My name is Forest and I too was once shackled by sexual addiction. I now work with the walking wounded, coaching them to crawl from the ashes of addiction into the light of new life. Please receive these words with an open heart, so that you too may ascend from the valley of self-imposed suffering.
I imagine you’re feeling unprecedented shame right now. Just days after publicly confessing hypocrisy, a secret pornography addiction, and infidelity, your betrayal booms across the internet and the gossip grows. Your confession will be among many. Following the submerged explosion, sexual secrets will soon ceaselessly rise to the surface of the public’s awareness, thanks to the Ashley Madison hack that has stunned us all.
Yet, for every individual whose discretions are discovered, there are countless others who remain buried in the depths of addiction. Sadly, in their shame they stay silent. Like you, most of them won’t step forward in surrender until their choices catch up with them, stabbing the backs of both them and their loved ones.
This is where you find yourself, leveled by the impacts of your discovery and your disclosure. Mr Duggar, I urge you to open your eyes to the opportunity before you.
These suggestions could spare further suffering and guide you to growth, should you choose the higher road of recovery:
Don’t deny. No doubt, you’ll want to wake from this reality. Who can predict how much mayhem will come from this? Some who are harmed will be those closest to you. Many will be those you do not know. You have confirmed their greatest fears that even family, friends, and leaders can stray from the paths they preach. None are immune to infidelity and that is earthshaking for most. Having broken the trust of the multitudes, know that your response to the wreckage will speak clearer to your attentive audience than any position you’ve proclaimed. Denial deepens distrust. Acceptance heightens their hopes and feeds your appetite for freedom.
Take responsibility. You were not a victim of your circumstances. Blaming your choices on couple conflict, a substandard sex life, or internal instability always proves pointless. An addiction is not at fault. Fixation with these factors can’t contribute to change. You chose this path and can choose the next.
Humbly seek specialized help. Scanning the carnage of selfish choices stirs unbearable shame. Expect cravings to promise momentary escape. Resisting alone is a recipe for relapse. Humbly, seek help that will hold you up. Certified specialists stand by, educated and equipped to pull you to safety. Since some doubters deny the science behind sexual addiction, seek out ONLY specialists (LifeSTAR, SATP, CSAT, etc). We will not downplay the severity of a sexual addiction nor discount the trauma of those betrayed by your behavior. We will help you heal.
Care for your wounded. One word describes the impact of sexual betrayal on a partner: TRAUMA. Your wife’s world has capsized and she is drenched in doubts. She wonders about reality. She wrestles with disappointment in the Divine. In this state of suffering, she might not remain. Do not mistake her presence for allegiance. Should she stay or renounce the relationship, make her healing the highest priority. Despite the odds, couples have defied the odds. I have seen resilience after the devastation of disclosure. You both can learn to love. Also, don’t let your children cascade through the cracks. They need to see a father who fights. I believe that will be you.
Courageously hope. Though the darkness is great, hope remains. Many before you have discovered life after the “wasted years” more connected and meaningful than anything before. Such a recovery is possible yet hard-earned. Real recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. This will be the most difficult goal you’ve pursued, requiring intense vulnerability and significant soul-digging. Looking apparent impossibility in the face, I believe you will transcend it. With skilled support, you can find freedom, looking back on the day of your discovery as an unexpected, bittersweet blessing.
Mr Duggar, as I see you caught by your consequences, I offer you compassion. This is not to condone your choices but because shame is never the catalyst for significant change. The media will demonize you but I see you as a hurting human being.
You represent millions of men and women who are caught in addiction, tirelessly seeking to cope with their wounds and cover their tracks. My hope is that all who are secretly struggling will seek the support they so desperately desire, not just for themselves but also for those who love them.
It takes courage to come out of hiding. But when we do, true healing can begin.
Cheering you on,
-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!