What Sex Addiction Treatment is Missing 63% of the Time

Winning at Recovery Series

By:  Cory M. Schortzman, MA, LPC, SRT

The thought of statistics takes me back to graduate school over 15 years ago, and I feel that old anxiety in my stomach as I write about sex addiction today. Somehow I passed statistics, even though I am not the most math-minded individual. Regardless, I do understand there is a place for statistics.

So, let’s have a conversation about statistics. I invite my colleagues to join me in this journey to keep stats on their work and write about them as we all wrestle to try to better understand sex addiction and improve sex addiction treatment.

sex addiction definition

As many of you know, we can sort the data in many different ways, far beyond what we will do in this article, as this is only a fraction of our data. We also round the percentages up to the nearest whole number for simplicity.

For this article, we will define sex addiction as the inability to stop acting out in the areas of porn, masturbation or sex outside of marriage. The frequency and amount of time spent in the behavior is increasing. These cause problems for the person in these fives areas:

  • Career
  • Finances
  • Legal Status
  • Health
  • Relationships

We define Sexual/Intimacy/Emotional Anorexia as one that withholds or tries to protect themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually from their partner. We also refer to this as an addiction to safety that is intentional even though the individual would deny it.

At Transformed Hearts, we have a structured intake process that provides the client’s information and history quickly through a series of a face-to-face or phone interview questions with answers of yes, no or short answers. Some of the questions are answered with the couple together while questions of a more personal nature are answered separate from the partner.

Finally, some of the questions are cross-referenced in regard to what they would say about themselves, their partner combined with what they think their partner would say about them. The majority of couples have been to previous counseling or have sought out previous sexual addiction treatment and help before contacting our office. Also, the majority have had very little sobriety or success in their recovery from their sexual addiction.

Our Findingssex addiction group meeting

The Men: Here is what we found. Of the 517 files reviewed, only, 7 percent of the men who came to our office where we specialize in sexual addiction treatment did not meet our definition of having a sexual addiction.

Note, this is not going to reflect the general public as a whole any more than a counseling center specializing in depression is going to have a small percentage of clients who are not depressed.

Of these files, 30 percent of the men were found to have a sexual addiction, 6 percent were not sex addicts but only intimacy anorexics, 57 percent were both sexual addicts and anorexics. This means that 63 percent of the men who came to our office were not being treated for intimacy anorexia or had only been aware of their sexual addiction issues.

Unfortunately, I believe this is true in most sex addiction recovery groups. Out of a group of 10 men, 6 of the men are also intimacy anorexics. The sexual addiction and the intimacy anorexia are connected. As I write in Out of the Darkness, you have to treat them both simultaneously to have the best chance of success. Intimacy anorexia usually drives the acting out behaviors, yet most have only been working on the symptoms, not the source of the symptoms.

Men – 517 Files Reviewed Number (517) Percentage
Non Addict 38 7
Addict Only 153 30
Both Addict and Anorexic 296 57
Anorexic Only 30 6

The Women: With the women, we found of the 138 files reviewed that the majority, 51 percent, were not sexual addicts. We did find that 22 percent of the women had a form of sexual addiction as defined above.

This may not have been a physical affair, but there was a struggle with pornography and masturbation. Only 7% of the women were both sexual addicts and intimacy anorexics. However, 20 percent of the women were intimacy anorexics, as they withheld physical, emotional, or spiritual, intimacy from their partner. As with the men, 27 percent of the women had not been treated or had not heard of intimacy anorexia before coming to our office.

Women – 138 Files Reviewed Number (138) Percentage
Non Addict   72 51
Addict Only   30 22
Both Addict and Anorexic   9 7
Anorexic Only 27 20


It is my experience and recommendation working with male sex addicts that the issue of intimacy anorexia is addressed and treated alongside sexual addiction. This data indicates 63 percent of men and 27 percent of women who seek help from sexual addiction also struggle with intimacy anorexia. It is a far too staggering number to ignore. We need to address this important issue. I predict that this number will grow. As we become technologically connected with the global community through social media, we will become more disconnected and less intimate with those closest to us. Intimacy anorexia needs to be addressed with women as it affects almost one-third of the women seeking treatment with us. I believe we will see a growing number of female sex addicts in the future, and the gap between men and women will close. I predict that it will be similar to the changes we have seen in gender studies treating alcoholism or heart disease.

Ongoing Sex Addiction and Sexual Anorexia Outcomes

There is much more work that needs to be done with research, statistics and the outcomes in the treatment of sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia. Let’s approach sexual addiction recovery and treatment differently. As we say in recovery, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”



Cory SchortzmanCory M. Schortzman, MA, LPC, SRT | Executive Director | Transformed Hearts Counseling Center, Inc.

Cory Schortzman is the son of a farmer growing up on the plains of South Dakota.  He graduated from Doane College, and is a Denver Seminary Post Graduate. He is passionate about working with men and spent 6 years working in the Nebraska State Prison System before becoming the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs in 2008. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado.

He is a recovering Sex addict and Sexual/Intimacy Anorexic.  Cory is a husband, father, speaker, author and therapist.  He has been married since to 1998 to his beautiful wife Kerry and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has been heard on radio stations in Michigan, Nebraska, Denver Colorado Springs and several internet radio programs.

Cory’s books include:

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, Into the Light –The Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children

His wife, Kerry, has written Ashes to Beauty for women

Coming soon: 301 Recovery Tools and Tips and Secrets to Winning 

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Admitting Our Flaws: The Beginning of Change

By:  Marilyn L. Davis

“I think people would be happier if they admitted things more often. In a sense, we are all prisoners of some memory or fear, or disappointment – we are all defined by something we can’t change.” ― Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Nearly every alcoholic and addict I have ever worked with felt shame and guilt over their actions and many times, it was about themselves, not just their actions.  In some cases, they used alcohol and drugs to cover up these feelings.  Treatment for a long time adopted the practice of “peeling the onion” and rippling off the layers of denial.  However, ripping off the layers only makes people feel more vulnerable at a time when they are the most susceptible to a relapse.

By acknowledging my actions and reinforcing that I did not die of embarrassment or did not have to relapse over the admission, I found others who had done or said the same type of thing.

I also discovered that when we are willing to change, yet still talk about how we were, people are willing to reveal their secrets to my understanding, compassionate ear.

“…That’s the worst; I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” ― Stephen King, Different Seasons

When I am compassionate and listen with my heart, people reveal themselves and experience that cathartic release.

Risky Business this Confessing

We all need to have a cathartic experience periodically. Taken from the Greek word,   κάθαρσις, it is the purification and purging of emotions, especially self-pity, and fear.  Both of those emotions and attitudes can prevent us from becoming all that we can be.

When we’re consumed with fear of judgment, rejection and reproach, it’s hard to not feel self-pity and fear.  It seems too risky to admit our shortcomings.  Also, if we admit our shortcomings, we might have to change them.  Instead, we create this  veneer of nice, important or helpful, presenting images to the outside world that helps us manipulate their impressions of us.

Or we can adopt a sanctimonious attitude and comment on the misdeeds of others, attempting to put them in their place while elevating our own.  We can reprimand our children, families, spouses and co-workers in a tone that leaves no doubt as to our displeasure at their actions.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

In the quiet solitude, if you view yourself, what do you see?  For years in addiction treatment, we peeled the onion; in effect forcing people to remove the layers of deceit, dishonesty, assumptions, resentments and manipulation so they could see parts of themselves that were problematic.

I now believe it is more important that I disclose my failures, shortcomings and character defects first, so that someone may learn to accept theirs and recover.  

When I admit that I acted in a certain manner and changed it, others can see the possibility of change for themselves.

Confession:  It Is Not New, nor Only For the Soul

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” ― Augustine of Hippo  Augustine of Hippo was a Romanized Berber Philosopher, November 13, 354 – August 28, 430 ACE, who combined philosophy and religion during his life.  His most famous work is titled:  Confession.  That was an eye-opening revelation to me that the idea has been part of the philosophical understanding for this long.

admitting our flaws and changing them

Writing about our lives can give us clarity on what we need to change.

For Some It Is Not the Action, But the Reaction

Therefore, how do we allow people to acknowledge their secrets, help them make amends or atone for their misdeeds?  In 12-Step recovery work, published in 1939, there are two steps that more than adequately help an individual examine their lives and then a step specific to admission of wrongs.

People write about their lives, internal and external; fearlessly looking for their character defects, negative aspects, shortcomings and actions that have harmed others, as well as the qualities that most consider admirable.   The reality is that we have both.

Even this is not a new concept. 

The Unexamined Life

Socrates‘ statement that “The unexamined life is not worth living” , demonstrates early understanding of the benefits of examining our nature to change our actions.  It reinforces what another philosopher, Santayana predicted, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

When I combine other theoretical concepts into my recovery work with others, I become willing to share.  It is my hope that my admissions would allow another to write about theirs and then ultimately share their flaws, find their strengths, make changes and live a productive life.

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The Use of the Polygraph in Sex Addiction Recovery

By:  Cory Schortzman, MA, LPC, SRT

At Transformed Hearts, we believe in full disclosure, because secrets in any addiction recovery keep you sick and give the addiction power. Among my colleagues, the use of a polygraph can be a controversial topic. However, for the women who come to our office, it is very black and white and provides the truth quickly and accurately; no more lies. I do not claim to be an expert. I only write from my experience working with polygraph examiners.

It is controversial for a few reasons. First, some clinicians believe the spouse should not know all the information in how the sex addict has acted out.  Now, I agree that specific gory details are not wise to be shared with a spouse. However, I do believe it is wise to have full disclosure in regard to the number of times a sex addict has acted out with porn, masturbation or sex outside of marriage.

In my opinion, names of people, frequency and most recent relapses are wise to be disclosed to rebuild trust and to determine health risks. I have yet to see a woman that I have worked with  who cannot handle the information she longs to know. Now, most women, if not all women, want to know the truth. In fact, women cannot survive in a dishonest relationship. Lying can kill a woman, and I have had several women who I believe have died from his continued lies and a broken heart.polygraph in sexual addiction

We believe taking a polygraph is a loving thing the sex addict can to for their partner. It helps validate their partner in what she has known to be true. It will also put to rest the thoughts and fantasies she might have that are not true. A polygraph is a great way to get rid of years, and sometimes decades, of secrets so that the couple can now begin to heal.

Second, some clinicians and clients argue that the polygraph results will have a false positive; meaning they are telling the truth, but the polygraph indicates it’s a lie. In my experience, I have never seen this occur. I am not saying it never occurs, but it is extremely rare.

Third, some clinicians do not believe in involving the spouse in his recovery.  In my experience, if anything, the mistake is made that recovery is all about the sex addict. Meanwhile, weeks, years or even decades go by, and the partner has been given no support or validation in her pain, as full disclosure has never occurred. In my opinion, this is foolish.

At Transformed Hearts, we want the sex addict and the partner to be involved and supported from the very beginning as we have found this to provide the best results.  Finally, some argue that anyone can “beat” the polygraph as you can research countermeasures online. While it is true you can research countermeasures, polygraph examiners have told me the only way to beat the polygraph is by practicing with a polygraph. Very few have the time or resources to do such.

Also, a person can pass the polygraph if they believe a lie to be true; however, this is also extremely rare. I have only had two clients who have been able to do this. Typically, this occurs because the person does not care, or they have issues of psychopathy. However, this can generally be detected if the person “flat lines” the exam – meaning their physiological response is the same to an easy question such as, “Is your name Bob” as it is to a difficult question, “Have you had any sex acts outside of your marriage?”

If the polygraph examiner indicates he is flat lining the test, I recommend a Psychological Evaluation by a Psychologist who can administer a Millon or MMPI-2 to help determine what specific personality disorder(s) are present, such as Narcissism, Borderline, Schizoid or Anti-Social Personality disorders.

Finding a Polygraph Examiner

Typically, there are two types of polygraphs. The most popular is a “criminal” or forensic polygraph. We use a “therapeutic” polygraph. We do not allow incriminating questions around sexual abuse or minors as those clients are referred out, and typically the legal system is already involved.

The traditional analog polygraphs with “needles” have been upgraded to digital polygraphs now. State of the art rental polygraph equipment is coming soon, which will be even better.

I tell my clients a polygraph examiner is working for you. Fees range from $300-1500, depending on where you live. A polygraph can take 1-4 hours, depending on the experience of the polygraph examiner and type of polygraph being performed. The number of questions allowed will range from 3-8 questions.

It can be difficult to find a polygraph examiner; however, you can contact your local court house, police department, yellow pages, or do a search online. You will want to find someone with certifications and membership to an accredited group or association.

We also recommend that when sex addiction recovery is the issue that a therapist be involved as part of the process to help the couple navigate the polygraph.

The Polygraph Cannot Measure Feelings, Fantasies or the Future

Polygraph exams cannot measure feelings. Many partners want to know if their partner loves them. The polygraph does not measure love. What happens is that, at the moment while taking the polygraph, most will pass this question. However, we teach individuals to “believe behavior”.

Do not believe what your partner says; because an hour after the polygraph, they may exhibit unloving behaviors even though they just passed a polygraph, which indicated they loved their partner.

The polygraph cannot measure fantasies or thoughts. Once in recovery, many women want to know if their partner is thinking about or fantasizing about other women; however, this is not a good polygraph question, as it is impossible to measure this behavior.

Finally, many women want a guarantee that their partner will never act out again or plan on grooming other women in the future. Unfortunately, the polygraph cannot predict the future with do-you-intend-to questions.


Cory SchortzmanCory M. Schortzman, MA, LPC, SRT | Executive Director | Transformed Hearts Counseling Center, Inc.

Cory Schortzman is the son of a farmer growing up on the plains of South Dakota.  He graduated from Doane College, and is a Denver Seminary Post Graduate. He is passionate about working with men and spent 6 years working in the Nebraska State Prison System before becoming the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs in 2008. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado.

He is a recovering Sex addict and Sexual/Intimacy Anorexic.  Cory is a husband, father, speaker, author and therapist.  He has been married since to 1998 to his beautiful wife Kerry and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has been heard on radio stations in Michigan, Nebraska, Denver Colorado Springs and several internet radio programs.

Cory’s books include:

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, Into the Light –The Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children

His wife, Kerry, has written Ashes to Beauty for women

Coming soon: 301 Recovery Tools and Tips and Secrets to Winning 


Please scroll down and leave a comment.  Sharing our stories helps all of us heal.


For more information or to discuss this topic, please contact our office by telephone or email.

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The Spiritual Principles Series: 17 Attitudes and Actions to Change Your Life

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“Remember, the best instruction can only help you to the extent to which you put it into practice.”  Theron Q. Dumont,The Power of Concentration

In Part One of The Spiritual Principles Series: 17 Attitudes and Actions to Change Your Life, I wrote about: acceptance, brotherly love, faith, good judgment, hope,  humble, and  integrity

Combining those qualities with the following will give you an opportunity to get better outcomes.  Each day, we have a choice in how to think, act and feel.  Learning Spiritual Principles and incorporating them into our lives means that our recovery is more than just not using drugs or alcohol. It is putting different attitudes and actions into practice.

Justice: Quality of righteousness, honest and fair, doing something in a manner worthy of one’s abilities

In our use, we often manipulated people into feeling sorry for us. We sometimes played the selectively stupid game so that people would do for us what we were capable of doing, we just did not want to expend the effort.  We took unfair advantage of people’s feelings towards us and used them. We chose to blame others for our choices.

Using justice as a guiding principle, we are accountable for our actions, thoughts and feelings in our recovery.  We do not expect others to do the inner recover work for us, nor to change their ways to accommodate us.  We are fair in our interactions with others, not judging them more or less harshly than we judge ourselves.

Just as we do not pretend to have answers for everyone, we do not judge someone as beneath us if they do not know how to do something. We remember when we were in early recovery, and we show compassion and offer helpful guidance.

Love: Work done or tasks performed with willingness, from fondness or regards for the person or the work or cause

In English, the word love is limited and overused as we only have the one word; yet we will talk about loving a person, ice cream, the moon, the color purple or things. In other languages, there are degrees of love. Agape is a Greek word that denotes the love of one for their fellow man; it is kindly and caring and can exist between individuals in recovery.  We have a genuine concern that others experience the benefits and rewards of recovery and share what has worked for us with them in the hopes that they will embrace recovery and lead a better life.open-minded and love spiritual principles

We do not take credit though for the successes of others. Our love is in the helping not in loving our words of wisdom or a condescending love where we act as though the person would not have changed had it not been for us.

Open-mindedness: Free from prejudice, not closed to new ideas

In our use, we often rejected the ideas of others believing that our way was the only way to do something. In our recovery, we demonstrate open-mindedness when we listen to and explore other viewpoints and perspectives.

When we are willing to listen to the advice of others, we see other perspectives.  We will only know if the information is helpful if we follow the directions or suggestions exactly. Then we can determine the value of the directions, not before we have used them.

Becoming humble, open-minded, and accepting our limited perspective allows us to gain insight on a problem that we did not have. We receive directions for a solution that we did not have and descriptions of actions to correct a problem that we did not have.

Perseverance: To pursue any action in a steady, consistent manner once begun

Many of us demonstrated perseverance in our use; we steadfastly used even with negative consequences. No one could rely on us; our addiction governed the majority of our actions, and our needs came first. No one could depend upon us to finish things, to be reliable, or create stability in our family’s lives.

A better application of this quality is to become reliable, or create stability in life.  We demonstrate this by being accountable, finishing projects, and keeping promises.

When we are consistent in our recovery, people learn that they can depend on us again; that we are reliable and trustworthy.  We do not try to make up for lost time, either.  We set realistic goals and sub-goals; work towards them, feel proud when we accomplish them and set another.

However, it is not a mad dash to some imaginary finish line.  It is the consistent daily process; some days the work on ourselves seems like too much, we exhaust ourselves with all we have to do to change.  When you start feeling overwhelmed, sit back, reflect on your progress to date and simply pick back up tomorrow.  No one but you is keeping score.  Perseverance in your recovery means that you stick to things, finish the tasks, are accountable and reliable. People learn to trust you again because you keep your word.

Self-discipline: Planned control and training of one’s self for the sake of development

In our addiction, we did not demonstrate self-discipline; if we wanted something, we got it whatever means necessary. When we had feelings that we did not want to experience, we used to numb them. When we did not like something, we often destroyed it.   Our existence was on/off, yes/no, right/wrong, a binary or limited twofold incomplete existence.

Our recovery allows us to view our lives from multiple perspectives and to realize that patience, planning, and asking other’s opinions will probably net us better outcomes than the old thinking.  There is also an aspect of patience in self-discipline. We understand that not all of our wants will be immediately satisfied, and rather than sabotage our lives, we exercise self-discipline and do not try to force outcomes out of our impatience to experience something now. When we operate from self-discipline, we are exercising restraint, dignity, and poise, and those are much better qualities than we exhibited to others in our use.

Principle: Self-honesty: Free from deception, dishonesty, or deceit

Honesty was usually in short supply in our addiction, and people will rightfully proud of themselves in recovery if they practice honesty, yet it extends to becoming honest about ourselves as well. We can no longer deny or pretend what we are feeling or thinking.  We have to have trusted people in our lives that we do not keep secrets from; they have to know what is going on with us to be helpful.truth lie spiritual principles

Rather than be embarrassed about our thoughts and feelings, we need to disclose them, process through them and take positive actions rather than run the risk of relapse.

It is an honest self-appraisal of our strengths, talents, weaknesses and limitations. Reflection and introspection include looking at the character defects, the shortcomings, and the self-defeating behaviors that we still have in our early recovery.

When we undertake this type of assessment, it allows us to evaluate ourselves and then make changes when appropriate, yet none of us can change what we are unwilling to identify. Even when the aspects of ourselves that we see are painful, we are honest in looking at them.  We are not embellishing our strong points nor negating our lesser qualities; we are simply looking objectively with the intent of changing.

Principle: Service: Help beneficial or friendly action or conduct, giving or assisting to another

We learn to be helpful and provide service to others when we have found answers and solutions to life’s problems. We do not judge, moralize, judge or criticize others when we help them.  We reflect on our struggles and come from a place of compassion for someone who is struggling with something that we have resolved.

We explain how we corrected some situation, how we overcame our fears, or what has been beneficial to us in our recovery.  People respond to the truth when it comes from the heart.

However, spending too much time on someone who is unwilling at this time to listen, means that we deny someone else the opportunity to change their lives.  We are prudent in our sharing; giving to those who are interested and open to directions from someone else.  If they are not, move on.  All we can do is share what has worked for us – nothing more.

If someone does not pay attention to us, it is not a reflection of whether the directions were good or bad, it is just that they are not open to hearing them now.  Again, the only appropriate course of action is to move on.  Harping on what they need to do can backfire; we might lose them and not have accomplished a thing. It is better to stop when they demonstrate disinterest and hope that they discover that they way they are doing things does not work; then they might be more inclined to revisit the discussion with us.

Principle: Willingness: Having the mind favorably disposed to do something specific or implied

Willingness is an attitude or a motivation that works in conjunction with open-mindedness. We show this when we comply with directions. We show this when we risk sharing or changing. We talk about our feelings and thoughts to strangers and our confidants in the hope that we will receive solutions to our issues.

Willingness is a two-fold issue; others have to be willing to help us, and they are usually more inclined to help someone who is showing an interest in exploring options to recover. Interest does not have to be enthusiasm for changing. It is not a false front of excitement about change. It is a simple acknowledgement that we need help, are open-minded to directions and are willing to listen to other people’s opinions on how to change and recover.

When we incorporate these Spiritual Principles in our life, we change how we feel, not just about ourselves, but our world.


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Recovery Slogans and Sounding Good

By:  Marilyn L. Davis


Slogans tend to have a musical or poetic ring to them so that people remember them easily. A catch phrase is easier for people to relate to and people often times use them instead of taking a risk and rephrasing it in their words.

The assumption is that if everybody uses it, everybody understands it.  Therefore, people use recovery slogans rather than attempting to paraphrase the intent; it is easier.

However, simply quoting a recovery slogan may be an indication that you want to sound good, but do not comprehend the intent behind the phrase. In other words, the slogans are beneficial only if you understand the meaning behind the phrase.  Without this understanding and the ability to apply these often repeated statements to either yourself or your life, you are simply quoting something that sounds good. Sometimes you are quoting these so you “look” good or knowledgeable to others.

Without being too sarcastic, a parrot could probably learn some of the recovery slogans.  But how much would the parrot understand – probably not much.  Sometimes just quoting something to repeat it is parrot talk or repetition of something that somebody else has said, without thought or understanding.

You can discover if you are only repeating something that sounds good if:

  1. You tend to say this in a singsong voice or as a question rather than a statement.
  2. You tend to question why anyone is asking you for clarification of this expression.
  3. You tend to use these slogans when you think they are the acceptable answer.
  4. You tend to overuse these slogans as answers.

The following is a list of often used 12 Step based phrases and recovery slogans:

  • “Let Go And Let God.”
  • “Easy Does It.”
  • “One Day at A Time.”
  • “Sick and Tired Of Being Sick And Tired”
  • “Think, Think And Think.”
  • “Ninety Meetings In Ninety Days Are How To Stay Sober.”
  • “Call Your Sponsor”
  • “Meeting Makers Make It.”
  • “Principles before Personalities”
  • “This Too Shall Pass.”
  • “This Is a Selfish Program.”
  • “Be Part of The Solution, Not Part Of The Problem”
  • “Act As If…”
  • “Recovery Is An Education Without A Graduation.”
  • “There Are None Too Dumb For the Program to Work – Just Some Too Smart”
  • “Change Is a Process, Not an Event.”
  • “Don’t Quit 5 Minutes Before the Miracle Happens”
  • “We Give It Away To Keep It.”

All of the recovery slogans have meaning and reinforce valid concepts for changing.  However, unless you understand what a recovery slogan means, and how to implement it into your life, simply repeating it may be an effort to sound good to others. It may just be that you’ve learned to quote the slogans without putting it into practice in your life.

It is not just 12-Step based recovery supportive meetings that will have meaningful slogans, quoted without understanding.  Each recovery support meeting has catch phrases, slogans and repeated buzzwords. 

Learn them, but more importantly, learn the intent behind them.

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The Spiritual Principles Series: 17 Attitudes and Actions to Change Your Life

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“What matters is that the world’s spiritual traditions-rooted in ancient and eternal wisdom-have much to teach you. They have a deep and enduring knowledge to impart to you about how you-and your children-can be the best you can be.” –Wayne Dosick author of: Golden Rules: The Ten Ethical Values Parents Need to Teach Their Children

Recovery: Learning or Remembering?

Growing up, I got life lessons from parents, relatives, siblings, and teachers.  For the most part, I did not pay attention unless I could see immediate benefits from the learning.  Working with the addicted population for over 25 years reinforced that countless others were like me.  Many of us were exposed to principles and attitudes that would help us in life; we just did not listen and pay attention at the time; therefore blaming our families or our educational system for not teaching us how to become a better person is a waste of time, energy and resources. 

Even if we cannot reference these lessons from childhood, we have the opportunity now to learn principles that can alter our lives and our recovery.  Incorporating these principles will allow us to change, and predictably get better outcomes.

When I entered treatment for my addiction in 1988, I kept hearing about the spiritual principles that would alter my life, help me recover and change the outcomes.  I kept thinking I would receive some ancient text written in Sanskrit handed down lovingly by cloistered monks. Although I am not a religious person, I thought that these principles were something esoteric or cryptic, and somehow I missed that lesson.

Instead, I found common sense principles to start using in my life to take advantage of opportunities and to better my outcomes.

17 Principles that Positively Alter Our Recovery and Our Lives

In our use, we are often the creators of chaos, disagreement and dissension. Looking for a way out of the misery and drama that I was causing in my addiction meant that I ought to do more than just stop using drugs and alcohol.  I would have to find morals, ideologies, values, principles and guidelines for how to act, think and behave that did not continue the negativity and drama.

If you think of these principles as the attitudes and behaviors necessary to move forward in your life, it is easier to start practicing them, and it does take practice initially.  Most of us have been so self-centered that unless an action immediately facilitated us, we were disinclined to follow through with the actions.

Since many of our behaviors, attitudes and feelings are mechanical or habituated, it will take effort to change to these principles, yet anyone can incorporate them into their lives.

Acceptance: recognizing, acknowledgment, not rejecting

Many people confuse acceptance with liking versus rejection and disliking.  Take any object, a pencil or the like.  Some will decide that only the red ones are acceptable; they like that color.  Then others will decide to reject the green one as it is unappealing.Acceptance for 17 Spiritual Principles  However, no one can argue or negate the fact that both are pencils – that is acceptance; this is what is.

The same is true of our actions in our addiction.  We must accept that at the time, we operated from less than spiritual principles; that we might not have known any better alternatives.

As it applies to our recovery, if we continue saying how much we hate being an addict, it is difficult to move forward in our life. When we use judgment in our lives, it creates conflict.   However, if we accept that our use and behaviors carry the label of addict, then we can  turn our life around so that the label “recovering addict” is more to our liking.  It is still going to contain the word addict; however, the modifier of recovering may make it likeable for us.

Acceptance of the way circumstances are in our life is simple acknowledgements that right now this is the way things are.

Awareness: Attentiveness, understanding, recognition, realizing and informed

It is difficult to stay in denial about the severity of our addictions and actions when we are aware.  We can no longer pretend that our life in our addiction was manageable when we were out of control, or deny that situations occurred the way they did; we cannot lie and be aware simultaneously.

Taking a defensive position towards how circumstances were negates or cancels out our acceptance of them, and keeps us from acknowledging and changing those aspects of ourselves that would benefit from modification.

There is an additional awareness that frequently occurs for people in their recovery; some refer to it as a sixth sense, others, an intuitive awareness.  Regardless of whether these happen for you, simply noting how you are behaving, deciding if it is an old pattern or a new principle will help you move forward in your recovery and your life.

Brotherly Love: unconditional love for others, despite prior feelings or relationships

Addicts and alcoholics share a number of similar traits; we have all taken advantage of loved ones, as well as placing ourselves in a position to be harmed by others.  While we may not have intended these harmful acts towards others, or they towards us, nonetheless, addiction harms people.

Just as we would like forgiveness from those we harmed in our use, we also need to consider extending this towards others.  It does not absolve them of the harm, nor change the circumstances any more than someone forgiving us forgets what we did; however, it allows us to move forward in our recovery.catherine ponder quote

We no longer carry the resentments from other people’s actions.  We demonstrate some tolerance, understanding and compassion towards the other person, just as we want these aspects from people we have wronged in our use.

Extending brotherly love and forgiving does not mean that every person is welcomed back into our lives.  There are some that would cause us further harm or conflict. Brotherly love simply means that we no longer dwell on the past actions and can move forward in our lives.

Courage: bravery, daring, fearlessness, facing difficulties

Our recovery allows us to face our fears with courage – not shirking from the truth of our past actions. Often we use courage in taking additional risks, something that most of us were expert at in our addiction; this is simply risk taking for our betterment.

For instance, we might talk with a stranger at a recovery support meeting about how we feel.  We might find the resolve within us to examine ourselves for aspects to change; or using our courage to overcome our reluctance to change and making significant life adjustments to remain in recovery.

Given how frequently we put ourselves in dangerous situations in our addiction, we know that we have the courage within us; we have just misdirected or misused it in our addiction.

When we use this courage to face our fears, change our self-defeating behaviors, make amends, and reclaim our lives in our recovery, we are using this courage effectively.  Using the same brave face that we used in our addiction serves us well in our recovery, also.

Faith: confidence, trust, assurance and conviction

Trust was not something that most of us experienced in our addictions; we dealt with people who would harm us, and we were not trustworthy, either.  We lied; we stole, and we manipulated people.  If we had faith in anything, it was that people were out to get us, or we would get them before they could get us.

We became jaded, suspicious and mistrustful of life and people. In our recovery, it is difficult in the beginning to have faith that people are telling us how to heal and do not want something in return. Try reflecting on a common experience from our addiction; it might give you a different perspective on faith and trust.

If our regular drug dealer was not available, we swapped out and bought from another person, without questioning his or her motives for the sale; we understood their motive to include making money.

When we are new in recovery, it is difficult to believe that people do not have a solely self-serving motive for helping. Being helpful to someone may be their motive or it may be part of their recovery process.  They are offering directions that are beneficial while practicing service and brotherly love as part of their recovery.

Just as we willingly bought from another dealer, we have to have this same willingness in our recovery to listen and learn from others who have healed.  Certainly, we will have preferences for the individuals we listen to, or the manner in which directions are given. However, we have faith that we will find someone that we can relate to based on shared experiences.

It may be important to us to find caring, knowledgeable people who changed the same type of aspects that we need to change.  By actively listening in meetings or searching out solutions on the Internet, we have faith that if we seek answers, we will receive them.

right decision wrong decisionGood Judgment:  better decisions, considered opinions, healthy choices

We made poor choices and unhealthy decisions in our addiction.  We did not consider the consequences, or if we did, we hoped to avoid them and continued in our use.  Our recovery allows us to reflect safely on the outcomes of poor choices and decisions and make changes.

Our thinking and decision-making skills will improve in our recovery; we only need to be patient with the healing process.  During early recovery, we might seek the guidance of others who have been in recovery longer to ask their opinion on decisions.  We are not stupid. However, in early recovery, we are not that far removed from making decisions based on our addiction, therefore, asking for guidance from other trusted advisors demonstrates our good judgment, nor a lack of it.

Over time, we start experiencing good judgment and learn to rely on this and help others.

Hope:  An instinctive belief in the possibility of change, an anticipation of situations improving through change

We learn over time that certain events will transpire – the sun will come up, the moon will wax and wane or that Tuesday will follow Monday.  We believe these examples since we have experienced them as true.  However, before we believe something, we often only have hope that something will occur.

For instance, a child cries when they are hungry, hoping that someone will feed them. Although they  are not certain that eating will staunch the hunger; however, over time, even the child learns that eating stops the hunger.  After a period of doing some activities, we do not rely on hope or anticipate that something will or will not happen; we have experience in the typical outcome.

In our early recovery, we can only hope that people are helpful in their advice, or that our lives will improve by discontinuing our use and making new choices of thoughts, behaviors and actions.

It will take time to move from hope to faith or belief in the benefits of recovery by changing, growing in awareness of our strengths and talents and operating from them.  We incorporate all of the spiritual principles in the hopes that they will produce favorable outcomes.

Humility:  unassuming nature, lack of arrogance, down-to-earth

In our use, we were arrogant, assuming that no one knew we were using, or that no one would catch us in our lies, or that people believed our manipulative ways. We rarely sought the advice of others and thought we knew it all.bent nail

We will make mistakes in our recovery; we will miss the mark on changing, we will have days where we want to use.  All of these are part of the healing process of addiction. There is nothing to be ashamed of in these; we acknowledge them and ask other people for ways to cope with them.  We are trying to discontinue living our lives in a counter-productive way.

Adopting a more humble attitude in recovery allows us to take advantage of the helpful advice and show genuine appreciation for the directions.  Asking for directions are not an indication of ignorant, we are; on the contrary, it shows a willingness to learn, an interest in recovery, and a cooperative posture.

Each person has strengths, talents, weaknesses and limitations. In recovery, a humble person is encouraged to ask their questions. They understand that they will provide the answers when they are aware; it is reciprocal in recovery; help when you can, and ask for help when you cannot.

Integrity: The quality or state of being whole or complete, entirety, undivided and honest

Our integrity shows in our recovery when we are honest, responsible and trustworthy. We keep our promises. We do not over commit to appear important. We help when we genuinely know what to do about the situation, and are authentic in our sharing, neither embellishing the facts nor withholding them for fear of judgment.

Our words and our actions are synonymous or the same.  We do not preach yet be unable to live what we espouse; it is authentic and honest.  Rather than the know-it-all that we typically were in our use, we state that we do not know the answer ourselves. However, we would be glad to help that person find answers from someone else. 



In Part Two: The Spiritual Principles Series: 17 Attitudes and Actions to Change Your Life, I’ll cover the remaining 8 principles that will help you overcome your self-defeating behaviors and attitudes, and give you an opportunity to experience better outcomes.

Posted in Changes in Recovery, Changing Behaviors, Early Recovery Lessons, Spiritual Principles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Effectively Deal with Drug and Alcohol Cravings

By:  Marilyn L. Davis

Adi Jaffe, Ph.D. refers to cravings as, “A programmed response to environmental signals that have been connected to drug use through experience.”

As such, there is nothing to be embarrassed about when you experience a trigger or have a drug or alcohol craving. Cravings will happen to all addicts at some point in their recovery and occur more frequently in the early stages of recovery.

However, you can do things that ensure you do not relapse.

Cravings: Chance Encounters and Everyday Activities 

It can be an upsetting time when you experience a trigger or have a craving. Unfortunately, many people believe that they have done something wrong when a craving happens. A craving can happen without warning, even when you have been doing all that you are supposed to do to ensure your recovery.

The reality is that cravings, stimulated by random encounters and everyday activities, are not something that you can control. Triggers and encounters can just happen:

  • The song on the radio
  • A car that reminds you of your dealer
  • A commercial on television
  • Someone’s voice in a grocery store

In other words, it can happen even when you are doing all that you need to do and on the right path.

How Long Will My Cravings Last?

There is no accepted time frame for how long a craving will last because typically, many people give into the craving when it occurs.

However, studies at the National Institute on Alcohol and Drugs estimates that most cravings last about 90 minutes if you do not fuel it with romancing or relapsing.

What is Romancing Drugs and Alcohol?

Romancing is when you remember the use as pleasantly as possible, only remembering the good times or viewing your use through rose-colored glasses.  Another name for this is Euphoric Recall; not remembering the costs, dangers and regrets that you experience from your use.  You remember and magnify the good times that you had when using alcohol and other drugs and selectively forget the bad times.

Therefore, you just have to find something to engage your mind and your body for 90 minutes without succumbing to the magical recall of a pleasant experience.

Good Recovery Safeguards to Use When a Craving Hits

If you can isolate a trigger that prompted the craving, remove it:

  • The people you are hanging out with or their conversation – leave.
  • The song on the radio that is a reminder of your use – change the station
  • A movie or TV show’s content is a cue to use – change the station

Reach Out to Someone When You Have a Craving

Call your sponsor, accountability partner or a trusted friend and be honest. Tell them that you have a craving and need a conversation that will distract you, not a lecture on why you should not use. The call was your healthy side refusing to use.

Change your environment, both internally and externally to minimize the craving:

  • Do something physical. Exercise will beneficially change the brain chemistry
  • Eat something. Being physically weak can trigger all kinds of reactions
  • If stress has prompted the craving, learn some relaxing techniques

There are excellent online sites that provide guided meditations, relaxation exercises, and soothing music as well as exercises for relaxation or stress reduction, and this site is free.

If you cannot call, do not want to eat, all of the shows are about hooking up and using, then read a book, take a shower, or take a bubble bath with the book.

craving cycle

Understand the Craving Cycle 

Just make the decision that you are going to live through this and be stronger.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away – Even from a Stranger

If there is no one close to you to talk to, there are help lines listed in the phone book or online that are available 24 hours a day for just this type of emergency. This is a good number: National Help Line for Substance Abuse: (800) 262-2463

In addition to helping with cravings and substance abuse, the link provides information on other mental health concerns.

Evaluate What a Relapse Would Do to Your Life

When you have a craving, ask the following questions to help frame what a relapse would cost you.

  • What effect would a relapse have on important people and goals in your life?
  • Do you want to experience the guilt and remorse of another relapse?
  • Do you want to run the risk of an unintentional or accidental overdose?

Feel Proud When You Do Not Give In To A Cravingbe proud when you deal with an alcohol or drug craving

When you do not give into a craving, give yourself credit; you now have personal history that you can get through a craving and not use, and you can feel proud of yourself.

You build on this experience and remember what helped you get through the craving the next time you have one.

Remember, over time your cravings will be less intense and less frequent.

Posted in Changes in Recovery, Changing Behaviors, Drug Addiction, Drug and Alcohol Cravings, Early Recovery Lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winning at Recovery Series

Part Five: Addicted to Being Offended 

By: Cory M. Schortzman, LPC, SRT

It’s Friday, and the week has been challenging for John and Rebecca.  They have worked hard all week. Addiction generally has power in our life because of secrecy and opportunity.  

On Monday, John was able to end his secrecy, as he was willing to take a polygraph test.    I would estimate that 95 percent of couples we work with use this tool. Approximately 80 percent of the time, new information or clarification in existing information comes out.  The remaining 20 percent are able to validate and verify that full disclosure has occurred and the partner can begin to heal.

Rebecca was relieved to verify that John had not been having a physical affair but was hurt that he was in an emotional affair with a woman at work.  During the week, they were able to process this and set up some boundaries around this issue. They have received numerous tools this week to help manage the opportunities.

Do You See Yourself or Your Situation?

If you have been following the series, Winning at Recovery, there may be descriptions of John and Rebecca that relate to you or your situation.  Many individuals struggle with sexual addiction, sexual/intimacy anorexia and marriages are in crisis because of them.

Underlying both are secrets.  In all the years I have been doing this work, I can say in every case without fail the reason the couple has not gotten better is that there were still secrets.  Now, it is not always the addict who has secrets.  Sometimes, it is the partner, as they were sexually abused and never told anyone.  Secrets keep you and the relationship sick.

The Deeper Addiction

Over the years, I have learned that there is even a deeper addiction that not only the addict struggles with but also the partner; addicted to being offended.  In fact, I believe it to be the core of any, if not all, addictions, especially for those struggling with anorexia.  As we have learned, the anorexic likes to accuse, blame, and criticize; because as long as they believe others have hurt them, then they do not have to change, but everyone else does.

When one believes and feels (real or imagined) that they have been offended, there is a great payoff, as they believe they do not need to change. They are right and others are wrong. Take the following assessment to see how you score. If the statement accurately describes you more often than not, answer “yes”.

  1. You find yourself thinking and believing your qualities are better than those of others, or you find yourself thinking and believing the qualities of others are worse than yours.
  2. You find yourself in judge, jury, and executioner thinking.  You role play, fantasize and think about getting even with those you believe have hurt, disrespected, or offended you, winning your case every time.
  3. You are quick to accuse, blame or criticize others for your problems in your thoughts and actions.
  4. You find yourself unable to sleep or once awakened at night are unable to fall back asleep due to racing thoughts about those you believe have “done you wrong.”
  5. You are easily angered or become defensive when asked to change or are confronted about your behaviors.
  6. You believe if only others would change, then your relationships with them would be better.
  7. You lose track of time or are unaware of the amount of time that has passed because you have been thinking about how others have “hurt” you.
  8. You do not believe there is any way to make lemonade out of the lemons life has given you.
  9. You usually assume something negative when there is no evidence to support it.  You stay in your head, not sharing your thoughts with others, thinking you know the true intentions of others, which you believe is to harm you or take advantage of you.
  10. You allow your emotions to dictate how you act.
  11. Others see you as arrogant, unwilling to learn from your mistakes and make changes, or entitled based on behaviors they have seen from you, but you might disagree.

I’m Here Because of Him

Many partners of addicts believe that they are only in counseling or recovery because of the addict. They believe they are recovering from “his addiction” or “his anorexia.”   I assure them that they are misguided, as sex addiction exposes the things in a woman’s heart like no other addiction.  Frequently, it is not pretty!  She most often is healing from her issues of anger, co-dependency, bitterness from past abuses, or seeing herself better than her husband.  All this stems from the self-righteous attitudes attached to being offended.

Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t or can’t get offended, because it will happen.  But, it is foolish to remain there.  You see God’s plan has not only been to heal John… it has always been to heal… both of them.  His addiction has been the catalyst.

John and Rebecca are beginning to understand.  They now have a plan in place, new tools, an overwhelming amount of information and resources in their hands. We scheduled some follow up telephone appointments in the weeks to come.   With a great deal of hope and a new foundation to restore trust, we wrapped it up and they headed out to enjoy beautiful Colorado Springs before heading home.

Open to Healing

Throughout the Series, Winning at Recovery, I have chronicled one couples struggles – from pain and priorities through plans for healing themselves and their marriage.  If you believe that there may be sexual addiction or sexual anorexia/intimacy issues in your marriage or relationship, there is hope for you just as there is for John and Rebecca.

I would encourage you to make a call if you believe that there is sexual addiction or sexual/intimacy anorexia in your marriage.   For more information on our Annual Couples Conference

If you missed any of the Series – Winning at Recovery – here are links:

Part One: Pain and Priority/The Two Motivators

Part Two: What is Sexual/Intimacy Anorexia?

Part Three: Removing The Sexual Anorexia Virus: Treatment Options

Part Four: Four Principles That Will Save Your Marriage


Cory SchortzmanCory M. Schortzman, LPC, SRT | Executive Director | Transformed Hearts Counseling Center, Inc.

Cory Schortzman is the son of a farmer growing up on the plains of South Dakota.  He graduated from Doane College, and is a Denver Seminary Post Graduate. He is passionate about working with men and spent 6 years working in the Nebraska State Prison System before becoming the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs in 2008. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado.

He is a recovering Sex addict and Sexual/Intimacy Anorexic.  Cory is a husband, father, speaker, author and therapist.  He has been married since to 1998 to his beautiful wife Kerry and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has been heard on radio stations in Michigan, Nebraska, Denver Colorado Springs and several internet radio programs.

Cory’s books include:

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, Into the Light –The Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children

His wife, Kerry, has written Ashes to Beauty for women

Coming soon: 301 Recovery Tools and Tips and Secrets to Winning 


Please scroll down and leave a comment.  Sharing our stories helps all of us heal.

Posted in Sex and Love Addiction, Sexual Addiction, Sexual Anorexia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If They Love You Now, What is the Point of Changing?

By:  Marilyn L. Davis

Early recovery for most of us is a time of evaluating the necessary changes.  We realize that it is more than just discontinuing our use of drugs and alcohol.  Recovery is also examining the self-defeating behaviors and thoughts; discarding them if they no longer work for us.

Early recovery is a vulnerable time; learning to live without drugs and alcohol can be stressful, overwhelming and confusing. It is a time when you are attempting to change aspects of yourself that have caused you problems, learn additional coping strategies, and become the person you really want to be.

So what happens to many of us in early recovery when we start seeing all that negative stuff that needs to change?  We find someone that loves us just the way we are.

If you think about this logically, anyone that “falls in love” with you early in your recovery is getting involved with a person that you are trying to change.

Therefore, you would have to stay the same to sustain a relationship, and that would be the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish in your recovery.And guess what logically happens next?  We stop working on changing since someone loves us just as we are.  We have now sacrificed beneficial changes for a relationship.

Blame Some of It on the Dopamine

Dopamine is the chemical that makes us feel good. We get this sensation from food, several drugs, sex and love.  Although dopamine has several other functions, for this article I’m concentrating on how “Love always feels like the first time.”

Those butterflies in the tummy, that grin that comes when you see them, that heart-pounding excitement when they enter the room are all indications of a rise in chemicals.  It is easy to turn to this for a dopamine fix just like hitting the chocolate or sugary treats when you have recently given up drugs and alcohol.

These pleasant feelings also help diminish the guilt and anger over past actions.  As one of my recovery clients said, “When I feel loved, I don’t have to think about what I’ve done to other people who I love.”

We Attract Those like Us in Life, Business and Recovery

People tend to choose partners who are at their same emotional maturity level, often with the same or similar amount of time in recovery, rather like the expression water seeks its level.

It is also logical that who and what characteristics you find interesting, important or valuable early in your recovery, may not be the healthiest attributes in a partner. In early recovery, people often choose a partner similar to those they chose in their use; codependent or abusive.  Picking a partner with little time in recovery means that they have not had time to work on themselves, either. Then there are those who are only looking for a sexual partner, someone to fix them, or someone who needs someone or anyone to feel less alone.

Carrying Childhood Hurts, Neglect, Abandonment and Other Issues into Relationships

We bring our inner child into adult relationships. Second, only to relapse, the biggest mistake people in early recovery make is getting into relationships, or even marrying, before exploring past relationships.

Many people get into hasty relationships due to fear of abandonment or fear of being alone; issues that are often carryovers from childhood brought into adult relationships.

Drugs and alcohol masked the fearful feelings of abandonment and past hurts; they were a temporary painkiller. Getting into a relationship too early in your recovery can be just another painkiller.

Recovery deals with the pain, not covering it up. Use this opportunity of recovery to heal, mature, and become a healthier individual. In turn, you will probably attract a mature, healthier partner and give you opportunities to have better outcomes in other aspects of your life.

recovery changes

He is so different, I think.

Delay Dating To Determine What Is Good For You

Many people, men and women alike, equate someone wanting them, or saying “I love you”, with the illusion that they must be okay, after all, look how many people want them or say nice things to them.

The reality is that many people say things to facilitate their agendas. It does not mean that you are not desirable, attractive, or sought-after. It simply means that there may be other agendas in place, often without your awareness in early recovery. People also create the illusion that this time it will be different without examining the underlying patterns of their previous relationships.

But He Is Tall Dark and Handsome

Simply because this time he is tall, dark and handsome, as opposed to short, pale, and moderately attractive does not mean that the individuals are fundamentally different at their core.

People in early recovery will tend to gravitate to what is comfortable. Therefore, they will repeat the patterns established until they evaluate those patterns and determine if they are healthy for them in their recovery.

A Relationship Established Too Soon Can Be Just As Harmful To the Other Person


Letting others heal in their early recovery is beneficial to any relationship

Just as you are discovering things about yourself that you would like to change, potential partners in early recovery are going through their changes. They may be just as overwhelmed or saddened by their previous behaviors, or depressed and distant as they struggle to make sense of their addictions and their recovery.

It can be a time that codependency factors for one or both of you. What you perceive as distant may simply be someone struggling to make sense of feelings that they have without the benefit of drugs and alcohol to numb them.

It can be someone who grew up in a family where no one talked about their feelings, and they have not been in recovery long enough to know it is okay to discuss feelings.

Abuse, Neglect, and Abandonment Issues Can Reappear Without Notice

Loved ones violated many individuals. Without resolution, closure or therapies for these issues, current partners have no idea of the potential reactions that have nothing to do with them.

For example, a woman’s father sexually abused her. He was a mechanic who cleaned his grimy hands with a strong cleaner followed by rinsing his hands in water that contained bleach.

This woman did not take the time to process her abuse, become aware of triggers, or know how to discuss what had happened to her.  She thought that by being in recovery, not using, and finding someone who loved her, she could “just get over it.”

Getting involved and marrying her husband, when they both had six months in recovery, was a huge risk for both of them. Her husband would finish cleaning his hands with a bleach solution as he was an artist. May sound extreme, but for him that worked; yet the lingering smell of bleach brought back memories of sexual exploitation by this woman’s father.

Without discussion, education and understanding about this trigger, there would not have been a way to correlate this association and to help this couple. As we discussed this, we concluded that the immediate remedy was to find another method for cleaning.

However, talking about this issue brought up awareness of other associations and triggers and she was able to articulate them. Her husband understood them and was receptive to an approach called “permission-based intimacy.”

Unresolved Past Issues Harm Current Relationships

When this couple initially sought counsel, they were on the verge of a divorce. Both acknowledged that they did not take enough time to work on themselves, resolve issues and grow in their recovery before marrying.

Their decision to live apart, each with their respective parents, go to couple’s counseling, as well as individual counseling, and have a date night twice a week was their collective solution. Today they have been together for over 25 years, each without a relapse.

Each cautions people in groups and recovery support meetings to work on themselves before they enter into a relationship and have firsthand knowledge of the pitfalls of getting together too soon. They further caution people that even if the love is there, the issues need to be resolved first, not worked on while involved or living together.

Allow Enough Time to Heal

if they love you now, what's the point in changing

Discover your unhealthy love patterns and don’t repeat them in your recovery

A thorough exploration of your past relationships, starting with your parents, any siblings, and other relatives can help you determine your early patterns. Exploring your relationships in high school, and college give you more insight, as well as looking at adult relationships.

Learning to Love You: Evaluate Your Choices

When you take the time to evaluate what you want in a relationship, you are beginning to value yourself more. When you explore the traits that you do not want in a relationship, you are establishing criteria for a more healthy relationship. Reviewing past relationships for wants, needs and like-to-haves means that you are planning for better relationships rather than recreating the same types of patterns “hoping it’s different this time.”

Taking your first year to learn:

  • What Is Important To You?
  • What Do You Value?
  • What Would Be Nice To Have In A Relationship?

Taking that first year to grow into the person that you want to be is going to be easier and less stressful if you do not try to create a relationship with anyone but yourself. Identifying the aspects of a partner that you Need, Want and Would Like to Have, can help you categorize your priorities. Just as these as going to be qualities that you want in a relationship, typically, they are going to be the very same qualities that you can aspire to now that you are in recovery.

Updating your Table as Your Priorities Change

Making a simple table using three columns can help you clarify what you are looking for in a relationship.

changing you

Create and adjust your important realtionship qualities as you work on changing you

Updating your table every three months as you are changing and growing can show you how your values and needs are maturing.  Your priorities will shift as you work on you and someone will love the person you have become.

Posted in Changes in Recovery, Changing Behaviors, Early Recovery Lessons, Making Changes in Recovery, Recovery Changes, Recovery Options, Relationships in Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winning at Recovery Series

Part Four: Four Principles That Will Save Your Marriage 

By:  Cory Schortzman, MA, LPC, SRT

It was a brisk Monday morning with fall approaching Colorado Springs. The air was fresh, as sunlight peeks up from the east and dances off the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies. On Mondays, intensive work begins at Transformed Hearts, and the office was busy with couples arriving. Many were cautiously optimistic, feeling anxiety, fear, as well as a great deal of hope. I warmly greeted John and Rebecca in the lobby and got them started on some paperwork. Once completed, we walked back to my office to settle in.

With the formalities aside about the flight, hotel and sleep last night, we get started. I asked them what their goals were for the week. John slowly stated that he would like to save his marriage and get some tools to overcome his sexual addiction and the “virus” of anorexia.

Rebecca became very emotional. John grabbed the tissue box for her, and she shared that she would like John to be honest and stop lying to her. She would also like help dealing with her hurt, betrayal and anger she has felt toward John. She didn’t know who he was anymore, and he is not the man she thought she married. Rebecca felt she was only here because of him and his addiction. She stated this week is their last chance, or she will be filing for divorce because she had already consulted an attorney.

Together as a couple, they were able to get through my initial questions without too much blaming. Before we went any further, I wanted both John and Rebecca to know how proud I was of them for taking the time to come to Transformed Hearts and invest in their marriage. They were both very courageous, and I shared how much I appreciated their boldness. I explained to them the first half of the week was going to be very painful and difficult. However, by the end of the week, they may begin to experience a great deal of hope. By Friday, they will feel a little overwhelmed with all the information and what they have learned, but they will leave with a plan in place for the future.

For us to have a successful week, they will need to understand and follow four basic principles  in their marriage from this point forward. First, everything in life is not about right and wrong, but it is about being wise or foolish. Like parenting, I want my children to self-regulate and make wise choices when I am not around. How you spend your money, what you eat today, how you spend your time are not about right and wrong but about wise and foolish.

Couples ask me all the time about what they should tell their children, parents, friends, boss, or employees. These are not right or wrong questions. What may be wise for one couple may be foolish for another and vice versa.

Second, contrary to popular belief and Hollywood, marriage is not about, nor has it ever been, about making YOU happy. However, marriage is about making you HOLY. Holiness is about dying to

your selfishness. I explained to John and Rebecca that I did not understand this, so God gave me a beautiful daughter. Anyone with children quickly realizes your selfishness will die, as you serve to pour yourself into that child. You see, I did not get this even after marriage or even after my first daughter was born. I was still selfish, so God gave me three more beautiful daughters.

Next, when I work with couples, I don’t care who is at fault. Blame gets us nowhere and only b-lames the marriage. I explained to John and Rebecca when my amazing, beautiful daughters make a mess or spill something; I don’t care who did it. I just want to know who is going to be the responsible one and clean it up.

I looked at John and explained to him that up to this point Rebecca had been a hero and the responsible one. He had been the irresponsible one, and I challenged him to start being the responsible one. John agreed and promised he was going to begin to do that

Finally, I explained to John and Rebecca that I don’t care what they want from each other this week. Rebecca may want and even demand honesty from John, but the human condition is to shut down when this type of confrontation occurs. However, I am very interested in what each of them is willing to give this week? You see, unless John is willing to give honesty, we are not going anywhere with Rebecca’s demands.

We reviewed the four principles again.

four principles that can save a marriage cory schortzman

John and Rebecca stated they understood and believed these principles would help them this week and in the weeks to come. With all of us understanding and agreeing about the rules of engagement for the week, we were ready to begin.




Cory SchortzmanCory M. Schortzman, LPC, SRT | Executive Director | Transformed Hearts Counseling Center, Inc.

Cory Schortzman is the son of a farmer growing up on the plains of South Dakota.  He graduated from Doane College, and is a Denver Seminary Post Graduate. He is passionate about working with men and spent 6 years working in the Nebraska State Prison System before becoming the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs in 2008. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado.

He is a recovering Sex addict and Sexual/Intimacy Anorexic.  Cory is a husband, father, speaker, author and therapist.  He has been married since to 1998 to his beautiful wife Kerry and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has been heard on radio stations in Michigan, Nebraska, Denver Colorado Springs and several internet radio programs.

Cory’s books include:

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, Into the Light –The Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children

His wife, Kerry, has written Ashes to Beauty for women

Coming soon: 301 Recovery Tools and Tips and Secrets to Winning 


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