A Recovering Addict is Trustworthy

“A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” – The Scout Law, Boy Scout Handbook

“Trustful people are the pure at heart, as they are moved by the zeal of their own trustworthiness.” ― Criss Jami, Author of Healology

“On my honor I will do my best…” so begins the scout oath. Whether or not you were ever in scouts, the words “honor” and “do my best” used to mean something to you before your addiction. That may or may not be the case now in your life, but think back to a time before the addiction when you felt honorable, wholesome, and good. There is a certain peace that comes with honest, authentic living that is precious and irreplaceable. Hold on to that perception of you and work to make the future you equally honest and trustworthy again – if not more so.

With addiction comes deceit. It is inevitably intertwined with all forms of addiction. Why? Because shame is inherent in addiction and humans are prone to use deceit as a defense against shame. Remember, addiction is inherently about avoiding or assuaging negative feelings that the addict either doesn’t know how to cope with or doesn’t want to deal with. So, to avoid the negative emotion of shame, addicts learn to lie to others and themselves. Often despair and discouragement, follow the feeling of shame as acting out behaviors are repeated to the point where there seems like there is no way out.
If you feel like there is no way out of your addiction, I’ve got good news for you – there is! But the path is one of daily discipline, and it includes, among many principles and actions, the principle of zealous trustworthiness.

Becoming trustworthy is the bedrock of your recovery. Why? Because attachment or connection is core to your recovery and you can’t have successful relationships if you are untrustworthy. The corrosive canker to any relationship is deceit. We have to be honest and avoid all deception in what we say, what we see, what we do, and what we think – this is the key to connection.

That can be a tall order if you have a spouse that is triggered by your honesty – but remember that you can do hard things. There’s no promise that recovery will be easy (in fact, I promise you it won’t be easy!), but it is definitely worth the effort. Developing trust in a relationship takes honesty and consistency. Regardless of the consequences you fear, you must regard being honest as a key component of developing trust in your relationships. Then you must be zealously committed to consistently being honest and truthful. You have to come to zealously value being trustworthy as a character trait. Be impeccably trustworthy in your words, actions, views, and thoughts. Use the “dailies” as a discipline to hone your abilities to become trustworthy. You have to want to be zealously trustworthy as much as a drowning person yearns for air. For you are drowning in addiction, and personal trustworthiness is the only thing that can restore you and make you whole again.

Of all the people to trust in this world, I would probably trust someone who has struggled through addiction and has put serious, long-term effort into recovery. Why would I do that? Because anyone who has made serious recovery from an addiction and has done the hard work it takes to maintain years of sobriety and the discipline to overcome their addiction has had to pass through the refiner’s fire and become trustworthy. They have come to value trustworthiness as a personal trait that they would never trade away ever again.

By: Kyle N. Weir, PhD, LMFT. Clinical Director, LifeStar of the Central Valley

Posted in Addiction, Inspiration, Partner of Sexual Addict, Recovery, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 Tips for Fighting Female Fantasy Addiction

This week I have the privilege of sharing a guest blog post written by women’s addiction recovery coach and best-selling author Lacy Bentley. You may remember, I interviewed Lacy on Female Sex, Porn, & Love Addiction in March. I was honored to write the Foreword to her new book Overcoming Love Addiction as well. We met in person for the first time last month when we both saw Dr Donald Hilton speak at the LifeSTAR Conference on The Sex Industry and Public Health: It’s Impact on Exploitation, Healthy Sexuality, Empathy and Addiction in Salt Lake City.

Lacy Forest Hilton

I have much respect for Lacy and am grateful for the work she is doing in the world helping women heal from addiction. I hope you enjoy her article on female fantasy addiction and share it with others who would benefit.

Female Fantasy Addiction: The New Infidelity

We at LifeSTAR of the Central Valley have a female sex, porn, and love addiction recovery group offered to help women wanting to find hope an healing.
If this is you, we hope you’ll join us.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!
Posted in Addiction, Female Sexual Addiction, Recovery, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pornography, Sex, and the Pleasure Systems in the Brain

Dopamine.  That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot in recovery circles for pornography /sex addiction.  Why is this tiny endocrinological, neurochemical compound such a big deal? It’s a big deal in recovery because it affects the part of the brain that pornography stimulates.  

Norman Droidge, M.D., author of The Brain that Changes Itself, writes the following about pornography and the pleasure centers of the brain:

“Pornography is more exciting than satisfying because we have two separate pleasure systems in our brains, one has to do with exciting pleasure and one with satisfying pleasure.  The exciting system relates to the ‘appetitive’ pleasure that we get imagining something we desire, such as sex or a good meal. Its neurochemistry is largely dopamine-related, and it raises our tension level.

“The second pleasure system has to do with the satisfaction, or consummatory pleasure, that attends actually having sex or having that meal, a calm, fulfilling pleasure.  Its neurochemistry is based on the release of endorphins, which are related to opiates and give a peaceful, euphoric bliss.

“Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system.  Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated.  Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we’ve been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.”

Basically, porn stimulates dopamine and causes the excitement and tension to build but never actually satisfies or gives the “consummatory” style of pleasure that real relationships can produce.  The porn addict is increasingly seeking pleasures that excite but don’t satisfy. Much like someone who is thirsty in the desert may have the illusion of an oasis in mirage and thinks he’s drinking but is really just guzzling sand, pornography gives the illusion of intimacy, validation, and connection when in reality it is isolating, hollow, and unfulfilling.  Porn can only excite – never satisfy.

In contrast, real relationships and attachment is satisfying.  When we connect with someone we love and have real, meaningful relationships, the other pleasure system is activated oxytocin.  That’s why in LifeStar we heavily emphasis attachment connections and meaningful relationships to partners, spouses, family, and friends.  

We also emphasize wholesome, recreational activities that are exciting to you and are healthy for you in your dailies.  The porn addict needs dopamine, but from a different source than pornography. Whether it is fishing, bike riding, sports, board games, reading, writing, cooking, or whatever else is really exciting – you need to get dopamine from some healthy activity that is exciting to you and is acceptable in your family relationships.  Having a preplanned “default response” as a “go to” when you are tempted is a key to recovery. If every time you feel tempted you can turn to some healthy excitement, you’ll be better off.

Let’s suppose you choose fishing as your wholesome, exciting activity.  Most people who love fishing can’t do that every day. But on the days you can’t fish, you could still plan your next fishing trip, organize your tackle box, or read fishing magazines.  So, if you are tempted at 2 in the morning and need your “dopamine fix,” instead of turning to pornography you could use fishing as a default response and go restring a fishing pole or tie another fly to add excitement into your life. Obviously, if you have multiple exciting hobbies and interests, that will help you get the dopamine you need in more diverse ways and lead to a more well-rounded, healthy brain (and life).  

Though it takes time, getting dopamine from healthy, wholesome activities will rewire your brain.  Just as pornography rewired your brain to crave excitement through feeding your addiction, these wholesome activities that are exciting and dopamine inducing will help heal your brain and rewire it to seek the dopamine through healthy recreations and activities.  So, remember that having wholesome fun is an important step in recovery. Who knew fun could be so healthy for your brain?

By: Kyle N. Weir, PhD, LMFT, Clinical Director, LifeSTAR of the Central Valley

Posted in Addiction, Attachment, Female Sexual Addiction, Inspiration, Recovery, Science, Self-care, Self-Compassion, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

World Health Organization classifies compulsive sexual behavior as mental health disorder

Celebrate photo

Great news! In a ground-breaking move, The World Health Organization just classified compulsive sexual behavior as a mental health disorder! I invite you to read my writeup on this news and why it is so significant here:


May this monumental move forward pave the way for the many needing hope and help in their battle with sex addiction.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Posted in Addiction, Anti-Porn Movement, Female Sexual Addiction, Partner of Sexual Addict, Recovery, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Pursuit of Happiness

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one has to do.” – James M. Barrie

Having recently celebrated the Fourth of July holiday, my mind reflected on the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration of Independence. In crafting the document that gave birth to this nation, Thomas Jefferson used John Locke’s principle about having an “inalienable right” to “life, liberty, and property” but wisely expanded the last right from mere property rights to the right to pursue happiness – not only in economic pursuits, but in all of life’s endeavors.

The freedom or right to pursue happiness is fundamental to our very being. We are each given the right to freely choose for ourselves the course of action in our lives. With that freedom to choose comes the heavy burden of responsibility when our choices, or the choices of loved ones, lead us on unhappy paths of sorrow and addiction’s afflictions. In fact, in making choices, virtually everyone will make some good choices that lead to happiness and other poor choices that they initially think will lead to happiness, but in the end bring misery and suffering to themselves and others around them.

The blessing of each day, however, brings with it the opportunity to learn from life’s prior lessons and make adjustments based on the wisdom gained from those past, often painful, choices. Every culture, faith tradition, or philosophy I know of has a mechanism for learning from the mistakes of the past, making course corrections, and then pursuing a new a path that will hopefully lead to desired happiness based on new values. In the Judeo-Christian world this process is called repentance. The transcendentalists – such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau – spoke often of transcending one’s past and achieving lofty spiritual ambitions through intuitive wisdom and “living simply.” In Hinduism, the process of learning from one’s past, feeling remorse, resolving to not commit the acts again, and starting afresh is called “prayashchit.” In therapy, we typically refer to this as a process of self-awareness, guilt, self-determination, making amends, repairing relationships, forgiveness, healing, and growth. Whatever your belief system is, there is likely a process by which you can learn from your past mistakes and correct your trajectory towards a happier way of living.

At LifeStar, we support people in their “pursuit of happiness” as they learn from and overcome their past addiction-riddled choices (or from the past addiction-riddled choices of their loved ones). Wasting time in anger and recrimination (either self-recrimination or towards others) robs from happiness. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” For the addict, learning to pursue a truer happiness than they’ve probably ever known is difficult work, but it also leads to personal freedom and (potentially) forgiveness from the ones they’ve hurt. The path of recovery is often painful, but that doesn’t mean it is not also the path to happiness. As James M. Barrie, playwright and author of Peter Pan said, often the “…secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one has to do.” Making the tough choice to work one’s recovery (or support a loved one in recovery) can be made easier or harder based on one’s mindset. Learning to like what one “has to do” can be a meaningful part of the pursuit of happiness in recovery. As you and your family celebrate the freedoms of our nation this year, may you also enjoy revitalized freedom from addiction and compulsive behaviors and find renewed determination in your “pursuit of happiness.”

By: Kyle N. Weir, PhD, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeStar of the Central Valley

Posted in Addiction, Change, Inspiration, Recovery, Self-care, Self-Compassion, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finding Peace: A Life-Changing New Retreat

For those wanting to deepen their healing from trauma, addiction, or pain, I want to share a life-changing new event with you. So you’ll more fully understand its value, let me first introduce you to Troy Love and his book.

Troy Love is one of my once-in-a-life-time friends. He is an experienced and gifted therapist in Yuma, Arizona. Troy is constantly creating quality content, with a passionate drive to improve the lives of others. Last year he came out with his first book called Finding Peace: A Workbook on Healing from Loss, Rejection, Neglect, Abandonment, Betrayal, and AbuseIf you haven’t read it yet. I urge you to. I had the privilege of endorsing the book, sharing that “Finding Peace is an essential workbook for anyone ready to heal from life’s hurts.  Using creative storytelling, skilled therapist, Troy L. Love, shares a powerful attachment-based process of deep wound work.  Finding Peace is a gift to all who are suffering and I am certain that it will be a catalyst of change for many.” 

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Now that you know who Troy is, let me tell you about his latest creation. He has designed a powerful new resource called The Finding Peace Retreat. Trust me, this is an unprecedented event you won’t want to miss. Here’s a short description:

The Finding Peace Retreat is a 3-day, intensive, experiential training based on the Amazon Best-Selling Book, Finding Peace.  The weekend creates a place of healing for individuals with past wounds of loss, rejection, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, and abuse who are looking for greater joy, happier relationships, and deeper fulfillment in their lives.

 Whether you’re just becoming aware of how these wounds have impacted your life or are exhausted with the constant cycle of trying to do your best and still feeling like a failure, the Finding Peace Retreat will give you the skills to heal from the past, change the internal negative messages that drive feelings of shame, and develop mindful, compassionate habits leading to greater contentment and peace. Discover your truth! Connect with your inner light that ignites your power, connection, and purpose.”

The retreat will take place on October 18 – 21 of this year. It will be held in Payson, Arizona (90 minutes from the Phoenix International Airport).

A 3-day retreat like this could run thousands of dollars. Troy is offering this event at a fraction of what he could charge (especially since the cost includes meals, lodging, and training materials). If you’re wanting to take your growth to the next level, I hope you’ll consider investing in yourself in this way.

Click here for more information and to register for this life-changing event.There are 21 spaces left!

I am grateful for Troy and his relentless efforts to uplift the world with his gifts. He is a true light to all of us. When you attend the retreat, you’ll know for yourself.

Whether you can make the retreat or not this year, I urge you to check out Troy’s other resources (his websitebookReader’s GroupTwitterFacebookYouTube channel, and blog) and sharethis post with others who would benefit.

Spending 3 days with this skilled and compassionate master teacher is a great investment in personal healing and growth. You are SO worth it. Who knows? I may just see you there.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Posted in Addiction, Inspiration, Recovery, Self-care, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Heart of the Matter

“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.” — Rabindranath Tagore

Life can be wonderful, grand, and exciting – at least, at times.  But those moments are more the exception than the rule. More often, life is full of drudgery, boredom, pain, and sorrow.  “Fun” is precisely “fun” because it is so rare.  Disappointment, pain, sorrow, and other negative emotions are strangers to no one in life who is truly honest with himself or herself.  As Dr. M. Scott Peck once said:

“Life is difficult.  

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

LifeStar of the Central Valley understands and embraces the truth that amidst life’s difficulties, we can find happiness and joy, healing and growth – but not while clutched in the throes of addiction’s grasp.  We cannot be happy in addiction, rather, we find happiness from addiction when we forsake and overcome our tendencies to run away, numb out, avoid, or escape life’s difficulties through acting out behavior.  All addiction, including pornography and other forms of sexual addiction, have one essential feature in common: we either don’t know how to or don’t want to deal with a negative emotion so we try to avoid or assuage the pain with something like sex, alcohol, gambling, food, drugs, compulsive shopping, or other substances or processes.  But those substances and processes don’t ever solve our problems. They just “kick the can down the road” for a little while. Later, the problems will return with a vengeance compounded with the shame and guilt of the addictive behaviors and the lies and deceit that hurts the people we love.  

The secret to conquering addiction is to face our fears, pains, disappointments, insecurities, anxieties, boredoms, depression, and a host of other negative emotions rather than running away to our favorite addictive vice.  Developing the discipline to address the heart of the matter – starting with the heart – is the key to beginning the addict’s healing and recovery.

Whenever I receive new clients into my Phase Two LifeStar group, I always give them the following diagram I designed to explain the process of addiction:

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I explain that we all want to be happy, but when we experience any of a variety of negative emotions, those who are “not good at feelings” often try to run away from, ignore, escape, or assuage their negative feelings by acting out (using porn, sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, food, etc.).  The first bump or hill represents the first time we tried to numb out the feelings through addictive acting out. Most addicts will tell you their first high is their best and they spend the rest of their addiction trying to chase the feelings they felt the first time they got high. Notice, however, that the high never reaches all the way to happiness.  That’s because addictive numbing behavior is a counterfeit of happiness – not the real thing. Soon the addict will come down from the addictive high but notice that it always leaves them a little lower than where they started. The problems they wanted to avoid come back (because addictive acting out never actually solves anything) compounded with added shame.  The addict resolves never to do it again, but soon life hands them more experiences full of accompanying negative emotions. They can only “white knuckle it” for so long before they act out again. Only this time they don’t get quite as much relief or “kick” as they did the first time. That’s because of a thing we call “tolerance.” The red curves represent the tolerance factor – that they need more and more to get the same feeling as they did the first time they got high.  If a magazine with women in swimsuits got them excited the first time, now they need more and more hardcore material to get the same effect. The problem just grows and grows. The compounding effect of addiction is insidious. Like Hercules cutting off the heads of the Hydra, the negative emotions return exponentially. That is why we often call it “Pain Squared” or Pain2   in the cycle of addiction.  By the end, their highest highs are so much lower than their original low. In reality, the numbing acting out behavior exacerbates problems and never solves them.  To defeat the demon of addiction, we must go into the “belly of the beast” and get to the heart of the matter. The “heart of the matter” may be a little different for everyone.  No two hearts are exactly alike. But the therapists here at LifeStar of the Central Valley are here to help the addicts face the fears and concerns of the heart, guiding them on the path of recovery.  Along the way, we assist the partners with the pains and hurts they’ve endured from the terrible effects of addiction incurred by their loved ones.

As the new Clinical Director of LifeStar of the Central Valley, I am eager to work with participant and partner alike in helping you and your family find happiness, healing, and hope on the path to recovery as together we seek to help you face the heart of your matter in life.

By: Kyle N. Weir, PhD, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeStar of the Central Valley

Posted in Addiction, Change, Recovery, Self-care, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment