Phase One: The Getting Started INTENSIVE Workshop
This workshop runs over a 3 day period about every 8-10 weeks. This INTENSIVE outpatient program makes confronting your sexual addiction possible while maintaining your personal responsibilities.
This workshop is for individuals and their partners in Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, and other parts of Alberta, who want to recover from pornography addiction and other sexually compulsive behaviours.
The setting is confidential and safe.
Each group member is screened prior to attending, and the group is closed to new participants once it has begun. Each group member is required to sign a confidentiality statement. The Getting Started Workshop is both educational and experiential in its scope. It provides a basic understanding of issues that influence unwanted behaviours; also, it offers tools to help you stop those behaviours and replace them with healthier ones. It empowers your recovery process and helps you strengthen your significant relationships.
Even if you are already working with a therapist or attending a 12-step support group, you will find the Getting Started Workshop to be a tremendous resource.
We strongly recommend that married couples begin this process of education together; however, the workshop is also geared for single adults or for individuals whose partners are unwilling to attend.
Cost for LifeSTAR Phase 1 INTENSIVE: Getting Started is $675 per person or $1250 per couple. Price includes 4 workbooks, 3 booklets, and 18 hours of education.
Phase Two: The Recovery Group
These group sessions are conducted in an environment of safety and confidentiality.
Groups meet once a week for 90 minutes. LifeSTAR Alberta offers the use of web-based video conferencing to allow individuals living outside of Lethbridge to participate in group therapy.
The Recovery Group is the second phase of the LifeSTAR program. Participants who attend the second phase must complete the LifeSTAR Phase 1: Getting Started Workshop. The second phase builds on the foundation created in the first phase by adding four new workbooks and a more personalized recovery experience.
People struggling with pornography addiction or other unwanted compulsive sexual behaviours meet in groups, while those affected by a loved one’s addictive behaviours meet in their own groups. Through weekly accountability, instruction, educational workbooks and participation in the recovery group process, persons struggling with the addiction learn how to overcome the pull of their sexually problematic behaviours. A highly trained therapist who specializes in working with pornography and sexual addiction facilitates each group and helps each group member customize their own recovery experience.
The workbooks in this phase focus on providing a more in-depth look at denial, the addiction cycle, fantasies and objectification, relapse prevention and healthy living.
While attending their own groups, those affected by a loved one’s addictive behaviours find support, strength and guidance as they try to navigate their own emotional discomfort. Group members connect with each other and take a more in-depth look at how their partner’s addiction affects their thinking and behaviour. They also learn how to establish healthy boundaries and develop effective coping skills. Partner groups are also facilitated by professional therapists.
Participants should stay in Phase 2 until they have established solid sobriety, are implementing an effective treatment plan – which includes a network of support, and have a detailed understanding of their addictive cycle.
Cost for Phase 2: The Recovery Group is $245.00 per month per person. Price includes 4 additional workbooks as well as 6 hours of group therapy per month.
Secrets build walls between you and the people you care most about
Through the process of full healthy disclosure, addicts and partners gain the opportunity to heal from a place of full honesty and begin to rebuild trust. It has been our experience that individuals and couples simply are more successful in their recoveries when it is based on truth.
The Disclosure Process is a pivotal intervention that should be facilitated by a trained professional experienced in working with sex addiction and disclosure. LifeStar Alberta are specialists in this field and have a structured process and workbook that helps guide the addicted individual to prepare and effective and full disclosure, while preparing the partner to participate in the disclosure process.
- An opportunity for the addict to come clean with themselves and with their partners in a healthy and controlled way.
- Partners have the opportunity to have all the information necessary to make decisions in their relationship.
- An addict can’t experience full recovery until they have rid themselves of the secrets they have kept.
- Full disclosure occurs in a facilitated environment with couple and therapist(s).
Our Experience With Disclosure
Suddenly everything you thought you knew about your partner feels like a lie. You don’t recognize this person. It’s as if someone spirited away the person that you had and replaced them with a replica. There is anger, shock, fear, and terrible loss. And you have no idea what to believe. But you know that you have been betrayed and you know that you have been lied to. You might still be being lied to.
I was used to waking up and, despite knowing that anything could happen during the day, I had an expectation of how things would be. When I found out about my partner’s addiction, I went from that to not being certain about anything. The formal disclosure process has been crucial to me gaining a sense of serenity and a foundation on which to begin to rebuild myself and my relationship.
This is to the addicts, mainly. I get it. I know exactly how you are feeling. You likely feel frightened, under attack and also trying to avoid things which might hurt her or make things worse. You know what? She’ll sense you haven’t told her everything (if you haven’t) and lying to her is almost worse than the sexual things you did.
And, you might also be thinking one or both of these:
… I can’t tell her that secret
… I can’t relate to The Addict, he obviously hasn’t done anywhere near so many bad things as I have
I want to assure you that I have almost certainly done everything that you have. And I have told her everything. If I can, then you can. It’s a choice.
I broke my wife’s heart. I am aware that I will never be able to repair the appalling damage that I have done, but we are learning how to grow our relationship around that and seeing that it is possible to have a really wonderful life together.
PARTNER: I wanted formal disclosure. My experience of disclosure from my partner had been just about as bad as it could get. It was staggered over three months and came in about 5 chunks, each more devastating than the last. Each time I would ask, “Is that everything?” and he would insist that it was. Each time, that was a lie. At the Phase 1 Intensive, it had been explained that this was like being hit with a brick, only to get back up and be hit again. In my experience it was worse than that because each time the bricks were bigger and hurt more, and I had been lied to more. The emotional and physical effect of this was awful. By the end, I was shaking almost all the time and my physical health was at an all time low. I ended up in emergency during the Intensive weekend with breathing complications from flu. My physical health reflected my emotional health — it was hard to breath and I didn’t really want to!
I wanted formal disclosure because:
- I felt he owed me that
- I wanted to hear from a place where he wasn’t terrified, defensive, justifying, minimizing, or angry
- I wanted to hear from a place where I wasn’t in shock or distraught or completely “zoned out”
- I had a belief that the process of disclosure would be therapeutic for us both
ADDICT: Well, I didn’t want to do it at all. I had told her everything anyway so didn’t see the point. I feared that doing a disclosure “again” would re-open things and she’d be upset and angry with me again. We seemed to be getting on quite well, so I saw only danger in this process. My disclosures to her had taken place in bits over some months and had been a horrific experience for both of us. I didn’t want to recreate that .
However, she told me I owed it to her and I grudgingly thought she might be right. Also, my perception was that she was going to spend the rest of my life explaining what a terrible person I was and I thought it just might get me 5 seconds respite!
PARTNER: I had 3 WebEx meetings with my therapist over about a month. I was very keen to do the process and went as fast as I could.
ADDICT: I think my memory is correct in that I was working with the therapist for about 3 months and we had about 3 sessions. I am told that is very quick, actually. I was feeling in a hurry as I wanted it over with! I had a workbook and did the work on that immediately upon being asked to. I am told the process takes as long as you need to be ready.
PARTNER: I thought that I could have worked through the book alone but working with a therapist who was there just for me, helped me tremendously when it came to my fear and anxiety. It also helped me clarify what I wanted and what questions I might have. The presence of a therapist who was there just to support me made the process less frightening and I really appreciated knowing that I had support if I were to find out something traumatic on disclosure day.
I felt like I had a witness who really empathized with what I was going through. I was not alone.
ADDICT: I started my first session in my normal way which was thinking the therapist was going to be some sort of judgmental bore. He was not, he was very strong but gentle, kind and I also felt very supported. For me, the main benefit was that he helped me avoid making excuses when writing up my disclosure notes, such as “she made me do it”. He also helped me avoid — my main reflex response — to try to justify what I did such as “I was stressed / drunk / lonely…”
I haven’t yet mentioned being truthful! I think I was from the start, but somehow the therapist made it so that I felt I wanted to be truthful to him and myself, let alone my wife. I was also helped to understand that this was going to be emotionally tough, so what was the point of doing all this without total honesty?
Slightly to my surprise, I found that I was also expected to write a letter to my wife showing that I was wholly accountable for what I had done.In my normal way, I was quite sure that this would be a simple, easy, short piece of work — and it was. I also thought it would not be important — I was so wrong. Even just typing it, I could feel a sort of emotional and physical change happening inside me. A type of relaxation, perhaps also a letting go of my feeling that I may have to “fight” at any moment and an acceptance, a real acceptance and full realization, that she had done nothing wrong. This was my addiction and nothing she did or did not do would have changed what I had done.
PARTNER: Yes. Initially I thought that some of the exercises were not necessary, but they were. It was especially helpful for me to realize what support I had and needed and how to get that.
ADDICT: Yes. I hate being told how to do things. I can often agree with an aim (such as disclosure) but I know how to live my life and can make my own decisions, right? Right — but where has that approach got me?! It was good medicine for me to just try to relax and accept that someone knew better than me and to accept that I had to do things other than my way. Finally, I started to accept that my way just got me into big trouble and always had.
PARTNER: Yes. Although anxious, I felt prepared and supported. The offer of follow up support was also very important. I felt extremely cared for.
ADDICT: Yes. I knew what I was going to say. I knew I’d have the support of the therapist with me there and I had also arranged further support from my LifeStar Group.
PARTNER: My biggest fear was that I would hear something which meant that I couldn’t continue in my marriage. I had 2 things that I had decided would be deal breakers for me. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t hear them, but I was still terrified.
I was also anxious that I may become overwhelmed, angry or distraught. I leaned heavily on the knowledge that if that were to happen, my therapist would be there for me at that point. This thought dramatically decreased my anxiety and therefore, that possibility that this would occur.
ADDICT: I was very worried that I would somehow “switch off” emotionally due to how tough the meeting would be. I feared that, if I did that, my words would not really fully communicate to my wife, just how I felt.
I was also troubled to hear that my wife’s therapist, a woman, would be there too and I had images of there being two “men haters” ganging up on me, judging me and telling what a horrible person I had been.
I also worried that my wife would get very upset, shout, abuse me and leave. I also feared that she wouldn’t believe me, especially that I had told her everything. In that case, I imagined I would have thought it something of a waste of time.
(I want to say that I don’t claim these fears — except the first one — were based on reality, but they were certainly in my mind.)
PARTNER: I was calm, he was calm, we were safe and supported. I got the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There were no excuses, no minimizing and no rationalizing. And nowhere in the process was I blamed.
It was awful to hear the full extent of the addiction presented factually and in its entirety, but at least by the end, I felt safe that was finally it — no more lies or terrible surprises. I could finally not dread hearing the phrase, “There’s more…”.
Most importantly, formal disclosure came with an accountability statement. This was beautiful and hugely important. My partner clearly, fully and honestly took full responsibility and accountability for his addiction, actions, and the hurt and damage that he had caused. He acknowledged, in front of witnesses, that his addiction was his and his alone and that none of it was my fault. I knew this, but hearing him say it was freeing and healing. It was one of the best ‘love letters’ that he could ever give me. My letter to him also allowed me to appreciate his courage and strength in choosing recovery.
ADDICT: Well, she didn’t react like she did when I had given some of my own disclosure! This meeting was mutually respectful, gentle, emotional and safe. We each had support available and present in the room although, as it happened, we did not need it and in fact, I don’t think I actually noticed anybody else was there when I was disclosing to my wife as we were so connected by emotion.
The informal disclosures had been horrific, both for me and for her. In fact, the way I had done them had added massive damage on top of my sexual acting out. I gave a little bit of disclosure, stopped when she got upset, promised that was it and then, when I’d got a little more courage, mentioned some more. The psychological and emotional damage to her (and also to me) by this approach was enormous. I deeply, deeply regret this and wish I’d taken advice about how to do it before doing so.
I think the main difference was that the formal disclosure allowed me to be factual, such as “I did X on day Y with Z”. In informal disclosure it more likely would have been, “OK yes, yes, if it will shut you up yes I did this thing with that person but it was only because you were not interested and she was beautiful and she went after me, not me after her, so…”. Guess which of those disclosures would go over better with a person who had been betrayed? And as a bonus, it made me feel better about myself, too.
PARTNER: I felt that I had the whole story and had been given the chance to ask for detail and clarification in a safe way. It was like a line in the sand. I was no longer being deceived and knew what I had to deal with.
I was finally an equal partner. I wasn’t being ‘protected’ from the truth. If I continued in my relationship, it was with informed consent.
I felt trusted by my partner and closer to him than I had in a long time. I don’t know how but I felt that rebuilding trust in our relationship could actually be possible now.
My husband definitely healed during the process. He became less shameful and I was able to talk to him about my feelings and what had happened without triggering a huge fight or flight response from him. This meant that I was able to turn to him for support and he was there for me. We felt like a couple again. I saw the man that I had fallen in love with come back again. This was hugely supportive of my healing.
The more accountable my partner became for what he had done and the effect of that on me and us, the more I was able to feel compassion for him and gratitude for what he was doing now. That was way better than the anger, fear and confusion that I had been feeling.
ADDICT: I managed to lose my overwhelming shame. It had cloaked me for many years and stopped me from really living. I had been a walking empty shell, you know “the lights are on, but there is nobody home” type existence.
For the first time in many years, I started to feel like I was an honourable man. What do I mean by that? I mean that an honourable man tells his loved one when he has done something wrong, he doesn’t make excuses or tries to justify, he accepts his responsibility, he says what he is going to do about it in future — and he makes sure he does what he says.
My wife told me she thought I was brave and that she was proud of me. I almost believed her (I do, fully, now). That felt so good, I never thought I would hear that.
It enabled me to be honest about the relatively little things. No more “I won’t tell her I am frightened about X in case she thinks I am not masculine / tough / capable” and so on. And no more “I won’t tell her about that as she’ll be upset and so I’ll avoid it to take care of her”. I now realize that nothing takes care of her more than having an honest and available spouse.
We relaxed as a couple. We both knew and fully sensed that there were no more secrets. For the first time in years we had a solid foundation for our love and not one with a massive crack running right through it.
I have started to realize there are trees in this world! Really, I had started to just look at the ground when I walked along. I felt ashamed, useless and basically unpleasant. But now I look up, I am not ashamed to be seen. I am, after all, an honourable man.
PARTNER: No. However, I was totally exhausted after and needed to sleep a lot for the next few days. I then hit a period of mourning that I hadn’t expected. That lasted about 3 weeks and initially felt like a setback. It wasn’t! In fact I now see that it was absolutely healthy and necessary. It allowed me to finally say (and feel), “My husband is an honourable man who is in recovery and making amends to me”.
ADDICT: No. Simple as that.
PARTNER: Yes. It changed us both and allowed us to reach a new level of recovery. We felt like a couple again.
ADDICT: Yes. It started my life again.
Phase Three: The Advanced Group
This group is conducted in an environment of safety and confidentiality.
Groups meet once a week for 90 minutes. LifeSTAR Alberta offers the use of web-based video conferencing to allow individuals living outside of Lethbridge to participate in group therapy.
The Advanced Group represents a long-term commitment to group therapy and is geared toward helping participants maintain their new-found healthy lifestyles. Phase 3 participants have graduated from Phase 2 and continue working in their small groups. The Advanced Groups are held weekly for 90 minutes.
The person who struggled with a pornography addiction and or other sexual addictions will have demonstrated a solid sobriety from the sexual acting out behaviours and is ready to do the more the focused work of finding healing for shame, attachment, and other emotional issues that the addiction covered.
Once the underlying issues have been addressed, healthy lifestyle changes are reinforced to keep the addiction from reappearing in the future. Participants in recovery learn how to improve their relationships with their partners, children, extended family, co-workers and friends.
Third phase groups for partners build on the strengths and support they gained in the second phase. Most partners have moved past the crisis of betrayal and are now able to work on developing healthy emotional expression, healing trauma, decreasing shame and improving their most important relationships. Partners in Phase 3 rediscover their best selves and build patterns for long-term healthy living.
For both recovering participants and their partners, Phase 3 is a chance to practice living life without the constant threat of the addiction; this phase helps secure the gains made during the previous two phases.
Cost for Phase 3: The Advanced Group is $245.00 per month per person. Price includes materials and 6 hours of group therapy per month.
Find Answers. Discover Life. Sign up for the Getting Started Workshop.
YouthSTAR is a program for adolescents who struggle with the use and abuse of viewing pornography. It offers support, tools, and information to both youth and their parents.
As a teenager, you are experiencing many exciting things for the first time: A first date, a first car, the first day of high school, a first kiss, a first sexual experience, etc. These, along many other experiences, are exciting and memorable. You should be experiencing these things and learning from each of them. Among the most impactful things you will experience as a teenager are the effects that hormones and sex have on you and your body. As a teen, sexuality and sex are usually at the forefront of your everyday experience. This is natural and good. However, this is the reason that pornography and sexual compulsive behaviors (sexual acts that become uncontrollable like continual masturbation and looking at porn) can become a problem and can become an addiction.
DO ANY OF THE QUESTIONS BELOW APPLY TO YOU?
- Are you looking at inappropriate material on the computer or on your phone that you know you shouldn’t?
- Are you masturbating a lot (a lot is more than 2 or 3 times per week)?
- Do you find yourself constantly thinking about sex and looking for the next opportunity to look at porn?
- Have your parents found internet searches on the computer about sex that you have denied were yours?
- Are you confused about sex or sexuality?
- Does sex scare you?
- Have you had a sexual encounter that you have questions about but have nowhere to turn?
- You can’t talk to your parents or any adults about sex?
- Do you feel bad about sexual thoughts or sexual things you have done?
- You know you have a problem looking at too much pornography and want help.
Many of these topics can be difficult to talk about. We encourage you to talk with a parent, guardian, or an adult you trust. The decisions and habits you form now will affect you for the rest of your life.
Are you concerned that your teen might have a problem with pornography or other sexual compulsive behaviors? Here are some indicators that your teen might have a problem:
- Severe mood swings
- Become reclusive and secretive
- Extreme amount of time at the computer and alone
- Hyper-sensitivity to discussions about sex
- You’ve found pornographic bookmarks and/or inappropriate sites in the history of your web browser
- History of inappropriate behavior with social media – Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Many of these behaviors can be normal for teens and may not be specific signs that they are struggling with possible sexual addiction problems. However, with the average exposure to explicit materials on the internet of 9 years of age, and because of the vulnerability of the teenage mind and hormones, your hunch that your teen may be experiencing problematic sexual behaviors is probably accurate!
The YouthSTAR program includes:
• Information about adolescent struggles with pornography
• Creating emotional safety so the teen’s use of pornography can be effectively addressed
• An understanding of the curriculum and messages that will be given to the during the YouthSTAR program
Group work for Youth
• An understanding of the impact and effects of pornography
• Resources and tools will be given to understand relationships and healthy connection
• A safe and interactive space where concerns, feelings, and questions are valued and explored