Autumn was born and raised in Utah. She met Chris while they were in high school. They have three children, and she is very creative and crafty. Chris also grew up in Utah. When he was of mission age, he told his bishop that he wasn’t going to serve. At a baseball game that same day he very nonchalantly proposed marriage to Autumn. They had been best friends but hadn’t even gone on a single date.
6:00 Introduction to pornography and masturbation
- 6:20 Differences in accessibility between then and now.
- 6:50 Shame caused him to keep it secret. He wanted to approach his bishop but didn’t know how.
- 7:30 Sexuality was not openly discussed in his family.
- 8:20 He began seeking out pornography
- 9:30 Decision made not to serve a mission
10:15 Avoidance tips and how to help your children: have an open relationship with your children, sons and daughters
- 10:45 Framing the question: “When was the last time…” as opposed to “If”.
- 11:15 Don’t let this be a taboo subject. Statistics show that 90% of children are exposed to pornography by age 9.
- 12:00 Talking about these subjects all along mitigates the shame of approaching parents when something happens.
- 12:20 When something happens, first express love.
- 12:45 Talking to the bishop is not a bad or shameful thing, but is a normal part of the healing process.
17:20 Thought getting married would make addictions go away. Most of his friends in recovery had the same belief.
19:00 Called as ward Young Men president. Addictions triggered, multiple affairs began.
21:20 First meeting with bishop after getting caught, getting released, and the disciplinary council. Wanted to keep from his wife. Confessed only to the one affair, kept all else secret.
23:30 Example of the “addict brain”: he prayed to be excommunicated so that upon rebaptism he could be forgiven of all the other things which he had not disclosed.
29:00 Disfellowshipped. Starts marriage counseling.
29:30 Autumn confronts him about additional affairs, is hospitalized for a suicide attempt. Bargains with God to stop all bad behavior if Autumn lives. She survives. Chris begins disclosing most of his secrets to Autumn.
35:00 Breaking those promises to God.
36:00 The wisdom of allowing time to pass between a traumatic event and holding a disciplinary council. A buffer of time allows for stability and opportunity for spiritual healing.
36:40 Chris’ disciplinary councils were some the most spiritual experiences he’s ever had, and allowed him to feel God’s love, with the love of those in the council.
48:30 Church-sponsored Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) meetings: bishops are encouraged to attend shortly after being called so that they can refer individuals with knowledge of the resource.
1:02:10 Autumn empowers him to finally disclose every detail during a therapy session. True healing begins. Autumn and Chris start their therapy from square one, the real starting point for their recovery.
1:08:00 After full disclosure, commits 100% to church and Autumn. Focuses on falling back in love with her, by
- Checking in with her daily.
- Praying daily, asking for help to love her again.
- Studying his scriptures every night and finding personal application, which he then communicated with Autumn.
- 10 years sober, still maintains these habits.
1:12:00 Finally gives self to Christ.
1:13:15 Leaders are there to empathize, connect, and to love–not to fix. Leaders assist members in coming to a point where they are ready to give themselves to Christ. Until members embrace “the formula” for themselves (read, pray, go to church), that surrender to Christ will not fully take place.
1:14:25 Reconvening council: re-baptism, patriarchal blessing, and priesthood blessing restoration.
1:16:00 Finding normalcy again and “maintenance” therapy.
1:19:35 “Recovery”: still tempted all the time and has to choose between “acting out” and “reaching out”, but does have strength and stability. Temptations no longer overwhelming. Situation avoidance is imperative.
1:28:00 Willing to be contacted about their story.
1:29:45 Advice for bishops who cannot seem to help addicts.
15:30 Daughter of teen parents, divorced when she was eight. Father’s infidelity created her biggest fear of having the same thing happen to her.
16:00 Development of her testimony, knowing that she would marry Chris.
22:35 State of shock when Chris confessed, attending his disciplinary council only four days later.
25:20 Autumn concluded her suspicions might be linked with postpartum depression. Frequent fighting. Chris “gaslights” her. Began therapy. Chris convinces therapist that Autumn was the problem.
37:40 Autumn’s negative experience with the disciplinary council. She shares her feelings, testimony, and her account of the events. Only one person asked her “How are you doing?” Was counseled simply to forgive and move on, when everything was still so fresh. Aggrieved persons need to understand how they can be healed through Christ’s Atonement.
39:20 “I think spouses of addicts are overlooked a lot.” Chris meets very regularly with the bishop, but Autumn meets only sporadically. Does not feel as though she was heard. Interactions with friends not focused on helping her heal.
40:40 At the time of Chris’ discipline, sexual addiction gains more mainstream acknowledgment as a disease, but still stigmatized and misunderstood. Autumn misunderstands true nature of addiction and assumes they might spend just a few months in therapy and Chris would be better.
42:00 Be mindful of the spouses. Understand that they need to be checked up on regularly as well so that the first time they hear “how are you doing?” isn’t in the disciplinary council setting.
43:20 Asked not to share their story at the time of the disciplinary council, causing Autumn to feel isolated and alone with no trustworthy outlet. Chris also feels alone, as if he is the only person struggling with sexual addiction. Leadership changes and now they are asked to share, and participate in 5th Sunday lessons, firesides, etc. Bishops can facilitate communication or putting members in touch with other members who have similar struggles, in order to provide support and eliminate feelings of isolation. It can also promote accountability.
47:40 Autumn wants to share with some friends but follows the counsel not to do so. After years in recovery, she found people with whom she could share but warns that there are those who are not safe to share with.
52:30 Areas of recovery from ARP:
- Understand how to use the Atonement
- Use your ecclesiastical leaders (keyholders)
- Find a trustworthy support person/sponsor
- Seek out competent counseling/therapeutic outlet (e.g., LDS Family Services)
- Seek out a twelve-step program
55:20 Even after confession, excommunication, therapy, and ARP, Chris still holds back. The complete their phases of counseling, but something is still not right. Autumn is codependent, in her words: “I love you so much that I will do whatever it takes to heal you.” This approach is normal and typical. Chris isn’t progressing, Autumn prays for help and receives an overwhelming feeling to let God take care of Chris while she focuses on her own healing. If she does so, God would heal her. She approaches her own therapy and recovery in a new and higher way. She lets go of Chris and gives him to Christ.
59:30 She “calls out” Chris on his insincere approach to recovery. Tells him that she is strong enough to be able to handle any of his other secrets. This enables him to disclose the rest of what had been holding him back in his progress.
1:00:35 Spouses can unwittingly create problems with statements like “if you ever had an affair or looked at pornography, I’d divorce you.” Then later on if malfeasance takes place, the fear of divorce promotes secrecy. This was Chris’ situation, from Autumn’s experience watching her dad’s affairs.
1:05:20 Bishops are keyholders, but they are still mere mortals who make mistakes who may say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or may not have the best answer all the time. They are not professional therapists and need to know when to refer congregants to professionals.
1:06:30 Spouses knowing every detail is not helpful and can be more damaging.
1:18:25 Autumn can still be triggered, but she communicates that openly with Chris.
1:25:10 We all have our own story. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The Atonement allowed Autumn to recover from being filled with hate.
- Steve Shields Interview
- Video: Twelve Steps to Recovery
- Sexaholics Anonymous
- S-Anon (for spouses)
- LDS Family Services
- Find an Addiction Recovery Program near you, or online at addictionrecovery.lds.org
- Leaders can reach out to Chris via Instagram (@innovate_yourlife) or through Kurt at leadingsaints.org/contact.