It was a Wednesday summer afternoon at Transformed Hearts in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had been returning calls we had received on our voice mail system. One of the calls I received was from a woman on the East Coast, who sounded very discouraged and distressed about her husband. She believed he had been living a double life again, reverting to his old behaviors and not living in recovery.
When I returned her call, Rebecca answered. I introduced myself and asked her how we could help her. She was glad I was able to call her back. As she held back tears, she proceeded to tell me about her husband, who had once again been lying to her about his pornography addiction.
She had found internet activity to specific porn sites and repeated phone numbers on their wireless bill. She confronted her husband, and he admitted his failure at recovery with a great deal of shame and regret. She believed there may have been another woman this time, but he denied such. For the last 5 years of their 20-year marriage, they have seen over 12 counselors and attended other intensive programs and support groups.
Rebecca didn’t want to tell her friends or family. She felt as though they would not understand. They only told her to leave, but she loves her husband. She proceeded to explain that she felt betrayed and was in a great deal of pain.
She heard about Transformed Hearts Counseling’s program for sexual addiction through a friend whose husband had finally turned his behaviors around after working the program and is now living in recovery. She wanted to know if we could help her and if there was any hope. I assured her there is always hope in recovery!
First, I asked Rebecca if her husband wanted help, which she believed he did. She stated he was a good man but had made some bad choices. He just hasn’t been able to break free from his addiction, even after several attempts. I informed her I cannot help someone who doesn’t truly want help.
Second, Rebecca and her children were in a great deal of pain. However, it didn’t sound like her husband, John, was in any pain at all. In fact, she stated, “he drinks a small glass of wine most nights” and is, therefore, “medicated” with an anesthetic of alcohol and porn.
I told Rebecca the pain John was in is far less than hers. Until he was in more pain, he would most likely not choose to change. Change is painful. Most people do not choose change until the pain they are in is so painful that change actually looks inviting and less painful. Pain is a great motivator, but it is also an external motivator, much like when one has a tooth cavity. Most addicts brush and floss for a short period of time. Then they stop, get another cavity, and call the doctor to schedule a filling. After the pain ends, they stop the preventative measures again.
Third, I informed Rebecca that at Transformed Hearts we teach partners to believe behavior. Do not believe what the addict says, believe what the addict is doing. He said he loved her, but his behaviors were anything but loving. This is typical for many individuals participating in the 3-5 day intensives at Transformed Hearts.
I informed her that, generally, addicts who successfully get out of addiction are motivated because it is a priority to them to get better whether their marriage makes it or not. These addicts want to change, because it is the right thing to do. They are willing to keep brushing and flossing long after the cavity is filled and when no one is watching. They do not need the pain of another cavity. They are internally motivated and want a heart change.
Rebecca was beginning to understand. She was beginning to see that John had only been externally motivated for the last 5 years. He only did recovery work when she got angry and upset with him, but that only lasted for 2-4 weeks. She understood that he needed to move from pain to priority. I knew Rebecca was starting to realize that many addicts will move from pain to priority and never look back once they receive proper help.
Rebecca wasn’t sure what to do next. For the moment, I asked her if she thought John would be willing to do a free assessment over the phone that would take 20-30 minutes. This would help me see the big picture, so I would know what was going on and how we could best help him. We would then be able to discuss treatment options. We were able to schedule a free assessment for John. I encouraged her to visit our website and resources.
Rebecca was thankful for the time we were able to talk and sounded a lot more hopeful for the first time in a long time… and in a lot less…pain.
Cory’s original article, Part 1: Pain & Priority, the Two Motivators, was posted on TopAddictionsNetwork.com.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.