Full Disclosure

Larry Colclasure, M.S., LPC

Disclosure, as I’m sure we all know, is one of the toughest processes to go through. There is no good way to disclose, it is not a natural process, it is the result of the enemy and sin.

The first step to making a good disclosure is to go from defense to offense. We have been defensive for a long time, trying to hide what we have been doing, trying to cover our tracks, trying to find time to get away, to act out, and even lying to the most important people in our lives. It is time to stop defending these behaviors, admit the truth and get on the offense for our recovery (which includes our connection with God), marriage, and relationships. We choose to attack our sickness and our sin for these reasons and the front line of the battle is honesty.

There are a couple of big mistakes that many of us make at this time.

The first one is to hold back some things, to only do a partial disclosure. This takes some real balance. It is not good just to go to your spouse and vomit all your guilt. You might feel better, but your spouse will not feel good at all after being vomited on. At the same time, if you just admit to a portion of your behaviors, when the rest becomes known, it is much harder and more painful to deal with. And the rest always seems to become known. So it is best to disclose all the behaviors, types of behaviors, places we have acted out, and if we have acted out with someone our spouse knows, they need to know that name. Our spouse does not need to know any gory details or specifics. It is very common for a spouse to start asking a lot of questions. I recommend that we agree to answer any questions she has if she will take a month to pray about her need to know and get counsel about this first.

The second mistake is to start justifying what we have done and why we have done it. Our spouse is not interested in the why right now. It is time to admit the truth, take ownership of our decisions and our sickness. Trying to justify will usually just stir up more anger from our spouse.

The third mistake is to blame others for our behavior. Other people have impacted us and the reasons for our sickness are many, but now is not the time to discuss this. It is time to own my stuff, stay present, and take what I have coming to me.

That brings up the next issue which is, what I have coming to me. Most of the time, the addict has been escalating in behavior, hiding more and more, taking more and more time and getting farther away from relationships. It is often a real release to get this all out and still be alive. For the spouse, it is usually just the opposite. She has been going along thinking things are okay, or not sure about things, and then this bomb is dropped. She is reeling from this and trying to deal with emotions, thoughts, and consequences. She needs time and space to have her reactions. This timing is different for each person.

This is why it is so important to get some support and guidance. If I am not a home builder, it would not be too smart to tear my house apart and rebuild it without some guidance and help. If I am not an electronics specialist, it would not be too smart to tear my TV apart and try to repair it. I believe, and my experience has shown, that our marriages and relationships are much more complicated than any building or TV set. Therefore I believe it is very important to get some guidance and support.

This will come in three areas, first for the disclosure, then for the addict after disclosure to continue his journey in recovery, and for the spouse to deal with the damage and to rebuild.

Like I said, there is no perfect way to do disclosure, but I would like to share a model that can give some guidance. First is to list what you have done. Write this out and give it some time to make sure you have all that needs to be said and only what needs to be said. You will need some help with this. Second, list why you are stopping the behavior, why you are wanting to change. Third is to list what you are doing right now to stop the behavior and to attack your sickness and sin. Fourth is what you are going to do in the future to make sure you do not return to this behavior. I know that we can relapse any day, but we can have actions and plans in place to help us make the right choices each day too. And last is to list what your hopes, dreams, and wishes are for this relationship in the future. Where do you want to be in two years, five years, and ten years with this person?

Sometimes a spouse is not willing to hear any more than the first step. That is okay, that’s where she is right now. I need the other steps to understand that I am on the offense and know where I am headed. My ability to stay focused in this direction and continue in my recovery is the best tool I have to win her back.

For help, please see Every Man’s Battle.
There is also great help for your spouse. Please encourage her to join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Loophole of Denial

Fred Feliciano

I love a good story. Good stories catch us off guard. A good story has the power to show us what we believe about the world and how we think things ought to be. They stretch our minds, challenge our beliefs, and move us towards change. That is why I love Jesus’ stories. His stories move me, jolt me and propel me towards facing and embracing the reality of who he is and who I am. In short, his stories catch me by exposing me. That is why I also struggle with his stories. They expose me and my thoughts. His stories bring me back to facing my self whether I want to or not. So, I find ways around his stories in order to avoid stepping into his light. I just focus my attention on something else, anything. I use denial as a loophole. A loophole is a term used to describe a way around a particular obstacle with little to no negative effect to oneself. We find ways out of situations where we anticipate feeling shame.

The loophole of denial assists us in avoiding the light of God in two ways. First, denial provides us a way of alleviating the stress of our shame by refusing to face it. Shame can be defined as an intense fear of being exposed based on a corrosive belief that one is fatally flawed, unlovable and deserving of rejection from others who are deemed worthy and perceived as merciless all at once. As long as we do not have to face what we do that’s wrong, we don’t have to confess or own up to others in honesty and we find relief from the burden of our shame momentarily. Good shame allows us to focus attention on the welfare of God and others above our own.

Confessions made in the light of good shame lead us to restore relationships with loving dignity and help to develop true self perceptions in light of God’s true view of us which does something better than provide relief from the shame we feel. It provides us a deep sense of rest in our minds and hearts. The cost of not facing our shame is too high a price to pay.

Secondly, the loophole of denial provides us a way of avoiding painful truth by creating an alternative to the truth. Alternatives to the truth are simply lies. Lies help us to maintain the illusion that we can avoid rejection and increase the chances of acceptance by presenting ourselves as someone we are not. The problem with creating alternatives is that acceptance is never fully experienced and we are never fully known because the truth of who we really are remains hidden underneath the lies;  we remain distanced from others. Those who are closest to us never experience us as we are. They experience a false self. The alternative at first seems like it will increase acceptance and decrease rejection but in the end it isolates us further by taking us farther away from the truth of who we are, others are, and who God is. We wind up never trusting or being intimate with anyone.

Christ provides us a way out of our shame-based loopholes of denial by reversing the path our loopholes have taken us. Traveling in reverse back into the loophole of denial transforms it into a doorway. A doorway that leads to a redemptive path of trust for prodigal sons. Prodigals who, in repentance, come home, face the truth of their guilt in relation to their legitimate failures and face their longings for acceptance never received. But most of all are able to trust, face, and receive the Father’s healing embrace. His embrace declaring to us, ‘Not only are you forgiven but you are my son. You were dead but are now alive!’

I want to encourage you to read in Luke 15 about the transforming power of the Father’s deep love for his ragamuffin sons. Let that story catch you, expose you and shake you loose from your denial and fear.

For help facing your denial and experiencing God’s transforming power, see Every Man’s Battle.