Month: August 2016

Your Higher Power Isn’t Your Wife!

(please note that names have been changed below)

Thanks for these thoughts, John.   I am grateful for addiction because to indulge is death, but to not indulge I am required  to come to God each day and immerse myself in the spirit through scriptures and prayer etc.  As I have done this, I have come to value my connection to God and what I get from Him each day, MUCH more than I value what lust gave me at its best!  With this Spirit, I don’t find a need to take a drink of lust anymore.  

You will hate me for this  =) but I am particularly grateful for what is happening between you and your wife, because it is critical to your spiritual transformation to spiritual health.  The fact that Linda seems harsh and you believe she doesn’t make the effort to reconnect, is a perfect crucible for what you need – and what you are ready to achieve as you begin to work step 2.   

Specifically, the core of every sex addicts psyche (and many men in general) is the belief that the free and unconditional love of a beautiful woman will heal and save them – and that this love, symbolized by sex, is the most important thing in their life.   I find this to be more and more true of the addict and many men the farther I get in my recovery.  The fact that Linda is still so capable of driving you nuts while you see yourself as giving and giving and the one making all the effort is evidence that you still unconsciously hold on to this belief.  She is threatening your core even as you with futility work to appease a god that can’t fill you.  Your Father in Heaven, your Higher Power, needs to be at this core, filling you – not the illusion of a woman. Then you can help Linda feel safe and ready to be better connected with you.  My prayer for you and your children is that you don’t have to lose your wife to learn this lesson.  

For me, the wrenching of my ex-wife from my life was an unspeakable hell (how could it be described?)….but by coming to meetings and to God on my face each day (where else could I turn?), I progressively came to have my Father in Heaven and His Son filling the core of my life, and not some imaginary archetype of the perfect woman that I thought I could create or find.  The paradox is that for some time now I am able to love a woman from my heart, and not give with unrealistic expectations on the return. 

I never recognized this when married before.  Instead, I was working my tail off to be a good husband and give my ex-wife everything she wanted in every way and to be this long-suffering guy, SO that I could get her to the place in life where she could finally consistently meet all my emotional and safety needs to be saved and healed.  Much less out of a deep honor and respect for her and who she was and what she truly needed from me to feel affirmed and safe.   She felt this disconnect (women always do) and so never felt fully safe and secure in our relationship.  

Because only Father in Heaven and not a woman could ever meet my souls hunger, I would suddenly and sometimes surprisingly “find” myself looking elsewhere to satiate the illusionary drive that was at my core – the need for some golden, smiling, inviting woman to save me – but that only enlarged the hunger.  In my baseline pride, I only allowed God to replace this core belief from time to time as I went through repentance cycles;  But he didn’t dwell there.  If He had, I:  

1. wouldn’t have been frustrated at never finding some paradisiacal/illusionary secret-garden through my poor human wife. 2. wouldn’t have Impulsively acted out when I couldn’t suppress my core belief any longer 3.  could have loved my ex-wife from a place of internal security –  like a real man should love his wife.  4. would have really listened to find what she was looking for 5. showed greater leadership to bring God into both of our lives together – the only real solution to both us as individuals and as a couple. 

With love and empathy for your stage in this experience, Your Sponsor.

Living in Dignity and Love With Your Wife as You Recover

Dear Sponsee,

My heart often still aches for my ex-wife.   If I could go back and do one thing differently in my marriage, it would be to fully accept my wife when she was rejecting me.  I know that sounds impossible, but I have discovered it is not.  She was hurting and if I had learned then how to stay in the Spirit, I could have heard what she was saying and doing to me as evidence of her pain, not something so personal, and could have been consistently kind to her…and in this state I may have been better able to help her  FOR HER sake – not in order to get her off my back or help her accept me again.   

I never found resentment to be useful regardless of what my wife does or doesn’t do.   The Spirit will help you both feel like a man and be kind and long-suffering at the same time!!!  You will know when and how to set limits, but it will truly come from a perspective of what is good for her – not you.    It also wasn’t helpful for me to do this martyr thing:  like I am this amazing (or beaten down)  man who has to put up with this never-forgiving woman – that also was absent of the Spirit.   

Pray for your current wife as a priority.  Serve her.   Keep surrendering and praying and all will soften.  Pray to know  the truth from God: that you are a good man, a man who desires good, and a desirable man, then you will not get so concerned and make things worse if/when your wife says cruel things out of spite…You can be confident in your manliness and stay in your OWN recovery, even if your wife decided to leave you…but you can make that possibility less in the meantime.  I will send you the Step Two work tomorrow.  Begin to put your trust in God and not in your wife.  It will seem like a much longer journey than you can bear sometimes…..So read and work sufficiently each day to feel the spirit that day!  

First Step Inventory

Dear Sponsee,

My heart goes out to you as you work your first step inventory, and at the same time, I am excited for you as you now get to experience a deeper distance from your past.    Please do a lot of self-care through this time – prayer and scriptures and eating healthy etc.   This is a very important step.  Two things came as a result of this step for me ….First, I saw more clearly how lust had led me to do things that were amazingly dark and destructive and shameful.  This helped me get a very healthy respect the power of lust could have over me and how much I did not want to take the first steps into giving it any power going forward.  Second, it had the amazingly paradoxical effect of helping me be free from an underlying shame that was making me vulnerable to relapse.  I had shared my very worst with a faithful witness who understood the cunning, baffling, powerful nature of lust.  I could now stand on equal footing with any man, and not feel somewhere in me I had some secret that I was hiding.  All had come to the light already.  

Don’t write with shame or triggers, when this happens, step back and see this process as though you were observing history from a place of self-acceptance for who you are today and compassion for who you were then.

I am glad you are willing to do this difficult work.  Recovering men do what those who aren’t recovering are unwilling to do.   

Prayer

Prayer is something that the addict might have not had good experiences with or feels that God hasn’t listened in the past.  Sometimes, our old concepts of prayer  – our approach and attitude and concept of our God etc., need to be modified so we can practice a new kind of connection and reality with our Father.  

I thought I knew how to pray, but have found I learn more and more about it in the  doing of it.    Even when I am not in formal prayer, I make an effort to speak to God and watch for the connection and see what works and what doesn’t in terms of my attitude and approach.  In the meantime, I exercise faith He is hearing me in spite of the imperfection of my communication.   I need a lot of prayer during the day to combat the creeping tendency to resent or feel like a victim.  Prayer helps me connect to a healthier ongoing reality and to love others rather than having a focus on myself.

Self Forgiveness

I struggled with self-forgiveness for a long time. I found I had to learn to trust that God would see to it that I would become stronger and stronger as I simply did my part in following a program of recovery. That in the meantime, God did love me and that I was acceptable to Him in spite of my imperfections….imperfections that He was working on in His time and way. You may find, like me, that when you are doing well, evil is present with you, telling you you are not doing it good enough or that you are lacking. This is a voice to surrender – not believe! Can’t you imagine the devil – seeing you do well and resenting it. Wanting to tell you you are screwing it up…trying to keep you “in your place.” Listen to that still small voice telling you you are good, your efforts are noticed, you are a beloved son – and you don’t have to live beneath your privilege as His own Son anymore!

What is Mindfulness?

By Kayla Burningham, AMFT

Mindfulness has become a popular term lately. It is also a very common intervention used in therapy for a variety of presenting problems. In 2010 an analysis of all previous studies of the effects mindfulness on anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders was conducted. The results? Mindfulness significantly decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. While that is great news, what clients really want is an intervention that will help them in the long run–that will help create lasting change and lead to healing. With that in mind, what else did this analysis find? At follow-up appointments clients still reported significant decreases in symptoms! Mindfulness can be a powerful intervention in the treatment of mood disorders. Here are some other great benefits studies have attributed to mindfulness:

  • Improve well-being
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Increase focus and attention
  • Boost immune systems

Wow! Three cheers for mindfulness!

So, what is mindfulness? Psychology Today defines mindfulness as:

“A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

In therapy, your therapist will guide you in becoming aware of your thoughts and encourage you to stay in the present moment. When thoughts drift, the therapist will gently pull you back to the present to an observable state. For example, focusing on your thoughts as if they are clouds slowly moving by in the sky. Eventually mindfulness allows a client to observe their thoughts without reacting to them or judging themselves. This ability to be aware of what we are thinking without reacting puts us back in the driver seat in our own lives and allows us to make more educated decisions about what actions to take, what behaviors to change, and, perhaps most importantly, what to let go.

Mindfulness can be incorporated in couple or family therapy as well. I have oftentimes used it in my own practice to help family members take a deep breath, reach a state of calm, observe their thoughts, and mindfully practice what they want to say. This helps clients to then communicate with their loved ones more effectively.

All this goes to say that mindfulness has broad applications. A skilled therapist can utilize mindfulness in a variety of ways to assist clients in understanding their thoughts, emotions, and the physical sensations associated with those emotions. When mindfulness is regularly used and practiced, it has the potential to create lasting change, boost the healing process, and help a client lead a proactive life.

Sources:

Hofman, S.G., Sawyer, A.T., Witt, A.A., & Oh, D.The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. 2010. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 78(2).

http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/mindfulness-based-interventions#Techniques

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness


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Kayla is a Licensed Therapist 
working with individuals,
families, couples, as well as groups.

See and React to our Emotional and Relational Environment

Recovery results in our becoming more flexible and accurate in our thinking – to see and react more effectively and accurately to our emotional and relational environment.  Its physical analogy is like having light on so we can see the opticals and vehicles along our path.  This is a result of walking more and more closely with God.   As one example, I have found a softening in my sense of being separate from others.  

In speaking with many young or immature religious Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Muslims, the religiously atheistic, strict political conservatives or liberals, or the rich or poor who identify with their class (etc),  I find a common emotion… a sense of not only trusting their in-group, which is fine – but also an elitist sense that they are somehow fundamentally different and separate in their humanity from the non-believing.  

For me as a Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), this elitist tendency found various justifications just as I am sure it does with others who identify strongly with an ideology.  In my recovery I found this tendency toward separateness and elitism softening without my having to abandon the strengths of my beliefs in the least…  

This common emotion among us (with an immaturely developed or understood ideology) makes others less than human, alien.   I have come to not like this feeling. I have discovered in recovery that it has roots in obsessiveness and personal narcissism rather than in God or in my beliefs.  I would rather like to see myself as relatable and in relationship with others – all of whom are on a continuum of progress or regress in all the various issues that I myself am or could be.  

The very obsessive/elitism vs. relatable/connection continuum I speak of here is one of these many issues by which I can connect with others – having compassion, identity, or admiration for them in regard to their place, as I might see it, on this continuum.  To see that we are all tied together as literal spiritual brothers and sisters struggling with various shades of the same issues.  That maybe I can get help from you or you from me on this or other issues.

Do I get frustrated at the judgmental?  
I myself can be judgmental.  

Do I get resentful of the undisciplined and selfish?  
I myself can be undisciplined and selfish.

When I see that whenever I am disturbed, it is a reflection of something in me…I can surrender the  things more easily within me that I do and think –  and stay in peace.   This comes from working the steps which improves our conscious contact with God – making all this wonderful new life possible.  

Depression and Anxiety in Recovery

You may have heard that as we recover we feel better.  We feel resentment better, we feel anxiety better, we feel depression better…..  This is because we are not medicating our emotions and now get to learn to master reality with our Higher Power’s help.  In the meantime, depression and anxiety are bodily/chemical events –  NOT something that has accurate information about who we are  – other than to remind us to seek God.   I find Evil tries to play on the body’s chemical habits and events to tempt us to feel bad about past (depression) or worried about our future (anxiety).  If messages you receive aren’t  from the Spirit of your Higher Power (that you are learning to recognize by praying to Him) they don’t need to be trusted.  It doesn’t help anything to see yourself as less than you hoped for at this point, or to worry what your girlfriend might be thinking, for example.   

Keep up the good work, be sober TODAY.  

Mindfulness in Recovery

Practicing mindfulness is helpful to recovery.   Step 4 and 5 are what REALY helped me to learn mindfulness.  Specifically, as I turned my mind in a calm way to my character weaknesses, systematically inventorying them, and then confessed them to another human being –  it was as though I was stepping outside my sins and weaknesses and observing them as something I DO – not something I AM.  So as result of these steps 4 and 5, I have become more aware when my weaknesses come to knock on my door.  With this awareness, I can slow my reaction down sufficiently to turn to God and allow His Spirit to fill me instead.  This is a mindfulness process – of nonjudgmental observation and compassion for self and others and staying in God’s peace….My peace and sense of self and connection to God can then be like a chessboard – Consistent and unchanging….and emotions and events are simply moving pieces on the chessboard that I am patient with….I am not unduly influenced by the pieces, however full of sound and fury they may strut and fret their little parts.   

Choosing the Best Therapist for You

by Kyle M. Reid, LMFT

Choosing the best therapist for you can be difficult. This is the person you hope to share your deepest darkest secrets with!!!   You might ask, “How can I know if I will be able to trust him or her!” “How do I know if this person is right for me?” “How can I know they can help me?” or “Can they really understand what I am going through?”

It’s important to ask yourself these questions and find someone that you feel understands your needs and that you can trust to help you. Many people seeking help can go through several therapists until they find the one they are comfortable with. A good therapist understands this and will respect your choice to find safety. As a practicing therapist, I have functioned in both the capacity of someone’s first therapist as well as someone’s last.

Research has shown that the best outcomes in therapy come from two very general dynamics (Cooper & Lesser, 2011, p.33; (Teyber & McClure, 2011):

  1. The client’s comfort and connection with the therapist and
  2. The therapists sense of hope in the client’s progress.

In practical terms, this means to attend one or two initial sessions and trust your instincts on whether there is a good connection. You may need to explore different therapists – but it is worth it.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • We Don’t Sell!
    • Be aware that a good therapist will be inviting, but will not try to sell you on their treatment….you may feel motivated to continue with a therapist after the first session(s), but you won’t feel pressure.
  • We are All Unique!
    • Every therapist has a different personality and a different style of practice. For example some may be skilled at listening and letting you come up with solutions, some are more directive. Choose the person that you feel will suit your needs and personality. Ask your therapist what his/her process of change looks like in dealing with your issues. Understand your treatment plan.
  • We Don’t Give You Fish….We Teach You to Fish!
    • Both the therapist and the client need to be working together towards the issues that the client feel are important towards him and her. A therapist doesn’t force the client to change or make a habit of telling the client a specific course of action to resolve a dilemma. They should however, help you develop skills and perspectives that allow you to own and solve your own issues effectively. In this way you continue to grow long after therapy is over. Assignments and opening your heart and mind to new perspectives are important in this regard, not necessarily advice giving. Over time, you will learn to both trust yourself and work with others in getting answers.
  • There is No “Right” Way!
    • There are many different theories of practice out there (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotional focused therapy, etc.) and many different types of therapists (LMFT, LCSW, CMHC or LPC, Psychologists, Psychiatrists). Ask your therapist what theories they practice and how they view change and progress with individuals and families. Ask them to give you a basic outline of these theories.
  • Be Committed to the Process!
    • Most therapists will do a 15-30 minute consultation for free to find out all of these questions and get to know them more; here at Connections, we offer a 30 minute consultation. Don’t be afraid to shop around. But when you do choose a therapist, spend more than a few sessions with them. Therapy can take time. If you find yourself not progressing or feeling uneasy in your session, or if you are concerned with how your therapist is handling certain issues, talk to them about it! A good therapist will be open and helpful with this information. They will be respectful of your issues and seek to come to an understanding of your needs if you feel they don’t already.
  • We Don’t Need our Ego Brushed. Be Honest with Your Feelings!
    • There have been many times clients have been concerned with how I say something or do a certain therapeutic process, but will be afraid to speak up. If I don’t catch it right away, the client will not receive the amazing benefits that come from working through relationship concerns with someone skilled in this process. When a client opens up about some of his/her concerns, these can be some of the most uplifting, growth inducing processes in a session. It is necessary to have a safe and open dialogue with your therapist. If you feel that you can’t, you need to be direct and honest with them.
    • If you feel that you aren’t understood or heard when this happens, be honest and seek to find a therapist you feel that you can be honest with and that you feel will validate your concerns. Often times this isn’t about the therapist or you as the client nearly as much as it is about the therapeutic style, personality compatibility, and your current motivations for change and growth. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your feelings towards your therapist. A good therapist will be able to emotionally handle any feedback they are given. You are paying them to help you. They understand this. Don’t waste your money on unsaid and unspoken language.
  • Not all Therapists Are Trained the Same!
    • There are different types of therapists that are best suited for specific issues. Ask your counselor what they are trained in. Therapists have been trained on most client issues but their training and approach is particularly suited to some issues more than others. Ask your therapist about their experience in the areas that are of interest to you. As an MFT (marriage and family therapist), people will often assume that I only specialize in family and couple counseling but not individual counseling. This is a mistaken assumption. Most MFTs work mostly with individuals with a variety of issues. They are just trained to view many problems in the context of the relationship and family system. Psychiatrists and psychologists are often misunderstood as well. Psychiatrists attend medical school and most of their work consist of diagnosing and prescribing medication. Psychologists don’t prescribe medication but can diagnose and test. Most therapists have the training to diagnose, but might send you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further testing or medication.

A Few Final Points…

Recognize your expectations with the therapy process and open up to your therapist about them. Clients will often expect their therapists to lead the counseling sessions. Meier and Davis discuss a few important factors to consider when starting counseling:

  • The pain can get worse before it gets better, so consider with your therapist if the pain you are experiencing in therapy is legitimate pain of growth, or if it is making things worse.
  • Therapists take confidentiality very seriously but you should talk to your counselor about the exceptions to confidentiality.
  • People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness….

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Kyle Reid Therapist Utah

 

Kyle is a Marriage and Family
Therapist, specializing in individual,
relationship, and family work.