hopequest blog

Finding Freedom for Yourself

If you are going to heal and find freedom for yourself on this journey, you need to be able to look at truth squarely in the eye and seek God’s counsel on how to respond to the reality of your situation. If you deny the truth, you may naively put yourself back into a dangerous and harmful situation, entrusting your heart and body to your husband too soon. If you try to manipulate or change the truth, you may prolong the work God wants to do in your husband’s life. If you stay angry at the reality of your husband’s spiritual and emotional condition, then you become an ally of the enemy, helping him to do his work rather than yielding to the work of God in your life.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Don’t Be a Loser at the Blame Game…

Blaming others is giving ourselves away in little pieces. Every time I blame I give power to someone else to define who I am. And every time I give power away to others, I lose the ability to control myself.

Real change can only happen if I harness all of the power God has given me to fight the temptations and trials I am promised on this journey. Our propensity to refuse ownership by blaming others weakens us greatly. Sometimes it is the reason we fail.

Power is released from God in us toward sinful attitudes and behaviors that we own. His power covers, heals, and restores—working in us to make us whole and useful. But when we blame, power leaves us and moves instead to the hand of the enemy who uses it to fuel the destructive cycle of shame, failure, and regret.

Choose to take ownership, and you will choose life.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

 

Recent Blog posts on Blame:

Walking Free – Week Forty-Three

What Are Your Core Beliefs About You?

Here’s the thing. Your beliefs about yourself are absolutely, totally, and inextricably tied to your recovery.

Why?

Because recovery from addiction is only successful when we believe that we are valuable — that we are worth loving.

Because recovery from addiction is only possible when we dare to believe that others love and accept us, even when they know everything about us.

Because recovery from addiction requires us to trust others enough to ask for help.

And because recovery from addiction means we no longer have the need to escape from ourselves through some substance or behavior, since our greatest needs have been met in relationships with God and others.

So, if we are going to be successful in recovery, we must face our shame and find freedom from it.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Recent Blog Post on Shame:

Trek – Week Forty-Three

Five Guys and Addiction

Now I do want to talk for a few minutes about five different guys. Pay attention because you are probably married to one of them. These guys have all disclosed at least some of their sexual sin and addictive behaviors to a counselor and/or their wives, but in terms of recovery and healing, they are all at totally different places. As you read, look for your husband, remembering that recognizing where he is spiritually and emotionally won’t change him. It is the work of God in his heart that will make the difference. Your job, as I’ve said before, is to pray for him and to work on your stuff. With that in mind, let’s look at the line-up. 

We’ll start with Broken Brad. Brad is serious about his healing and restoration. Disclosure was for him the first step toward freedom. He feels greatly relieved to have all of the secrets out in the open, but he is far from a carefree happy guy. The more he comes to his senses, the more pain and regret he is feeling about what he has done. He is diligently pursuing God and sifting and sorting with a counselor. Relationships with other men have become a focus in his life, and for the first time, he is experiencing real intimacy with his peers. Every day he realizes how much he has hurt his wife and family, and his love for them is beginning to blossom into a desperate desire for freedom so that he will not hurt them again. As he relates to his wife, he is very understanding and patient; he knows she needs time to grieve and to see him being consistent over time.

The second guy in the line up is Flippant Fred. Now Fred has disclosed all of his sins and is feeling quite free from all of that sexual addiction stuff. He has felt very sorrowful about his sin, and he’s made a good start in the process—getting back into God’s Word, going to support group, seeing his counselor occasionally. But Fred is getting sucked into the illusion that since he has confessed his sin, he will no longer struggle sexually. He’s not really into looking at his past. You can’t blame your past, you know. You’ve got to make choices in the present. Fred is also not very patient with his wife’s grieving process. Although he may not say it out loud, he really doesn’t understand why she can’t just get over it. Six months should be enough for her to let go of it all and let things get back to normal. 

Next in line is Red-Handed Randy. Randy got caught, and the only thing he is really sorry about is getting caught. He really doesn’t think he’s got a problem. Men just have different needs than women. It’s a guy thing. He’s told his wife as little as possible to get her off his back and made a show of getting help. Since he does care about his wife and doesn’t want to lose his family, he’s seen a counselor a couple of times and talked to the guy in charge of the support group. But he figures if he just lays low for a while, gives his wife a lot of attention and buys a few things she’s been wanting for the house, that everything will blow over and life can continue as it was. God is really not in the picture. Randy believes in Him but is unable to relate to Him on a personal level. Whenever he feels bad about himself or what he’s done, he just promises himself that he won’t do it again and escapes the pain in some way—usually by throwing himself into his work or zoning out while watching sports.

Guy number four is Blaming Bill. Bill’s not sorry he got caught; he’s mad. The only thing his wife knows about is the thing she caught him doing. And Bill isn’t planning on disclosing anything else, ever. Anytime she brings up the subject, Bill blows up and tells her either to let it go or leave him. He’s not the problem. Her lack of forgiveness is. Bill won’t take responsibility for his actions, and he habitually blames everyone else for all his problems. The inappropriate sexual behavior is his wife’s fault because she won’t have sex every time he wants to, or it’s the media’s fault because they saturate society with sexual images. Bill goes to counseling and discovers even more people to blame. It’s his dad’s fault because he demanded perfection. It’s his mom’s fault for not nurturing him like she should have. Bill, of course, is not very fun to live with. His wife’s only respite is when he is blaming someone besides her for his problem. Things are half-way bearable on those days. Anger and defensiveness are the hallmarks of Bill’s life, and he can’t heal because he can’t see that he’s the only one responsible for his actions.

Finally, we come to Run-Away Rob. Rob handles the reality of his sexual addiction by pretending that it doesn’t exist. Confronted with evidence of sexual sin, Rob admits to what he’s done and may share bits and pieces of the whole picture, but Rob doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in reality, so it’s difficult for him to be completely honest. Different Robs live in denial in different ways. Some Run-Away Robs just leave the relationship and move on to other relationships and other marriages. Others become so depressed that they are unable to feel or function normally. Still other Robs escape reality by using drugs or abusing alcohol or engaging in other addictive behaviors. Rob may have a relationship with God but since he can’t be real with Him either, Rob feels totally disconnected. The best way to describe Rob is numbed out. He can’t feel, so he can’t heal. Most Robs are really nice guys—funny, laid-back, friendly. The problem is that they can’t tolerate pain long enough to deal with the problem. It’s hard for Rob to leave the comfortable no-feelings existence he has created to insulate himself and to do the pain required to get well. Of course, watching his wife grieve is really uncomfortable, so he either tries to get her to laugh or acts like nothing has happened between them, going on with life as usual.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Other Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Three

Walking Free – Week Forty-Three

Blaming Others

Passing the buck seems to be a part of human nature. It’s so instinctive, in fact, that we find the first “Blame Game” taking place between the first man and woman. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He questioned them about their sin. Adam’s response? He blamed Eve, who then blamed the devil.

People haven’t changed much since then. We still search for ways to excuse our poor choices. For those of us struggling with sexual sin, we may blame our parents, our wives, even God, for our behavior. But these excuses hold us back from true repentance and delay God’s work in our lives.

It’s human nature to dodge responsibility for our failures. Yet excuses can hamper our recovery and hinder our healing. It’s essential that we take full responsibility for our actions and choices. Honesty will lead us to repentance and humility, and allow God to truly change our hearts and minds.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Forty-Three

Shame is a complicated emotion. In a very healthy way we can feel ashamed of something we have done because our behavior doesn’t match up with what we value or believe. We sense that there is a disconnect between who we are and what we do — an experience common to every human on the planet. And it is this same experience that helps us to realize how much we need a Savior to help us successfully navigate this thing called life. Without Him, we are doomed to fail at loving ourselves and loving others well.

On the other hand, shame can become an emotion infected by toxic beliefs about ourselves which results in an overwhelming sense of defectiveness and worthlessness. We feel that we are uniquely screwed up, and therefore there is no hope for change.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Forty-Three

After a time of formal disclosure has taken place—usually one or two days after the meeting and a wife has had time to process what she has heard—she oftentimes is overwhelmed by a great host of questions that flood her mind, questions she forgot to ask or didn’t think to ask or was too afraid to ask during the disclosure session. A typical response to the anxiety and uncertainty she is feeling is for a wife to corner her husband (either kindly or angrily) and shower him with all of the questions in her heart. 

Prepare yourself. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. 

If and when you experience such a time when something triggers all of those fears and doubts and questions, I want to encourage you to take a time out and process what you are feeling and thinking before you approach your husband.

I have found it to be helpful in my own journey if:

›I get away by myself to a place where I can focus and concentrate.

›I invite the Lord to join me in the painful process of fearing and doubting my husband’s integrity and love for me.

›I write down all my questions.

›I read each question and ask myself, “Why do I want to know that?”

›I cross out questions that are asking for more details about things I already know.

›I put a star by questions that seem to be valid concerns and need to be addressed.

›I call my counselor and/or friends from group and ask for feedback on the questions I have marked with a star.

›If others agree that they are valid questions, I plan a time with my husband to discuss them. (You may need to set up another counseling appointment if you have a significant number of questions or if you feel your husband has been dishonest in his initial disclosure.)

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Walking Free – Week Forty-Two

The space you make for the Living Word in your heart will determine your destiny in the Kingdom of God. A life with space for Jesus is characterized by humility, teachability, dependency, and true love. It is whole-hearted living with my soul tuned to the sound of God’s voice, and a knee that consistently bows throughout the day to the agenda of a Boss worth serving.

Is your heart a place worthy of a King? Ask God to help you renovate your heart for Him.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Forty-Two

You’ll learn a ton of tools for dealing with anxiety while you are in the program — beginning, of course, with identifying it and expressing it to others in the community.

Journaling is also a great way to start making the connections between your anxiety and your addictive behaviors. You can write an IFAB (I feel… about… Because…) statement choosing an appropriate word to match the intensity of your anxiety. You can rate your anxiety in your journal on a scale of 1 to 10 so that you and your counselor can have a sense of how big your anxiety is in a given moment. It may also be helpful to record what you want to do when you start experiencing anxiety.

…Once you’ve acknowledged all of this to yourself, you can think about a different, more relational, way to deal with the anxiety.

…As we learn how to experience our emotions and express them to others without pushing the escape button of addiction, we grow in our ability to tolerate discomfort — a huge factor in emotional maturity.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Other recent Trek posts on Anxiety:

Trek – Week Thirty-Nine

Trek – Week Forty

Trek – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

The more details you know about your husband’s stuff, the harder it will be for you to let go of your hurt and pain and the more difficult it will be for you to move through the grieving process. 

Think about it. What books sell the best and are remembered the longest? The books that are written by gifted authors whose use of details enable you to actually visualize and become a part of the story. Details make things more real and more powerful. 

Which statement touches you more?

– Jesus died on the cross for your sins.

– As He hung there laboring for every breath, blood dripping down His cheeks, His jaws intermittently clenching and unclenching with the agony of the pain He felt in every part of His body, He looked out on the crowd and into eternity and cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

See what I mean? The first statement is a general statement of fact. It is a truthful and powerful statement which impacts us emotionally. The second statement, however, makes the same truth come alive. We can visualize our Lord suffering for our sakes, and it makes the emotional impact of the truth that much greater. 

The same thing will happen if you learn too much about your husband’s sin.

…So, if you don’t need to know details, what do you need to know? Generally, in a formal time of disclosure, the counselor will ask your husband to share about all of the sexual behaviors he has been involved in that directly impact your relationship. (In some instances, if a husband perceives his wife as a safe person, he may also share about some of his behaviors before the marriage and any trauma/abuse he experienced as a child that bent him toward addiction.) After your husband shares, most often the counselor will give you an opportunity to ask questions and share how what you have heard is impacting you. 

The counselor will have helped your husband summarize his sexual experiences outside of the marriage in factual but general statements. When it is your turn to ask questions, use that opportunity to clarify those facts without gaining information that will hurt you later. It’s also a great time to check out all of those intuitions and “gut feelings” you had but were either dismissed by you or rejected by your husband at the time.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Forty-One

Not Allowing Room for Jesus and What He’s Saying to You

During one of His public teachings, Jesus had an interesting dialogue with His audience. The topic was their Jewish heritage, and the resulting right to be called God’s children. But while Jesus acknowledged their lineage, He questioned their actual relationship with God. Jesus wondered if they were truly God’s children, why they didn’t have room for His word to them.

We can make the same mistake. We can grow too confident in our way of doing things. As we begin to overcome certain thoughts and behaviors, our progress can actually make us feel less dependent on God.

The Jewish people knew they were God’s children. But this knowledge caused them to become arrogant and resistant to His voice. Their confidence was in themselves, and not the God they claimed to serve.

Likewise, it’s important that regardless of how far we’ve come and how great our personal success, we always allow room for God in our lives. Because no matter how much progress we make, it’s vital that we continue to listen to His voice.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Forty-One

One of the critical growth areas for our recovery is to begin connecting the dots between our emotions and our behaviors. Since anxiety is such an uncomfortable emotion to experience, it can be pretty persuasive in motivating us to seek relief.

Learning to address our anxiety in healthy ways becomes a core component of relapse prevention as we move ahead in recovery.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Other recent Trek posts on Anxiety:

Trek – Week Thirty-Nine

Trek – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Today we are going to talk about a very important subject related to disclosure. I’ve entitled today’s discussion, “What We Want to Know vs. What We Need to Know.”

…From my perspective, I see four main objectives for a time of disclosure.

  1. To give the struggler an opportunity to walk in obedience and truth as he uncovers his sin and brings all darkness to the light.
  2. To allow the struggler to see the impact his sin has had on you, the relationship, and the family and to take a first step toward reconciliation by being honest and asking for forgiveness.
  3. To allow the wife to be fully aware of the sins committed against her and the full extent of the debt she is being asked to forgive.
  4. To begin the process of removing the rubble and ruins from the old relationship destroyed by lies and deceit in preparation for the building of a new relationship built on Christ and His truth. 

Let me say quickly that whether the end result of a relationship broken by sexual addiction is reconciliation or divorce, the goals for the time of disclosure remain the same. Obviously, you as a wife may be unable to re-join your husband emotionally and sexually because of his unfaithfulness. God understands the damage that sexual betrayal does in a marriage. That being said, it is also not beyond the power of God to give you the grace to live (and enjoy life) with a man who has broken his vows to you. I am a living testimony to that grace—not only the grace that was given to me for my husband but also the grace I received for myself. 

With those goals in mind, I want to talk about the things that you need to know and some of the things you don’t need to know about your husband’s sexual sin. You’ve probably heard before that two people who really love each other should not have any secrets. And that’s true—sort of. You need to know about your husband’s secret sins in terms of the general facts surrounding them. You do not need to know details about his sexual sin. 

I define “details” as anything that would help me visualize my husband doing or participating in a sinful sexual behavior. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Walking Free – Week Forty

Controlling is the opposite of trusting. It is often our first reaction to fearful or painful situations, and it is probably the greatest overall challenge you and I will face on this journey. We resist dependency on anyone other than ourselves, but we were created to be dependent, so we end up being dependent on everything and everyone except God.

The walk from bondage to freedom is paradoxical because we must give up being dependent on ourselves (which is bondage) and embrace being dependent on God. When we place ourselves as bondservants in relationship to Him, we actually receive freedom—not freedom to control our destinies, but freedom to not be controlled by our desires and behaviors.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Forty

Anxiety has these four components:

• Feeling of uneasiness, agitation, or discomfort

• Some physiological sign (specific to each individual but can be things like sweating, increased heart rate, tightness in chest, butterflies in stomach, restless movement — pacing, moving foot, clicking a pen, etc.)

• Uncertainty about the reality or nature of the threat (I don’t know exactly what I am dealing with — fear of the unknown)

• Self-doubt about my ability to cope or deal with the problem effectively (I don’t know if I can do this)

We live in a world that is focused on performance — being the strongest, fastest, smartest, most beautiful, and most successful. Even the church, which is supposed to be a place of acceptance and grace, a safe community in which we can take a deep breath and relax and just be, is often instead another place we feel pressured to perform.  “Don’t do that,” “yes, do that,” and you need to do more of that” is what we hear.

Is it any wonder why so many people — including Christians — suffer from anxiety and depression?

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Forty

Let me make a few other comments before we take a look at God’s heart on the subject of disclosure. First, the timing of disclosure is important. If your husband is serious about his recovery, full disclosure to you should take place about a month after your husband has fully disclosed to a counselor. This gives your husband time to talk about and process his sexual history from childhood to the present and to begin to face and grieve the losses associated with his addiction. 

…Please understand me. I’m not saying that disclosure cannot happen within the first or second week after your husband is caught in some sexual sin. I am saying that it might be more beneficial to you both if he is able to talk about his past and his present with someone who understands the problem before he talks to you. Why? Because the more time your husband has to disclose and confess to another, the better he will be at fully disclosing to you. It gets easier the more he talks about it. He will remember more clearly as he talks and processes, and you both will have time to build a larger network of safe people to support you as you grieve after disclosure. 

The person you choose to mediate during the time of disclosure is also important. In my opinion, the best person to mediate is your husband’s counselor. He knows what is going on, and he will be able to intervene if your husband is dishonest about something or if emotions get out of hand. If you don’t feel comfortable being by yourself with your husband and his counselor, bring your counselor with you. I recommend a counselor because counselors are required to maintain confidentiality; friends, no matter how trusted, are not. If neither you nor your husband are seeing counselors, the second best option is to have a couple who have walked through sexual addiction and have a substantial amount (three years or more) of the journey behind them to mediate the time of disclosure. Again, in this situation, it will be necessary for the two men (struggler and mentor) to spend a significant amount of time talking and processing before the time of disclosure takes place. (It will be greatly helpful for the two women to do the same.)

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Nine

Staying in Control

The book of Exodus chronicles the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. For over 30 years the Jewish people had suffered as slaves. Finally, after their miraculous release, they were making their way to freedom.

But the road between slavery and freedom is not easy. After their initial euphoria wore off, the Israelites began to have second thoughts. Even though they had been slaves in Egypt, they had maintained some control over their lives and routine. Now in the desert—the toughest part of their journey—they were completely reliant on God for direction and support. This lack of control actually made them long for the predictability of slavery.

We often fall into the same mindset. Sexual sin gives us a degree of control in our lives. As we make our own journey from bondage to freedom, we are tempted to return to sexual sin to ease the pain. But we must be careful to avoid viewing our past through the deceptive haze of nostalgia. Instead, we can choose to trust and rely on God during our journey to healing and restoration.

Brother and friend, don’t go back to Egypt!

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-Nine

In terms of an emotional experience, crippling fear is the worst.  There is probably nothing more distressing to a person than feeling completely helpless and powerless.  But that is not the only kind of fear that can trip us up in recovery.

Anxiety is a huge trigger for addictive behavior.

What exactly is anxiety? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it in the following way:

Painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind; an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Nine

Last week, we discussed three important elements needed during a healthy time of disclosure.

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Let me quickly illustrate some things that can happen if you don’t have these three elements in place during a time of disclosure.

Unplanned Disclosure

›A wife nags and rages, attempting to manipulate her husband into telling her the truth. He gives in and hits the highlights, but because he has not had time to prepare, he forgets to tell her about two incidences. Now he is faced with the dilemma of bringing up the painful subject again or keeping the two situations a secret.

›The husband, tired of carrying the burden of his shame and guilt, sits his wife down and pours out his heart. She was unaware of the extent of his addictive behaviors, has no support system in place to help her, and is totally overwhelmed by his revelations. He feels great that the secrets are finally out, but his wife is having thoughts of suicide.

Unmediated Disclosure

›A husband and wife decide they can handle disclosure without the help of anyone else. They set a time and sit down to talk. The husband begins to share about sexual abuse he endured as an adolescent—a sexual relationship with another man. His wife interrupts with the comment, “Oh, God. Please don’t tell me that you have had sex with other men!” The husband, totally ashamed, is unable to continue and leaves the house in utter despair, his greatest fear realized: she really knows me, and now she doesn’t love me.

›Again, a wife and husband decide to have a time of disclosure without the presence of another person. The husband reveals that he has had sex with numerous prostitutes. (The wife was only aware of pornography usage.) Enraged, the wife begins to hit her husband and scratch his face and arms.

›Same scenario. This time as the husband shares, the wife constantly interrupts with questions about details: What turned you on? Where did you meet? What position did you use when you had sex? The husband doesn’t feel comfortable reliving all of the details, but when he declines to answer her questions, his wife accuses him of hiding things from her. The already difficult conversation turns into a disaster, and both the wife and the struggler leave the situation feeling angry and hopeless.

Unsafe Place

›A husband and wife plan a time of disclosure with their pastor at their home. Everything goes as well as can be expected but now every time the wife walks into the living room of their home, all of the painful memories of that evening are triggered for her. She no longer feels comfortable in her house and wants to move.

›A couple plan a time of disclosure at the church with another couple they love and trust. Although they have reserved the church’s conference room, in the middle of some of the most painful and graphic disclosure, two of the church gossips walk in unannounced and inadvertently hear the word “prostitute.” 

Do you get the idea? The best case scenario for disclosure, in my opinion, is a planned time with your husband’s counselor in the counselor’s office. 

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Eight

Every longing that you have is important to your Father. Ultimately, He wants to use your desires to draw you into relationship with Him. So, don’t ignore your longings. Instead, acknowledge them to God. Talk to Him about your desires—even the ones that have led you to sinful places in the past. Ask Him to show you where your longings come from, and then ask Him to satisfy you.

You will find that the more you acknowledge your hunger to God, the greater control the Holy Spirit will give you to choose to be filled in healthy and worshipful ways. And you will begin to discover that God is more than able to meet your needs. He really does satisfy.

– Troy Haas, First Steps