Families Coping with the Sexually Addicted

Gary/Sharon headshot
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guests: Gary and Sharon Worrell
Guest Bio: Sharon and Gary Worrell have co-authored “SEXUAL ADDICTION: One Couple’s Journey to Discover the Strategies for Healing.” Gary has a master’s degree in community counseling. Sharon is board certified in biblical counseling, with an emphasis on sexual healing. In their private practice they use a “divide and conquer” method of counseling, with Gary counseling men and Sharon women. Sharon is president of a nonprofit organization, Strategies for Healing Hearts and their is www.StrategiesForHealing.com

Segment Overview: Gary and Sharon Worrell discuss how family members can cope with difficulties that arise from a person’s sexual addiction.


Health Professional Radio

Neal: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, so glad that you could join us today. We’ve been talking with Gary and Sharon Worrell in other segments about sexual addiction. They’re a husband and wife team that have co-authored “Sexual Addiction: One Couple’s Journey to Discover the Strategies for Healing.” Now, Gary’s got a master degree at Community Counseling and his wife Sharon is board certified in Biblical Counseling. They have a private practice here in the United States where they use the divide and conquer method of dealing with sexual addiction. Sharon is also the president of the non-profit organization Strategies for Healing Hearts. How are you doing today both?

Both: Neal we’re doing great. Thank you.

N: Great. Thank you so much for returning. When we were here talking in other segments about sexual addiction, we’ve talked about some of the factors relating to why a person would risk their job, their relationships, their marriage because they’re sexually addicted. We’ve also talked about how some of the behaviors, many of the behaviors that are associated with substance abuse are also manifested in a sexual addiction. What I’d like to talk with you about today is how family members can cope or deal with someone who has sexual addiction. Maybe their husband or wife, maybe a child or maybe someone who’s very close to the family who’s also being affected by a person’s sexual addiction. You know, when we’re talking about alcoholism, you have Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

S: Uh huh

N: What type of support groups exist for the person who’s dealing with sexually addicted spouse or significant other?

Gary: Well, interesting that you asked that because the model that was actually designed by AA which was copied by SA which is “Sex Anonymous.” And then they have SAA “Sex-aholic Anonymous” and then they have SLA “Sex and Love Anonymous.” There’s actually a couple of others out there. They all follow the same twelve-step model in that they are allowing the person to come to the realization that they have an issue and they must address it with an attitude of changing the way they think, changing the way they believe, and changing the way who they connect with, and their responsibilities to others around them.

Sharon: There’s also a new group called “Freedom group” that have been developed by Dr. Douglas Weiss.

G: Right. There’s also one called “Celebrate Recovery” which is started by Rick Warren of San Diego.

N: Ah, Rick Warren.

S: Yes. Celebrate Recovery deals with all addictions but Freedom Groups are primarily for sexual addiction and have come out with Dr. Douglas Weiss’ works in Colorado Springs. And Gary leads a Freedom Group here every Tuesday nights for guys who need accountability. It’s basically a place for accountability.

N: Okay. Now, when you’re talking about accountability, are you talking about a group of people getting together and saying, “Hey, if I do or say this, I need you to call me out on it and not just let it slide.” Is that the type of accountability that we’re talking about?

G: That is part of it, yes. We deal with the five strong approaches. First, we connect with, like in AA, a higher power.

N: Uh huh

G: That’s one of the things and a higher power can be difficult to an individual. It’s important that they realize that it’s beyond them.

N: Okay

G: And then they start to connect with a group of people that have the capability to not only recognize who and what’s going on with their lives but, also, they can keep them accountable by connecting with them physically in person or on the phone. And then also, they connect with materials that’s gonna uplift them. It could be a book. It could be an essay. They can be a variety. We like to use our book. Our book is a good tool for that, too. It helps people because in the back of each chapter, we have actually reflections to consider. Questions for both the addict and the partner.

N: I understand that you’ve got this book. This chunk full of these tools. When you’re talking about tools, how can, say, healthcare professionals or mental healthcare professionals tap into realizing that a situation or a person that they’re seeing is involved in some type of sexual addiction? Either as the addicted person or the person that is being affected negatively by the individual’s addiction?

S: I think that healthcare professionals need to be educated about what sex addiction is because I think that people don’t really understand what sex addiction is. When Gary called me from jail and had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute, I had no idea what sex addiction was. And so, I really think part of the issue – in any kind of restoration for marriages or relationships on any kind of level – is education.

N: Okay.

S: And that is why we wrote this book is to educate people about what sexual addiction is and then what it takes to really overcome it. And Gary has a three-pronged way of dealing with it now. Because a lot of people kind get turned off from the twelve steps and the Alcoholics Anonymous because they get all caught up in, “I don’t want to have an identity as an addict.” And so, Gary has kind of developed the three-pronged method. I’ll let him talk to you about that.

N: Great.

G: It’s important that people start to realize their behavior. It would be so nice if we could just stop. I mean, Neal, that’s what we’ve heard so many times.

N: Uh huh


G: I don’t care if it’s sexual addiction, drugs, or alcohol – just stop. Well, that’s just the beginning. So what we do is we get freedom from the behavior. And that is by stopping, also giving you tools to address how to remain sober because getting sober is easy. Staying sober, well, that’s a little bit more difficult…

S: Uh huh

G: and so, firstly, we address it – the natural part. We address getting sober. We address stopping. We address how to remain in a frame of mind that’s gonna be healthy so that we can go to the next place with getting victory over the root causes of why we were medicating with this addiction in the first place.

N: Okay.

G: And that could be a lot of things.

N: How much does talking to your mental healthcare provider about this simply in a session – how much does that help? Or are they ill-equipped to deal with something such us sexual addiction as far as mental healthcare professionals?

G: Well, a lot of times they understand the basics of mental health addictive issues. I mean, that’s what we’re all taught in graduate school. I don’t care what you want to specialize to, were taught the basics. Do you know how many classes we have in that?

N: How many?

G: If you’re lucky, one.

Gary/ Neal: (Laughing)

S: And you know, the thing about it, Neal – is that everybody that’s walking into their offices that have marriage issues – you have a very high percentage of people that are dealing with this. And so, mental healthcare professionals are learning more about this. They’re going to classes. They’re looking in to it because they’re dealing with it. So yes, we recommend that you should always go to somebody who is maybe even specializes in sexual addiction because there’s a lot of deception around sexual addiction. There’s an incredible amount of shame and people are in a lot of denial around it.

N: A lot of denial.

S: It took Gary a year in counseling to come to the place where he said, “Yeah, I guess I do have sexual addiction.” Because he maintained for a whole year, “I do not have a sexual addiction and I am not as bad as the rest of those guys in my group.” And I’m like, “Really? How many people have done worse things than going to see a prostitute?”

Neal/Sharon: (chuckles)

S: He maybe just wasn’t that connected to it at all. He just have to come to a place where he got connected to, “Oh my gosh! This is what I’ve done.” Because you can compartmentalize this. You don’t live in that place – that is the duality of sexual addiction. So you have to really have a mental health practitioner who’s saying, “Okay, there’s something more that’s going on here. I’m not just taking it at face value.”

N: You two have come out of this on the other side. You saw the light at the end of the tunnel. You helped each other out. What about the men or women who are trapped in sexual addiction and their spouse or significant other is not willing to listen to them or to even try to help them as you apparently were willing to help Gary? What do you have to say to those people?

S: Right. Well, what do I have to say to women whose husbands are trapped in porn and sexual addiction issues is that, “You need as much as recovery as he does.” And the reason you need as much as recovery as he does is because even if this relationship doesn’t make it and you’re going to another relationship, you’re going to choose a very similar type of situation because you haven’t recovered your own heart.

N: Uh huh

S:  And so, we deal with women and teaching them, training them out of that co-dependent behavior of, “I’m gonna fix it. I’m gonna rescue it. I’m going to take care of it.” You really have to come out of your own issues so that you’ll learn how to value yourself and set healthy boundaries that teach other people how you want to be treated. And I think that it’s a very, very important aspect of any kind of situation where you’re dealing with sexual addiction.

N: Great information. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Sharon and Gary Worrell, co-authors of the book “Sexual Addiction: One Couple’s Journey to Discover the Strategies for Healing.” And we’ve been here talking with both Sharon and Gary about ways that family members can cope with difficulties that arise from a person’s sexual addiction. And also, how it is very important to have a support group. Maybe a twelve-step program or a program that doesn’t focus so much on the twelve steps but still fosters that accountability and thereby putting you on a path toward recovery from sexual addiction. It’s been great having you here with us today, both Sharon and Gary.

G: Thank you very much.

N: Thank you.

S: Thank you Neal.

N: Transcript and Audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.


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