along she would become in her healing. It’s like watching a person who’s sick throw up. You don’t get mad at them! All you can do is hold their hair, rub their back, and tell them it’s going to be ok. It’s not pretty to watch, but the more they get out the bile that is their trauma the better they will feel. It’s a hard concept for an addict to grasp and it calls for us to step outside of our addict centric world, but don’t stand for anything less.

Did you become dissatisfied with her “performance” or satisfying you the way P/M did?
No, but I did make a very hurtful comment early on in our marriage that was directly related to the amount of porn I had watched. I had viewed so much porn that I allowed it to become my reality. This is why porn is so destructive! It’s not at ALL about my wife or performance or anything else. It’s about my distorted way of thinking. I read in an interview that John Mayer gave that he would rather be with an image than a real person. He also stated that he often has seen over 300 naked women in the morning before he even gets out of bed. He said, “You’re looking for the one photo out of 100 you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish. Twenty seconds ago you thought that photo was the hottest thing you ever saw, but you throw it back and continue your shot hunt and continue to make yourself late for work.” Now’s here’s a guy that has dated Hollywood actresses, singers, models, and he would rather look at porn! “Early on, we came to feel disconnected—from parents—from peers, from ourselves. We tuned out with fantasy and masturbation. We plugged in by drinking in the pictures and images”—fantasy corrupted the real. (SA White Book) Pornography is an addict’s primary way to bypass intimacy and true union and allows us to become addicted to the unreal.
In closing, I want to reiterate that I have no real idea of what you or the many other wives are going through and I don’t claim to understand. But I would like to at least try to relate so I can help other addicts not only recover and stay in recovery, but become better husbands. Thank you very much for your post.
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The Other Woman says:
October 14, 2011 at 11:44 am
Women also suffer from sexual addictions. I know, I am one. Porn is not my addiction. It is sex. And it is destroying me, my marriage, and my life. How do you overcome sexual addiction?
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC says:
October 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm
The Other Woman (I hope that screen name doesn’t trigger anyone), I don’t know if Jeff will have anything he would like to say to you, but I recommend the book No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Shame by Marnie Farree. I know it must be so hard to be a woman suffering from this addiction. I am working with a woman right now who is a sex addict and the treatment is so different, in many ways, from how to work with a man. I think that, while the shame male addicts suffer is severe, for women it is even more extreme. I wish you the best in your quest for help and recovery.
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Frustrated in Texas says:
June 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm
I am trying to figure out what to do my husband will not quit renting porn on our cable. Is this part of sex addiction? I have talked to him about it but he says there is nothing wrong with him it is my fault. Won’t get into specifics but I really don’t know what to do help him and myself. We have 4 kids and I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions. I am talking 500 dollars a month or more. I don’t understand.
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Jeff says:
June 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm
Dear Frustrated,
Sex addiction is a very large umbrella that covers many things. Pornography addiction typically falls under it. Unfortunately pornography is where most sex addictions start and is one of the things we look for when diagnosing sex addiction. I can’t fully explain how corrosive pornography is to a marriage and how all consuming it can become. More often than not addicts will turn to porn to cope/medicate and before they realize it the are spending large amounts of time and money on it. Here’s the dirty little secret about porn that nobody tells you. More than ANY drug on the market pornography has the ability to flood the brain with a constant hit of dopamine over and over with every new picture viewed. However unlike drugs or alcohol the addict never recieves the “high”. This is why guys will look a porn for hours searching for that “one picture or scene”. It’s never enough and the brief high that an orgasm provides dwarfs in comparison to the chemical rush his brain is being assaulted with while viewing porn.
If your husband is spending $500.00 a month on porn I don’t have to tell you that he has a serious problem. What you might need to hear is over 95% of all people diagnoised with sexual addiction report early exposure to pornography. I’m not telling you this because of your husband but because you have children. I believe in sins if the father and that sexual sin is often handed down from one generation to another especially amongst males.
Now that I’ve said that I’ll share with you how I think you can best deal with your situation. First, cut the cable! You need to protect your children and sanctify your home. Second, draw your line in the sand. Addicts are selfish people and most men see porn as “not that big of a deal” and society agrees with them. The belief is if no one is getting hurt then it’s ok. They cannot see the damage it creates until they are forced to see the wreckage. It’s up to you how you draw your line but just asking him to “stop” ain’t gonna cut it. He has to have more incentive to stop than continue. Most if the time that means he has to find his bottom. For me that meant nearly losing everything. I don’t know what it look like for your husband. Third, demand recovery. He might not accept he has an addiction but $500.00 dollars a month can’t even be pawned off as a healthy hobby. There are many 12 step groups he can attend SA, SAA, and Celebrate Recovery just to name a few. If your church has a men’s sexual purity or accountability group that will work too. He has to be around other men with similar problems. He has to understand he’s not alone and that there is a way out. If that doesn’t work have him call me and I’ll share my story with him. It’s important for you to know that you are not alone as well. Many many couples have had porography invade their marriage. I hope this helps. Email me at Jeff@caribouministries.com and we can talk more. Take care.

Jeff
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Desperate for understanding says:
July 4, 2012 at 5:31 am
We’ve been married for nearly ten years, four children one on the way…and about a month ago, my husband confessed to me he was a SA…he lied to me when we first got married because I grew up in a sexually messed up home, ie Dad and Brother, anyway…a year and a half after our marriage I caught him M and then he started P he tried to get help, but never got over it….well three years ago …so he says…he started seeing Prostitutes…WE have been seeing a Sexual addiction counselor, he says he’s been sober since he confessed to me and I have noticed him being more emotionally present, and kinder to me, but I stumbled onto some of his journal…I acted out….and he said he had thoughts of wishing I would die, and um…hated me at times, but he says he has always loved me…and that he only felt those when we were having a fight or I got sick….I had a scare with MS…now even though he seems present and says he feels passion for me…it’s like it’s half there and I can’t seem to get out of my mind that he was more sexually engaged with the prostitutes he wanted them more than me…now he said he was excited and anticipated having it with me but when it came to intercourse …it just wasn’t very engaged…and he said I love you I said show me…and it was not very engaged….when I told my therapist about how the year before his date of seeing prostitutes he told me he was tired of always instigating sex with me…if I wanted it I would have to do the work …and its been that way ever since the therapist said he might have a sexual aversion…I looked it up to see what it was…and I am having a hard time he did say that he would lay there and let them do there thing but then I found out this wasn’t entirely true….when he told me yesterday he was feeling passion for me and anticipated it with me I felt excited and hopeful but after his performance….I’m scared that he really does hate me and will never really be able to show me loving passion.
Help
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Jeff says:
March 3, 2013 at 1:32 am
Dear Desperate,
I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. There was some confusion with the blog and I did not realize there were new questions for me to answer that have been waiting for some time.
This is heartbreaking, but not uncommon. It’s why this addiction is more aptly defined as an intimacy disorder. It’s not that your husband doesn’t find you attractive or sexually desirable. One of an addict’s core beliefs is that “I’m not good enough”. I’m sure that he hasn’t felt like he was good enough for you and therefore not worthy of connecting with you. In addition, he’s had to keep you at a distance for fear of you finding out about his secrets. More importantly, connecting on an emotional level with anyone is extremely uncomfortable for a sex addict. I talk to many men who tell me that because they don’t have to worry about satisfying their acting out partner or don’t care about what they think, it gives the illusion of meeting their need to medicate sexually without any demands back. Sexual addicts are convinced that sex is their number one need because it’s been reinforced over time.
In regard to his journal entries, I feel that this is him raging over the loss of his addiction. He can no longer act out and that is frustrating. Or if he is still in his addiction when these kind of things are said then you are the one standing in his way. Rather than blame himself he going to shift the blame to you. I doubt he really feels this way but addicts go through a grieving process when getting sober. They tend to look back and romanticize the addition. Addicts DO NOT like reality and living a sober life provides a huge dose of it. Take away any addict’s drug and they will lash out with all kinds of hurtful things. Once he has some time in recovery and stops blaming everyone else or justifying his behavior he’ll be able to see the insanity of it. Until then you might hear him say a lot of really stupid things. That doesn’t mean its ok or that you have to tolerate it, it’s just some insight into what might be going on in his head.
Sexual anorexia and brain damage from long term pornography use are certainly contributing factors here. One good book on the topic is Wired For Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers.
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Lindsay says:
July 17, 2012 at 4:19 am
How can my husband say that the reason he looked at porn was not to see beautiful women? I’ve always had low self esteem because of flaws I’ve had since I was very young and very embarrassed about – varicose veins on my legs since I was 12. I didnt really know I had them until they were called to my attention by my cousins friend who made a disgusted face looking at my legs and said, “Ew, “Granny Legs.” So it’s not something that is my fault or that I can change – just heredity that I will always look uglier, than other girls. My husband was my first and only boyfriend and knew this/ knows this. How hard it was for me to let him see my legs. After we dated three years we married, and I became pregnant with our first child and again inherited ugliness in stretch marks that I will always have. Five months pregnant I found out he was looking at the most gorgeous perfect women I have spent nearly my whole life dreaming I could look a fraction of good as, and says they “did nothing for him” and it “wasn’t how they looked, but what they were doing -that he just wanted to see sex not the women,” and that I’m beautiful. In what twisted reality am I “so beautiful” and he’ll say they’re just “okay.” The one he’s trying to create for me to not hurt my feelings? He says that yes people are beautiful but that he just doesn’t care that they are, but I beg to differ if he wants to see “what they are doing” so much. He claims the first time I found out he was viewing porn was because he felt he wasn’t good at sex despite that I never made him feel that, or criticized him in anyway. And that he picked porn to go to instead of me for comfort from stress of work and feeling bad about himself because it put no pressure on him/ his “performance.” Well of course she makes him feel better and relieves his stress better than boring sex with his boring wife with ugly flaws. How can that not be what it is all about? Seeing women he can’t have who look better than his wife ever will. Now nine years later I feel he has proven that in that I found him viewing porn again for the fourth time five months after we reconciled from a seperation because of porn, declaring we would fight to keep our family together, that is of a more perverse nature, lesbian porn, group sex, etc. How does viewing two perfect women together mean he doesn’t like seeing a woman’s body/ bodies? That’s not just sex that’s just all about what they look like. Everyone always says “it has nothing to do with the wife.” How is that true? I feel everyone dances around the fact that porn is a drug like rush because its the most beautiful sexy women on earth and women like me with ugly marks could never give their husbands the same feelings looking the way we do – again out of things we cant change! I tried hard to be in good shape, but its not my fault I have the stretch marks and ugly veins on my legs, why punish me by rubbing in my face that my body will never be smooth and normal and beautiful and mark free like them, then say he loves me and doesnt want me to look like them. Then he wouldnt look at them. Plain and simple he looks at them because they give him what I cannot.

As a man, I am not asking you what you felt on this issue with your wife at all, that is private for you and would be very insensitive to her and your privacy, dignity as a family and couple, etc. and I wouldn’t dream of asking that or insinuating this is what you feel.

But my question is why does most everyone try to say differently, in the therapy process? That those women are not prettier, or that the husbands dont care that they are prettier, when all the evidence, all the common sense in the world says that plain and simple porn must relieve their stress because perfect beauty is more comforting and addictive than the idea of loving a homely wife? Why pretend otherwise to not hurt the wives’ feelings, when they are already so hurt by the infidelity in the first place? As a wife, I feel that is trying to heal me by being in denial about the facts.

And if husbands have a pretty wife well, then it’s that he can see multiple perfect women that is more comforting to him. So it seems one woman can’t be pretty enough to comfort a man. And in the case she is a very physically flawed woman, she cannot love him enough to comfort him. This is just how I feel. I think this means my husband must not have loved me, because my love didnt mean anything – didnt comfort like a more beautiful woman can. I don’t see how I could see this differently.
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Jeff says:
March 3, 2013 at 1:36 am
Lindsey,

Sandra Bullock, Catherine Zeta Jones, Halle Berry, Elin Nordegren and many more. I’m sure they have all asked the same question. These are very beautiful women but the plain and devastating truth is none of them can compete with what their husbands were looking at on the computer screen. Why? First, it’s not real. Second, their husbands sexual pallets has been so skewed that NO woman could compete. Not another movie star or a super model, not them, and not you. It’s the difference between fantasy and reality. I don’t have to engage a woman that I see on the screen and I can believe whatever I want to think. In short it’s all about me. This is the heart of addiction and the lie we all believe, that somehow that girl on the screen will fix everything. So what’s the truth? The truth is that no woman, no amount of pornography, masturbation, or sex will ever be enough. What we want, what we really want is an escape from the toxic shame, we want someone who will look at us and accept us. The problem is most sex addicts don’t believe they are lovable and /or don’t know what love is, they keep people at a distance even though their deepest need is to be intimate. Ask any addict in recovery about the insanity of it all; most will struggle to put it into words but they all feel the same thing. “I’m a bad person”. I’m not trying to throw a pity party here. I’m only trying to give you insight into how an addict thinks. Remember there are reasons most addicts are the way they are but NO excuses. Find your strength in God’s truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made…God’s perfect creation. I know my words can bring little solace but believe me when I say that it really isn’t about you. This doesn’t mean you have to accept it or live with it. You have to set boundaries and your husband has to learn that he is the living representation of God working through him to you. It’s ok to demand better. God demands better from men.
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Kerri says:
August 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm
Jeff,
6 weeks ago I found out my husband is a sex addict. He has been having unprotected sex with the same woman for 10 years along with a few one night stands. I am stunned, traumatized and disgusted. We have four children ages 6, 5, 3, and 1. We were always together, always talked about our love and faith and how lucky our kids were to have good role models and parents who love eachother. We also talked about our amazing sex life and how blessed we were to have found eachother. We talked about how sick it was for people to cheat and he was “furious” when he learned of his best friends wife cheating on his friend. Looking back now I see that he emotional abused me in many ways and manipulated me and everyone in our lives. We have been living apart for the past 3 weeks. Although he says he will do what it takes and that he loves me and our kids, I feel almost no empathy from him at all. He really doesn’t understand the damage he has done to me and our family. How can someone be so selfish and deceitful? He goes to SAA and to therapy and church. Now he claims to have found God and now he knows how to be righteous. I have no idea what is real and what is a lie. He ripped away my security and safety and literally put my life in danger. I am so confused and crushed. My question to you is how do I know whether or not he hit his rock bottom? The only reason he told me was because he was caught. He messed with a woman who wanted more than the whore he had sex with for the entire 10 years who was ok with dropping her pants for 5 minutes with no strings attached. This time the girl threatened him and he lost his mind and got sloppy trying to cover it all up. In the process I got anxiety that nearly paralyzed me and knew things were very wrong. And finally, could someone really continue to go to extremes such as risking his job (sex in school…teacher), his family, and his health to have sex with the same person for a decade and there are no emotional feelings toward that person at all? This is what he is claiming. I don’t understand any of this. His selfish “needs” hurt so many people and now he has taken his burden and dumped it in my lap. I did not want this in my life. I especially didn’t want this for my four beautiful children. The idea of a rellapse is simply unacceptable and I refuse to live through another minute of his dark world. If he can make a wholehearted and complete recovery, maybe he can fit himself into my world more than just co-parenting our children from different homes. My sons and daughters deserve a healthy and safe home and if I’m always worried about him that will not be the case. I know now that I did it all anyway. he was more like a 5th child. I don’t need him at all. But I do love him and I have not made any permanent decisions so far. There are no guarantees and I just don’t know how what is best for me and more importantly for my kids. Thanks for taking the time to respond to the questions from the other women. It was helpful to read your responses.
Kerri
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Jeff says:
March 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm
Kerri,
I hear this a lot….unfortunately. So without knowing anymore I’m going to tell you what I believe is the biggest area where addicts fail. First, an addict must go through a clinical disclosure. If this doesn’t happen it is next to impossible to recover. This addiction holds all of its power in the secrets, the lies, and the shadows. Everything MUST be pulled into the light by use of clinical disclosure and then back that up with a polygraph. It is the only way to get all the secrets out and build a foundation of trust. Without a disclosure an addict is forced to live with his secrets, the source of his shame. Most addicts have tried unsuccessfully to deal with the shame on their own and have turned to acting out time and time again even though they have told themselves and others they would stop. Regardless of morals, beliefs, boundaries, or consequences it will continue to happen. Many men make the mistake of believing they can pray it away and as a devoted Christian I can tell you that I believe God could and would do anything if He were sought, however it doesn’t work like that. God wants us to do the work. Nothing an addict does while he is in his addiction will shock me. I’ve seen it too many times. The ability to compartmentalize and justify behavior in order to escape the shame is too much.
The truth is that most addicts don’t seek help until they get caught. You asked how you know if he has hit his bottom. You can know by watching his actions. Is he consistent with what he commits to do? Do you see continued growth in not only sexual sobriety but in how he treats you and others? He says he is willing to do whatever it takes, but does that include a full clinical disclosure and polygraph test? Only by his actions, over time, will you know if your husband is serious about recovery and about saving your marriage.
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Cindy Parker says:
September 8, 2012 at 1:33 am
Jeff I’d like to say thank you for sharing from your own experiences. I know it can’t be easy but it is so helpful to hear the views of the addicted. My situation is very difficult as my husband is intimacy and sexual anorexic. He’s been in it for a very long time and is in denial. I am trying to cope and heal but it is quite a challenge. I am trying to do everything possible to keep my head above it. Just curious what kind of advice you might have for my situation. According to what I have been reading my husband is a severe case as he has all the symptoms. Sometimes when I think about all of it, it leaves me thinking there is no hope. That’s hard to say because as a Christian I know that there should always be hope. But this addiction takes it all out of me. At times I feel like I’m drowning and that it wouldn’t matter anyway. I’ve done a lot of research on this illness and it seems so big with no solution in sight. We have no sex, no communication for the most part, lots of silence, no gifts or acknowledgement of any wedding anniversary, lots of blame, never intimacy, shows anger in order to push me away, and controls with money. It’s an addiction to withholding . I believe it resulted from porn and parent wounds. I don’t doubt that there is probably a lot more to it that I am unaware of. Honestly if it weren’t for God in my life I would be a worse mess inside but still have a lot of hard work. Wonder if I’m even up for it. What can you tell me Jeff? I’m really at a loss for what to do next. I know pain can be useful to bring us to a better place spiritually but this level of pain really makes me wonder. Thank you so much for taking the time to care. God Bless you!
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Jeff says:
March 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Cindy,
Sexual sin is nothing new. We know that David, a man after God’s own heart, Solomon, the wisest man, and Sampson, the strongest man all suffered from sexual sin. I’m so happy to hear that you have God in your life and you can lean on him. The truth is many people aren’t going to understand and will not be able to support you regardless of what decision you make. The church will tell you to forgive unconditionally and I will tell you to forgive the act but until he proves he is ready to fulfill his marriage covenant do not outwardly express forgiveness to him. That may not sound like the Christian thing to do but it’s the difference between judicial forgiveness (forgiveness for the act) and relational forgiveness (forgiveness of the individual). God shows forgiveness in the bible when he forgives David, Solomon, and Sampson but relational forgiveness comes later after they have proven themselves through consistent actions. The Israelites had to roam the wilderness for 40 years. God wants us to do the work and your husband needs to understand that. He cannot pray this away. For your own well-being it is essential to set healthy boundaries, even emotionally detach until your husband chooses recovery, you, and your children over his addiction. Sadly, most men have to hit bottom before they want to change. The pain has to outweigh any perceived benefit of the addiction. You are not a bad Christian for thinking the thoughts you are thinking. You’re in a very difficult situation and it’s one you didn’t ask to be in. Do not let anyone tell you it’s not ok to grieve or just feel the pain. So often professionals, pastors, friends, etc. want us to “stop living in the past” or “give it to God”. Those are great goals to have. But let’s understand the medium that Jesus worked in. He worked in pain, suffering, grief, despair, woundedness, depression, and anguish. It’s ok to feel it and share it with Him but in an effort to process not to forget. We don’t get over things we only outgrow them. Some of the biggest times of growth come from crisis. Hold your husband to his covenant and demand that he seek real help. This will not stop unless he gets into active recovery and has the opportunity to get the secrets out (disclosure and polygraph). Seek out a strong support system and put in place healthy boundaries. Above all task your husband with being the man God wants him to be.
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beverly bragg says:
April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am
Dear Jeff,

I have been married to my H for 20 years. We have 2 children ( 13 and 15). I loved my husband. I caught him myself after he insisted that our marriage was “unhealthy” and drug me to a marriage counselor. He was ready to walk out of the marriage. His behavior was bizarre. I begged, pleaded, cried, and threw up my morning coffee everyday while praying to God about what to do. God answered. I found all the evidence of porn, phone sex, cyber sex, prostitutes…….to the tune of about 15K a year. When I confronted him, he claimed he was a sex addict. He attended an intensive with Omar Minwalla, sees a CSAT regularly and attends meetings..etc. He truly appears to be a changed man. My question is : I met the monster face to face in broad daylight. I confronted the monster. I could not get through to the monster even for the sake of our children that he claims to love. Now, that he has been “sober” for a year and claims to be changed and does not want that life any more, where did the monster go? Why is it that my finding the hard evidence made him care again? Boogeymen don’t die in the movies. They are resurrected as soon as the heroine turns her back. I want someone to tell me where that monster went. I want to stop being afraid to turn my back….

Thank You
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Jeff says:
April 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm
Beverly,
If we were to rename your husband’s addiction and call it the “monster” then I will submit to you that the monster never goes away. Just like someone who is an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic so it is for the sex addict. I think the question you’re asking is, what makes this time different? Hopefully you finding the hard evidence was enough for him to find his bottom. I can’t tell you for certain that he’s done. What I can tell you after talking to hundreds of men is that this addiction is not fun and games. The misconception is addicts are having a great time acting out. I can tell you the brief moments our addiction allows us to medicate certain feeling are vastly outweighed by the shame an addict deals with on a daily, minute by minute basis. Most guys I know want to change. They simply believe they cannot because of any number of core beliefs. I tell wives to trust actions not words. If he has been sober for a year then his actions are now starting to match his words. This does not mean he has victory. This means he must protect his sobriety fiercely! Replace sex with any other drug and it’s much easier for people to understand. Most don’t question why the crack addict steals from family or commits violent acts against society. We understand that addicts will do anything to get their fix. We understand that addicted people turn into monsters when they are in their addiction. This doesn’t excuse the behavior but it makes easier to understand. When men find their true bottom and choose to get sober I don’t see a lot of looking back. Sure, there will be daily struggles against lust. But if you combat the addiction in recovery, the monster that feeds on the hurt, pain, guilt, and shame, and in return protects and enables the addict is no longer needed. The truth is we all have a monster inside of us. Some never allowed it to grow. Others forged an alliance in hopes of controlling it. And still others allowed the monster to take over their life to the point were they were lost. All that reflected outward was the monster. It wasn’t until we found our true bottom that our eyes were opened and we could see what we had become. Now came the painful battle to win our lives back and we gained what we put into it. Each day we gained more and more freedom by surrendering to God and our program of recovery until we were strong enough to face the world without our drug….without the monster.
Beverly, the fear will continue to be there because you had twenty years of lies and abuse. Watch his actions, guard your heart until you can trust the intent of his. Talk about your fears and afford him the opportunity to change. The opportunity is there for a marriage devoid of monsters. It’s not easy or convenient, but it is possible. I pray your husband has found his true bottom and that he can support you during this time. If he’s by your side during this you’ll never have to worry about any monsters being behind you.

One last thought. Have you had a clinical disclosure with polygraph? This can help put your mind at ease and help keep him accountable. I recommend this be done on a regular basis. Every few months at first and then yearly.
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beverly bragg says:
April 24, 2013 at 9:21 am
Thank you for your response. It makes sense. I do understand the addiction aspect. I would absolutely understand ( not approve) why the addict steals from Grandma’s purse. I would know it had nothing to do with Grandma. However, I do not believe that sex is an addiction. I believe the compulsion or habit or whatever label you care to use is an addiction. Sex is not a foreign substance ( alcohol, drugs, etc). I understand the treatment program that insists the first step is sobriety. I also understand that there are underlying issues that must be addressed.

I grew up with a brother ( close in age). I heard the ‘boy/locker room” talk and I understand that every man will struggle with lust. There is always a pretty girl no matter what you are doing or where you are or what your wife/partner looks like. That is a normal reaction and a normal response.

My H has a sponsor and attends 3 meetings and has a weekly therapist session. If he were addicted to alcohol then I could be of some help. I could clear the alcohol from our home. I could suggest and participate in activities that were alcohol free. He could come home from work and tell me he had a stressful day and was struggling with the urge to drink. I could and would help any way possible. Whatever he needed…..attend another meeting even though I needed him at home, call a sponsor even if it meant time on the phone instead of interacting with the family, just someone to sit with him peacefully, etc. I could and would be willing to do everything I could to support his recovery. I cannot do that with a sex addict. He cannot tell me that he had a hard day and wants to masturbate to pornography or see a prostitute or visit a strip club. ..

I am once again “cut out” of his life. He has put down one addiction that alienated me and the recovery process is alienating me.

I was forced to tell my family this SA thing. I did NOT initiate the telling. He made the mistake of complaining about me to my brother and my brother called me. After I knew about the SA, I was so devastated that I had to tell my 70 year old parents because I could no longer chat on the phone or bring the kids for a visit ( they live 200 miles away and my H used that time to cruise bars for “hook ups”).

I have been unable to attend family gatherings with his family who live in town. I have lied to my children about the reasons for a year. I informed my H that I would no longer lie to my kids. That he should come clean to his family or I would not participate and I would tell my children why ( using age appropriate language). He told his mother last week. He told me that they had a long conversation. He said he did not use the word SA. He said he “cheated and had been a bad husband and that I was hurt”. Now, that is the minimization of the year folks…

I was very close to his mother ( his father is dead). I was closer to her and did more with her and for her than any of her 4 children. She is 73 and has had a tough life. She has been nothing but good to me. After he had this talk with her, I received a card in the mail from her ( she does not email or text).

READ: Dear Bev, I have missed you. I know something is wrong but I do not know what it is. You have always done so much for all of us and it is not the same without you. Will you call me? We have always had honest conversations. I do not want to lose your friendship.
love,
Janet

My H is adamant that his mother not be told the truth. I cannot lie to that woman and I cannot hurt her. Once again, his mess is dumped in my lap and I do not know what to do. I think the lie and the cover up is worse than the knowing. I do not want this woman hurt but I feel my H is letting me take the “hit” again. I have protected his secret from my children. I have protected it from our mutual friends. I have kept my mouth shut except my family ( which he initiated) and my one best friend. How do I respond to his mother? Do I insist that he do it? Do I just lie again? Do I tell her the truth?

Sorry this is long. You have kindly put yourself out there to answer questions in an honest way. I do appreciate that.

I had no formal disclosure. It was offered. I refused. I knew enough. I will not emotionally reinvest in the marriage without a polygraph.

I want to protect my family. I do not want my children hurt. My H knows he is holding the ace card because I won’t hurt my kids. They are 13/boy and 15/girl. It would kill them and scar them to know about their father’s sexual activities.
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC, CCSAS says:
April 25, 2013 at 9:55 pm
Beverly, we have not forgotten you. We have been very busy with work and want to be able to answer your question when we have enough time to do it right, which I hope will be in the next couple days. I told Jeff I’d like to give some input on this one. I hope you don’t mind since it was him you were asking and not me.
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beverly bragg says:
April 26, 2013 at 8:59 am
Thank you…

I will take all and any input I can get. My therapist ( he is not an expert on sex addiction but he is an addiction specialist), gave me the “he is sweeping the mess back to you” response but acknowledged that I had a personal relationship with this woman and had every right to tell my story.. My support group ( online SOS) has given me several pieces of advice and I am still stuck on what to do….

I am angry but I am not a mean person. I don’t want any more hurt than can be avoided but I do not want to lie and just be the “Oh, My H had a midlife crises affair and they are working it out” woman either.

Any help is appreciated.
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC, CCSAS says:
April 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm
Beverly,

When I first learned of my husband’s sex addiction just over five years ago I had serious doubts. Although I was already a counselor, the topic of sex addiction had never come up in any of my classes. This was before Tiger Woods or Arnold Schwarzenegger. The only time I could recall hearing the term sex addict was on a couple TV shows, primarily a drama series I had watched where one of the main characters admitted he was a sex addict and went to a meeting where he met a female sex addict and they went home together. I wonder if I had learned about Tiger Woods or others like him before my personal experiences with sex addiction if I would have just been another person accusing him of using this as an excuse for bad behavior.

I was not one of the wives who had caught my husband looking at porn, going to strip clubs, or chatting inappropriately with other women throughout our marriage. We had our problems like any couple, but I was very in love and I thought we were happy. So when he admitted his addiction (a conclusion he had only come to a couple months before), after I learned some things on my own, I was skeptical. I spent weeks questioning whether I was married to a sociopath. I figured that was the only way my husband could have fooled me so well. I questioned whether sex addiction was real and even if it was if my husband was one. Or was he just horny? Was he just having fun? Was he just being a selfish, inconsiderate man?

Perhaps my training in psychology made it easier for me to accept how a person’s mind/brain can become sick just like any other part of them. In time, I came to accept and even fiercely believe in sex addiction as a very real disease and that my husband definitely was one. A few things helped me come to this conclusion. First, reading the books Out of the Shadows was probably the most helpful book I read in those early months. In spite of how I did not identify with the description of a “co-sex addict”, this book helped me grasp how family of origin and other factors can contribute to the development of a sexual addiction.

Second, I came into contact with some wonderful sex addiction professionals who explained sex addiction to me in a way that made sense. One thing that helped a lot was the comparison of drug addiction to sex addiction. I learned about process addictions (gambling, shopping, food etc.) and that our mind can create the same chemicals that are created when one ingests a drug. I love the analogy of the crack addict on payday. In a seminar I attended a few years back Rob Weiss, CSAT, challenged the audience to consider when the crack addict’s high begins. Does it begin with the first hit or does it begin much sooner as he goes about his day, anticipating what it to come? Does it begin when he accepts his check while nuerons are firing like crazy and the excitement builds. Or does it begin when he goes to the bank and cashes his check? Or is it when he gets to his dealer’s house or when he takes the pipe in his hand? The reality is his high began long before that first hit of crack. His brain was creating all kinds of chemicals that created a high for him before he ever ingested a substance.

Finally, the biggest factor that helped me to accept the fact that sex addiction is real was learning of the behaviors my husband had participated in. I won’t go into detail, but like most sex addicts, most of his behavior was not the kind of thing you brag about to the guys in the locker room. It was shameful and humiliating. Even in our society, practically devoid of morals, in most circles it is not seen as “normal” or acceptable to spend hours a day looking at porn or paying for sex. These guys are hiding their behavior. They are unhappy. While they can’t imagine surviving without their drug, they hate the things they do and they hate themselves for doing them.

I could write a book on about how sex addicts become sex addicts and all the potential contributing factors, all of which occurred before he even knew you in most cases. But that book, and many others, has already been written. Like I mentioned, start with Out of the Shadows if you haven’t already read it. I can’t imagine having to go through this as a wife without even believing sex addiction is real. Further, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for your husband to be working so hard to recover with a wife who doesn’t believe he has a real addiction. No, it’s not your job to be his support system…quite the opposite. But how can you ever find healing if you can’t accept the fundamental reality of sex addiction as a real disease? I know it doesn’t happen overnight, but I hope you will strive to better understand this addiction. I am the biggest skeptic in the world, but I have seen enough to know that this is a fact.

Now, you mentioned how if your husband were an alcoholic you would do many things to help him. But that isn’t your job, no matter what the addiction. I do understand that it would be so much easier to support him in his recovery if it was drugs or alcohol. I hear so many women say, “If only it had been drugs or alcohol instead of sex!”. There is no pain like this. No matter what you call it it hurts just the same. This addiction, in my opinion, cannot be compared to any other when it comes to the damage it does to the marriage. It’s not fair. That’s the bottom line. It sucks! But understanding the addiction and its origins can help you with your healing and ultimately, hopefully, the healing of the marriage. I have to say I don’t hear many men who are as committed to recovery as you describe your husband to be.

The other issues you mention are beyond what I can go into here. Just know this: This is your story too. Your husband doesn’t own it. He can’t tell you who you can and can’t tell. Now of course I advise you use discretion with whom you choose to tell, but if you feel like you are having to keep secrets and it is getting in the way of your relationships, then something has to be done. Your husband is afraid of disapproval and looking bad. He will have to overcome that. I can’t offer you advice on your particular situation because I don’t know the specifics. But I will tell you that real recovery means living in the light. No more hiding and secrets. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to know, but like I said, if the secrets are affecting relationships with those closest to you I suggest you get guidance on how to tell them. Your husband will just have to understand. You are the injured party here and you shouldn’t have to endure more pain just because he doesn’t want to look bad.

Finally, you said you turned down a disclosure because “I will not emotionally reinvest in the marriage without a polygraph.” I’d love to hear the details surrounding this and what you meant by that statement.

I hope this has been helpful. I know all this is so much to take in. There is a lot of support out there for women in your shoes. Let me know if you have more questions.

One last thing. I just saw your last message. Be careful where you get your support. Some people can hurt more than help because they are still stuck in their own anger. Just like I tell sex addicts to be aware that their sponsor and group members are not professionals, please take everything you hear from online support groups with a grain of salt. I recommend you try to get involved in a support group through http://www.journeytohealingandjoy.com. It’s a wonderful resource as well with great articles and info!
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beverly bragg says:
April 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm
Thank You Ella,
I am probably responding on the wrong forum but I will assume that you can re direct me to your correct contact and you have my blessing to delete this so it will not inhibit others from asking Jeff their own question.

I do believe that sex addiction exists. I also understand the food or shopping or shoplifting behaviors as an “addiction”. I also believe that if my H was an alcoholic that I would be risking a lot to stay with him. My finances, his job, his injuring himself or others by driving intoxicated. I would NOT be risking my life unless I chose to ride with him while he was drunk. If he is a food-aholic then I risk nothing except he will die an early death due to obesity etc…With a sex addict, I actually risk my life due to STD’s if he has a slip or relapse. My H’s particular “high” was packing my children and myself off to go visit my parents. I thought I was doing such a good thing as a wife. I got to see my parents, my kids got to visit their grandparents, and my h got a week to himself with peace and quiet in the home. He used that time to cruise bars and pick up random women.

I support his recovery in every way. I believe he is totally committed. I do not think he wants to be “that” person or live his life that way. I told him that if he is taking the steps that are helpful to him then I support those steps. He has a traumatic childhood story and his addiction began before he ever met me. He is 47 year sold and he googled hookers and never googled help. He got help when I confronted him. He tried to get out of help ( intensive with Omar Minwalla) with every excuse in the book. I made him go for the small chance that he could become a better person and my children would have a chance at having a decent father. I thought that even if we divorced, he would still be their father and if I could help him then it would help them.

I spoke in length to my therapist who told me about treating Heroine addiction. He could not grasp why they were receiving the highest doses of Methadone yet still craved the heroine. He said they ran an experiment that let the addict use the tube to tie up their arm, feel the anticipation, and then inject saline solution with a needle. I may have some of the medical jargon scrambled but his point was just like yours. The “high” starts way before the high.

I turned down the formal disclosure because I did my own detective work when I saw that my H was totally going nuts ( making up lies in marriage counseling, saying bizarre things, claiming he never wanted children..etc). I went back 10 years and found everything. I hired a PI to get the rest. I confronted him, he cried and said I am a sex addict and I need help. I got him help. I had NO desire to hear the whole thing rehashed. He is “sober” now and has been for a year. I cannot commit emotionally to a relationship without a polygraph because I do not check up on him any more. The detective work I did was very thorough but I knew it wasn’t for me. I am not cut out for snooping. It is just not for me

Before I found all of this, I would have put my hand on a BIBLE and sworn my H would not have done any of this. I am good southern Baptist gal and I do not swear on the Bible lightly.

I am careful about my support groups. There is absolutely anger with some women. I believe their anger is justified and they need a place to vent it and be safe. I had those moments of ” I am going to torture and kill him slowly and painfully and enjoy every minute of it”. I did not do any of that but I needed to say it. I also will not attend any 12 step meeting that makes me state that My life is out of control and I need to take a moral inventory and that I need to make amends..etc. My life is not out of control. I Pray everyday. I take moral inventories of myself and ask God to help. I make amends when I have offended or hurt someone. I do not believe in the 12 step cults. I believe in my ability to make my decisions according to my path with God’s help. I do not criticize others for finding help or comfort or strength from the 12 steps.

I have read all the books. I must say I think Patrick Carnes is a misogynistic blowhard with NO training in the field of sexual addiction. I have read Barbra Steffen’s book and listened to her interviews.

Maybe my marriage can be saved. But I don’t know the person I am married to anymore. I do not believe he knows himself yet. I know I grieve for the man I thought he was. It may have been lies, but it was real to me. I never expected that any man would tell me I was more attractive than the Victoria Secret model. I only expected that he would love me.

I have a whole long story ( as all the wives do). I appreciate the honesty in your reply and in Jeff’s reply.
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Brokenhearted says:
May 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm
Hi Jeff.
I have been married for 8 yrs with 2 kids ( 4yr old and 2 yr old). About six months into our marriage I caught my husband watching porn. It was devastating. We went to counseling (i pretty much forced him) he told me he had stopped and i never found porn again on the computer until Feb of 2011. He tried to lie but eventually told me that he had lied to for our entire marriage pretty much he lied to me since the moment we met. He reveled he acted out all the time, he crossed the line fantasizing with everyone we knew and he had an affair. I was a complete mess dealing with all this pain and trying to function for my kids. We went to counseling and continue to go for a long time.. i started to see changes in him and I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.. A year later I started to question him and he started lying again and he confessed that he had lied to me the whole time and had never stop. My world crashed again as i hate myself for trusting him. So he begged for another chance.. He started going to SAA meetings and he seem to be diligent and I really saw a change and little by little started to believe that he was a recovering sex addict. He was trying to do everything to gain my trust. And now almost a year and half later i find myself back in this pit of pain as I caught him lying and he confessed that he never stopped he was just pretending and fooling everyone that the was in the path of recovery.

I sit here in so much pain and in shock to see that my entire relationship with him has been nothing but lies. He swears he loves me and the kids but he did tell me that when he is in his moment (acting out) he is always willing to risk losing his family.. and as much as i have tried to educate myself about this addiction is so painful to hear those words come out of his mouth. He wants one more chance. But how do I trust again. He has become such a good liar. its so scary! I know God hates divorce and I do love him but I can’t live like this. Will he ever hit rock bottom or he really just loves his addiction more?
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Jeff says:
May 27, 2013 at 1:07 am
Brokenhearted,
I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I can’t imagine the pain all of this has caused you and pray for healing, comfort, and understanding for you and your family. I think it’s important to reiterate that I am not a licensed counselor and my comments are made based on my personal experience in recovery as well as those whom I have coached.
From your account my first thought is that your husband has not made a commitment to recovery. Until he decides to enter real recovery instead of placating you I feel it is in your best interest to focus on self- care in order to protect yourself and your children. To do this you must set and enforce healthy boundaries. Your husband must understand that you will no longer tolerate his acting out. Many women feel they need their husbands to leave the home for a time until he demonstrates real recovery through consistent actions.
I would advise you to find a support system and lean on them during this time. Do whatever you can to provide some financial security for you and your children. Your husband must believe that you will leave the marriage unless he stops all acting out behaviors and gets into real recovery. God hates divorce but He does provide for it (Matthew: 19, 7-9). A word of caution; many counselors, and support groups for addicts and wives do not have the best interest of your marriage at heart. They focus on the individual not the coupleship. Many support groups are not the best place to receive marriage advice. I know of one very popular online “support” group that does nothing but tell wives how foolish they are to stay with their husbands. Groups like this are dangerous. It’s your marriage and only you can make the tough decisions that sometimes have to be made. Remember that you didn’t cause this and you can’t cure him. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are in any way to blame for his addiction. Do not let yourself be labeled and know that you are extremely valuable and chosen in God’s eyes. Read Psalm 139. If you decide to stay, set strong boundaries and watch his actions. Protect yourself at all times and find outlets for healthy support. I pray your husband can find his bottom and decides to enter recovery.
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Terry says:
May 13, 2013 at 10:18 am
Hi Jeff,
I have been married for 16 years, 3 years ago, after finding emails and a long 6 months of drawn out disclosures, my H (who is 55yrs old) participated in a 3 day intensive with a full disclosure and a polygraph.

We got home and he did a few meetings and that was all. We have argued consistently the last 3 years over his lack of effort. He would get angry with me for mentioning this.

3 weeks ago I found a secret cell phone and he says he has been seeing prostitutes again, since about December.

He left about 4 hours later to go to his parents in another state. He just kept saying “there is somthing wrong with me”. I told him yes there is and we found out what it was 3 years ago.

He has been there for 3 weeks. He has gone to 2 meeings and has the phone number of a counselor, but hasn’t called yet. There are no CSAT therapist where he is.

My question is there any way this can work for him (for for us) to do recovery work in another state? I can’t believe him just because he tells me he is going to meetings and reading. I think I need to see his efforts. I was mad when I found that phone and I did tell him I thought he should go visit his parents for awhile.

I just have to say that I believe this is all about me and how little I mean to him. I am the one that was exposed to diseases, I am the one that was lied to, I am the one that had her home and car violated, I am the one that he never chose, even once, over all the other women. Why is that smokers can stop their addiction if they truely want to? It seems that I was never important enough to him to make him truely want to stop. Not even enough to not knock on the door at one place.

Thanks for sharing with us.
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Terri says:
May 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm
This is Terry, please disregard the last paragraph, I was just venting
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Jeff says:
May 27, 2013 at 1:08 am
Terry,
As I’ve written before there is a huge difference between an addict that is in recovery and one who is placating others. It sounds like your husband is the latter. I tell guys all the time that wives don’t typically leave because of what they hear in disclosure, wives leave because addicts don’t do what they commit to in recovery i.e. go to meetings, see a counselor (individual and couples), do step work, continue to educate themselves about their addiction, apply tools and tips learned, and most importantly do whatever it takes to support their partner. I call this the relational piece. Guys that don’t understand this WILL fail. I hear it constantly, guys doing well in individual recovery but things at home continue to get worse because he refuses to make it about anyone other than himself. Empathy and intimacy will never be attained, the marriage will fail, and he will go back to his addiction. A lot of addicts are being set up to fail because they simply don’t understand the importance of this.
I don’t believe either of you can recover while living in separate states. I wrote an article that gives insight as to why working separate recovery paths does not work for a couple that wants to stay married. You can read it here. In short, things won’t work if he’s not willing to stop the escape and avoid tactics. Addicts that are still ruled by shame and defined by their addiction will continue to medicate and continue to hurt you. Develop strong boundaries and stick to them. Do not give him any wiggle room. Addicts are master manipulators and will use any loop hole or skewed logic to their benefit. Don’t trust his words, only his actions and his heart. Is he in recovery because he feels he has to be or because he desperately wants to change his life? Is he humble? Is he willing to make himself vulnerable? Does he have a servant’s heart? Is he taking ownership of his actions? If you are not seeing these changes then I fear he is not in recovery.
As for your comment about not being important enough for him to stop, his addiction has nothing to do with you. I know that is a concept that is so difficult to comprehend for many wives. I have learned from many partners, including my own, that with time, and by educating yourself on sex addiction, you will begin to understand this more.
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC, CCSAS says:
May 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm
Ladies, Jeff has been sick with bronchitis, took antibiotics, and seemed to get better. Then we went to a sex addiction conference in Nashville last week where we were preoccupied with conference related activities from sun up to sun down. Now his bronchitis has come back full force. So, please give him some time to recuperate and I know he will get to your questions. I haven’t yet even wanted to overwhelm him with the fact that he has questions to answer so please don’t blame him for the delay. I will tell him today and I know he’ll get to them, one at a time, as soon as he feels up to it. Thank you for your patience.
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Megan Guillen Diaz says:
May 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm
Hello Jeff,
I met my husband and church, and was immediately impressed because he was a leader in the men’s purity group. He was a recovered porn addict and helping other men overcome this addiction through a FMO group at our church. I was so excited that HE told ME first that purity was very important to him. That was three years ago, we’ve been married almost two. The night we got back from our honeymoon, my husband had his first rage episode with me. It was over something so small, I was so scared and confused. He had never raged while we dated. His rages have continued sporatically throughout our marriage, he’s never harmed me, but has thrown objects close to me to taunt me, etc. I always attributed it to his horrible and abusive childhood (his father abandoned him at age 9, they were close but his father also beat his mother and was an acoholic, my husband doesn’t drink), his mother has always been physically and emotionally abusive, and he’s still dealing w/ that and he does take it out on me. He started individual counseling after the first incident, and has been going ever since, almost 2 years. We’ve also been to couples therapy w/ a christian therapist, and he still attends FMO, but recently stepped down from leadership. I have asked him multiple times throughout our marriage if he’d had any struggles or falls w/ porn, b/c I know it’s a lifetime struggle. He said no.
Well, a few days ago, he admitted that he never did recover. He’s still been watchign it regularly, at least once a week. He has safeeyes on his computer and we don’t have HBO, he has no internet on his phone, but he’s still found ways.
The area I respected him in the most has been the biggest lie.
My questions are:
-How can someone who is in individual counseling who specializes in this, AND going to FMO (he admitted to lyign to them also while he was in leadership which is why he stayed in leadership, he finally stepped down), AND going to marital counseling still be having this issue? I told him something else needs to happen, like a sex addiction group. I am very disappointed it was never a priorty of any of the counselors or groups he was in to disclose to your spouse. I know it’s his responsiblity, but I’m diappointed in those groups for not really pushing that (they didn’t).
-When is enough enough? Now I understand more why he raged. His shame. I have always been the one to bring us back around and pull us together after one of his rages, and I can’t do it alone anymore. He’s doing what I ask of him (groups, counseling, etc) but it’s still happening and he says he can’t guarantee it won’t again. I’m really wanting to set firm boundaries, which if this continues is divorce. But, HOW LONG TO DO I GIVE HIM??? I know addiction can’t stop overn ight, but I don’t know how long I can handle this, along with the rage episodes. I’ve even had to call the police on him over the rage. He’s in the military and can get dishonorably discharged if he ever does hurt me physically.
-A good point is, he’s NEVER blamed me or said anything negative to me/about me. He is accountable, which I”m grateful.
-I know he wants to stop, and I know I can’t make that happen. only he can. I asked him if he even wanted to be married to me b/c I don’t feel he fights for this marriage…only I do. He said he didn’t know. I asked him why, and it boils down to he can’t handle all of this and how it’s affecting me and our marriage. I want him to fight, and to have integrity for our marriage, but he’s not there, and I don’t know if he ever wll be.
My biggest question is: if we continue counseling, he goes to SA, continues his own counseling/groups….how long do I give him before it’s enough and I have to follow through on a divorce boundary?
Thank you,
Megan
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Sally says:
June 12, 2013 at 12:36 am
Hi Jeff,
My husband is a SA that kind of knows it but I don’t think he fully accepts it. We have been married for 3 years and has been looking at P the entire time. At first it didn’t seem that big of a deal but within the past two years it has gotten worse. Now in the past yr our intimacy is pretty much gone. Sex was never an issue for us until now, he always “denys” me and finds some excuse to not have sex. I feel so unwanted and I know its because of his addiction. My question for you is did you go through that with your wife as well? I’m just trying to get into his head and figure out why he’s not interested…
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Jeff says:
June 17, 2013 at 2:19 am
We see about half (rough estimate) or more of sex addicts begin to lose interest in sex with their partners, sometimes to the point of not even being able to perform with her. I am not sure why some of us don’t experience a loss of interest in sex with our wives when others do. There does not seem to be any correlation between that and the severity or frequency of the acting out. There is also very clearly no correlation between that and what the parnter looks like, acts like, etc. As for why it happens in general, a great book on the topic is Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers.
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A says:
June 13, 2013 at 4:06 am
For so long after I learned my first little bit about my husband’s sexual sins, I played detective. I thought that if I could find out everything, there would be no more secrets and we could move forward. I realized what I really wanted, however, was for him to WANT me to know everything … no secrets, honesty, genuine intimacy. My detective work got him to admit only what I had black and white evidence for but his heart had not been changed by the revelation. I’ve noticed that you are supporters of lie detectors for complete revelation. I’m wondering how this is different than my sleuthing. If they don’t want to be completely honest and only are because there is irrefutable evidence, how is that equal to a heart change? How does this encourage future, continued truthfulness if they did not choose it for themselves?
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC, CCSAS says:
June 17, 2013 at 2:10 am
A, by “playing detective” you were searching for the reality of your own life. You were desperate to know the truth, to not feel crazy. The lie detector test is different because of how it is used in conjunction with a full clinical disclosure. You answered your own question (the first one) by saying he would only admit to what you had hard evidence for. With polygraph the entire truth is revealed, without the need to snoop. The polygraph does not equal heart change. It is a tool to help motivate an addict who has a crippling fear of telling the truth….and it works. The willingness of an addict to take the test often says something about where his heart is. Once the truth is out many addicts find that long term recovery is more realistic because they no longer have to carry around so many secrets, living in shame and fear of getting caught. We advise that you never go directly to a polygraph examiner without going through a therapist trained in doing therapeutic disclosures with polygraph. It won’t go well. But if the addict doesn’t already have his heart in the right place the polygraph won’t help him.
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Ella Hutchinson, LPC, CCSAS says:
June 17, 2013 at 2:15 am
To clarify, for the addict who does truly want real recovery but is still struggling, the polygraph can help him to find freedom from all his secrets. This might be the thing that is keeping him from long term sobriety. Lying does not equal a lack of desire for recovery. It usually equals fear.
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A says:
June 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm
Thank you so much for your response. Your explanation makes complete sense to me. You gave me a new insight that had not dawned on me in over 6-1/2 years of this battle, a week-long intensive (horrible) experience, and multiple counselors (“everyone lies, you just have to decide how much you’re willing to live with” – said right in front of my husband – great ammunition for him to stay captive in his lies).
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Linda 963 says:
July 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm
Dear Jeff,
Thank you for your insights and feedback. I recently found out that my husband is a sex addict who has been acting out his fantasies with prostitutes. Two years ago he had prostate surgery but still is seeking porn. Does the desire ever go away even if there is no erection ability to complete the sex acts? Or does he just seek other ways to act out his fantasies?
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Veronica says:
July 29, 2013 at 12:42 am
Dear Jeff,
I am a 30 year old female and about three years ago I became very good friends with a man who I later discovered was a sex addict. At the time he didn’t realize he was a sex addict, after some self recognition, he was ready to do the work. Three year later this man and I have build a friendship that has led to a romantic involvement. He has been completely free of porn and masturbation for six months. He started his recovery program about a yr ago. His past included prostitutes as well and strip clubs. My question to you is : how do I know if he is relapsing and would you ever advise a woman to marry a recovering sex addict? I can see the change in him as time has passed but I am deathly afraid of being lied to at some point or cheated on. I know he loves me and he thanks me everyday for “saving” his life but I have doubts because he is a sex addict. He also recently told me that in his recovery program he has become very aware of his choices and of himself. He noted that he had a thought the other day of how in the past he would have used the free time he had from a girlfriend to act out and how he had thought, ” if I was still the same shit man, I could act out now” but then he knew he wouldn’t because he is no longer that man. He did say that an addict always “recognizes a window of opportunity” to act out and that he is aware of those moments but its his choices that determine who he is and not his thoughts. What do you think Jeff ?
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Jeff says:
July 30, 2013 at 10:46 am
Linda, your experience is not uncommon. I hear this kind of think often. Because sex addiction is not about sex and is more about what’s going on between the ears than between the legs, medical issues affecting ability to perform sexual acts generally do not stop the addiction or addictive behaviors.
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Kellee says:
December 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm
My husband isn’t getting any help. He’s aware there’s a problem. Been married for 13 years and almost positive he has a sex addiction. We went to a therapist that did more harm then good. He walked out feeling great, me like crap. That was a few years ago. We were and always have had all kinds of issues in our marriage. Including cheating that he refuses to admit to. He contacted herpes, and recently gonorreha. Then we got the lying, porn all the time, hiding money etc. If I refuse to have sex with him and it’s been say 2 days or more he gets very moody, then anger, won’t fix himself anything to eat, gets depressed and sits around. Treats everybody including our daughter like crap. Until I give in to him. I can’t deal with this anymore, I’ve told him that, I expressed to him he needs help. That I can’t and am no longer willing to put myself or my daughter at risk anymore. He gave me a std a few months ago and swears he didn’t cheat that he’s had it for 15 years. In his mind does he think I believe that?
Then again you have the good Side of him. He is a good man a hard working man and I do love him but can no longer do this. How can I try to get through to him even a little bit to maybe get help? Thanks
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Devastated says:
December 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm
Hi Jeff,

I have so many questions regarding what I am going through right now. Six years ago, I became aware of my husband’s addiction to P/M. This was such a difficult time in our marriage and I wasn’t sure if we could make it through. He seemed completely repentant for his actions and begged me to enter marriage counseling before I ended things. Even though the hurt was almost more than I could stand, I did agree to go to counseling and we started the healing process. One of the conditions was that he kept away from the internet all together. Six months into therapy, I happened to be on another computer at his office (it was an assistant’s computer) and I found a search for Myspace page’s that included his ex-girlfriend and another woman that he had been interested in dating before he and I met. I completely lost it!! He claimed that he looked up other people from his past that were just friends, that it meant nothing, blah blah blah, but he had broken our agreement about the internet. This shattered the trust all over again. Maybe I am just stupid, but I loved him so we continued to work through this difficult time in therapy. (even though it took me years for things to get back to a state of being somewhat normal)

Fast forward to now – six years later. My husband goes into deep depression/anxiety attacks and starts this “confessing phase”. He tells me that even though he has stayed away from internet p for most of this time, minus a few relapses, he has been having extensive sexual fantasies about people in our real life and that this has been going on off and on for our entire marriage. He says that sometimes he tried to redirect his thoughts, but with one woman in particular, he says that he would play it out over and over and self gratify. I am completely devastated! He says he wants treatment now (again), but I can’t help thinking he really just wants someone else. He said he never actually touched anyone physically (I do believe this part), or even approached any of these people but the fact that this was on his mind still hurts like a thousand knifes in my back. He says he loves me more than anything and he’s asking me to stay – but he even went as far as to tell me that he has imagined his life and what it would be like with these other women in his fantasies (though he says that’s not really what he wants). Maybe I am wrong, but this doesn’t seem like it is just the sex addiction. I’m hoping maybe you can shed some light on this. He says he will do anything to recover, but I’m just not sure that is a path I can walk down. Especially considering I am planning to move half way across the country so I never have to see any of these women again (some of which were friends). I just don’t want to waste any more of my life dealing with this. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Lisa says:
November 24, 2014 at 10:02 am
I have been in a relationship for 2 years with a sex addict I have known about some of his actions but didn’t know the extent of the damage… he started theropy but quit when I broke up with him… I felt bad and went back to him hoping this would encourage him… I relize I should have set boundaries but I thought this was something he had to do on his own… his own decision… I did confront him several times when I thought he was acting out again and because he confessed to struggling with his thoughts I believed that was all he was doing… he got a text while we were together and he said it was a wrong number… I didn’t believe him and said let me text them and ask who it his… he refused so I knew it wasn’t a wrong number… we broke up and something told me to look on craigslist causal encounters …I didn’t even have to search right at the top he had just posted and pic his junk but it was listed as m4m… I wasn’t shocked because I had read that this can happen with addicts… what did shock me is he was advertising wanted BB, this pissed me off! I forwarded the ad to him so he knew I would know… I wanted an explanation and an opolige but he wont agree to see me… he has two young boys and I worry about them… should I threaten to expose him if he refuses help? I don’t want to hurt him I understand this isn’t something he wants in his life but I care about his boys and fear for the danger he puts them in
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