Journey to Healing & Joy Blog

An interview Marsha Means and Milton Magness with Carol the Coach on Blog Talk Radio - February 13, 2017
Below is a transcript of the interview. To listen to the interview follow this link: Marsha Means & Milton Magness on Blog Talk Radio with Carol the Coach 
Carol: That is the question; do you want to change your behaviors by changing your support systems, by creating the proper structure, and by setting up success in your life? Everybody knows I’m Carol Juergensen Sheets, and I am known as Carol the Coach. I’m a psychotherapist of 35 years, I’ve been doing this work for a little over 10, and I’m also a life coach. I believe in ascribing certain principles, whether you have addictive behavior or whether you just want to take your life to the next level. 
Three of the coaching principles that I find to be most successful are three that absolutely apply to sex addicts and to their loved ones, to partners of sex addicts. I’m going to talk a little bit about them tonight. The first coaching principle is that we are all 100% responsible for our own behavior. I say that meaning if you are hiding your sexual addiction or if you’re not getting the help that you really deserve, if you’re minimizing it or rationalizing it, if you’re keeping it secret, if you’re isolated; you’re not going to get healthy. If you really want to be responsible for being the best you that you can be, and for beating the odds and managing this addiction, you have to say, I’m willing to do what it takes to make my life better. The good news is when you do what it takes to make your life better, you actually find substitutes for old behaviors that make you feel as good if not better than you did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. These new behaviors and new support systems really allow you an opportunity to grow. 
You’re 100% responsible for your behavior, but that means you have to have accountability tools in place. I was just talking to a guy today, an addict, and he said, “My sponsor (in their 12 step meeting) doesn’t want me to call him after I’ve acted out. If I’m not willing to call him before I act out, he doesn’t want a call afterwards.” Now there may be some of you that say, whoa, that is a hard difficult rigid sponsor, but what this man is saying is if you’re not calling me before you act out, you’re not going to get the help you need, so call me ahead of time, call me and let me know you’re thinking about cheating. Call me and let me know that you’re thinking about porn. Make the call before you act out so that you get the support you deserve to do something different. That is being 100% responsible for your behavior. It is also being accountable for your issues, because you placed accountability people in your life that aren’t going to enable you. They’re not going to set you up to fail. They’re going to say, call me, let’s get you to a meeting, pick up the second chapter in the Green Book or the White Book. They are just going to give you that negative wisdom that I talked about in AA meetings and NA meetings and SA and SAA meetings. They’re going to give you that negative wisdom that you’re looking for. I guarantee that’s how it works.   
The second coaching principle is that you’ve got to go in for the big ask. The only real way that you can ask for your needs to be met is if you’re connecting to people. I know that’s the hard part. Again, I was talking to another addict who said, “I don’t want to ask people for help.” Actually it was in one of my groups. I had him stand up in the middle of the group, and there were about 10 men around him, and I said, pick the person that you are the most comfortable with and start with him. You know what he did, don’t you? He came over to me, because this guy has been isolating, and he hasn’t reached out to anybody in our sex addict’s group. He laughed and said, “I’m telling you the truth here, I’m definitely more comfortable with you, I know you better.” I said, okay, start with me. His assignment was to tell me one reason that he hadn’t reached out; hadn’t reached out in fellowship, hadn’t reached out in group. He said, “Carol, the reason I have not reached out in group is because I don’t want to interrupt your time.” We’ll call him “Sam,” and I said, Sam, I heard you say the reason that you don’t call anybody in group or in fellowship is because you don’t want to interrupt them. He said, “Correct.” I said, okay now turn to the next guy and tell him why you haven’t made any calls. You’ve heard me say it a million times, connection is the antidote for sexual addiction. If you connect to people and you connect at the right times, you are going to beat the odds of any addiction. There’s no doubt that only about 28% of people with addiction get healthy, because they’re willing to do what it takes to get healthy, to do the hard stuff that then becomes the easy stuff. That’s my promise; that eventually it gets easy. When you demonstrate behaviors that are new and improved and you end up feeling like the new and improved, that’s a winning combination. 
So Sam said to the next guy, “I have not called you because I’m anxious.” The guy said, “Sam, I hear you saying that you haven’t called me because you’re anxious” as his neck was blotching up more and more. Then he turned to the next guy and said, “I haven’t contacted anybody in group or in fellowship, because I’m doing what’s familiar and that is not reaching out. That’s how I’ve lived my life.” The guy repeated it, and you get the gist. He had to go around to all 10 guys and come up with a reason. Of course about at person #6, he did not feel like he could come up with any more reasons, but he did a great job of being able to give 10 limiting beliefs, which is another coaching principle; 10 limiting beliefs that kept him from connecting to people that he really had an opportunity to connect with. So that’s what I’m going to ask you; have you attended an SA, Sexaholics Anonymous group, or an SAA group, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and have you attended it with regularity? Or have you made some excuses? Have you said, “it wasn’t for me, I didn’t learn that much, I’m too busy, I’m too stressed, I don’t want anybody to know, it will breach my anonymity?” Have you given lots and lots of excuses? 
When you go to those meetings and you find a temporary sponsor who will help guide you and you begin that 12 step work, it’s life changing. You actually work on your fears, your sadness, your anger, your resentments, and then you go through the process of identifying them and setting yourself up so that you can change them by making amends and doing the next right thing. When you do that kind of work with a group, you have really allowed yourself an opportunity to connect on a deeper level, let alone you know you get numbers from the guys in the group so you always have them available. Just like the sponsor said to a sponsee, “don’t call me after you’ve acted out, call me before.” It’s that old coaching principle of when you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. So I ask you if you’re in your addiction and you haven’t planned your day to support your recovery, whether that’s reading spiritual material, reading recovery material, putting filters on your phone or your laptop, going to meetings, making the phone calls; I know it sounds like a lot of hard work, but people that do the recovery tools know that when you work it, it works. 
We’re kind of the in the beginning of the new year here. See if you can make 2017 the year that really supports your recovery. I know that can be terribly difficult. Or let’s say you’re a partner; there has to be a part of you saying, oh my gosh, why in the world would I be expected to do work when it’s his problem? That is a normal response to a catastrophic problem, but the truth is and you know this, if you’re a partner, you’ve been devastated and your trust has been broken and you don’t know what’s real and what’s fair and honest. If you don’t have the kind of support you deserve, you can feel like you’re all alone. That just doesn’t work for you. There are great books out there. There are online groups. There are phone groups. There are groups available through COSA, through S-ANON. One of our authors tonight runs an online group and has written several books to help you seek some liberation from the trauma that you may feel. 
Tonight, I’m going to going to be interviewing Milton Magness and Marsha Means. They’re both experts in the field of sexual addiction and partner trauma. They’ve written a new book called Real Hope, True Freedom: Understanding and Coping with Sex Addiction, which in a large part is filled with a consolidation of over 4000 questions submitted by people who needed to understand the truth on topics related to sexual addiction. Because they have lots and lots of years working in the field, and because they had a lot of people that could ask questions that they really wanted answers to or they thought would be helpful for others to know, this book is like the encyclopedia of people’s feeling and fears and hopes and strengths. I’m really excited to have them both on the show. I do believe this book is being released really soon.
Milt and Marsha, welcome to "Sex Help with Carol the Coach."
Milton: Hello Carol. 
Marsha: Hi Carol. 
Carol: Hi. What a collaboration you two have worked on. This has got to be an exciting project for you. 
Milton: I know it is for me. 
Carol: Now how long have you two known each other, Marsha? Are you there? We may have lost her connection. 
Milton: We have worked together very closely for probably a decade, maybe longer, realizing that we had a similar heart primarily for wounded partners, but my focus has been on seeing relationships restored. I always thought it was a tragedy for any marriage to end simply because of the presence of sex addiction. 
Now me saying it that way doesn’t mean that I minimize sex addiction at all; it is devastating to the partner and it’s just so very sad to see what happens, how partners are traumatized by finding out that the one they love has done all sorts of unspeakable things. That being said, there has not been, I think, until Marsha and I started working on this, there has not been a real focus on seeing a relationship restored. The focus has been on, “we’re going to get both of you focused on the healing you need to do, on the recovery you need to do,” and as a very close friend and somebody who was a former mentor of mine said, “we will never accept as a goal from a couple that our goal is to see the relationship restored.” I thought, that’s very sad. There ought to be the opportunity for a couple to restore the relationship if it is possible. It’s certainly not always possible, and I’m hoping Marsha has connected again on the phone and she can talk about her experience, because I know that many of the women she works with, the relationship is too far gone. For some, sadly, the husbands never do get into recovery, never get sober. 
Carol: Marsha, I would just go ahead and hang up and call right back. I don’t know what happened, but she’s calling back. Marsha is one of my heroes, because…
Milton: Absolutely. 
Carol: ... she also helped to co-write My Sexually Addicted Spouse. That truly has been one of the bibles that I recommend to anybody who has a hurting partner. 
Milton: Oh, that’s true. 
Carol: And you too have been a pioneer in this field with Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners, and I’ve always really admired the fact that you just keep taking what you’ve learned to the next level to help the couples. So tell me a little bit, Milt, what do you think it is important for the addict to know about the effect this has had on his spouse?
Milton: The thing that typically happens is I’ll get a call from a guy and he’ll say, “I want to come in and do some work with you, my wife if not willing to work right now, she’s upset with me because of what I’ve done, which is absolutely understandable, and I just need to go get fixed.” Well, oh if it were only so simple. Just fix the sex addiction, get tools. By the way, this is one of the easier parts of this process, and that is showing the sex addict how to get free. There is a wonderful wealth of resources that many times from Day #1 in recovery, a sex addict can say, “I see how I can get free, how I can become a man of integrity, how I can be that person. I know I was born to be.” But for a relationship to survive, there needs to be some work done in the partner’s area. Carol, you just tell me when Marsha comes back.
Carol: She’s on right now. Marsha, I always say addicts can heal from the shame, but partners have to heal from the pain. What is your experience in terms of how partners suffer when their sex addict is in the process of recovery, or not?
Marsha: I’m going to start with the “or not.” I had a new group start today, and interestingly, none of the husbands represented by that group are really in authentic recovery. As you can imagine, there was a terrible lot of pain, but a couple of the women had been working at it for several months and they were a real contrast to the women at the beginning of the journey, because those further along have had time to focus on themselves and to do self care. Interestingly, in light of all that’s been said so far, their focus initially needs to be on detaching from their husband and what’s going on with him, and recognizing that they need to heal. This is their time and they can’t make him change, but they can help themselves to heal. When they begin to shift that focus with some help, with a lot of help, then I see women can heal. It’s easier for them to heal if their husbands are doing good recovery work, so there is hope for the relationship. Not so much; it’s harder for a woman whose husband is not in recovery, but partners can heal.
Carol: So it sounds like at least initially in that beginning process, you have to detach from what the addict is doing or not doing, be aware of it, but detach from it and really focus on themselves and do some good self care. 
Marsha: Yes, work on boundaries and pick up other skills. The self care is so important. I know you know that Carol, don’t you?
Carol: Absolutely, and it’s certainly that #1 tool for them. It’s difficult, because you know that hypervigilant state that a lot of partners get into because they’ve been so betrayed, and their feelings and their thoughts are kind of locked in the amygdala and they want to protect themselves and they want to make sure that nobody gets anything over on them. Truly self care is the way to cope with that, because the better you take care of yourself, and as I was saying while you were off the call, reading My Sexually Addicted Spouse is a Godsend for partners, because it normalizes so much of how they’re feeling and again it encourages them to do a lot of self care.
Now tell us a little bit, Marsha, about this book that you have just come out with. It’s a compilation of over 4,000 questions that addicts and partners have asked?
Marsha: Yes. Actually it was Milton’s brainchild, and I think it was a wonderful idea, because partners and all addicts ask questions. Not only do the partners and addicts ask questions, but family members, friends; in the workplace, bosses ask questions, ministers ask questions. There is just so little real understanding of what sex addiction is and what it isn’t, because a lot of people assume it means perversion. I think the Q&A format is really brilliant and it’s helpful for partners and sex addicts, but equally helpful for those who are support people in their lives.
Carol: Would you say, Milt, that there are any specific questions or themes that came up more than others, and if so, what were they?
Milton: That’s a wonderful question, because interestingly enough, the working title for the many months we were working on this together, there were two questions that were at the nexus, right at the intersection of what’s going on with couples. We went ahead and had cover art drawn and commissioned and so forth, and the original title of this book, the top half of the cover was bright yellow with a silhouette of a woman with her hands outstretched saying, “why did he do it?” and the bottom half in black with another silhouette, this time of a man saying, “why can’t she get over it?” Those two questions, why did he do it and why can’t she get over it. The thing that is so devastating for a partner is “how can I have been so blind, how can I have loved somebody and not seen this.” By the way, she’s not blind, it’s not that she’s not seeing it; he has simply become very skilled at deception and hiding his addiction. 
Then once he gets into recovery and sometimes even on that first day, he sees such hope and comes home from a 12 step meeting and if not the first day, within the first week or two or three or a month or so, he’s coming home happy and buoyant and his wife is still traumatized. He is with arms outstretched saying, why can’t she get over it, why can’t she see I’m doing such a great job. That’s where Marsha’s work comes in, because the trauma, you don’t turn the page and say, okay good, you’re doing better so I’m all well now. 
Carol: It’s so interesting you said that, because I just published my latest YouTube video, and it’s on that phenomenon. I think I probably have some of the greatest healthiest men in Indianapolis that are sex addicts, because in our groups, they just remind each other over and over again, “you did this, you betrayed her in every which way, you’ve got to deal with this until she gets healthy, this is because of you.” So this last video was exactly on that, not men wondering why, but the woman going, “he’s the one that has acted out, he’s the one that has betrayed me, he looks so healthy and I am a mess, I can’t seem to get over it, my trust is broken.” Marsha, you know how they feel when their whole world was an illusion or so it seemed. 
Marsha: Yes, and along with self care, another key ingredient that helps partners heal is support. Even today in that new group, one woman in particular was really stuck in the trauma response. I could hear the bonding happen and I could hear the women who were a little further along pulling her along. By the end of the call, the woman who was stuck in the trauma response volunteered two action steps that she has committed to for this week. She was using the group for accountability, so support is essential. Just like it is for the addict to have those buddies in recovery to encourage and to call and to be held accountable by, it is equally important for partners to have key women in their lives.
Carol: That accountability and like you said, support, is so important, yet that really is a question I get; “who should I tell, who is safe to talk to, people in my church, friends, family?” What do you think, both of you, are some key elements that are important for family, friends and support people to understand as they try to offer support for addicts, partners, or just couples who want to stay together, who want to work together? Milt, I’ll ask you that first.
Milton: I’m going to answer it a little bit differently, because I’m going to answer beginning with the first part of that question, who do I tell. The fact is many women have nobody that they can trust, and sadly some of the time, the only people they have to turn to…I say sadly, they turn to family. To a mom or a sister or to his parents or his siblings, they may get support, yet they also get a lot of blowback. They get a lot of concern for her, saying, “get out of this relationship.” Sometimes it’s not the best thing, many times it’s not the best thing to start with family, which leaves a woman very isolated. 
The wonderful thing about the groups that Marsha does with “A Circle of Joy,” Marsha and the therapists and coaches that work with her provide a forum for women who do not know each other and who, frankly, many of them would not be willing to go to a group and sit face-to-face with women they do not know and say, “let me tell you what my husband has done.” Marsha and “A Circle of Joy” provide a forum for women to get together by telephone and begin a relationship that lasts through the weeks that they go through their healing. They work the workbook that Marsha has written that is wonderful, and work through a number of weeks of healing. They’re not completely healed at the end, but they’ve made such wonderful progress. The amazing thing is these women suddenly find that they have others that they can continue to remain anonymous with and just go by first name only, or what has been the case for many of my clients when they’re coming back after they’ve done a 3-day intensive with me and they’re coming back every 6 months to do that single day of aftercare, many of the women say, “we flew in a day early because one of the people in my group happens to be in Houston or Austin or San Antonio, somewhere else close and we get together. We finished our group with Marsha two years, five years ago, but we still meet and we still talk every week and we meet periodically when we have the opportunity.”
Carol: That really is a great indication of ongoing support. The feeling that “we made it through that,” and that is a very safe environment, isn’t it Marsha? You don’t have to worry about somebody judging you, you don’t have to worry about that person telling your family, because it’s really a very cohesive group where nobody knows anybody else at all. 
Marsha: Yeah, very safe. When I switched to working over the phone, I used to work face-to-face and I remember learning in school that 90% of communication is nonverbal and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to work over the phone, but I did coaching training and I’ve been amazed at how deep we can go as women on a call, and how intimately we can become acquainted, to the point where I don’t think I ever want to go back to working face-to-face. The phone does work, and it’s powerful, and women can and do heal.
Carol: You know I know, because I’ve sent a couple of women to your group, and they have gone the extra mile and then more. They say, “I’m only going to sign up for this many groups,” and then they’re like, I’m signing up for the next series. They feel that support, they learn the skills, and your workbook is wonderful. Now how will you be using the new book with your group?
Marsha: I don’t think I’ll actually be using it in my groups. Milton, how would you answer that question?
Milton: Interesting. The book actually was to be released tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, and we just saw a few days ago they pushed the release date back until, I think, the 28th of February. So today for a couple that was here for an aftercare, they got like the first copy of the book, and coincidentally also we had the first order for the book, mail order, today. I haven’t yet decided really what I’m going to do with it. My complete focus at “Hope and Freedom” is on doing the 3-day intensives, primarily with couples when they’re in a committed relationship, that’s the only way they will be accepted. I see the book as being another resource. 
The most powerful part of this; in previous books like the Stop Sex Addiction book, I’ve had a significant portion of it for partners and about partners, but with this book I thought, my goodness, I wish it were possible to have a real expert in the area of partners’ trauma to write that portion of the book. Carol, I’ve got to tell you, sometimes I’m a little slow picking up, but I thought about that for a couple of months. I thought, wouldn’t that be great, and gee, who do I wish I could get; wouldn’t it be nice if Marsha would do it? I thought, Milton, why don’t you go ahead and send a communication to Marsha and see if she’s interested, and immediately she picked up on it and said, “Absolutely, I’d be glad to do it.” So for me, the biggest value of this book is having Marsha with the great understanding she has of partner trauma being able to come in some 5 years or so after Your Sexually Addicted Spouse and do an update of that really, saying, here are the things we’ve found that are most important right now in the healing process.  
Carol: That is what I love. Certainly when we were hearing a lot of hype about this book, and for our listening audience, again the book is called Real Hope, True Freedom: Understanding and Coping with Sex Addiction by Marsha Means and Dr. Milton Magness; what I was going to say was it seemed like it was a normalizer, that this book was going to normalize the thoughts and feelings and beliefs that people had about addiction, so that they would feel better about having these thoughts and they would get to understand the answers. What do you think?
Marsha: I think that’s a great thought, Carol. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it is. People feel like, “I’m the only one.” There is shame, there is not understanding, and I think because the questions are consolidations, that means there is repetition represented, and I think it can be very normalizing for the couple going through it, and again for people who care about them and want to be more supportive.
Carol: I really do believe that when addicts and partners do their work, they end up being healthier than the majority of couples out there, but it does take tremendous work and there are so many tremendous blessings as a result. 
Now you two have a lot of expert wisdom and I want to ask you a few things, because obviously being trained by IITAP, we learned a lot about brain science. I’m always trying to help the general public understand that this is not necessarily a moral failure, that sexual addiction lights up the brain in a way that becomes very compulsive, and these men and women, but mostly men, don’t know how to get out from underneath that. What do you tell people, what are some of the key learnings that can directly benefit recovery in a practical way when you’re talking brain science? I’m going to ask each one of you that question, so Milton, what would you say?
Milton: At the beginning, you said something about a moral failure or whatever, not looking at it as a moral failure. The truth is we can look at behavior and say, this behavior is moral or it is immoral. However, if sex addiction is present, the focus should not be on that, but rather the focus should be on the addiction and then on understanding the addiction. What we’ve found is there are, and this is not an excuse for sex addicts, significant changes that take place in a person’s brain when they are, for example, looking at pornography. Without getting into the nitty gritty science of it, we’ve included a lot of that in the book, the most recent brain research and what happens, the changes that take place in the brain. I can tell you neither one of us is a neuroscientist, so we don’t come at it from that perspective, but rather we report, “This is the cutting edge research of what we have found.” 
Interestingly enough, the experts have found that there are changes that take place in a person’s brain that, for example, for somebody who is a sex addict looking at pornography compared to a normal, whatever normal is, a normal person who does not have a sex addiction, they’ve done functional  MRIs, which are basically brain scans but it shows the brain activity, and the images light up very differently. There are significant changes that have taken place. They look at the same images, yet what registers in their brains is completely different. It’s not enough just for a person to say, “okay I’m a sex addict I guess like my parents told me,” or maybe my church told me, or maybe somebody else told me that I’m being bad. No, it’s understanding that sometimes there are things that happen early in life that set up some behavioral patterns and as those behavioral patterns are repeated, there are tangible changes that take place in a person’s brain that just reinforce those early lessons and keep a person bound into addiction. 
Now the good news is with recovery, those changes can be reversed. It doesn’t happen overnight. This is something important for sex addicts, because right at the very beginning of recovery, and I dealt with this with a young man today; he’s back for his first aftercare. He and his fiancée, she had made a discovery right after she was engaged, and they came in in a panic saying what are we going to do about the wedding, the wedding is in a year and do we need to call it off. In the midst of all of that, we began to work through the process. Three months later, this young man told me that “basically I don’t have these urges anymore, I think I’m free, I really don’t know what I need to continue doing as far as recovery goes.” Well, people early in recovery are free from the behaviors as long as there is a big negative consequence, potential negative consequence hanging out there, but what we know is it takes sustained recovery behavior, continuing going to meetings, continuing in some cases therapy on a regular basis and in other cases they are doing it just with meetings, but continuing a multitude of recovery behaviors over time to make those positive changes in the brain that will result in them having more of a normalized brain activity.
Carol: Kind of that neuroplasticity has definitely been changed and altered. We know that the circuitry in the brain is actually flexible, but it requires 3-5 years of really demonstrating healthy behaviors.
Milton: It does.
Carol: So I can understand why he would think, “I’ve worked this thing out,” but in essence, he’s just gotten started. 
Milton: It’s true, and all three of us are in the same generation, because I don’t know if y’all can recall this, I’m sure you can, but I recall very specifically when I first went to grad school back in the 70s, them telling us two things about brain science that I took to heart. Number 1, there’s no such thing as the brain ever regenerating itself. We were born with so many millions, billions of brain cells and from day 1 they begin to die and they die all through life. What we have learned with some of the relatively recent brain science, and I say relatively recent, the last 20 years, is that just like every other part of the body, the brain does regenerate. There is something called “neurogenesis,” the brain will regenerate itself just like every other part of the body. 
The other thing that we were taught back then is the brain is set basically by the time a person is born. There is no such thing as changing, so there’s really no hope for a person that goes off and gets involved in any particular behavior. Basically write them off; they are set. The word you used a moment ago, “neuroplasticity,” the brain is very plastic. It’s funny, when I’m talking to young couples in their 30s or younger than that, and I talk about the relatively recent changes or discoveries in brain science over 20 years, they think that’s not very recent at all, that’s like a lifetime, but things have changed a great deal in our understanding. 
Carol: I know that I had said to Marsha that I wanted to ask her what your experience is with changes in the brain and the partners that you work with.
Marsha: That’s a really good question, and a young woman that I’m working with, I think perhaps the one that was with Milton today, a few weeks ago she was extremely anxious, just extremely, and it was difficult like so many and like I was. I was just like that for months on end. It took me quite a bit of time to get my brain to calm down, but I’ve watched women who have been in that place do something intentional like a yoga retreat or EMDR which is powerful for many partners. Something that can help them calm the central nervous system down and that empowers them to do self care, and the brain will calm down. You mentioned but you didn’t use the words “fight or flight,” but you mentioned the amygdala at the beginning of our conversation tonight. We know that when we’re traumatized, we’re stuck in fight or flight, and all kinds of chemicals are dumping in our brain, and our whole body is on hyper response alert. I can remember having the hardest time sleeping for several months, because my brain just wouldn’t turn off, but once we find a tool or a method or a person or EMDR, whatever it is that works for us, it’s like flipping a switch. You can hear the motor going down, the body can settle down, the brain settles down, and then a woman can begin to heal. Until we can get the brain calmed down, healing is really difficult, virtually impossible, I think.
Carol: I can understand you feeling that way. Again, I want to let our listening audience know that I’m talking with Marsha Means and Milton Magness. They have written this book, Real Hope, True Freedom: Understanding and Coping with Sex Addiction. 
Right now, we’re talking about how this affects the brain and why recovery tools are so important for both the addict and the partner. For the partner, it’s about support and self care, and for the addict, it’s also about support and learning how to empathize and validate and be there with the angry spouse, knowing that it’s a 3-5 year process minimum for both of them. 
Now where can our listening audience pre-buy this book, since you said it won’t be out until February 28th?
Milton: Marsha, is it on your website yet?
Marsha: It’s on our Facebook page. I think it’s on the website. 
Milton: So, through and through It’s actually available for preorder on Amazon. This will be available as an electronic book, a digital e-book as well. It will be on not only Amazon, but then on iTunes, the Apple e-books.
Carol: Excellent. Certainly there is that whole genre of people that like the e-books because they can read at their discretion and not worry about anybody finding them. Then you have your tried and true that say, nope, I want to hold it in my hands and I want to underline it and mark it all up. So through Amazon they can preorder it or Marsha’s website is, whereas Milton Magness’ is
We were talking about videos, and Marsha, I have to admit I have not gone to your website, but I want to go, because like I said, you’re definitely somebody in the field who was a pioneer in terms of letting partners know all about that amygdala and the fight, flight, or freeze effect, that finding out about how betrayal affects you.
And Dr. Milt Magness, how many videos do you have on your website?
Milton: We’ve got a few. We just added today, if you go to our YouTube channel, which is, we just added one for this book, so it’s on there no
Carol: I don’t know about you, but my clients as well as the listening audience love to go to this, because they’re anywhere from 8, 12, 15-minutes long. I know you have a whole series, so I would encourage our listening audience to go check out that site. You can just Google either one of their names and find out everything they have to offer.
I have a couple of more questions before I let you go. Do you have time?
Milton: Sure. Go ahead.
Carol: So often, the professionals that I work with that don’t have expertise in partner betrayal or in sexual addiction really think this behavior is bipolar. They see it as a psychiatric issue and not a dual diagnosis. In both of your situations, what mental disorders do you think have a greater effect on the impact of sexual addiction?
Marsha: Milton, take a stab at that, would you?
Milton: Okay. I don’t know that there are necessarily other things that have an impact on it. I see a number of things that are co-occurring that could be diagnosed at the same time, things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. By the way, that does not cause sex addiction, nor if it is present with a sex addict getting treated for it will it cure sex addiction, but it, as well as mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, if those are present, it makes it very difficult, and with some people impossible, to do good sustained long-term lifetime recovery. It’s very important, if there is any thought that any of those are present, that those be treated.
Now there are other things that could be present, like personality disorders. I get a lot of things that come across my desk, many things that come back from different therapists or treatment centers that my clients are working with, and they’ve got this list of, many times, multiple personality disorders that this client has. Actually if we go back and we look at the diagnostic criteria and the prevalence of personality disorders, it’s like 1% of the population has a personality disorder, so they are pretty rare. Personality disorders are things like what we used to call the “antisocial personality disorder,” the sociopath is what we called it, the antisocial personality disorder as it’s called today. Or things like “narcissistic personality disorder.” I many times will have women come in and one of the first things they say; they bring their husband in almost like they’re bringing him in by the ear, sit him down on the couch, and say, “I want you to tell him he’s a narcissist.” So I look at him and say, according to your wife, you’re a narcissist!
Carol: And sexual addiction looks so narcissistic, so I can see.
Milton: Absolutely, and it is very narcissistic, but the good news is that he probably does not have a narcissistic personality disorder, which is good news. If he really does, and we see sometimes politicians that are in the limelight, people that are high profile actors or professional athletes, we know sometimes we’re seeing not just narcissism but a true narcissistic personality disorder, and frankly for somebody that has that, there’s not a lot of hope of getting the insight necessary to do recovery on a sustained level. So yeah, there may be traits. All of us remember when we were in grad school going through studying abnormal psychology or going through the DSM, just about any different diagnosis that we would come up with, we’d read the diagnostic criteria and we could identify with at least one of them and think, oh my goodness, I’ve got that too. Fortunately that’s really not the case. So there are some things that co-occur, but I don’t see them as being things that cause sex addiction at all. If they are present, they need to be treated so that a person can do good recovery.
Carol: Marsha, one of the things, I’m APSATS-trained and certified now and I know that for a long time, partners were seen as co-dependent. We have just rallied around changing that classification when in essence partners are reacting to the very environment that has created the hypervigilence and the problems. Are there any specific mental health issues that you believe are subject to partners?
Marsha: That come before discovering that your partner is a sex addict?
Carol: To begin with.
Marsha: I personally don’t think that is something that happens very often, anymore often that it does in the general population. What I do see, and no doubt you and Milton see, is that a great number of partners become clinically depressed and develop anxiety disorders as a result of discovering that their husband is a sex addict, again because the brain is just so overloaded and healing is so needed. This is not the answer to the question you asked, but it’s a comment that I want to kind of stamp on to the end of it. One thing I do see that isn’t a mental health issue but it’s a childhood, a family of origin issue that is often present in partners and often complicates healing for them, and that is if a woman, a little girl, a child, somewhere along in her development wasn’t loved well and especially if she was abandoned, if mom abandoned the family or even if dad abandoned the family or mom died when she was young, then she grows up feeling insecure. Those women seem to have the hardest time healing, because this new abandonment in their primary relationship really hooks that old abandonment and she reels all over again. Some of those women I’ve had to work with weekly for a couple of years even, before they can basically re-parent that little girl, so that they can then heal the adult self.
Carol: I know that Judith Herman talks about that may be a precursor to complex post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic stress and there have been layers and layers of abandonment, pain, and hurt. Good point.
I so appreciate you two talking with me, and I promise I’m going to pre-order this book and I’m going to share a couple of questions at least every other show and help people, again, to normalize some of their fears, their concerns, their beliefs, whether they are an addict or a partner. We are out there helping them as much as we can, and they really appreciate the professionals that go above and beyond to offer them hope, strength, and recovery. Both of you are pioneers in this field, so thank you so much.
Marsha: Thank you Carol, it’s been a pleasure.
Milton: Thank you Carol.
Carol: You two take care. Let me know how it goes with the sales, and I’ll just wait for the next book.
All right, again that was Milt Magness, and his website is And Marsha Means, partner betrayal specialist, and she’s written several books herself. You can reach her at I highly recommend for any couple that wants to do extensive intensives and do the disclosure process in a safe environment and work through the issues, Milt has the best program in the country. I wouldn’t say that about him if I didn’t believe it. I actually thought about becoming one of the providers of his program and decided to go the APSATS direction first, so that’s how much I endorse what he’s doing. Again, Marsha Means’ online groups have saved the lives of a lot of women that really thought they were going crazy.
Those are two of my favorite people. As I say at the end of every show, there will always be one of you at all times, I want you to fearlessly have the courage to be yourself. You make it a great week, stay in good healthy recovery, and we’ll talk to you next Monday, same place and same time on "Sex Help with Carol the Coach."              

Coach Carin Offers Help Establishing Effective Boundaries

by Marsha Means, M.A. & Coach Carin

We welcome a new coach: Coach Carin, who will be facilitating our new Effective Boundaries Group. The Effective Boundaries Support Group begins on January 30. If you would like more information, please contact Coach Carin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I asked Carin to share her story with you, a story of trauma --- from her childhood and her marriage --- but also a story of healing and hope.
Here is Carin’s story of how boundaries played an important role in her own healing as well as the healing of her marriage:
I grew up on a farm in Africa.  For various reasons, my family of origin could not provide me with the support I needed to develop as an emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy child. In order to survive growing up in an emotionally dishonest, shame-based and controlling family, I formed a bond with my pets, dolls and indigenous play mates. The only two emotions I often experienced in my family were rage and sadness, and the only emotion I can remember feeling was fear. My boundaries were broken in different ways and I carried loneliness and withdrawal as a cloak around my shoulders. Gradually I  turned to food for comfort.
In my growing up years, my “normal” was brokenness and my foundation crumbled  under my feet. A little later in life, I struggled to make healthy choices and did not know when and how to walk away from abusive situations and relationships. The word “boundaries” was a foreign concept to me.
Fortunately God graciously intervened and I discovered what it means to call Him Father.  Initially I experienced Him as a distant and fearsome Father, but contrary to my early perception of Him, He proved faithful throughout my life. And He drew me close, and revealed Himself to me as an approachable intimate Father. And joy grew in my life and relationships.
My husband and I met when we both took the same course.  He came from an equally dysfunctional family and had used pornography from his early teens onwards.  He thought it would go away once we were married.  But we struggled from early on in our marriage, and my husband’s disclosure was gradual.  After a few years of being married and feeling alone, we knew he struggled with an intimacy disorder and his addiction to porn was part of it.  My heart was broken and for many years I lived with searing heartache.  
We tried to find help for our marriage, leaving no stone unturned in our attempts to fix it. But we encountered disappointment from spiritual leaders, therapists and psychologists who lacked insight and understanding about addiction and intimacy disorder in a marriage and the trauma it causes for the partner.  Our road to recovery was long and difficult because we couldn’t find informed professionals who could help us. To make the best of the situation, we tried to educate ourselves as much as possible and applied the principles to the best of our abilities. But sharing our story with uninformed friends and our spiritual community produced misunderstanding and betrayal which left both of us with added trauma.  Disclosure to uninformed people can be devastating and destructive, as it was for us. But as a result, we learned to only seek help from therapists qualified in these areas. And we learned how important privacy for us; privacy, but not secrecy.
My healing journey began with the dramatic realization that I was not the cause of my husband’s addiction and intimacy disorder, and I could not heal or control him. Another pivotal point in my recovery has been the realization that I am not a co-addict or co-dependent, but, in essence, a trauma victim. This was a significant revelation in my life that accelerated my healing process.  When I encountered the “trauma model,” for first time I felt fundamentally heard and understood. I realized I had the power to take control of my own healing through good self care by, first, setting healthy boundaries and, second, recognizing and responding appropriately to triggers. Also, learning to distinguish between trauma-related triggers and more general triggers proved to be an invaluable skill in learning how to respond in healthy ways. And as I learned these skills, my life began to change immeasurably. I became emotionally and spiritually stronger. Additionally, I applied regular silence and contemplation practices to combat stress. These changes helped me be at peace and stay grounded, enabling me to live in the present moment rather than feeling anxious about the future.
My husband’s recovery journey mirrored mine. After a slow, tortuous start, he too realized he needed qualified and experienced professionals; professionals who understand porn addiction and intimacy disorder. As we both focused on our own healing journeys, we agreed to temporarily separate for a few months, knowing it would enable us to sharpen our focus as individuals, and prepare us to, down the road, heal our marriage.
Gradually we grew to where we felt ready to start working on our relationship as a couple.  As the healing journey progressed we began to discover that the pathologies of porn addiction and intimacy disorder, which could have destroyed our marriage, had actually set us on a path of forging stronger bonds in our marital relationship. Several key ingredients formed a strong foundation for continued recovery in our marriage. These included 1) informed and professional support and input; 2) relentless, honest accountability; 3) breaking isolation by remaining connected through regular and consistent group work and meetings; and 4) healthy boundaries as good self care.  
God used Isaiah 61:1-3 and Isaiah 11:2 to plant in me a desire to become a professional counselor. To fulfill my calling, I studied psychology and later did a Diploma in Christian Counseling, as well as two  courses in Prayer Ministry.  I was involved in counseling and prayer ministry for more than three decades, mostly using Theophostic Prayer Ministry, but changed to the  Immanuel Approach in pain and trauma processing. I did A Circle of Joy’s foundational group, “Journey to Healing and Joy,” and two years later I felt a strong desire to help other women on this journey.
My broken foundations have healed and grown strong. I now feel comfortable setting healthy boundaries. From my boundary work I’ve gained a sense of authentic, personal power. If you need to gain that sense of authentic, personal power, I stand ready to help you.
God has redeemed my life, and He has given me a hope and a future. He is a good Father, and through Him I now live with gratitude and joy.
To learn more about my upcoming Effective Boundaries group, starting January 30, please visit:
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The First Step Out of Trauma - by Coach Jodi


Trauma takes some of us to a place we never knew existed. Dr. Karl Lehman, author of the book, Outsmarting Yourself,says trauma (and emotional pain) turns off our "relational circuits" in our brain.

Dr. Jim Wilder, coauthor of The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You, says trauma causes us to "malfunction and not act like our true self."

It's a natural function of the part of our brain that is trying to protect us from overwhelming pain. But we can get stuck in that state and we need others in our community to help us find a way back to our true self (pre-trauma).

Ed Khouri, coauthor of Joy Starts Here: the transformation zone, says joy happens when someone is "happy as happy to be with me." Have you ever noticed how it makes you feel when you smile at people and they return the smile? This news clip clearly illustrates these concepts by a chance encounter between two strangers. Watch video now


Whether through a death, or the loss experienced because of this addiction, we can find it difficult to connect in joy with others. What if I, like this man, am overwhelmed with grief and loss and my joy cup is completely empty?

Restarting that part of our brain can happen randomly as it did for this man, or we can be intentional about seeking out the things that bring us joy and help us feel like ourselves again. This can be a significant part of our self-care and our journey back to our true self. It doesn't have to be complicated. It can start with a trip to the grocery store with the purpose of bringing some joy to another person.

What have you done to restart your "relational circuits"? What small thing can you do to begin to build your "joy capacity"? We’d love to hear from you!

Coach Jodi

Grief Care is Self Care

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak.” Psalm 31:9-10   

Distress, anguish, sorrow. How did you feel when you read this scripture? Can you relate to David’s grief? 

Take a minute and read through David’s words again, and this time pay attention to each word and how it makes you feel.

If someone asked you to describe what grief feels like, what would you say?

Grief can be so crippling. Grief can make you feel hopeless. Grief can make you feel like you will never be happy again. But if you are not paying close attention to your grief, it can consume you, even with all of your efforts to stay positive and hopeful.

Let’s look again at the Psalm. How are David's emotions affecting him physically?  Consider how your emotions — however you are experiencing them — are affecting you. For example, if you once felt like a strong person who could manage life well, do you feel like you’ve lost that strength? Have you noticed changes in your energy level? How about your ability to enjoy activities that once brought you joy?  Is your motivation gone? Are you able to concentrate or do you feel more scattered and distracted?   

We all experience life through our emotions. Life affects us emotionally. So an important part of self-care is caring for our emotional health. Grief and trauma are a part of our emotional landscape and very much like a garden, it must be tended.

Compassion is a healing response to grief. It is important to seek compassion but also to be compassionate with yourself. Set aside time to do “grief care” as a part of your self-care.  

Self-care is one of the foundations of any healing journey. You need good self-care in order to heal. I encourage anyone who has experienced trauma and loss to keep a “self-care” list. Choose an item or items to do from the list at least once a week, if not more!

I’d like to share a few things that are on my “self-care” list.

1) A relaxing, hot, bubble bath without interruptions.
2) A manicure or pedicure. Something as simple as pretty toe/fingernails can give you a boost!
3) Get a massage. It’s a great way to get stress out of your muscles.
4) Exercise: swim, go to the gym for a workout (or class, etc). Anything that can help you manage, in a healthy way, your stress, anger, pain, or whatever you’re feeling.
5) Get creative - drawing, painting, photography, dancing. Studies have shown art therapy works wonders. Even something as simple as the adult colouring books can significantly reduce stress.
6) Keep a Gratitude Journal - honestly this really does work. Every day write down 3-5 things for which you are grateful. This truly allows you the opportunity to see — in black and white –– that there are still things to be grateful for even in a painful journey.
7) Yoga, meditation, stretching your body/muscles, anything that helps you to release the stress stored in your body and to calm your mind.
8) Music - put on “feel good” music during the day. I love listening to praise music. I end up singing out loud and it changes my whole mood. Music can also change the atmosphere in your home.
9) A Joy Journal - very much like a gratitude journal except write your joy moments instead.  
10) Spend time with your children/grandchildren, spend time with a friend, or simply spend time with people: join a book club, attend a craft fair, go to a movie, enjoy a concert: whatever brings you joy.

How many more things can you think of to add to my list?

Comforting activities, joyful activities, calming activities are necessary for mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual health. Please, please don’t take these things for granted. As women, we tend to be so hard on ourselves, but what we need is compassion and grace for ourselves from ourselves, and from others.

In the book Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan she says “In grief’s alchemy the first phase is not about moving on but about being broken, a searing experience that cannot be pacified by all the compassionate counsel in the world.  Healing through grief doesn't start when we give up feeling bad, it begins with the agony of loss. The merciful numbing of shock must wear off so the reality of death (or loss) take hold. Grief must sink in. In the alchemy of grief, going down always precedes coming up. Understandable but misguided attempts to speed up the process tend to derail it. Generally, a grief deferred is a grief prolonged. There are no shortcuts in the alchemy of the dark emotions.”  

Sadly, grief is an often neglected emotion. Grief gets short shifted or tossed aside and not fully embraced, processed, and allowed time to heal. Grief is an emotion that asks us to depart from the normalcy of life, asks us to be still and to take time to feel and understand it. Grief is about letting go and allowing yourself to descend into the grief so that you can one day rise again in joy: stronger, wiser, and whole.  

One may lie down weeping at nightfall, 
but at dawn there are shouts of joy. 
Psalm 30:6

Grief offers us a gift: the ability to see deeply into the way things are. Grief is one of the greatest teachers of life. Embrace the gift your grief offers you and lean into it so you can grow with it.  Yes, it hurts, but the gains, I promise, are priceless.

If you find yourself grieving with no support, or need the tools to work through your grief, please contact us!

We would love to help you.

Coach Katherine
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Tags: Grief, Healing, Self-Care

Trending in my Facebook news feed this past week was a challenge: Write the happiest story you can imagine using only four words.
My friends' answers ranged from humorous to significant. One friend posted "All desserts are free!" and another wrote, "The tumor has disappeared."
Stories are essential to life. At age three, humans begin to develop a sense of self, and stories are crucial to this "self" development process. Three-year-old children begin to understand who they are by constructing a story about themselves, and this story becomes their autobiography. Their understanding of "self" (both consciously and unconsciously)  is built of 1) the stories the child tells about him or herself, 2) the stories other people tell about them, and 3) the stories they encounter when interacting with and relating to the world. A child pieces these stories together very much like a quilt maker sewing a quilt. And this process of constructing an autobiography, or making an "identity quilt," continues throughout a person's entire life. These collective stories are very powerful because they determine who a person becomes and how a person understands herself both on her own and herself in relationship with others, the world, and God.
In my family, the stories told about me were mostly negative. I was the family's scapegoat, meaning everything bad or unhealthy in my family was blamed on me. And everything I did was wrong. Any decisions I made or suggestions I offered were ridiculed. My family also used stories to humiliate me. If I made a mistake, however small, the story of my mistake was told again and again throughout the years at family dinners and gatherings. So it is not surprising that I, as a little girl and as a woman, have very low self-esteem. My autobiography is of a person who can never do anything right.
The day I learned my husband was a sex addict, I had been married to him for twenty years. His addiction was a secret he had kept very well hidden. But what wasn't a secret was his critical approach to people, especially me. Just like my parents and family had been, he was very critical of everything I did, said, or believed. Yet the criticism was so familiar that I did not notice it or recognize it as being disrespectful or abusive because it was such a "normal" part of my life's story.
One of the most valuable things I have learned since discovering my husband's sex addiction (and I learned this through working with Marsha Means as my coach) is that many of the stories people had told both to me and about me were lies. And most of those stories were manipulative tools used to control me. But even those false stories got sewn into my identity quilt and became a part of me because, unfortunately, I had accepted those stories as true. A big part of my healing process has been to learn to identify which stories were lies so I can use a seam ripper to "rip them out" of my story or my identity quilt, and so that I can replace those particular "quilt pieces" with true stories, positive stories, patches of hope for the future: stories of a strong, resilent woman who can not only survive but thrive.
Coach Kristie's "My Story" Group — which draws upon Dan Allender's book "To Be Told" — invites women, in community with one another, to share and examine their own stories in order to discover who they are, and to discover who God created them to be, then in community with each other and with God, to "co-author" their future: to write the happiest story imaginable.
To learn more about Coach Kristie's "My Story" group please check out her video:
If you'd like to join Coach Kristie's group, click on "Talk With Someone" from the menu above then choose "Support Groups" and in the "available groups" choose Kristie's "My Story" group.
What is the happiest story you can imagine?
Blessings to you,