Love in Recovery | Healing Women from Sexual Addictions

Episode 1 September 26, 2023 00:57:24
Love in Recovery | Healing Women from Sexual Addictions
Catholic Theology Show
Love in Recovery | Healing Women from Sexual Addictions

Sep 26 2023 | 00:57:24


Show Notes

If both men and women struggle with sexual sin, is healing possible? Today, Dr. Michael Dauphinais is joined by Rachael Killackey, alumna of Ave Maria University, as well as founder and executive director of Magdala Ministries. Rachael speaks about a woman's ability to recover love and worth amid the shame and isolation of pornography addictions.




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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: We try to help women. And I know for myself a lot of my healing came from situating pornography's role back into my whole story of like, who am I? What gifts was I created with? What wounds were inflicted upon me in my childhood? And how did pornography pose an answer to those wounds? [00:00:24] Speaker B: While to the Catholic Theology show presented by Ave Maria University. This podcast is sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle, a community that supports the mission of Ave Maria University through their monthly donations of $10 or more. If you'd like to support this podcast and the mission of Ave Maria University, I encourage you to visit slash join for more information. Welcome to the Catholic Theology Show sponsored by Ave Mary University. I'm your host, Michael Doffine, and today we are joined by Rachel Kalaki, an Ave graduate who did her bachelor's and master's degree at our university. When she was here, she was Rachel Geeger for listeners who are alums and parents and students who might know her by that name. But we are thrilled to have her on our show today. And we are going to talk today about recovery from addiction, and specifically recovery from addiction to pornography. So we are so glad that you're on our show today. [00:01:25] Speaker A: Thanks for having me. This is fun. [00:01:26] Speaker B: Welcome, Rachel. And so you have a book that just came out called Love in Recovery one Woman's Story of Breaking Free from Shame and Healing from Pornography Addiction and just what a courageous journey and story that you've had. And for those listeners who may not know, rachel Kalaki is also the founder and director of Magdala Ministries. So maybe if you could just begin kind of with a big picture. What are some of the things that Magdala Ministries does and what led you to go into this work? [00:02:06] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. So Magdala is an organization that offers community and resources to women struggling with sexual addiction. So we host and train leaders to facilitate virtual recovery. Small groups, so they're confidential. They journey through a curriculum that's been crafted by our team and a team of psychologists and clergy. And then we also partner with college campuses and parishes to help them facilitate groups for women in person. And we also have a blog, a podcast. We produce content to kind of bring women into the fold, into the community, and also just kind of change the narrative surrounding women and sexual addiction that we've been kind of raised within the church. I got started actually here. I started a recovery group here. When I would share my testimony at women's events starting, I think, junior year, I would always be approached by about a third of my audience, which statistically kind of matches up and they would be asking for help. It would just be women asking for help. So I talked to campus ministry and started a recovery group, wrote the first edition of our curriculum, led that group my senior year and then passed it off to my co founder, Mary Jo Carney, who's also an alum when I was in grad school. And then I kind of went on to do other things for a couple of years and then was invited to take that small group model that we started here and launch it to the wider virtual platform that we now have as magdala. So we serve women in 37 countries and counting on six continents. We have ten college campus partnerships. We're working with our parishes right now because we just launched that version of our partnership. But it's been a crazy two and a half years. [00:03:39] Speaker B: That's an amazing journey. That's really exciting to see the work you've done. [00:03:43] Speaker A: Thank you. [00:03:43] Speaker B: Now, maybe could you say a little bit about why recovery communities, why these virtual communities? What is it about the nature of addiction, and maybe specifically addiction to pornography, that you find community or groups are somehow almost necessary to finding strength in healing and recovery? [00:04:13] Speaker A: Yeah, I'd say necessary for long term healing. Like you're saying, it's not necessary for sobriety per se, but one of the hallmarks of addiction of any kind, but especially pornography addiction, is shame. And shame feeds isolation, and isolation feeds further engagement of addictive behaviors, which in the end, creates more shame, and then it sends you back into the cycle. So shame is at the center of our addictive behaviors. I think when we're engaging with any substance or behavior that has the potential to be addictive, we're, in a sense, bonded to the shame as well. It's familiar to us. It creates a certain sort of false home that we think we're destined for. So community kind of goes hand to hand with combating that shame. So I think when I've seen women surrounded by other women for the first time, they're grasping the concept that they're not alone. And even that for some women is enough to just catapult them into long term recovery. But if you bring women face to face with one another, even virtually, it's enough to really lessen their shame. [00:05:22] Speaker B: Wow. So addiction and shame kind of breeds isolation and maybe secrecy. [00:05:28] Speaker A: Yes. [00:05:29] Speaker B: We're only as kind of sick as our secrets. So when we begin to enter into a community and share that shame and share that, then the isolation begins to depart. [00:05:40] Speaker A: Yes. And it's kind of like you see a twofold effect of reintegrating your addictive behavior back into yourself of no longer dissociating. Because I think the cycle of addiction also involves a lot of dissociation, where you separate you're like, I'm not that. I will never do that again. And then it's about reintegrating the behavior. You face it, and then you realize that you do want it far away from you, and you push it back out. So community kind of has a really interesting way of pulling your behaviors back into your own heart and mind, realizing what you've become and then realizing you don't have to stay that way. So that's where I think it's necessary for long term healing. [00:06:15] Speaker B: Yeah, that's beautifully put. I think this topic of shame is really fascinating. There's a story that St. John Viani, the curdy ours and St. John Viani was kind of a fascinating priest. He was kind of so intellectually challenged that he couldn't pass Latin, and he barely got out of seminary. [00:06:37] Speaker A: I get it. [00:06:37] Speaker B: One time, there was a petition going around saying that he was unfit to be a priest, and he signed it. Oh, my gosh. Because he felt that, hey, he knew he was unworthy to be a priest. And this beautiful humility. One of the interesting things is that people would go from around the countryside, around France to go to confession to him because he had the gift of being able to kind of read souls. Now, why would we want to go to confession to a priest who can read our souls? And in a way well, why is that? It's because how wonderful if the priest could say what I'm too ashamed to say, and if he could just say, I know that deepest wound and that deepest hurt that's in your heart. And so people go to him. And the same thing with Padre Pio. St. Padre Pio. Not many priests have this gift, right? This is miraculous. It's not common, but that's what it would mean, because in a certain sense, it would be a shame free zone. And he has a story one time where one time he steps out of and people he'd be in the confessional for, like, 15 hours a day sometimes. [00:07:42] Speaker A: Oh, my gosh. [00:07:42] Speaker B: And he has a story that one time he'd step out and he saw these demons that were attacking and kind of trying to tempt his penitence. He says, what are you doing in my church? And the demons say to him, we are giving back to your penitence the shame that they didn't have when they were sinning, so that now they will feel it and not confess their sins. [00:08:11] Speaker A: Whoa. [00:08:12] Speaker B: And this really is this powerful thing, and I think we really have to be very attentive to it within our Catholic culture. We want to create, on the one hand, a sense there is a positive role of shame. Like, I don't want to do those things, so don't do them. That's a positive notion of honor and shame. There's another side. Those once I've done them yes. Then I become so ashamed that I begin to hate myself further, and I begin to think I am even more worthy of behavior, of slowly destroying myself. And that's the cycle of shame that becomes poisonous. I think it's something that is I've always been kind of struck by that story. [00:09:03] Speaker A: I think you're right. I think how we distinguish in Magdala and I think how I distinguish in the book is between guilt and shame. That guilt is something that can lead to repentance, and that's kind of the positive force. But then shame is what is destructive. Shame is the and Brene Brown people have their different opinions about her, but she kind of puts it really simply and says, guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad. [00:09:25] Speaker B: Yeah. Beautifully put. [00:09:26] Speaker A: Yeah. I think guilt absolutely has a role in just ethical behavior and repentance confession. But shame, yeah, like you said, it can drive us away. [00:09:39] Speaker B: Yeah. And I like the way you put it that shame actually becomes part of the addiction. I think this is something that people who try to understand addiction in rational terms go, why does the person do this when they know it's making them unhappy? Well, there's a certain sense in which the person often believes that they're supposed to be unhappy, that they're destined for unhappiness, that they're unworthy. And this becomes almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. And there's a way that if we go to the theological tradition, satan is the accuser. Satanos is the accuser. He's the one who comes in and accuses us. He says, shame on you. You're unworthy. And it's the Holy Spirit in Jesus. Jesus is the advocate, the paracletos, the defender. The Holy Spirit is another paraclete, another advocate. And so what does the Holy Spirit do? It says, Your sins are forgiven. Right. Jesus says, Peace be with you. Right. Your sins are forgiven. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive the forgiveness of sins. And so Jesus rises from the dead fundamentally to say, shame off you. [00:10:49] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:10:50] Speaker B: Right. And I think it's so important to pay attention to that because I think as we want to talk and we will a little bit today about some of the ways in which pornography is not actually helpful no. To the human person, it's not helpful to marriages. It's not helpful to young people. It is actually a harmful behavior. But at the same time that we describe that, we have to also be aware that there may be people who are trapped for the moment within that behavior. And to speak of the behavior as unhealthy sinful, a block to our know, an impediment to our flourishing, does not mean that the person doing it is unworthy. Right. Christ died for that. You know, so I feel like that's a kind of how do you deal, then, with that balance between wanting to expose kind of the fact that this drug is not healthy and is not wholesome, but at the same time help people get out of the shame for engaging in these things? [00:11:56] Speaker A: Yeah, we're pretty driven by kind of like a narrative based approach. So Dan Allender is a Christian psychologist who developed kind of narrative trauma theory or narrative trauma therapy. And he trained a couple of psychologists, one of them being Jay Stringer, who's kind of, I would say an expert in kind of sexuality, sexual brokenness, sexual addiction and he's just created beautiful, beautiful work for men and women in that topic. But we try to help women. And I know for myself a lot of my healing came from situating pornography's role back into my whole story of like who am I? What gifts was I created with? What wounds were inflicted upon me in my childhood? And how did pornography pose an answer to those wounds? Because I don't think I would have welcomed its presence into my life without having kind of the framework created for it to fit into. So that helps women and it helped me but it helps women kind of see their own worthiness kind of just reintegrating themselves back with their whole identity including their wounds and including the experiences they've had that were difficult and evil and not their fault. But it's only in reestablishing that and fitting it kind of into this whole story that they can finally see like, oh, my worthiness means I have to reject this. It means I have to move on. We use a lot of the kind of till we have faces sort of idea of like you have to face off with your own ugliness and your own self hatred. You have to face off with it because God doesn't want the babble. He doesn't want you to pretend. He wants you to be yourself. And sometimes being yourself means coming face to face with these really gross, ugly things about you and things that you've done and only then can he reveal to you the beauty of who you are. So we're not like a self love kind of cultured organization. Sometimes we say really hard things but we find that it's raw and it's real and that's what women actually respond to and need. [00:13:58] Speaker B: In many ways, I think this idea that we have to recover our stories because we tell stories to ourselves about ourselves that are often false and our culture tells stories about us that are untrue. And often we have untrue stories that are filtered through religious experiences that maybe we heard something in a homily once that for whatever reason, that one moment, that one word stuck with us and then we built a whole story around it. It's not the church. It's not christ. It's not even maybe that homily but for whatever it was, right? Because in our hearts we have within ourselves this kind of this tendency to hate ourselves. And St. Augustine would speak about sin as self loathing, right? And the problem is when he talks about original sin it's not like we're born bad. It's more that we're born wounded. We're not born depraved. We're born deprived. We're born and in some ways but one of the neat things I try to remind people about with Augustine is in a way, original sin is a misnomer. It's really original goodness and creation. That's what God reveals in Genesis and that's what Jesus says in the beginning. It was not so in the beginning. You were created good. So all sin is actually secondary. It's not original. It's original. I'm not denying the doctrine of original sin. [00:15:22] Speaker A: Right. [00:15:22] Speaker B: It's original insofar as it's something that's part of now. It is part of our human origins, yes. But in the beginning, it was not so. And so when we can begin to recover that sense that God created me out of his love and then kind of in a way, I received a wounded nature, which I further wounded, which my culture and society wounded and even those who loved me. Because no one can love other than God and Christ and the Blessed Virgin with love that wouldn't wound. And so even family members and I myself, when we love, we also will inescapably end up somehow harming the inner love of the person. And so it's really trying to recognize that story. [00:16:16] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I think so much of what purity culture did, because you're talking about framing our stories through religious experiences, so much of what purity culture did was kind of drive home this idea in my generation and the one right before me, just that our sexuality is bad, it is to be feared. It is dangerous. And I would argue that it is dangerous. Anything powerful that has the potential to be magnanimous has the potential to be incredibly dangerous. But purity culture kind of drove home this underlying shame of this is something that you have to be afraid of, that you have to control. White knuckling is the only way. Marriage is the only place that this can possibly be good. I think it created just a whole narrative that sexuality is bad. And oftentimes that's underneath a lot of women's experiences that I'm working with. And it was part of my own experience, too, of just especially if in kind of those purity culture narratives, it wasn't even acknowledged that women could sexually sin. I think a lot of those narratives preferred us to be kind of asexual and just be on the receiving end of men's sinful nature. So I think it got a lot of things confused, but it's created this narrative for women that this can never actually be good. And so one of the most restorative things that I hope we do is creating that idea in them of like, this was created good. This was created to be a place that you can honor and love God, whatever your state in life. And that actually the church says chastity is about integration of the whole person. It's about bringing it into your personhood. It's not about keeping it separate in a box over here where you can control it and keep an eye on it. It's about integrating it into your whole person so that it can be part of your lived experience in the way that you pursue Christ. And that's a lifelong work, obviously, but hopefully we get them started on that path. [00:18:05] Speaker B: Yeah. So would you say a bit more about the nature of pornography or sex addiction among women? Because I do think that is the sort of thing that some of our listeners may not really be that familiar with it. They may think that, oh, men struggle with pornography. We know the statistics on men, but my understanding is the statistics on young women these days are very similar. [00:18:28] Speaker A: Yeah. Closing the gap. [00:18:29] Speaker B: So what would you say to people who are kind of who have maybe just a hesitancy thinking that maybe their daughters or other people might struggle with these kind of with an inclination, in a way, to consume pornography that's somewhat probably nowadays just ubiquitous on phones and social media. And one of the things I appreciate in your book is you talk about the fact that it also has this element of secrecy. No one has to see you going out to the store or something. [00:19:09] Speaker A: Yeah, it's never been more accessible. It's never been more anonymous. It's never been more affordable because it's free. That's kind of the AA influence that a lot of clinicians warn us about. Yeah. I'll say first, before getting into kind of the statistics with women, I'll say this strongly. One of the most harmful things I think parents can say is never my child with this kind of stuff. Whenever I hear a parent say something like that, like, it would never be my child because I have X, Y and Z in place, we have the filters, they don't have smartphones, whatever your reasons. When I hear that, I hear that if your child is exposed, because they probably will be, they will hide. That's what I hear. And they have the potential to just be stuck in isolation for a very, very long time. So whenever I hear that, I try to just firmly but gently combat that narrative of all of us are susceptible to this, no matter how virtuous our families are, no matter how intact, no matter how careful our parents are. My parents were arguably very careful. Right. But this idea of never my child, it's like, well, you're forgetting that your child is also sinful and has free will, and we live in a very over sexualized culture that makes it incredibly accessible for women, though. Yeah. The gaps definitely closing. Some of the studies that I reference are even from ten years ago. One of them said that one in three porn addicts are women. So if that's ten years ago, and it was at 33%, I can only imagine that number is increasing. One, I think, about seven years ago, said that 60% of Christian women ages 18 to 40 consume pornography, at least on a monthly basis. So 60% is pretty high. And then when it comes to other kind of sexual behaviors, whether masturbation fornication fantasy, women have incredibly high numbers of a lot of those, even if their kind of pornography habits are low or infrequent. But women actually statistically have more kind of a diverse sociosexual template. So sociosexuality is kind of our willingness to engage in deviant behaviors. And women have a more diverse kind of array. Men tend to be more straightforward. Women will engage in all sorts of behaviors. So in magdala alone, we address pornography, maceration fornication fantasy, online affairs, extramarital affairs, women who have left the porn. There's just all sorts of behaviors that we have to address because everybody's template is so diverse. [00:21:41] Speaker B: Just one quick thing. What's the average age now of first exposure? [00:21:47] Speaker A: It's eleven for girls, nine for boys. [00:21:49] Speaker B: Is what they say, which is just shocking. And this is where long, I mean, barely hitting the age of reason, really still forming kind of judgment and conscience. [00:22:00] Speaker A: It's traumatic. [00:22:01] Speaker B: And I think one of the things your book noticed as well is that often what is displayed and perhaps somewhat celebrated in pornography is often abusive. [00:22:14] Speaker A: Yes, very much so. [00:22:16] Speaker B: Even like the majority of online content, particularly abusive towards women. So people are before they have any, almost any of their own, before they've even hit puberty, they've already received just this odd orientation. [00:22:35] Speaker A: Yeah, a narrative of violence. I think it was something like the content that shows either physical or verbal humiliation and abuse of women in pornography is in the 80th or nintieth percentile. So it's like that's crazy. And women take in that content too. I think for a long time in kind of the broader narrative, it was men watch pornography, women need emotional chastity, which I totally agree, women need emotional chastity, I think everyone does. But I know that the talks I received at youth events or different things like that were always surrounding emotional chastity or modesty or kind of the more feminine topics. And men were always sent into the porn talk. And as a high schooler who was struggling, it was like, well, I need that. What does that say about me? What does that say about my femininity? So it causes this kind of identity crisis as my femininity is forming and at a very crucial age in adolescence. So it created a lot of issues there. But I think we've kind of created this dichotomy where we've gendered the problem instead of gendering the solution. So it's like we've separated. Men want this, women want this, instead of saying, okay, actually men and women are both sexual beings, how that displays itself is going to be different. There's one study that I cited in my book that I found to be incredibly informative, where men and women were both asked to watch the same pornographic content. And they were asked afterward, what did they attribute their arousal to? And the men said, the attractiveness of the people in the video. The women said their ability to imagine themselves as somebody in the video. So women and men consume similar content. Women just have this intermediary of the imagination which is destructive in so many different spheres of their life. But yeah, the same content appeals just for different reasons. So I think we got lost kind of in the fray there. But instead we need a gendered solution. Men need to be kind of spoken to as men in their recovery. They need things that will kind of address that more lust, attractiveness, kind of based consumption head on. And women need something that addresses their imagination and restores it. They need a very creative solution. So for a long time, women who have been struggling were kind of relegated to they were sent to just male resources. And I think a time came and I'm honored to be a part of this where it was like, well, we need female centric resources. We need things that are for the female heart and mind. And, yeah, it's been interesting to kind of go into that world because there isn't a lot of scientific study on it. But that is one thing that we see is women need a solution that honors their imagination and honors their creativity and rehabilitates it. [00:25:15] Speaker B: Well, thank you for describing that. And we're going to take a break in a minute, but I did want to just I love the fact that in your book you often go to John Eight where Jesus is the woman caught in adultery, the woman caught in a sexual sin, the woman caught in sexual shame is brought before and has no one condemned you. No one, lord and Jesus said, neither do I condemn right, you know, go and sin no more. And it seems that your work in Magdalene Ministries is really helping people receive that word, neither do I condemn you, and also giving people the resources to go right and sin no more. After the break, I really want to just ask a little bit about how John Paul II's theology of the body kind of factors into the whole work. You do. [00:26:06] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:26:06] Speaker B: And a little bit maybe, which won't surprise readers of your book, but might surprise the top people on the topic, is a little bit about how some of the writings of C. S. Lewis impacts because I think C. S. Lewis is one of the most quoted authors. [00:26:19] Speaker A: He's by far the most quoted. [00:26:21] Speaker B: I'm a fellow fan. [00:26:23] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:26:23] Speaker B: Okay, so we'll take a break now and then we'll return. [00:26:26] Speaker A: Perfect. You're listening to the Catholic Theology Show presented by Ave. Maria University and sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle. Through their generous donations of $10 or more per month, annunciation Circle members directly support the mission of AMU to be a fountainhead of renewal for the church through our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. To learn more, visit join. Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. [00:27:03] Speaker B: Welcome back to the Catholic Theology Show sponsored by Ave Maria University. I'm your host, Michael Doffiney. And today we are joined by Rachel Kalaki, author of Love in Recovery one Woman's Story of Breaking Free from Shame and healing from pornography Addiction. Rachel is also the founder and director of Magdala Ministries, and we're delighted to have you today on the show. [00:27:28] Speaker A: It's a joy to be here. [00:27:29] Speaker B: So we said at the end of the last part that we would turn a little bit to John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Many of our listeners may be familiar with it. For those who are interested, one of our first podcast episodes was all on Theology of the Body with yes, yes, with Professor Mikhail Waldstein and who's written a couple books on theology of the body. So if people are interested in that, go back to I think it's like anyway, it's one of the first five you and I think you were actually in a class with him. [00:28:00] Speaker A: I did. [00:28:01] Speaker B: When you were a freshman or something? [00:28:03] Speaker A: Yeah, I was a sophomore and it was right as I was entering recovery. So it was actually like beautifully timed and I talk about this in my book, but there was one experience I had with Faldstein where because he conducts his exams face to face and he asked after the questions were over if I had anything I wanted to talk to him about. I was probably six months sober at this point and I just kind of without even thinking, started launching into I was like, yeah, I'm in recovery from a pornography addiction and I just feel like I can never get married, I can never really think this is good. And I just kind of launched into this explanation with really out even thinking. And he was silent for a really long time and just smiled at me and I was like, oh gosh, I've creeped him out till kingdom come. But then he looked at me and he said this line that has kind of shaped my work now. But he said, Lust did not attack you because you cannot love. Lust attacked you because your love is meant to change the world. [00:28:59] Speaker B: Wow. [00:29:00] Speaker A: Yeah. I still give that line in any talk I give because women respond to it so beautifully and men too, but I mostly speak to women. But yeah, sometimes they'll just cry because it totally changed the mindset I had about my struggle was just that one line. Yeah. So his class was well timed, meant a lot, great. [00:29:22] Speaker B: And I think there is something in that that it's almost when we encounter something in our lives that is not easy to overcome, that that's in a way when we truly begin to surrender, we're not just turning our lives over to God on our terms, we've simply can't manage our lives. And therefore we have the gift of desperation god, the gift of desperation that prepares us then to surrender ourselves to God. And I think that can really happen. And that's right. So lust attacks us so that our love can change. The world. [00:30:03] Speaker A: Yes. [00:30:03] Speaker B: Right. And that might be for other people different struggles and things like that. I thought one thing that I remember in your book that I thought was really helpful in talking about recovery, and then we'll say a little bit more about the theology of the body. But I also appreciate you talking about how some people compare, that they compare in their addictions. Maybe they aren't addicted because their addiction isn't as bad as someone else's or their addiction isn't bad enough to qualify for, even though they're miserable, they're not worthy of a treatment program right. Or these sorts of elements. And it's interesting that in St. Bernard st. Bernard of Clairvaux twelve steps of pride and humility. The first step of pride is when at his point, he's talking about the monk. But when the monk takes his eyes off of God and himself and looks at his brother monk when he looks at his brother monk and starts comparing himself to that monk, that's the step of the ego that starts edging God out of the picture and gets us away from God. [00:31:09] Speaker A: Wow. [00:31:09] Speaker B: And I think this tendency to compare can be so hard. And I'm reminded also of Viktor Frankl's, the man's search for meaning. And he says in there because, of course, gosh, he suffered a ton. Yes, but lots of people suffered a lot. Right. And he says that basically each human being has an infinite capacity to suffer. So, in a way, all of our suffering somehow fills an infinite void. All suffering hurts. And I think it's very important for people that are in recovery or beginning recovery or maybe beginning to question whether or not whether or not they're struggling with something. Do they genuinely have a problem? Is that sense of stop comparing and begin to identify? [00:31:54] Speaker A: Yes. [00:31:55] Speaker B: When they can start identifying with other people's recovery stories, you're beginning to leave the kind of leave isolation and move back to a sense of connection. Could you talk a little bit about how maybe comparing is a real obstacle to recovery and maybe how you've either experienced that or experienced it both in your own recovery and also maybe in leading other people through? [00:32:23] Speaker A: Oh, definitely. Yeah. No, that's a great question. I don't get to talk about this a lot. I think for a long time, I kind of pulled the, yeah, this isn't as bad as other people's, so I must not be addicted. I pulled that for three or four years, probably. And it wasn't until I took ownership of what was actually happening that I even began to improve. So there's that that if you're constantly comparing, you can't move forward. If you're looking side to side, you can't walk forward. But it was also like what you're saying about filling the void. Does it have the potential to destroy relationships? Does it have the potential to destroy an aspect of your life? Yes, always. No matter how much you're consuming, how often it has the potential to alter something, plus it's mortally sinful. So that just severs your relationship with God. I think comparison for me, even now, because I hear hundreds of stories, nothing else creates impostor syndrome in me like comparison. And I can always identify when I'm feeling impostor syndrome of like, what the heck are you doing? And your story doesn't matter enough to even kind of be running this thing. Like just all of the ego rearing up, right? It's almost always because I heard someone else's story and compared first. And I think the role of envy and comparison is interesting of rejoicing at someone's suffering, suffering at someone's rejoicing. Right. So there's kind of that role for women a lot, too. But I know for me sometimes I will still fall into comparison of, well, I didn't suffer as much as that woman, so why am I in this position? And I think one of the lines that helps is when I look at a woman who's perhaps suffered more than me or suffered longer or whatever, it's the line of but for the grace of God, there go I, of that could have been easily what happened to me, and worse. Absolutely. But for some reason, God's grace decided to pluck the brand from the fire when he did. And he'll do the same for this woman when it's best for her story and her sanctity, too. But yeah, I think a lot of women will avoid help because they think that it's not enough and also because they don't really have a lot of female stories to operate off of. They don't really have anything to frame themselves against. So I think a lot of them will compare to men's stories. And men's stories look very different than women's stories. So that can kind of create a false comparison, too, as we were constantly comparing ourselves to men and their struggles. So I know that's a bit of a rambling answer, but I think that's. [00:34:58] Speaker B: Very helpful and I do think it's worth just asking kind of one other question. And in a way, the nature of addiction is just complex and in some ways the human person is such a mystery, we shouldn't be surprised that we can't explain it in the way we can explain something mechanical, like how does a watch work? I can tell you how does the human person work? Whoa. [00:35:25] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:35:26] Speaker B: We shouldn't be surprised that there's a bit of a mystery there. Yeah, okay. We have a mind that can know and love God, that can contain the whole universe in principle. And yet, of course, we also have bodies that are like the animals. So it's not a big surprise that this is a rather unique being that can know and love God. And at the same right, as Lewis puts it one time, breathes and breeds like the know. We have that element. And I think I've always loved one line from and for people who are interested in this or sometimes know whether or not, say, addiction or when should Christians seek help of counseling, seek help of therapy, seek help of recovery groups? Shouldn't confession or prayer be enough? I think that in a way that would make sense in a way if we were kind of angels, if we didn't have bodies. The problem is that our bodies and our psyches become habituated in ways that allow us to live and thrive. And when they become misaligned, they don't change easily. [00:36:41] Speaker A: No. [00:36:41] Speaker B: Right. We survive because we have habits. We react similarly over time. And I have a doctoral student who wrote on addiction, and he said that he described addiction as a habitual incontinence that's atypically, and it's atypically extreme and enduring. So it's not just like a little struggle of weakness, of will. It's something that's just extreme and enduring. [00:37:09] Speaker A: Yes. [00:37:09] Speaker B: And Lewis, in Mere Christianity, in chapter book three, chapter four, it's actually called Morality and Psychoanalysis, but he says, shouldn't everything just be morality or shouldn't everything just be psychoanalysis? And he says, Wait a second. We have a mind and a will that's the center of our person, but then we also have the whole emotional and psychological part of life. And somebody might have an extreme fear of spiders or an extreme fear of heights. That is where their ability to act volitionally and rationally is overwhelmed by their fears. And we call those phobias. And you kind of recognize yo yeah, well, somebody with a phobia right, needs to find a way to lower that anxiety, to lower the overwhelming character. And I think that same model can be used in a way for kind of modes of addiction. It's not as though the person doesn't somewhat have the volitional capacity to seek help and the volitional capacity occasionally to force sobriety. [00:38:10] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:38:11] Speaker B: But on the other hand, it's also because the very psychological material is wounded from the activity. Actually, even Aquinas would say they say one of the punishments of sin is its pleasure. And 800 years later, we kind of say the same thing. What happens is that when you do things that are harmful to you, they also create dopamine like circuits, which then you kind of go, I want that again. And you remember where it is now and it's all too easy. But Lewis says this. He says the bad, or what I would call the wounded psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but cured. I'm not saying there's not also a volitional aspect, but there is also this kind of this wounded psychological material that needs to be healed. Yes, right. And I think it's seeing that these can operate at both levels is really important for people who may have, in struggling with addiction, gone to confession many times or have asked in prayer, God to take this away and then don't understand why they're not stopping. And sometimes I think they have to just recognize, well, in order to get the psychological material kind of rehabilitated, you have to go to physical therapy, you have to go to psychological therapy. Whatever that takes. Doesn't mean it can't be with a priest or it can't be. But I think in some ways these recovery groups are, in a way, at least they're the ordinary way of achieving an extraordinary result yes, right. Of recovery. So could you say a little bit about that question of kind of when is it a choice, so to speak, and when is it compromised choice? [00:39:59] Speaker A: Yeah. I think the role of addiction and will or the relationship between the two is something that I know in kind of theological world is disputed sometimes. And then we also get it's kind of a constant conversation internally in our organization because we have a lot of women who come and say, my priest says this is a mortal sin and I'm always culpable. And then we have some say, like, I'm not culpable if I'm addicted. Right. So they can just get to gray area. I think what I tend to emphasize with women is consuming pornography is always a grave matter. It is always grave. Whether or not it's mortal can change, obviously, based on your loss of willpower, which is a hallmark of addiction of any kind, is the loss of willpower. So if your will is damaged, how much can you consent with the fullness of the will? But whether or not that's the case, focusing on the fact that this is always grave is what I think should drive our confession is this is always harmful to grave matter in and of itself. Whether or not you are morally culpable for the fullness of engagement with it. [00:41:03] Speaker B: That's very well said. [00:41:04] Speaker A: Yeah, very well said. [00:41:05] Speaker B: I love that because the point of it is that I think sometimes we worry too much about culpability. Who cares about culpability? God alone knows culpability. The problem is I need to find a way to stop doing this. So it's like, what can I do to help find a way to stop doing this? Because it is not helpful, it's not healthy, it's not wholesome. Right. The word for salu's salvation is really healing. [00:41:33] Speaker A: Yes. [00:41:34] Speaker B: The ancients knew in a way that we were wounded by sin and death. We're scared to death of death. And we can't stop kind of sinning. And even we can't understand things properly because we have this darkness of our twofold darkness, as Qantas would describe, of sin and ignorance. We really need healing. And so I think that idea I love that expression. That right. These behaviors are ones that are not helping me. And at the same time, they can actually this is, of course, the mystery of God's grace, is that they can become the occasion by which I begin to learn humility. I begin to learn that I actually have something in my life that I can't solve on my own. So I genuinely need to surrender my will over to God and ask God to do for me what I cannot do for myself. [00:42:29] Speaker A: Yeah, it's a healing of the will. I think if we're constantly worried about the mortal sin versus venial sin and one of our small group leaders was one of the ones who articulated it really beautifully with like, this is always grave. But I think when we're worried about it we're also just viewing the sacrament of confession as just transactional of just like, this is a box I have to check which we can all fall into. But Fulton Sheen, I think, was the one who said there is no place for healing of addiction like the confessional because it is the healing of the will. You are trying to reclaim a blessed will. You are trying to reclaim a will that is in cooperation with grace. So going to confession repeatedly it is healing if you see it that way. But I like to think about when we're talking about psychological healing versus spiritual healing, all of this stuff, that there's just such a diverse array of ways that Jesus heals. In the Gospels, he never is like, I touch the top of their head and then everything's know. He spits, he touches just he doesn't touch anything. He just walks and lets somebody touch Him. Right. There's so many different ways that he heals. And I think that's the same way you if you view therapy as the healing touch of God if you view a recovery group as the healing touch of God and give credit where credit is due yeah. Oftentimes women will come to Magdala wanting us to with this desire of like, this is the silver bullet. This will fix me. This will finally get me to the place I want to be. That's just not the case. We are an organization run by very messy women and we've developed a program as best we know how. We've developed resources as best we know how, we're fostering community as best we know how. But ultimately it's the Lord who heals. And this may be the avenue that he chooses and this may not be or it may be this avenue in conjunction with a twelve step group, in conjunction with a therapist. And the sacramental life of the church is at the center of that. But I think we do Him a discredit when we don't see his healing hand through these diverse options, when we just think he can only do that one way. That doesn't make much sense to me. [00:44:31] Speaker B: Yes. And one of the things you talk about in your book is how do we talk about recovered innocence? Recovered innocence. And I love this idea. I remember early on, maybe in college hearing something about secondary virginity. [00:44:47] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. [00:44:48] Speaker B: And I don't know if that's the best expression, but Augustine became a virgin for God. [00:44:56] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:44:57] Speaker B: He wed Lady Continents. Yeah, he did. That's what happens in Augustine's Confessions, book eight. Right. He clearly is not. He's already told you many times he's got a kid. He's not a virgin. He's got a kid, but he becomes a virgin for God. Not physically, and that's true, but in a certain sense, it's a spiritual dimension. I think sometimes we kind of can reduce sexuality to kind of the empirical, physical side, because that's the weird thing about the human person, is it also has a physical and it also has a physical side. And that's not unreal. That's also part of our reality. So we don't want to become gnostics and say, what you do with the body doesn't matter. No. The body remembers, so to speak. [00:45:41] Speaker A: Absolutely. [00:45:42] Speaker B: But at the same time, this recovery of innocence, I think that in our modern age, where we tend to be more comfortable thinking in scientific, empirical terms rather than spiritual terms, we tend to think that a repentant sinner is well, is just still a repentant sinner. And in our culture, we certainly don't forgive people who did something bad a long time ago. We cancel them. There's a way that I was thinking about this when I was reading your work, The Sense of Innocence. It came to me First John 31, where the author says, right, see what love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God for so we are. And that actually, Trent says the same thing. Justification means that we've been translated, moved from the child being children of Adam into being children of Jesus Christ, the second Adam. So grace is real when God creates the world, it's really created when God says, Right, this is my body and blood. It's really my body and blood. And when God says, you're his son and daughter, I'm his son. [00:46:53] Speaker A: You really are. [00:46:54] Speaker B: I really am. Which is bizarre. Don't get me wrong. I don't understand it, but I can accept it. And so that would have to mean, then, that God looks at me like I'm Jesus Christ. And to a certain extent, as First John teaches, and as Trent teaches, I truly am. [00:47:12] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:47:13] Speaker B: So how would you talk about that sense of innocence, that recovered innocence, which is always partial. Right. Of course. Because we still every day, you know, or forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. [00:47:26] Speaker A: For sure. Yeah. [00:47:27] Speaker B: But what would you say to people who maybe are looking for that? [00:47:32] Speaker A: Yeah, I was greatly inspired by the quote from Chesterton where he talks about how our father is younger than we are and how God I love that. Yeah. God is kind of eternally innocent. And I liked that you talk about kind of the concept of secondary virginity, because this is sort of what John Paul II with Tob did, is talked about. Sexuality is ultimately it's a part of our personhood. And it's a spiritual reality. Before being this physical reality, that has to be the primary. And for a long time, we only talked about it in the physical bodily sense. And there's just loads of confusion, like centuries of confusion there. But just a lot of times when we would talk about virginity, it's like loss of virginity or when we're talking about Augustine, he recovered the spiritual dynamism of what virginity means, of what continents for the kingdom means. And that can be recovered by anyone and that can be lost by somebody who is a physical virgin. Right. That concept can be lost. You can be a physical virgin and not understand the power and the beauty of what that gift is and what the gift of self is. And actually, I'd argue sometimes it's the people I've spoken to who are not virgins, say, entering into marriage or religious life like their permanent vocation, who understand the gift better because of repentance. That's often been the case, and I've written on that in other spaces, just kind of the concept of virginity in general. But, yeah, I think innocence is about recognizing this is about my personhood. This is not about acts I've committed. This isn't even about my physical state. This is about my eternal fate, my eternal destiny of who am I? And I think a lot, too, about what's the quote from Prince Caspian where Aslan says, you are a son of Adam. And that is enough to both erect the head of the greatest emperor, erect the head of the lowliest beggar and bow the head of the greatest emperor. [00:49:29] Speaker B: That's it? Yes. [00:49:30] Speaker A: And he says, Be content. That is the final line. Be content of like, you have been endowed with an unspeakable dignity and your humanity can be, yes, the cause of your greatest humility, but it also can be like the restoration of your greatest honor, your recognition of your worth. So for me, the recovery of innocence, recovery of wonder, because I think pornography just absolutely obliterates wonder. I think that that's also a lifelong part of recovery is the recovery of wonder and being childlike. And so that's something I'm still very much in the midst of myself. I think I forced myself to grow up too fast in many ways. And so I'm kind of trying to pull back spiritually in many ways in that, but I think it's mostly just about that of a recognition of what the gift of humanity is because that's what children do. They just delight in being a person. They delight in the world around them. They delight in creation. And so just learning to delight again, it takes time. So I don't know if I have, like, a super solid answer to that beyond what I've written, but just that I think that is it's one of the most beautiful parts, but perhaps one of the deepest is just the recovery of that wonder of who we are. But the humility about the wonder of who we are that we're incredibly small, but incredibly dignified. [00:50:45] Speaker B: That's beautiful. That's beautiful. I remember hearing that Christianity is, in some ways that we on our own are much worse than we ever want to admit. But in Christ, we are more beautiful than we can ever imagine. And it's really remembering who we are because we remember who God is. And what he has revealed and done for us in Jesus Christ is really this story of really learning to recover not only our innocence, but our story. [00:51:17] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:51:18] Speaker B: And that what God has redeemed is truly redeemed. This is a beautiful thing. I wanted to try to ask all our guests three questions. So what's a book you've been reading? [00:51:28] Speaker A: What books have I been reading? Right now I'm reading Redeeming Heartache by Dan Allender. So he's the psychologist I talked about earlier that kind of has the narrative based trauma theory, and that's been super beautiful. I just finished Romano Gordini's The Lord, which was incredible. Took me a few months. I read it for prayer, so it took me a few months to get through, but that was amazing. And I'm also reading John Stuart's Mill on the subjection of women. That's just for my own knowledge and fun. [00:51:56] Speaker B: But, no, there's a lot of our intellectual history is fascinating. [00:51:59] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:52:00] Speaker B: And it's worth knowing. So what's a daily practice, just maybe one that you might want to share with our listeners or viewers that you do to kind of recover spiritual meaning and spiritual healing in your life? [00:52:15] Speaker A: Yeah. I have tried very hard over the past several years to cultivate daily prayer. So what that looks like for me now is journaling. I'm a big was really. I finally felt at peace with the fact that I was a journaler in prayer when Thomas Merton said that journaling can be a form of contemplation. So if you do it correctly, which that made me happy, can be meditation and contemplation. So just setting aside time to read, to listen to what the Lord is telling me through reading and just kind of through sitting in imaginative prayer and then journaling and speaking with Him, that's kind of what it looks like now. And yeah, that's been very grounding for me for several years. [00:52:59] Speaker B: So this is the Catholic Theology Show, and one of the things we do in the show is try to think that kind of what we think about God matters. Ideas matter about God and what's maybe a belief or an idea you held about God that you learned was false or that was limiting your ability to kind of come to recognize his true face. [00:53:24] Speaker A: I think one of the most healing things for me has been encountering God as divinely simple. That's been the concept of divine simplicity, because I think for a long time I thought God was so complicated, and it doesn't mean he isn't infinitely mysterious, right? But he is mysterious because he is simple and we are divided and disintegrated and complex in the bad sense. So that's been a healing thing for me to kind of learn about God, is that when I'm kind of rife with anxiety and stress and just division in my own mind and heart, he is completely integrated and simple and one. And for a long time, I think I thought he was more complex than me and was just, like, waiting for me to get more and more shattered and fragmented in order to understand Him. But that's not the case. [00:54:18] Speaker B: That's beautifully put. And we are coming on the end of our time. But you end your book with a set passage, a little reading from C. S. Lewis's Great Divorce in this, where there's a young man who's been trapped by lust, the red lizard of lust and his shame, and at some point he allows the angel to kill it. And when the angel kills the lizard, this is what happens. And you call it the white horse. And we all need to find our white horse, right? When the Red Lizard of Lust dies, the white horse of desire, authentic desire for God is released. The new man clapped the new horse's neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into each other's nostrils. The man turned from it and flung himself at the feet of the burning one and embraced them. When he rose, I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness. One cannot distinguish them in that country which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste, the young man leaped upon the horse's back. Turning in his seat, he waved a farewell, nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding, if you like it. I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes. But already they were shooting. They were like a shooting star, far off on the green plain and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible, steeps and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape so high that I must strain my neck to see them. They vanished, bright themselves into the rose brightness of that everlasting morning. As he puts it in the quote. Little poem or song afterwards. But he says this far from beyond all place and time, out of the very place, authority will be given you the strengths that once supposed your will shall be obedient fire in your blood and heavenly thunder in your voice. So for those who are interested in learning more about Rachel Klacke, you can find her book Love and Recovery with Ave Maria Press. [00:56:42] Speaker A: I know. Ironic. [00:56:44] Speaker B: You can also find her work at Magdala Ministries if you're interested. And again, as I said, if you're interested in learning more about the theology of the body, we have a podcast with Dr. Michael Doffine and Dr. Mikhail Waldstein. So thank you very much for being with us on our show today. [00:57:03] Speaker A: Thank you so much for joining for this podcast. If you like this episode, please rate and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our Annunciation Circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on The Catholic Theology Show.

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