Photo credit: Darnok from

Addiction to Sex Hurts

Perhaps one of the less understood and less talked about addictions, the addiction to sexual activities can, just like drug and alcohol addictions, leave a path of destruction in the lives of those connected to the “one addicted”.

The following is submitted by a brave young woman who tells of her healing process and the importance of family and forgiveness.

“I was in a relationship for three years.  In the latter part, I got pregnant.  Needless to say, the relationship ended.  I was overwhelmed with feelings of hurt, anger, and sadness.  I could express the ups and downs of being in a relationship with a sex addict, however why bother? Why go back to those times?

One thing I could mention is the support I had from my family and friends. They saw my efforts to fight for that relationship and even his efforts to try to overcome his addiction.  Although there were subtle (and obvious) hints for me to get out, my family provided me with unconditional love.

So as the pregnancy progressed, I began to realize continuing to dwell in hurt and pain was not a healthy option.  To cope with the break-up, I kept busy, read books, wrote in my journal, and had my support system to lean on.  As the sad feelings subsided, I knew I was ready to start the forgiving process.

Many counselling professionals may suggest that the process of forgiveness is to benefit you and not necessarily the other person.  In addition to this, I knew that for the sake of my child’s growth and development, forgiving her father was non-negotiable.  My family and friends, on the other hand, have not been able to reach the point of offering forgiveness to him.  So how do I help them get there?

People may initially assume that a love relationship consists of just two people. It is true that it may start out like this, however, as the relationship evolves, we expose our significant others to our families and other friendships.  Years of involvement makes it more difficult for everyone to witness the loss of that person when the relationship ends. In the case above, her family and friends were probably exposed to more of the relationship than the average.  Setting healthy boundaries in relationships protects and provides clarity for how much to involve others in personal matters.

Involvement of family and friends in the couple’s personal struggles can actually serve to destroy family supports and eat away at the relationship as well.  While loved ones may have observed happy times, they likely find it easier to recall the stories of bad behaviours and not-so-good times before and when the relationship ends.  While focus on negatives is quite common, all it does is reinforce pain and foster feelings of anger.  Staying stuck in blame and judgmentalism blocks movement toward forgiveness. Unfortunately, this can stand in the way of a healthy relationship with the person about to become a co-parent.

In this particular case, the mother’s modelling forgiveness can be a powerful and influential message for her friends and family.  Most adults and children can pick up on the energy in a room and the emotional states of others from nonverbal communication (face and tone).

Given this, we are all responsible for the quality of relationships by our actions and choices… to forgive and extend grace or not. 

Individual, co-parenting and family counselling can help to overcome addictions, improve relationship skills and heal woundedness as well…  Contact us today!


Photo credit: clarita from

Some may read the title of this blog appalled by the assumption that everyone is an addict. So let’s consider this statement from Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of “What Addicts Know.”

As a culture we’ve become addicted not only to gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex, and other suspects, but also technology and the acquisition of material possessions and every conceivable promise of instant gratification: More is better has become society’s mantra. We eat more, spend more, take more risks, abuse more substances…only to feel more depressed, unsatisfied, discontented, and unhappy. You may know these symptoms firsthand, or recognize them in the lives of people you care about,” (, January 16, 2014).

Given the statement above, we may all be able to identify that we have, or have had at some point, some addictive behaviours. Merriam-Webster’s definition states: Addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). The key word is harmful. In this light, one could even postulate (and we have) people can be addicted to arguing and fighting, thus, also to the chemicals released from the adrenal gland?

Did you know the actual term “addiction” was originally used in the slave trade? (see Drugs, Morality and the Law). When a slave was sold to the “owner”, they were said to be addicted to their master which meant “tied to”. Well, if you and I can be tied to something… yes… we can also be untied! 

When asked in counselling; What is an addiction?, we often respond anything (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) that significantly interrupts or gets in the way of an important area of your life. Harmful may mean persistent thoughts and behaviours “threatening” to healthy functioning in our vocational (work/school), social, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, family, marital spheres. Of course, we may all have a different definition of what “threatening” is as well and the threat may not be immediately evident, recognized or acknowledged.

Photo credit: ingemann from

Admitting our personal areas that are unhealthy can be difficult enough to do and others generally see the problem before we do.  Owning hurtful behaviour exposes the “dark side” of being human, something few of us are comfortable letting out about ourselves. Many who do admit openly and acknowledge their addictive behaviour, report feeling liberated, relieved and energized with a renewed sense of hope and joy.

This is most evident for those with addictions who go through the recovery process (a clearly defined step-by-step program with accountability measures built in). Those who were once showing characteristics those around them would call deviant, deceptive, manipulative, self-absorbed, and disrespectful can come out of recovery having rediscovered long lost gifts of self-awareness, honesty, integrity, grace and forgiveness. In addition, when we overcome a particular challenge, we gain greater understanding into human behaviour and change processes, also gaining an acquired skill set to become the greatest role models and teachers.

So do we all need to be in recovery?

Consider these questions, also suggested from Lawford:

  • Am I generally content with the way things are?
  • Are my emotions mostly on an even keel?
  • Are my personal relationships strong and supportive?
  • Is there enough joy in my life?

Careful before you answer: Those in self-absorbed, manipulative and deceptive modes of functioning even “swindle” themselves to believe they are content and happy with their lives. So another question may also be considered when this is the case:

  • If there is content and joy in your life, why do you have feelings of being depressed, unsatisfied, and empty? (What is fueling this is not always “biochemistry”)

Instant gratification, the main ingredient and greatest influence of our addictive behaviours refuses to remind us of the fact that the satisfaction we experience is only temporary. Short-term gain, long-term pain! If we can consider those questions on a grand scheme of our lives, we may come to realize that we are not truly happy. We have lost sincere human connections with others through a series of poor thoughts and choices. We have been selfish and have neglected the true meaning of love, trust and support for others and for ourselves. We do need help.

Photo credit: mensatic from

Changing ourselves without input from others doesn’t work. This is the profession of counselling: assisting others to bring out their inherent skills and qualities and develop new ones to effectively improve their quality of life, overcome challenges faced and, thus, develop satisfying and caring relationships with others. We can also get good coaching advice from books and web resources to be used in concert with evidence-based therapeutic counselling.

We can all benefit from quality counselling to improve our lives. Contact us today.


Photo credit: taliesin from

What’s Wrong With Me?

“Mrs. A. was a 43-year old woman who was living with her mother and son and worked at a clerical job. She had felt depersonalized as far back as she could remember. ‘It’s as if the real me is taken out and put on a shelf or stored somewhere inside me. Whatever makes me me is not there. It is like an opaque curtain…like going through the motions and having to exert discipline to keep the unit together.’ She had suffered several episodes of depersonalization annually and found them extremely distressing. She had experienced panic attacks for one year when she was 35 and had been diagnosed with self-defeating personality disorder. Her childhood trauma history included nightly genital fondling and frequent enemas by her mother from earliest memory to age 10.” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 220).

Usually a childhood trauma may contribute to the onset of a depersonalization disorder. The person’s perception of self is altered, making it difficult to experience situations in life normally. Increase in stress can trigger a depersonalization episode.

Symptoms of a depersonalization episode include (but are not limited to):

  • Sudden loss of self
  • Feeling of having an outer body experience (sometimes called “dissociation”)
  • Unusual sensory experiences
  • Feel “mechanical;” as though they have lost sense of reality
  • Common thoughts such as: “My body is not in harmony with my being,” or “My body does not feel like it belongs.”

The difficulties of depersonalization is that it creates:

  • Worries about feeling isolated and detached from others (imagine the trouble of relating to the people that love and care about you?!)
  • Vulnerability and embarrassment in social situations. This disorder usually begins in adolescence.

Depersonalization episodes usually occur in several other disorders such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Treatment will often be complex, involving a treatment plan that addresses multiple disorders and symptoms drawing upon a variety of therapeutic approaches.

Treatment of depersonalization disorder is sought out when episodes are reoccurring and disrupting quality of life. Individuals will establish goals to alleviate symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, as well as ways in which the person’s family can understand the nature of the individual’s disorder. Ways in which the family can support one another are also developed and strategies to implement and evaluate the plan are agreed upon.

To create a treatment plan specific to your needs, call us today.

How Can I Change?

“It has been one week with zero communication with my partner who has a sex addiction. It may seem like not a lot of time; however, when you have spent the last three years (every day) speaking with or seeing him, then you come to realize that these seven days can feel like a lifetime.

I’ve looked at my phone to see if there are any messages and I’ve “creeped” him on instagram to see what he has been up to; but I am now realizing that only one person called me today. So I start to look back on my life (or at the past 3 years) and wonder what I have done and whom I have neglected.

I’ve become aware that there are a number of people I’ve neglected in the past three years…myself included. Reading through google searches of how to help my sex addicted partner, I found the word codependency come up quite frequently.

I then read a little further and have identified that I am able to relate to almost all common characteristics of being a codependent.

So although I am sad about not having any contact with my addicted partner, I am realizing that it is time to work on myself. Perhaps that is the best way to help my partner….starting with me first.”

Some of the common characteristics of codependency, that others may also relate to are:

  • Spending a great deal of time focusing on the person with addiction and neglecting yourself and others.
  • Sacrificing self with the unrealistic expectation that it will foster loyalty.
  • Becoming someone you don’t like (e.g. angry, hopeless, helpless, untrusting, drained)
  • Giving the person struggling with addiction the unearned benefit of the doubt over and over again.
  • Enabling by seemingly turning a blind eye, compromising yourself, and trying to control or “parent” the person

To learn more about overcoming codependency and addictive behaviours, call us today .

One Common Symptom of Poor Communication

Effective communication during disputes and disagreements is an essential component of high-quality and enduring relationships. Couples, even managers, employees and others, who are seeking to have amazing relationships are well advised to learn, develop and practice positive communication and interpersonal skills (especially conflict-resolution skills) in order to avoid destructive breakdowns like the one described by this young wife and mother below:

My husband and I have been dealing with disagreements, lies and affairs for the past 6 years. We got together when I was fifteen. Everything was awesome (obviously) but as we started to get closer, I started noticing things about him I did not like. So, of course, I tried to change him. He was very abusive, not physically but mentally and emotionally.

I looked for someone else’s comfort. As a teenager, I feel I didn’t know what I wanted in life so I cheated with an acquaintance.  When my husband found out, I told him the truth and told him I could no longer be with him.   I left him and started dating the man I cheated on my husband with. As time went on, the man I started seeing ended up in prison for a year. When he went to prison, I started to miss my husband, and we ended up back together six months later.

Well, after the man had served his sentence, he got out and I notice my husband still has not changed so I started dating this man…again. Four months went by and this same man ended up back in prison, for even longer. I got back with my husband, and ended up pregnant. I felt now, I have no choice and I need to make things work with me and him. I felt I tried my best to make things work, but they still weren’t working. This man got out of jail and I started seeing him again, while I was pregnant.
This time, our relationship was not sexual. I no longer had feelings for this man as I wanted my family to stay together. So, I would see him after school 3-4 times a week for about two hours and we would spend time at the libraries or just sitting and talking…nothing sexual (not even holding hands). I made it clear to him that I just wanted a friendship and felt he wanted the same. A few months later, he finally broke down and told me he was madly in love with me and would take care of me and my baby. I declined. I knew the relationship would never work.  I was in love with the thought of having someone there for me, as I didn’t feel this way with anyone before, he would make me feel safe and always had interest in what I had to say.

I cut off our relationship when my husband found out I was “sneaking” around to see the man while he was at work. So I stopped, and went to get professional help for this situation. Years go by, and last month is when I was at my worst. I stopped eating, no sleep, couldn’t even enjoy my dad’s vacation up here, and the way I react with my children changed. They could see and feel I was stressed out.


We’d argue about things that didn’t even matter. I got so fed up one day that I made the biggest mistake that I’m still living with right now. I contacted the man again. I sent him a message through Facebook asking if he’d received the card I mailed him for his birthday. My husband had a suspicion I would go try to contact him again due to my history, so he checked the computer and saw the message. He was extremely upset. I did delete the message before the man would receive it. All I could think of was “What the h*ll have I done to my family”. I did this all out of anger, because my “Stinkin Thinkin” was thoughts like “Who cares about his feelings”, “Look at how he treats me”, “My kids won’t know they are too young to understand”, “He won’t leave… just do it anyway” and much, much more.

We talked about it. He was determined to leave but I broke down and I tried to explain that I was not happy and things need to change in our relationship. The talk we had that day was the most emotional and loving conversation that we’ve ever had. We discussed things he didn’t like that I do, and I explained things that he did I didn’t like. At the end of the conversation, we were both crying and I could feel that he loved me, for the first time. Now, we still are not perfect but I’ve noticed I have less “Stinkin Thinkin” and try to remain positive for my children, my husband and myself. I will remain positive now and not let “Stinkin Thinkin” choose my actions.

Help to develop and improve relationships is available at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc., a counselling agency in Durham Region. To receive supportive assistance, coaching and effective communication skills training, contact us today!


When we hold our newborns in our arms, we are overwhelmed with feelings, emotions and thoughts. In fact, the term overwhelmed is an understatement of the first time this miracle appears in our arms. Yes, we had nine months to ponder what these tiny creations will look like, or how their personalities will develop and grow. We may sometimes even stress about all the dos and dont’s to keep our babies safe and as healthy as possible.

When they finally arrive, we whisper to ourselves (because no one can know that we’d ever ask such a question) “How on earth am I going to raise this child? How can I prevent her from being teased, or bullied? How can I get her to go to university and become successful? How do I get her to NOT have sex before marriage?”

If all these questions are screaming at you (even still today), know that you are not alone. You are not the first parent to doubt your capabilities. Not the first parent to want to keep any negativity and danger away from your child.

So now she’s 11 and growing into a beautiful young lady. She is beginning the steps of… “puberty” displaying hints of physical and emotional maturity. She does, however, not know it all yet (although she may portray that she does). She knows every song on the radio by heart, every new fashion trend, and all the celebrity gossip information. But she doesn’t know how to spell every word she speaks, still needs help comprehending math problems and is not yet equipped to conquer the world.

She dances beautifully, is confident in her own skin (so far), and shows love, respect and loyalty to her family (although she still needs gentle reminders to give kisses to her grandparents). So for the most part, she’s perfect! So what’s the problem? Why do parents feel like their babies are slipping away? ……they are not babies anymore.

All those questions we asked when we first held our babies in our arms and have stuck with us through their childhood; but now it is time to switch gears and throw those expectations away. Your child, now a preteen is growing, developing, forming moral opinions and has hopefully adopted a positive and healthy belief system. Pat yourself on the back for the work you’ve done (so far).

Our job as parents is to stay consistent with our love and support while providing increased flexibility alongside clear structure and boundaries. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to grow and develop as a parent as your child is growing and developing as well. Reading parenting books may not be high on our piorities or something we have much time for. Find time anyway… yes you too fathers! Get books, audio books for the commute, find videos to learn from and even seek wise counsel as you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing and enhanced parenting approach.

Staying consistent with love means that the foundation of support and meeting your child’s needs is solid. It helps if we as parents attain patience. Santosha, a Sanskrit word meaning contentment and satisfaction, is a great way to allow ourselves to be patient in good times and in not so good times. We have shared many blogs about family relationships, conflict-resolution and sexuality that can help parents with those “not so good” times. Embracing Santosha helps parents when stages in our child’s development arise and may be difficult to cope with.

Flexibility involves awareness. Awareness that the time we were 11 is much different than the times for 11 year olds now. So things may seem to be happening too fast and our kids may know way more than we did when we were that age; but it’s okay!

Flexibility also involves honesty and open communication. The ability of a parent and child to speak openly and honestly, hear each other’s point of view and share opinions is truly powerful. More powerful than trying to control environments, set strict and unrealistic rules and refrain from the child’s input.

Being a parent is a life-long job and we can support you through the most challenging parts of what may be the most rewarding experience of your life. Call us today!

   “I’ve talked with my teen”  / “I’ve talked with my parent(s)”

Are you sure?

  • Did you openly talk about your hopes, dreams and desires for sexual choices?
  • Have you shared your beliefs and values on the subject?
  • Did you discuss ways to set clear boundaries, to discuss reasons for waiting or the pros and cons of either choice?
  • What about how to raise the topic with your boyfriend or girlfriend?

Parents, young adults and teens alike frequently provide the following answers when asked what is safe sex;

   “Abstinence”… “Until marriage”

Many will guess this is truly the answer to the question, however this is not really the answer, at least, given how most view the definition of abstinence. Definitions indicate this means “to refrain from sexual intercourse”, some adding until marriage, yet, many other risky behaviours could lead to STIs/STDs. This answer also does not teach about safe sexual expression either… no sex is not sex. What is safe sexual expression then? The next answer from parents, teens or young adults often is …

   “Condoms and Contraception”

Again, school programs often phrase this strategy as “safe sex” quite commonly reporting statistics indicate safety ranges from 97% to 99% when used effectively. The titles of “safe” or “safer” are unfortunately quite misleading. This is magnified because we now know adolescents’ brains are not fully developed until their early twenties.  Further, contraception is rarely used as recommended heightening risk. When all factors are taken into account (e,g, forgetfulness, unwillingness and the just plain “not caring much”) contraceptive use safety hovers somewhere around 77% (seventy-seven percent).  Wow!… an over twenty percent chance of an infectious disease or pregnancy. Think about that.

    “Find one person you really love”

Finally, a smaller proportion of people will answer “safe sex is with someone you really love“, however there is huge ambiguity around what this actually means. At what age? Does this mean one person? What if you choose and then break up? Choose again? Committed relationship? What does that mean? What does really love mean?

With all the confusion, vague answers and poor safety percentages, it may be better for school boards and parents alike to delete the title safe sex and introduce an honest title (with a big banner), LESS RISKY SEX“.   We can give students a clearer message that sexuality and sexual expression carries extreme risk to both mental and physical health.  Given the lack of clear and consistent information, it is clear we can address this health risk with a more thorough health education strategy.

The answer to today’s question is none of the above. “Really safe sexual expression” is possible.  It involves activities with virtually no chance of disease (including mental illness) or pregnancy.  Sexual development is a normal part of human development and an important part of life that brings with it great responsibility on the part of parents, educators and caregivers to prepare youth well.

Healthy sexuality and sexual development requires an educational curriculum that provides evidence-based information, consistently delivered through ongoing, open and sensitive conversations.