When people suffer from porn addiction and betrayal trauma, their odds of getting help and recovering are oftentimes low because porn addiction and betrayal trauma are not well understood by traditional therapists, and the debate is still out on whether or not porn addiction exists (which it does). Betrayal trauma recovery, as well as porn addiction recovery, is possible with the right help.
I have been pretty open on The Mod that I’ve struggled with anorexia since I can remember. I also have talked a bit about my self-harm addiction and mentioned my husband’s addiction to video games, his Intimacy Anorexia and Porn Addiction.
I can tell you it was a million times easier to find help for my anorexia then it was for my husband’s porn addiction and my betrayal trauma, so I wanted to create a guide for you so you can have an idea of what the journey of recovery entails and looks like!
Table of Contents
- Are You Addicted To Porn?
- The Label of an Addict: Shame
- The Label of an Addict: Denial + Image
- Lack of Knowledge About Addiction
- Porn Addicts and Betrayed Partners Need To Know RIGHT NOW (Video)
- Be Careful Who You Disclose Your Addiction To
- The Label of an Addict: Recovery + Support
- Addiction Recovery: Finding The Right Help
- Therapists Are Not Always The Answer
- Why is a Therapist Important?
- Why is a Recovery Coach + Relationship Coach Important?
- 3 Ways You or Your Partner Are Deteriorating Trust Without Even Realizing It (Video)
- Porn Addiction Recovery, Betrayal Trauma Recovery, & Relationship Recovery
- What is Betrayal Trauma?
- Do I Have Betrayal Trauma?
- Wait, You’re Saying Looking At Porn Is Cheating?
- Recovery 1
- Recovery 2
- Recovery 3
- Balancing The 3 Recoveries
- Do Not Neglect The Relationship
- Recovery 101: Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
- Get Comfortable With Discomfort: Disclosure
- Disclosure: Proper Protocol
- When Disclosure Goes South: Pain Shopping
- Disclosure: Post-Care
- Disclosure: Proper Protocol
- Get Comfortable With Discomfort: Disclosure
- Owning Your Recovery
- What is a Porn Substitute?
- The Importance of Boundaries and Consequences (Video)
- What is Micro-Trust and Why is it So Damn Important? (Video)
- Relationship Recovery
- What is a Recovery Lifestyle?
- Recovery Resources & Recovery Help
Are You Addicted To Porn?
First things first, many people ask, “Can you be addicted to porn?” and the answer is yes, you can. Here are some signs of porn addiction:
- You have the desire to stop, but any attempt to stop is a failure and you continue use
- Your usage has caused damage in your life, and you are still unable to stop
- Obsessive thoughts about when and how to use
- Having a feeling take over you and you feel the need to go use
- Anxiety rises at the thought of being unable to use
- Hiding the behavior
- Your usage is escalating, or you need more for the same effect
- Depression and anxiety can also come with addiction
- You’ve lost interest in sex, and/or are experiencing sexual dysfunction like delayed ejaculation, pre-ejaculation, erectile dysfunction.
- You’re expectations about sex are unrealistic and your partner has expressed their discontent but you continue with the demands
- You’ve lost attraction to your partner
- You can’t concentrate
- You are unable to be productive and focused
- You’re spending lots of money on acting out and getting into financial instability
- You’re angry, and your temper might have even escalated beyond yelling and you may be punching, breaking, and throwing things in anger.
As you can see the effects of porn can be pretty damaging. I have known addicts that not only lose their marriage, but have lost their kids and job to this addiction. Porn addicts often give their partners betrayal trauma, which you’ll learn about as your read this post, and betrayal trauma recovery is just as hard as recovering from an addiction. If those aren’t some negative effects of porn then I don’t know what could be. Many people claim porn is innocent, but when it get’s into higher unhealthy usage, porn is damaging. It’s not only men addicted to porn though, there’s a rise of women getting addicted to porn as well. Addiction does not discriminate.
The Label of an Addict: Shame
Most times, when you are an addict, especially in the early stages, you are drowning in shame. You feel ashamed of what you’ve done in your addiction, you feel ashamed that you struggle with something that feels so out of your control, and you feel ashamed of all the damage you’ve done to yourself and those you love.
One thing that holds addicts back from admitting they are an addict is the label itself. Most associate the word “addict” in a negative connotation, and honestly, the term addict can have people get their panties in a twist. Most people see the word “addict” and think worthless, out of control, harmful, dirty, etc. This is one reason why when their partner discovers their addiction the addict feels worthless and not good enough.
Addicts tend to put off quitting their addiction because of denial and shame. Truth is, addiction is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. The sooner you commit and invest in your recovery the sooner you won’t have to be living in shame. Truly the best time to quit is today.
The Label of an Addict: Denial + Image
When my husband came out about his addiction, his family and friends lost it. I remember that day so clearly. Jak was at work, and I was at home, and he texted me about if he could mention that I had anorexia on Facebook. I was very confused as to why he would be talking about it, but because I’d already came out, I said sure and didn’t think twice about it, until later when all hell broke lose.
They thought he was reckless, endangering his future, blaming me thinking I hacked his Facebook and posted it, and just honestly losing their heads and worrying about how they were perceived rather than seeing the incredible bravery and strength it took for Jak to own his addiction.
My husband coming out about his addiction was hell on both of us. He didn’t actually expect any of it. He thought people would be loving and supporting. And there were people who genuinely stuck by his side, and that was the day he found out who his real friends were. Those friends have supported us in our journey, and while they may not 100% understand the dynamics, they support us being happy and healthy.
Lack of Knowledge About Addiction
The thing is, his family didn’t have much experience and knowledge about addiction, especially not porn addiction. They were like most people who assume a porn addict is a sex offender or some bad perverted guy. Sorry to break the news to you, but porn addicts are like any other addict. They are using porn like other addicts use alcohol, drugs, gambling, to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.
Addicts often get addicted to what they have the opportunity to get addicted to.
A 10-12 year old doesn’t have access to hard drugs and alcohol (unless in a house with an adult who is already addicted themselves), and most kids have access to porn and video games. Most partners think that their addict’s addiction is because of them. Your partner’s porn addiction has nothing to do with you. I talk about that more in my video on what Porn Addicts and Betrayed Partners Need To Know RIGHT NOW:
Be Careful Who You Disclose Your Addiction To
As someone who’d already been through the “Owning your own shit” deal, I understood what it meant. When I came out about my anorexia, my sexual trauma’s, my self-harm, I didn’t get everyone supporting me in my attempts to take responsibility for my life. In fact, I got people who were very damaging who I had always seen as close friends. I had already known that owning your shit- and owning your shit publicly- meant you really get to know the truth about the company you keep.
Not everyone talks about their addiction and mental health publicly and that is their choice. To those that do own it publicly do be aware that not everyone in your life will understand the intricate dynamics involved with addiction and may not be as supportive as you think. Choose the people you tell carefully!
The Label of an Addict: Recovery + Support
Now that you’ve moved through some shame, owned your addiction and found out who your real friends and family are, you’re probably in the place where you’re looking for the next step, which is getting professional help.
Addiction is a nasty beast. It destroys your life so subtly at times, and other times will destroy your life in one obvious swoop. You want the destruction to end. You want to live a better and healthier life. You can do it.
You can start to do it by learning everything you can about addiction. Seriously, look up books on addiction and the neuroscience behind it. That was one of the most helpful things I did. How can you beat something when you don’t understand it, right?
Finding a recovery team is the next step after dipping your feet into the water of recovery. I personally believe in a team approach. Maybe that’s my own experience with being in treatment, but I loved the team approach I got at my treatment centers for my anorexia. When you have a team, you have a bunch of different professionals helping you in each part of the recovery. Whether you need a psychiatrist, therapist, coach, nutritionist or dietitian, you get well rounded support.
Addiction Recovery: Finding The Right Help
You may be scoffing at me while reading that and thinking I’m crazy to suggest all those professionals. But you do need professional help. No recovered addict ever got to where they are without outside help. Why? Because the addiction has compromised their brain and the way they make decisions. Having an external professional help is key in breaking the addiction pattern. You may not need ALL of the ones I listed above. But in truth, addiction recovery has the minimum of starting to vet some therapists. Not all therapists understand addiction, and if your struggling with a porn/sex addiction, MOST therapists don’t understand porn addiction, even addiction therapists! I can say that my husband and I combined saw maybe 10 therapists before we stayed with my personal therapist I’d seen for years prior. Only 1 out of 10 could even grasp that porn addiction was a problem and that I was not to blame for his addiction.
The first therapist my husband saw said porn was healthy and to find female friendly porn for us to watch together. The second therapist had never heard of porn addiction. The third therapist my husband went to claimed to be an “expert in sex and porn addiction.” This therapist charged $250/hour, did not take insurance and was a fraud. This “expert” took thousands of dollars before my husband confronted the therapist and said he felt the therapist was not addressing his porn addiction and giving him the tools necessary to overcome the addiction. The therapist texted back, “Well, honestly, you’re not an addict so I don’t need to help you with that.” My husband absolutely lost it. He was not only feeling invalidated but infuriated that this therapist believed he didn’t have an addiction the entire time and never mentioned it and just sat back and took my husband’s money. My husband texted back explaining to the therapist why he had an addiction.
My husband explained that he had used since he was 10-12 and that he had tried hundreds of times to stop but could not stop, and his usage had escalated and even though he was failing out of school and about to lose his relationship he hadn’t been able to stop. The therapist replied back, “I understand that but honestly, you don’t use for eight hours a day, you use three times a day, you’re not an addict and you don’t have a problem.”
Therapists Are Not Always The Only Answer
So as you can see from the above example, therapists may not be as helpful as you wish. Please do vet your therapists carefully! Ask questions on the consultation call. Get a feel for their knowledge, experience, background, and their approach.
This horror story above is one of the reasons we at The Mod created our recovery programs and services for porn addicts and betrayed partners. We don’t want you guys to have to go through therapist induced trauma. We at The Mod have actually gone through this, we are betrayed partners or recovered porn addicts. We have done the recovery process. We have done the relationship rebuilding process. We have your back in this! If you’re in need of recovery help, check our services out, see if you like us, our approach, and if we are a good fit for your needs.
Why is a Therapist Important?
Therapists can help you get to the root cause of your addiction. They can help you go back into your past and address any trauma’s you may have experienced, or any anxiety and depression you may have. Therapists will help you explore your childhood, your past, and any big events that have led to your addiction and they can teach you more about why addictions are difficult to overcome. It’s very important to vet your therapist to make sure they fit with you and they have methods and approaches that you like and find helpful.
If you are looking for a therapist, please, I implore you to make sure you have a AASAT, CSAT or a CMAT. Those are certified sexual addiction therapists or certified multiple addiction therapists. It can be hard to find those therapists (trust me, I tried when we were in need of help!).
Why is a Recovery Coach + Relationship Coach Important?
A recovery coach is important because even with therapy, you want someone who can help you implement skills right now and address the present. Coaches help clients with what is going on right now, and helps them achieve their goals. What are the current obstacles? What is getting in the way today, not 10 years ago. And if you’ve come out of an in-patient treatment program, it can be very hard to adjust to your day to day life, and that is also where recovery coaches come in. They are there to help you adjust, to use the skills you have learned, to also teach you new skills, and help keep you accountable and achieve your goals. Same goes for a relationship coach. When addiction enters a relationship, that relationship can be destroyed, and learning the skills necessary to rebuild a healthy relationship and stay accountable is important.
One of the amazing things about coaching is you don’t have to go into a physical office, you can always find coaching online. So instead of googling, “relationship coach near me” or “recovery coach near me” you can just search for the coaching you need and assess whether they are a good fit, just like you would with a therapist.
So if you’re thinking, “I can do this on my own, I don’t need help” and your partner knows help is needed, you’re destroying trust, which means recovery of your relationship will be further damaged. If you want to avoid deteriorating trust further, check out this video on how to stop deteriorating trust:
Difference between therapist and coach?
Therapists are past focused and coaches are present focused
Porn Addiction Recovery, Betrayal Trauma Recovery, & Relationship Recovery
Now that you’ve taken all the steps above, you can see that you are not the only one going through recovery. Your partner, who most likely is going through betrayal trauma, has her own recovery. And once you both have worked your recoveries, your relationship needs to be reconstructed.
What is Betrayal Trauma?
Betrayal Trauma occurs when you are betrayed by someone you know intimately. Betrayal trauma has a lot of the symptoms of PTSD. In betrayal trauma, the trauma comes from being in the dark about someone close to you hiding a big secret/betrayal from you. Discovery of your partner’s addiction shatters your world. Most partners I’ve talked with and worked with were in the dark anywhere from 5-25 years! That is 25 years of lies, of deceit, of cheating. Betrayal trauma recovery happens with time and the right help.
Do I Have Betrayal Trauma?
Trauma happens when you experience shock or go through something traumatic. If you have betrayal trauma you might be experiencing symptoms like:
- Inability to eat or overeating
- Extreme mood swings
- Intense anger
- Crying randomly or for prolonged period of time
- Flashbacks or night terrors
Wait, You’re Saying Looking At Porn Is Cheating?
I am saying that most partners who are in the dark, who feel betrayed view porn as cheating. Out of all the people I’ve helped and talked to, I would say 95% of them view porn as cheating. Only a few of the partners I’ve talked to didn’t view it as cheating, but were absolutely devastated about how porn took away their sex life for 5, 10, 20 years!
So, is porn cheating? It will depend on your partner and who you ask. In reality, if your partner views it as cheating, it’s cheating. It’s that simple. Honestly, think about it. Pornography and marriage… when one gets married, it’s assumed it’s a monogamous relationship between two people, you know the whole “forsake all others” and many people don’t think about “forsaking all others” including online. It’s not only porn that interrupts marriages these days but social media, apps, camming, etc.
I was SO inspired by my work at The Mod that when I was in my undergrad I did a study on cheating and found out 34 Types of Cheating! Want to get on the same page with your partner on cheating?
Get the 43 Types of Cheating exercise to do with your partner!
Recovery 1: The Addict’s
Porn addiction recovery is for the addict, where the addict takes responsibility for their addiction, their choices, the damage they’ve caused, and they learn to rebuild their life into a healthy recovery lifestyle. This recovery is not dependent on other recoveries.
Recovery 2: The Partner’s
Betrayal trauma recovery is for the betrayed, where the betrayed learns to accept the new reality of their partner being an addict, learn that the addiction is not about them, learn self-love and rebuild self-esteem, and learn to handle triggers. Betrayed partners often will put their betrayal trauma recovery to the side to help the addict in the beginning. That is not necessary. The betrayed should focus on their own healing and not “police” the addict. It’s not their job. This recovery is somewhat dependent on the addicts recovery if the betrayed is living with the addict.
Why Can’t I Heal?
Betrayed partners often get stuck when their addict remains in their addiction because the addict is still being abusive with gas-lighting, lying and hiding behaviors, being unfaithful, and sabotaging efforts to heal. If the addict is choosing their addiction over your relationship and you are subjected to being re-traumatized on a day to day basis you can only heal so much in a toxic environment.
Recovery 3: The Relationship/Marriage’s
The relationship recovery is highly dependent on the addicts recovery as well as the betrayed’s. Why? Because a relationship can not survive, nor thrive, when addiction is present. Addiction can easily be seen as a mistress. The addict has built a very strong relationship with their addiction and oftentimes will protect their addiction over their relationship. Until the addict let’s go of their addiction (mistress) the relationship can not move forward. Addicts who’ve had their addiction discovered often can feel relief but at the same time feel shattered in knowing they have created such a mess of their life.
If the betrayed is still stuck in hate, anger, and destruction, then the relationship can not move forward as the betrayed is stuck in resentment. Until the betrayed works on their betrayal trauma recovery, and addresses their anger, works to understand their reality, and have had the proper education on addiction, and time to heal, the relationship healing efforts won’t be as fruitful.
Balancing The 3 Recoveries
I’ll be the first to say that it can be very difficult to balance all these recoveries. But one thing I must make clear is that if you’re the porn addict reading this, your personal recovery is not dependent on the relationship. Whether the relationship survives or not should not have any influence over how hard you try to recover as an individual. You should be recovering for yourself and your own well being. Same goes to the betrayed, you need to work your recovery to heal you and your trauma. Once you both are in a more stable place, relationship healing can occur if that is what you both want.
As stated above there is a certain order to things, but that does not mean that the addict is simply putting the relationship on hold. The addict and the betrayed still should be making attempts to connect when it feels safe. The addict has done extreme harm to the relationship and must earn trust back. They must “win” their partner back after the huge betrayal.
Do Not Neglect The Relationship
Do not be like my husband where he neglected the relationship recovery. That did more damage than the porn addiction did! At the time, when I discovered the addiction, I was devastated, destroyed, and damaged. I was a wreck but because I knew addiction I knew if he chose recovery we could recover. Also, as the betrayed, don’t neglect the efforts the addict does make.
I stayed, I helped my husband get back on his feet, all the while stuffing my emotions, my pain, my agony, down. I was suffering while trying to help him, and once he was doing well, I figured he would rebuild what he broke… only to find out that wasn’t the case. He didn’t put in any effort to rebuild. He was too scared to face the damage he caused. The sad thing is, I put my betrayal trauma recovery on pause to help him. That was not the right choice. Only once we both truly jumped into recovery did things turn around. We eventually figured out Jak was an Intimacy Anorexic. Which, if you feel you are suffering from Intimacy Anorexia please go check out Doug Weiss for his amazing IA program!
Recovery 101: Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Note: In recovery professionals (including us!) always recommend to not make any big life changing decisions for one year post discovery/disclosure. I.e. do not divorce or separate before one year’s time has passed.
When it comes to recovering, I always tell my clients that “If you’re uncomfortable, you’re making progress. If you’re getting comfortable, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”
It’s true, if an addict is comfy and content then something is not right. Part of recovery is learning to be uncomfortable.
My husband always gets annoyed with me in the winter because I don’t wear a coat. Part of that is due to my anorexia and body dysmorphia but another part is I don’t want to get too comfortable. I like to have the occasional discomfort to remind myself that discomfort is okay.
As addicts, we love to live in comfort and avoid anything that can be uncomfortable. So part of recovery is getting to love being uncomfortable and learning that it’s not the end of the world. The same goes for the betrayed. In betrayal trauma recovery, you will be uncomfortable at points, there will be pain, there will be grief, there will be anger, but those things need to be processed through to achieve healing.
Get Comfortable With Discomfort: Disclosure
Now, when it comes to porn and sex addiction, disclosure is a very important part of recovery. Most addicts will rationalize not telling their partners thinking, “I don’t want to hurt them” when in reality they knew they were hurting their partner, or they wouldn’t have had to hide it. Some addicts wonder about being “too honest” which is another rationalization to hide details to protect the addiction.
Most betrayed partner’s discover their addict’s addiction. So, the betrayed often is left wondering, “when is the next shoe going to drop?” That is why a proper disclosure is important. Disclosures are not to be taken lightly, they are not to relieve the addict of guilt, they are to bring accountability, closure, and sanity.
Addicts need to own their choices to betray their partner, the betrayed needs to know what is and is not real, and thus, once the betrayed can know what reality is, they can slowly gain their sense of stability back. Disclosure is a necessary part of porn addiction and betrayal trauma recovery.
That little note above, about not making big life decisions, it applies here too. If you have discovered your partner’s porn addiction, we recommend not taking immediate action to divorce as emotions are running high and you’re in the midst of trauma. Same goes for a disclosure.
Disclosure: Proper Protocol
In a disclosure, you should not “wing it” and there should be thought put into it. I do not recommend doing this without an AASAT therapist (in an ideal world). Whether you have a therapist and/or coach, have them be a part of this. At The Mod, we have an entire Module in our 7 month Knights & Warriors program where we help clients with disclosure preparation, help clients find a therapist, and post-disclosure support.
Disclosure is a big deal, and it’s necessary to recovery. The betrayed needs to think long and hard about what they want out of a disclosure. What level of detail do they need? Depending on their personality they may want more details or less details. That is up to the betrayed to decide. That is a huge part of betrayal trauma recovery, is regaining their sense of trust in themselves and their reality.
When Disclosure Goes South: Pain Shopping
Now, there is a limit to what a partner needs to know to heal. Sometimes in betrayal trauma recovery, the betrayed will “pain-shop,” which is where the partner is simply looking for more information to be in pain. We go into more depth about this in Knights & Warriors, but for now, just know that as a betrayed, think long and hard about what is helpful to recovery and what will hinder recovery.
After disclosure you both will be raw and emotional. Post-Disclosure you each should have support already lined up, be sure to have separate spaces for the next 24 hours to process if you need it. Whether that means sleeping in separate rooms, staying at a friends, just make sure you each have your space to process after. In the next 24 hours, you each should take part in self-care. Whether that’s reading a book, taking a bath, cuddling on the couch with coffee, taking your dog for a walk, etc. Just be kind to yourself post-disclosure.
Owning Your Recovery
Now that you each have made it so far, you keep going. You keep learning, implementing skills, learning how to cope, learning how to accept the reality of the situation.
This means learning about Boundaries and Consequences. For betrayal trauma recovery, it’s essential that the betrayed is in a safe environment to heal, and thus we introduce boundaries and consequences. In the video below I explore the mistakes that both the addict and betrayed make when approaching this part of recovery.
Aside from Boundaries and Consequences, as the addict you want to start demonstrating the growth of your recovery, and one way you can show that is by being trustworthy.
Actions + Words = Match
That means that what you say you’re going to do, you do. Most just want to figure out how to gain the person’s trust back quickly, but trust is earned back over time. Trust starts small, it starts with Micro-Trust, which again, here’s a video on:
Once you get the hang of getting your actions and words to match, recovery will start getting easier. Why? Because it means you as an individual are growing, maturing, and sticking to your values. You are being honest, you are being kind, you are being respectful, and much more at this point.
You will also be learning about the importance of accountability in recovery. Specifically finding other individuals to be accountable to, whether it’s a coach, mentor, sponsor, you are making sure you choose to be accountable. Lots of addicts, in the beginning get accountability software or blocking software as urges are highest in the first weeks of quitting. Accountability isn’t just about software and not looking about porn, it’s also about being honest about the porn substitutes you come across as well.
What is a Porn Substitute?
Porn substitutes are anything that elicits sexual arousal. That could mean a girl in lingerie on Instagram. Your partner’s best friends bikini picture on Facebook. It could be the girl you see at the gym in tight yoga pants, or whatever. The point is, you are actively searching to see how far you can push it without going to watch a porn video or look at a naked picture.
This one is very difficult and is not something that happens overnight. How long does it take to recover from betrayal trauma? It can take 3-5 years from The Last Lie/Last Betrayal to heal. This is why we try to help addicts understand the importance of accountability and honesty from the get-go.
Part of recovery is learning that the old relationship is gone and now, with individual recovery under your belts, you guys can create an amazingly healthy, happy, and connected relationship that fits into a recovery lifestyle.
What is a Recovery Lifestyle?
I say “recovery lifestyle” a lot and I say it because recovery is a lifestyle. Recovery is a set of choices you make each day to stay in recovery. Addicts are addicts for life and are always vulnerable to falling back into their addiction, which is why recovery is a mindset, it’s a lifestyle change. Recovery isn’t just the “90 days,” it’s the long-term recovery that you are aiming for.
One clear example is when an alcoholic gets into recovery and they have to cut out all their alcoholic friends and trade the nightly bar crawl with a different healthy hobby or passion. It means getting new friends, finding yourself again, and finding you love of life. So what does your recovery lifestyle look like? What do you need to change in your life currently to stay healthy? Is it cutting out social media? Leaving video games behind? Cutting your porn addicted friends? Is it working out from home to avoid porn substitutes? Getting space from unsupportive family members? Think about what makes your environment healthy and what makes your environment unhealthy.
Recovery Resources & Recovery Help
For those who don’t want to be stuck anymore and want higher level services and are ready to get absolutely unstuck, then we have our Knights & Warriors, 7 month private program for couples to take to work their individual recoveries in tandem while laying the foundations for a successful marital reconstruction.
Rooting for YOUR recovery!