On Being Self-ish

Self-ish (adj.) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

Self (n.) a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality; a person’s nature, character, etc.

Recently, (okay for the past few years), there’s been an uptake in awareness of the importance of self-care. You can read a vast number of articles on how self-care isn’t selfish and how many people can get those two phrases mixed up. My clients and I discuss this frequently, and it’s always encouraging to see how people take care of their physical/emotional selves in their own unique ways.

But I’ve noticed something else. When I aim to better myself, I usually do things like try new hobbies, double down on my daily routine, exercise more, minimize my life, etc. Sometimes, the efforts peter out, and I end up back where I was. Or…I can get so consumed in my efforts, I forget how they might affect those around me. Sometimes I can even do these things so much that I might be labeled selfish because of my focus on my own personal pleasure and lack of consideration for those around me (ahem, the definition of selfishness).

See, this lean into selfishness takes me away from myself and makes me self-ish. I end up falling short of who I’m meant to be. [The “-ish” of a word refers to “having the characteristics of” or “like” something or someone] It means I’m sort of like myself, but not really.

So how do I be fully myself without being selfish or self-ish?

My initial step in all of this is pursuing balance. I’m not a naturally balanced person and I have to work fairly hard to create balance in my life. For me, I’ll likely focus on recalibrating the priorities in my life, which can be difficult if my life is structured a certain way. But there’s never a better time than now to re-evaluate what’s really important in your life to make your self more you. We need to have the right balance of us, others, interests, meaning, etc.

There’s been a helpful analogy I’ve really loved over the years called “the jar of life” that assists in pointing out how we can better prioritize our time. Check out the video below to see the analogy in action!

The moral of the story is, we’re all selfish, self-ish, and learning how to be more like our real selves. We just need to keep prioritizing the right things to stay balanced to be less selfish and self-ish. What ways have you found to become more you?

By: Karen Huckaby, MA, AMFT

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

Is Sex Addiction Real?

Check out this great video by NBC Left Field, featuring Floyd Godfrey MAPC, LPC, CSAT. Floyd is the Executive Director of LifeSTAR Mesa Arizona.

We always hear about sex addiction when a celebrity gets caught doing something they’re not supposed to. A public sex scandal is typically followed by them announcing they are seeking recovery from sex addiction. Many, however, can’t separate compulsive sexual behavior from a person’s morality. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization classified sex addiction as a mental disorder. So experts now hope that this development will help de-stigmatize sex addiction.

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

Dealing With Emotional Turbulence

If you’ve ever flown, you’ve likely experienced it. It can happen on any flight. Turbulence is the shaking of the plane due to air pressure or weather conditions outside. The aircraft might shake a bit, or rock about in jolts, strong enough to knock a person over.

It can dislodge certainty in a person and can send them into a psychological tailspin of worrisome freefall (yikes, pun intended?). It can even be so unnerving that many refuse to fly because of it.

So what happens when you experience emotional turbulence?

Oftentimes we use turbulence to describe our emotional or psychological distress. It can assist us in giving words to what we feel inside our hearts and minds. And every once and awhile, it can catch you off guard.

I’m not sure about you, but when I experience emotional or flight-related turbulence, the thing I almost always do is hold my breath. Until I had some training on grounding techniques, I figured holding my breath in anxiety-provoking circumstances would help me feel better. Turns out, NOPE. Your brain needs free-flowing oxygen both to make decisions and calm yourself. So once I learned some simple breathing and grounding exercises, I realized turbulence isn’t so bad.

Below is one such grounding exercise (I’ve used this exact one in the air AND on the ground). You can always check out “breathing exercises” or “grounding for anxiety”, to find a method that works for you.

Happy breathing!

By: Karen Huckaby, MA, AMFT, YouthSTAR Central Valley Director

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

Connections in Recovery

“Your connections to all the things around you literally define who you are.”

– Aaron D. O’Connell, Physicist, Creator of the first Quantum Machine

Connection is the key to both overcoming addiction and establishing trustworthy relationships.

One cannot overcome pornography and sexual addiction without this truth becoming firmly established in their life.  Attachment – the desire to find personal, deep connection to others – is fundamental to the recovery process. It is a false ruse to think that physical, sexual intimacy can healthily be fragmented from the other dimensions of intimacy – emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, social intimacy, and spiritual intimacy.  Addictive sex seeks to fragment intimacy into mere physical pleasure through the objectification and exploitation of others (either in real life or virtually) for selfish purposes such as numbing, escaping, or avoiding unpleasant feelings. Healthy sexual relationships are the opposite. They involve caring, commitment, and connection in multiple dimensions of intimacy.  In healthy relationships, when one spouse turns to the other spouse for affection it is with the intention to love, support, and connect as total human beings rather than to selfishly use them or simply parts of them. This is why in recovery we emphasize four connections as a key to healthy relationships: Connection to self, Connection to God or a higher power, Connection to spouse or partner (or other appropriate relative or social support), and Connection to an accountability partner.  Each day the recovering addict should be communicating and connecting with someone in these four relationships.

  1. Connection to self – This means the recovering addict must learn to get in touch with their deep feelings, learn to take inventory of their emotions, and develop healthier core beliefs about their worth as individuals.  So often addicts have low self-worth. They have to come to know themselves in a healthier, positive way. We encourage daily experiences where the recovering addict can be introspective and seek to understand themselves.  Such activities could be journaling, “Thinking-Sensing-Feeling” exercises, or mindful self-compassion exercises, among others.
  2. Connection to God or a Higher Power – Recovery happens on a spiritual level, as well.  Some recovering addicts believe in God while others do not. We respect each individual’s right to believe what they will.  For those who do not believe in God, we encourage them to find some way to connect with something larger than themselves – nature, a cause they believe in, or whatever inspires or uplifts them toward a healthier connection to some spiritual realm of living a moral code. For those that do believe in God, we encourage them to practice the traditions of their faith (prayer, scripture study, service, etc.) in ways that inspire and connect them with God.  
  3. Connection to a spouse, partner, or family member – Connecting with a spouse, partner, or other relative helps develop social relationships.  These attachments are vital to recovery. Learning to connect with a loved one at multiple dimensions or levels of intimacy (emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, physical – when appropriate, etc.) are essential to ending objectification and building healthy relationships.  Many members of our program choose to use the FANOS/S exercise (Feelings, Affirmations, Needs, Ownership, and Struggles/Sobriety) on a daily basis where they can each check-in and share on these various levels.
  4. Connection with an Accountability Partner – This essential step of checking in with someone who holds you accountable (besides your spouse) is essential.  Like a sponsor in a 12-step program, your accountability partner should be someone you can turn to when in a moment of crisis or temptation. Checking in with them on a daily basis (whether there was a time of temptation or not that day) makes the recovery addict more likely to call in a time of crisis because the pattern of connection has already been established.  Also, knowing that you will have to answer to someone each day can be an incentive for making healthier choices in moments of temptation.

Making these four connections part of a recovering addict’s “dailies” is essential to recovery.  It helps them develop a more coherent sense of self. They overcome negative views or core beliefs about themselves and develop into healthier human beings.  In doing so, they will foster healthier attachments and be able to manage their emotions toward a brighter future. These connective interactions with others always make in impact on the participants.  In this way their interactions with themselves, God or a Higher Power, their partner, and their accountability partner truly do shape and define the “new person” that the recovering addict is growing into and heal the addict’s formerly impaired relations.

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

Posted in Addiction, Attachment, Change, Inspiration, Recovery, Sexual Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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