Journey to Healing and Joy

newsletter marsha shame

What if Shame was a Bridge, not a Barrier?
~Jackie Hill Perry (quote from the film The Heart of Man)

by Marsha Means, M.A., October 2017

While chatting with my drop dead gorgeous niece last weekend—who happens to be a medical doctor and single—I half-jokingly said, "Well, when you think you've found Mister Right, ask him to take a lie detector test!" My mistake. She quickly abandoned the conversation, and as she stood to leave she said, "I would hope I have better discernment than to choose someone who would need that."
Inwardly I groaned: Didn't we all?
How could so many—in fact, millions of us—miss the clues that could have shown us betrayal was ahead in our most intimate relationship? Did God not hear our prayers for wisdom? Was it our failure—or His?
Or, could it possibly be He didn't fail us at all, and neither did our discernment. Could it be it's our perspective that's flawed? The perspective that says that if a person struggles with sexual sin, he's automatically off the list.
What if, as humans, failure is a given, just as the Bible says? What if God knew we would fail, which is why He created a way to experience His grace? What if He never intended for us to feel shame and a need to hide our true selves from Him and from one another when we fail? Guilt yes, but shame no.
What if failure could be a bridge toward each other, rather than a barrier that traps us in secrecy and addiction? And what if an atmosphere of grace made room for truth-telling, especially in the Church, and it trickled down until it permeated even our most intimate relationships? In the movie the author Paul Young tells us, "Secrets have been killing me my whole life, but every time we share our secrets, our shame is cut in half." Could shame become a bridge, not a barrier? Could a grace-filled space help us overcome the failures and help us realize we need each other in order to heal? Could that grace-filled space turn the Church into a place of healing, rather than pretense?
As I ponder these and related questions this year, I'm not alone. Similar thoughts and questions are beautifully woven throughout a powerful new movie that will show in cities across the country on Thursday, September 14th, and that day only. Titled, "The Heart of A Man," it depicts our struggle with lust and sexual sin, and God's vast, unending grace. And it brings the hope-filled message that if a relationship or church is a safe place to be real about our struggles, that grace can help us win the battle with sexual sin. This is a link to the "The Heart of Man" trailer:
Gaps reveal who you truly are. They will expose every part of you, parts healthy and unhealthy, your beliefs or lack of beliefs, your ingrained habits, and your strengths and weaknesses. How you respond to gaps will determine your future. "Gap Times" as I call them, those distinct times of transition, are some of the most significant and influential times in our lives because there is an unbelievable amount of insight and wisdom to be gained for those who will embrace the deep, rich experiences that gaps uniquely offer. Gaps are where deep healing and true transformation can begin.
Tickets are available for purchase at (simply do a search for your area or city for theaters and showtimes). I will be in the audience in my city's theater. I encourage you to see it too if it is within driving distance from where you live.
If you watch it, I invite you to dialog with me after the movie. I would love to keep this conversation going and hear your thoughts and feelings. The week of Sept. 14 you will find, on our Facebook page, a pinned post (at the top) about the film:
Please stop by and share!
In a world that makes it impossible for kids to grow up free from exposure to sexual content and stimulation they lack the maturity to understand, these are questions that must be answered. In this digital age, children can no longer be completely protected. If every male (and female) who acts on lust needs to be removed from the available bachelors list, few of our daughters will experience motherhood, and most of us will never become grandparents! And that's too high a price to pay for shame and the silence and secrecy it fosters.
Please join me in watching and supporting this important movie, as it brings into the open the pain being lived behind closed doors,and the secrecy that keeps people trapped there. The pain that sits in silence in every pew in every church every Sunday around the world. My mission in the years I have left on earth is to somehow do my small part to help change us and the Church. So I'm excited that the makers of this movie share that passion. Please support their mission with your attendance. Together, we can make a difference in our, our children's, and our grandchildren's world!
With Everyone's Healing at Heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.
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New Groups at A Circle of Joy

Upcoming is a group for women who have made the decision to file for divorce. If you would like more information on this divorce group or would like to be notified of when it begins, please contact Katherine: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

newsletter jodi options

Considering Options: Choosing to Stay with a Sex Addict

by Coach Jodi; edited by Marsha Means, M.A., August 2017

Ten years ago when I discovered I was the partner of a sex addict, I felt as if I had fallen into a deep, dark hole: a pit really, and initially, I had no idea where I was, or how to find my way out. Back then—and even now—I identified with this poem about addiction and recovery. For me, it accurately portrays a partner’s journey:

An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson (click here for printable version of original poem)
1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
2. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
3. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
4. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
5. I walk down a different street.
Upon discovery or disclosure, each of us can identify with Chapter One. We wonder, where in the world am I? How did I get here? We feel disoriented, confused, and shocked, and many of us say we feel like we’re spinning in a deep, dark vortex. And we’ve no idea how to get out.
Two Questions Helped Me Know What I Wanted to Do
Two simple questions helped me determine what I needed and wanted to do.

1. What can I not live with? This question forces us to determine our “deal breakers.” These are the behaviors we know we cannot and will not tolerate in our marriage. When we encounter true deal breakers, the choice to stay is no longer an option, at least not long term. But sometimes leaving takes time. It can require time to plan and prepare, even if we don’t want it to. However, having a plan, and persistently working it will enable us to leave as soon as the pieces of our plan are in place.

(Please note: This newsletter does not apply to abusive and dangerous situations. Anyone in an abusive situation and in danger must seek safety immediately --- to stay when harm and danger are imminent, for you or your children, is not an option.)
2. What can I live with? Most of us at least consider leaving. And when we do, we’re forced to examine our ability—or inability—to make it on our own, if we leave the marriage. Finances, children, family matters, or health issues might make staying the wisest—or the only—choice. At least for a season. I took the time I needed to sift through all of the painful feelings of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and feeling less-than, and eventually I chose to stay, even though my marriage wasn’t healed.
These two questions helped me gain the clarity and peace I needed to make healthy decisions about my life and my future. You may have different questions you need to answer, because each of our journeys is uniquely our own.
Coming to Understand the Strange World Of Sex Addiction
At some point post-discovery, our shock wears off and we bounce between Chapters 2 and 3 of the poem above.

During this time we try to learn what sex addiction is about, and how to care for ourselves in a marriage tainted by it. Like me, many partners realize, for their own reasons, they need or want to stay in their marriage. Some women will stay for a short while as they work their plan and prepare to leave. And others will choose to stay, perhaps permanently. Either way, partners can use this time to learn, heal, and prepare for their future.

Six Tasks that Equip Us to Heal Whether We Choose to Stay or Leave
The following task list helped me take responsibility for my own well being, and it kept me from slipping into the negative patterns that can come when married to a sex addict.

*Finding Support: Support and a healing process is crucial for for partners of sex addicts. One of the best resources available is our Journey to Healing and Joy workbook. Working through this workbook with a coach and a small group of women is the best gift you could give yourself. At the end of the 12 weeks you will have been given the opportunity to share your story in a safe setting while gaining new skills and tools to use not only in your marriage but in every relationship in your life.
*Separating Your Healing from the Addict's: After I learned as much as I needed to about this addiction, I focused my energy on learning ways to heal from my trauma symptoms. And I learned that if we want to heal, we must separate our healing from that of the sex addict. Learning how to detach and refocus on our own healing for a season is one of the hardest things we must do, but without it, we will never heal.
*Utilizing the Power of the Serenity Prayer: The Serenity Prayer can bring calm, clarity, and peace in the space of thirty seconds. It’s like a form of spiritual breathing. The simplicity of this prayer helps me discern my needs, and helps me access the empowerment I need to meet them. It enables me to “let go” when needed, and it provides a continuing source of courage and comfort. I love its wisdom and it’s simplicity: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
*Learning and Using Boundaries: Learning how to detach from my husband in a healthy way provided a safe space to learn and create the boundaries I needed to begin to heal. It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually learned how to create healthy boundaries to keep myself safe. If you need help with boundaries, our A Circle Of Joy's Coach Carin facilitates a boundaries support group for that purpose.
*Taking Responsibility for Our Own Well Being: The Life Model has played an important role in my healing. And nothing is more powerful in helping us take responsibility for our own healing and well being than the Life Model principles. Learning to “return to joy from negative emotions,” and “using joy to increase my emotional capacity so it’s higher than my pain” were foundations for me. Another Life Model principle that’s helped me is “Learning to suffer well.” This means, “Can I be true to who I am in the midst of suffering?” We touch on the Life Model principles in our Journey to Healing & Joy groups, but if you want to learn about these skills and many more, consider participating in a Healing through Joy group with Coach Katherine or with me, Coach Jodi.
*Finding Purpose In Our Pain: While early post-discovery is a very painful time, finding “the purpose in the pain” is highly valuable. Women have even said it is a sacred time where they feel more connected to their true self. Once they experience “being well,” and learn new ways to take care of themselves (or return to activities that bring them joy), wonderful, beautiful things can happen. And they learn how to be well in a less than ideal marriage.
In time, I was able to regain a sense of safety and security, even though my marriage wasn’t healed. Now, ten years post-discovery, I see myself on Chapter 4 of the poem. I now know where the holes are, and I am able to walk around them. I still have triggers but they no longer have the power to hijack my brain. I can access and use empowerment to take care of myself in healthy ways. And I know Chapter 5 is available to me if I am not able to keep myself emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically safe while staying married.
I encourage you to find the resources and tools you need to heal, whether or not your husband chooses recovery, and whether or not you stay. Healing is possible for any woman who discovers she is married to a sex addict.
While I did not choose this addiction, I do get to choose my story. I am not responsible for my husband’s recovery, but I am responsible to make sure this addiction doesn’t get “two for the price of one.” Ten years ago I was determined to find the help and support I needed to heal and feel like myself again, and I’m so glad I did. My hope is that you will find the help you need to heal from the pain this addiction has brought into your life. We are here to help you on your healing journey.
With your healing at heart,
Coach Jodi
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Marriage: Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

Marriage: Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

by Coach Katherine; edited by Marsha Means, M.A., July 2017

No bride ever dreams of divorce on her wedding day. But sadly, for those of us married to sex addicts, it is something many of us eventually consider. I am one of those women.

Recognizing the Inconsistences
As I was married to a sex addict for 34 years. My story can be found on our website by clicking here. A year or two prior to separating, I started to suspect that something wasn’t right with my husband. Because he had been in recovery for several years, and I thought things were getting better, I felt a range of emotions when I considered the inconsistencies in his recovery. If your husband isn’t working a strong recovery program, you may identify with them. These are just a few I recognized:

*Denial that he was choosing his addiction all over again after six years of sobriety.
*Anger that I might have to enforce my consequences. After all, hadn’t I said the marriage would end if he acted out again?
*Questioning God. Because my faith is an important part of my life, I stayed in the marriage because I believed God had asked me to. I did my part, so why was He allowing my husband to go back into his addiction?
When I dared to acknowledge these emotions, it forced me to face hard questions.
Asking Myself The Hard Questions
As I considered my marriage and ability to live on my own, these four questions were among those I asked myself:
*Can I stay in my marriage when it appeared that my husband would probably never choose long term wholeness and healing?
*Was lack of commitment to the hard work of recovery all he was willing to give me?
*Could I accept the pain and loneliness one feels with a sex addict not in recovery for the rest of our married life, knowing how it was affecting me?
*Didn’t I deserve to have a faithful and honest husband who loved me?
It took time to sift through my circumstances and ask myself the hard questions. Each of us must do this in our own way to find our personal answers to the difficult questions we must face, and the inner peace we need to accept what we find there.
Facing My Fears
Contemplating divorce forced me to face my fears and really look at the personal cost of ending my marriage. These are some of the fears I faced:
*Fear of being unable to support myself. I married at 18 and was a stay at home mom who didn’t have to work outside the home. I had only gone back to work four years prior to my separation.
Gratefully my children were grown by the time I separated. But for those who still have children at home, this fear—and reality—can force them to delay the separation until they’ve honed their workplace skills and gained the ability to earn a high enough income to survive.
If you face this challenge, remember: information is power. Most, if not all, cities and large towns have a Crisis Clinic with a huge data bank of resources for anyone in the community facing hard life situations. Start your search for help and answers there. Another great resource can be found at the Women’s Resource Center at a local junior college or other service center in your community. There you can seek aptitude testing, and discuss with counselors fields of study that require shorter periods of prep and education, but also earn sufficient income.
Without workplace-ready job skills, we may have to get creative to build a bridge from where we are to where we want to be. Hold on to the reality that this is a period of transition and not your final destination. If you keep your eyes on the goal of self-sufficiency, you will get there in time.
*My fear of the impact on my children. My children were grown, so they didn’t experience the impact younger children nearly always feel. And my former husband and I are able to be friends, so holidays and special events can still be enjoyed as a family. But I know that’s impossible for many, and children often experience their own trauma when a family struggles with sex addiction. So find an experienced counselor if your children need help processing and adapting to the life changes. If counseling for them is outside your financial capability, school counselors have helped the children of some clients, without the cost of a private therapist.
*Fear of losing my spiritual community. Many churches and religions advise against divorce. So for those of us who are a part of a spiritual community, making a decision aligned with our beliefs and teaching generally requires time, soul searching, and perhaps spiritual counsel. If you fall into this category, I explain how I arrived at a place of peace at the end of this article.
*Fear of splitting our marital assets. Unless your partner is kind and caring, fair and generous, even when he is living in his addiction, seek legal counsel to understand your marital assets and your rights to a percentage of them in the event of a divorce. Learn all you can about what you have to work with so you can fight fear with knowledge. Remember: information is power, so do everything you can to become informed. If you can’t afford legal counsel, every town has a legal clinic where lawyers offer a pro bono session to women in need. There is generally a six week waiting list before you can get an appointment, so if you find you are already asking yourself the hard questions, get on the waiting list. Seeking counsel does not mean your marriage will end. It simply means you are gathering information in case your partner doesn’t fight for sobriety and you eventually have to leave your marriage.
*The fear of being alone. Being single doesn’t mean you have to be alone. I knew the pain of being alone when I was married. I don’t feel that pain anymore as I live on my own. Good friends can help fill that gap. Start exploring new things and discover what brings you joy. Get familiar with what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve also gained encouragement from starting a joy journal. It gives me a way to track the joys that come into my life and counters letting them pass by unnoticed.
These are just a few of the fears we face. Remember, you can’t go over fear, under fear, or around it. If you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. When you face fear head on and gather needed information, fear loses its crippling power, and increased courage and new growth begin to replace your fears.
Dealing with our fears may be the biggest challenge of divorce. But when we allow fear dominate our thoughts, it can keep us stuck and unable to move forward toward a new chapter in our life. We all suffer from fear of change and fear of the unknown. And we definitely face those fears when sex addiction destroys our marriage.
Take Your Time
Take your time. Don't be afraid to declare a "mourning time" for yourself. Divorce is like a death, so please don’t downplay the deep grief you feel. Many find divorce more painful than the death of their life partner, because an addict makes a choice that doesn’t leave room for his wife in his life, but one who dies didn't choose to leave. Face your losses and grieve them as much as possible prior to leaving. Be proactive. Lay out an exit plan that works for you. Get help from those you trust. Find a therapist or coach who can help you take those steps. If faith is part of your life, trust that God is for you and not against you. Plan ahead so that when you are alone, you've already faced the period of transition that precedes a new life.
I took my time. For me that was key. It helped me make progress when I faced the emotional losses that came with the decision to leave my marriage prior to actually leaving.
A word of caution: If you are being abused, please don't wait to leave. Find help now. Staying in an abusive relationship is not only emotionally crippling, it can be dangerous for you and for your children.
Reaching Acceptance
Finally, I came to a place of acceptance of the painful truth that my husband wasn’t choosing recovery. Whether I stayed or divorced, I had no choice but to accept my situation. And as I did, I came to acknowledge the painful reality that my husband was not choosing recovery and life with me over his addictive behavior. That really hurts, but acceptance is the key to our eventual healing.
Two Years Post Divorce
I have been divorced for over two years now. I know the fear of facing life alone; the fear of facing financial worries; and the fear of the impact of divorce on our children. But I have survived, and gone on to thrive.
Divorce is not an event but a process. You grow through it minute by minute, hour by hour, and week by week. Then one day you realize the pain has eased and you feel joy again.
Regrets & Joys
I knew I didn’t want to feel regret, which is why I took my time. But there’s one regret I’ve failed to avoid: I wish I had asked my husband for a full disclosure and polygraph during those years before separation. But because his addiction cost us our home, his career, and virtually everything, the resulting financial burdens put an intensive outside our financial reach. I do regret that we couldn’t do an intensive, but I’ve come to terms with that part of my story.
For the most part, I now have so much more joy in my life. Several years ago I discovered The Life Model and their teaching on the importance and value of creating joy in our lives. I proactively pursued joy from that moment on, and it became a turning point in my healing journey. I found joy so key in my life, I taught classes at my church on the value and practice of joy for those struggling with addictions and those in trauma. And we include it in the groups we offer at A Circle of Joy.
I also added gratefulness and appreciation to my tool box. Joy, appreciation, and gratefulness became focal points as I moved through my losses and trauma. I still pursue these things faithfully. I now have a home that I love; my children and I are close; I love my job, have good friends, and I have a new church that I enjoy.
I am divorced but I don’t suffer from loneliness like I did in my marriage. I truly feel content knowing that God continues to use and grow me. I hold on to this scripture in Isaiah 54:5: For your Maker is your husband; the LORD Almighty is his name. The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit; a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
Divorce Recovery Takes Time
I suggest you give yourself at least two years to move through the period of recovery post divorce. Since my divorce, I’m learning to trust God at a deeper level. I’m still a work in progress, trust me, but I’m learning to trust Him in the areas of my finances and my future. I’m learning that I am whole on my own; that I don’t need a husband to make me feel complete. I still pray for my former husband, and I do want him to find healing and peace.
For Those Whose Faith & Beliefs Typically Do Not Leave Room For Divorce
The Bible tells us God hates divorce. Unfortunately, most pastors only know how to play that one string. Most avoid speaking about pornography and infidelity because they’ve not been trained in helping people through the heartache of sex addiction.

However, in the Bible, God does recognize the reality of divorce. I believe He knew divorces were going to occur, so He outlined the proper methods to follow. In Matthew 19, Jesus debates with religious leaders about the grounds on which a divorce could happen. In verse 9 he said that divorce was invalid except for marital unfaithfulness. I believe that. If your husband is unwilling to recover from sex addiction—to work his recovery and rebuild a healthy emotional and sexual relationship with you—Jesus said that you have grounds for divorce.
I know some will disagree with me, but as my husband returned to his addiction, I sat down with my senior pastor and asked him his views on divorce. He shared his perspective on divorce in cases such as mine, and it helped me further accept my reality, and to make a choice that was in line with my beliefs.
Coach Katherine
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heart to heart POST

The Amazing Power of Heart to Heart Support: How Relationships Can Help Us Heal.

by Marsha Means, M.A., July 2017

I want to share with you a wonderful, nine minute video about a woman named Amy Silverstein. You can view the video on Amy's website by clicking here (please scroll to the middle of her home page). The video is also on YouTube here. It’s a video about the power of support when life gives us more than we can handle on our own. Interestingly, though Amy has the kind of husband every woman dreams of, even he isn’t enough without the power of heart to heart support from Amy's female friends or "sisters" on her journey.

I’ve watched the video several times, each time jotting down new takeaways from this life-giving story. But what I hope you take away is that none of us can face life’s most painful and difficult mountains without what the story calls a “support group posse.” It takes a group of supportive sisters who will tunnel through the mountain’s pain and chaos with us. Though Amy’s mountain is different—and perhaps even worse—than ours, it’s her circle of support that enables her to face it.

Amy had to choose whether to let herself literally die with her broken heart, or to face all that comes with getting a new one. It was her circle of supportive sisters who gave her the courage and tenacity to choose life. The right kind of support can enable us to choose life too.

We would love to hear your takeaways from this powerful video, and we invite you to post them on our Facebook Page or in our free Online Community. For me, it’s a beautiful metaphor of what it takes to heal, whether it’s our physical heart or emotional heart that’s dying.

With your healing at heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.
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addiciton triggers

Addiction Triggers versus Trauma Triggers

by Zoe

Triggers: Are triggers the same for an addict as they are for a traumatized partner?

My first internship, years ago, was at an inpatient, addiction treatment hospital. My assignment was to take addicts for a walk on a nature trail through the beautiful, peaceful forest on the property. As we enjoyed the woods and fresh air, my job was to encourage addicts to think about their future and what their life was going to be like after they left the hospital, and to help them articulate a plan that could protect them from relapsing. One of the main topics was triggers. Sex addicts are frequently “triggered.” Partners of sex addicts are also “triggered.” But are triggers the same for an addict as they are for the traumatized partner? Understanding the difference between a trauma trigger and an addiction trigger can help take the mystery out of an addict’s seemingly crazy behavior in the first few months and during the years it takes for an addict to retrain himself and his brain. If a partner is able to recognize the difference in addiction triggers and trauma triggers it can help her make sense of her often confusing and unpredictable situation. While the goal is never for the partner to try and control the addict’s recovery — recovery is the addict’s job — understanding an addict, and the addiction, can aid in a victim’s own healing process.

Addiction Triggers

For addicts, anything, literally anything, can be a trigger. And for all addicts, developing new habits and patterns is necessary. But for some, managing triggers will mean changing locations, giving up friendships, and finding a new job in order to help them start afresh, free of the reminders of their old lifestyle: reminders that could potentially trigger and cause them to return to the addiction. Triggers can be divido types: external and internal. An external trigger is any object, event, image, person, sight, souned into twd, smell, color, anything external to the addict that taps into an internal state, or even their brain’s “wiring,” which causes an emotional reaction that can lead an addict to act out, or not, depending on how far along the addict is in recovery. A sex addict described one of his external triggers this way: When I was eight years old, I started looking at my friend’s dad’s Playboy magazines. That was over 40 years ago. I haven’t seen a porn magazine in over 15 years. But there’s still something about a magazine cover, any magazine cover with a woman on it, like women’s magazines on grocery store racks, that reminds me of my old habit of looking at Playboy. I know that magazine covers are a potential trigger for me, so I intentionally do not look at magazine racks, no matter what kind of magazines a store has.

Another addict described it like this:

If I'm at a pool and a woman in a bikini starts walking in my direction, I focus my attention on my wife, daughter, or anyone else there. I even re-position my seat, if necessary, so I am not facing that direction—I face away from the pool, for instance. As a fail safe I pray for the person that I see and remember she is a child of God, and I usually quote 1 Timothy 5:2 treat "older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with absolute purity." Yet as difficult as external triggers can be for addicts, especially for addicts not that far along in recovery, it is the addict’s internal states, their feelings and emotions, that hold the most power, because while an addict can look away from a magazine or woman in a bikini, it is much more complicated to turn away from emotions. Internal states, if not properly and carefully managed, can lead to an addict’s acting out. Some of the most common internal triggers for addicts are: sad, mad, lonely, tired, stressed, hungry, and scared. One important reason my job was to take addicts for walks along a serene, nature trail was to encourage them to pay attention to how spending time outdoors in a beautiful environment — as opposed to staying inside the hospital with its institutional colors and furniture — could change the way they feel. Stepping into the woods or relaxing beside the forest’s lake (with its ducks and swans) could immediately change the addict’s mood from sad to hopeful or from anxious to relaxed, so this was one tool they could use to help them manage their feelings.

One addict, from a local SA group, who has been working very diligently on his recovery, described his own struggle with internal triggers this way:

I really fear feeling lonely. I’m fine when my wife is at home or at work nearby. But sometimes she travels for work. When she’s gone I’m always gripped by this horrible, lonely feeling. I am so afraid whenever she has a work trip coming up because I know feeling lonely is a huge struggle for me. In the past I would act out. That’s how I kept from feeling lonely. Now I make sure I call my sponsor and let him know when my wife will be gone. And I can call him any time I need. I check in with my neighbors too. And I make plans. I sign up for the free programs offered at the library. Sometimes I will take a continuing education class at the local high school. I rent or go to movies or invite friends over for dinner. I have a plan in place to help me manage feeling lonely.

Comparing Trauma Triggers and Addiction Triggers

For trauma victims, a trigger is anything that adds to or taps into their already present experience of trauma. For example, in the beginning stages, trauma victims experience overwhelming feelings of abandonment and betrayal. Fear and pain are felt intensely too. Victims can also become overwhelmed with loneliness, especially those in relationships with partners who suffer from intimacy anorexia. Trauma victims are like a glass full with the waters of trauma. A trigger is only one more drop of trauma, but one drop in an already full glass will cause it to overflow. By contrast triggers for an addict can bring on a desire to act out, not because their glass is too full but rather because a single water drop— any one feeling or desire— itself, is unmanageable, even if their glass is almost empty. An addict is a person who has a distorted view of reality and who has never learned how to manage or regulate emotions in a healthy manner. That is why a it is important for addicts to stay committed to recovery. A strong recovery program is essential because without it, any drop in the glass continues to be too much. Faithful and committed recovery work includes much more than just stopping the negative behavior. Learning to recognize distorted thinking, and to self-regulate and manage emotions is essential for long-term recovery. While any emotion for an addict, even an emotion that is normal and healthy, can be unmanageable, the same is not typically true with trauma victims. Trauma victims have difficulty managing emotions, not because they have a distorted view of reality or an immature or under-developed way of dealing with their emotions, but because they are already so overwhelmed by trauma and the fear of additional trauma, that any additional trauma or stress taxes their abilities to cope. That is why healing trauma requires support from coaches, counselors, support groups, good friends, and more: to help victims draw strength from the abilities of others in order to process the trauma. It is rare for a trauma victim to move through trauma and out the other side without help. But with help, it is possible to heal. This is why a partner too needs a strong recovery program.

Calming Fearful Feelings

One of the ways a betrayed partner can lessen the fear she feels and lower the water level in her trauma glass is to begin to unravel the mystery of an addict's behavior. As Dan Siegel explains, victims who actively seek to understand their partner’s addiction and their own trauma are taking a healthy step forward. When victims can look at their ever-present, chaotic, and overwhelming emotions and reality, and can make proper sense of their trauma experience and its root cause, then they can escape being caught up in the past and re-embrace the future with courage and hope. At A Circle of Joy, we offer individual coaching and a variety of support groups for partners who suffer from betrayal trauma, no matter where you are in your healing journey. Traveling the healing journey with trained coaches and alongside other women who also suffer betrayal trauma can help a partner make sense of the often frightening and unpredictable world of sex addiction and betrayal trauma. To see our upcoming support groups, please click here. And we invite you to visit our A Circle Of Sisters free online community and check out our “A Circle of Sisters Commons” forum if you would like to continue the discussion on triggers or if you have any questions or comments. Your feedback is always welcome!

Grace & Peace