…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Out of the Shadows

By Rex Goode


A Book Review by Dave (used by permission)
Patrick J. Carnes’ Out of the Shadows

  • Patrick J. Carnes
  • April 1992, Hazelden Information & Educational Services
  • Paperback 2nd Edition, 182 pages
  • ($12.80 US)
July, 1999


Standing in the wet spring snow storm waiting for the bus, in despair I offered up a silent prayer. It was a prayer similar to the ones I had offered countless times before during the past thirty years. It went something like this:

“Lord, why can’t I shake loose these chains of sexual sin. I’m tired of living this double life. When will I ever change? Is there no hope for me? I have sinned so many times and so grievously, am I hopelessly lost? How can I ever tell my wife. How can I possibly tell the Stake Presidency and my colleagues with whom I serve on the Stake High Council? I have tried and tried to abstain from any more sexual acting out, but I can’t seem to last more than a few months at a time before I relapse. Oh Lord I’m losing hope. I’ve tried and failed so many times. I’m about to give up and give in and resign myself to my awful fate. Instead of confessing to anyone about my problems, wouldn’t it be better to just keep living the double life and slip quietly into hell? After all, what’s the point of confessing again, getting everybody all upset and going through the repentance process, only to just relapse again and have it all be for naught? Lord, what is the answer? Why do keep sinning over and over?”

That question. “Why do I keep sinning over and over,” has hounded me for thirty years, ever since my early teens. I first saw a Playboy magazine at age 10 or 11. By age 14 or 15 I had a masturbation habit. This continued until I went on a mission after confessing the problem to my Bishop.

Two years after completing my mission, I married. During that two year period the masturbation and Playboy problem resumed. I also viewed a few X-rated movies, and on two occasions (once while I was engaged) , I solicited two prostitutes to pose nude. I masturbated in front of one of them.

I confessed all these sins to my bishop during the eleventh hour before my temple marriage. The marriage took place as planned. Within a few months of marriage, however, the masturbation problem resumed again, with occasional delving into magazines and X-rated movies.

I loved my wife and was always very attracted to her. Yet I could not stop the secret acting out. Three years into our marriage, with my wife about to give birth to our second child, I solicited another prostitute to pose nude. About four years into our marriage, I confesses everything to my wife and our bishop and stake president, who all worked with me until I appeared to have the problem conquered. But a few months later I relapsed again and fell back into the pattern of magazines and masturbation, keeping it all a secret from my wife and church leaders.

The years passed, my secret pattern of acting out every few months or so continued. I continued to be untruthful during temple recommend interviews and to accept and carry out various church callings. Other children came along. Then about 10 or 11 years into our marriage I was called as a counselor in a bishopric. I accepted without confessing my secret life.

Then it seems like the secret acting out got worse. No longer content with the magazine pictures, I began to check into motel rooms and there masturbate to rented Playboy videos. That pattern persisted every so often for about a year. Then, no longer content with the videos, I turned to private encounters with private escort/nude modeling agencies.

Meanwhile I was still in the bishopric, dutifully carrying out my responsibilities and carrying on as a husband and father.

At first, when I masturbated to these live models, there was no touching. Soon however, one of them allowed touching. The experience sent me into a panic and guilt attack of near suicidal proportion, afterward. The year was 1990 and I was 34 years of age. Never had my secret acting out over the previous 20 years brought me in actual contact with another woman. I felt my fate was awful, and entertaining suicidal thoughts I contacted a professional therapist.

After a month or two of visits with the therapist, I resolved to confess all to my wife and church leaders. My wife stuck with me and attended the counseling sessions with the therapist. My church leaders worked with me until they and I thought I had the problem conquered. After a few more months, we quit going to the therapist. It seemed that the problem was conquered once and for all.

I continued with my calling in the bishopric and remained clean for about eleven months straight. Then I relapsed again, this time harder than ever. I went to a motel and had an escort agency send a woman to my room. This was late 1990. There I was, still in the bishopric and had fallen again. After everything I had put my wife, bishop and stake president through, after all the therapist sessions, I had relapsed once again.

I didn’t know what to do other than keep it a secret. The consequences, shame and scandal that would follow confessing again, seemed too great to bear. So I kept it a secret. But this new level of acting out continued. From December, 1990 to February, 1999 I had about 55 to 60 encounters with so-called escorts either in motel rooms or their place of establishment. Many of these encounters involved sexual contact but never actual intercourse. For some reason there was always a mental barrier to actual intercourse. I believe I kept that barrier in my head as a way of justifying and rationalizing my behavior, while Satan slowly wrapped his chains around me.

During those years (1990-1999), my facade of church activity continued. Our family moved in 1992 so I was released from the bishopric calling. In our new ward, my callings included High Priest Group Leader during the mid 90’s, and in 1998 I accepted a call to the Stake High Council. All along, I continued to be untruthful in temple recommend interviews and in calling interviews in answer to questions concerning personal worthiness. I fraudulently accepted these callings, all the while concealing from my wife and priesthood leaders the horrible dark side of my life.

When I began my high council calling in 1998, I had been sober for about two months, and I resolved then to really try hard to stay sober. I rationalized that even though I had not cleared up my past sins I would at least “sin no more.” Under this resolve, I actually went a total of six and a half months without acting out. Once again, I thought the problem had been conquered.

Then I relapsed again in October of 1998, this time binging with two escorts on the same day. Racked with horrendous guilt that I would do these things as a High Councilman, I pulled myself and tried to carry on in my calling as best I could. But I relapsed again in early January, 1999, and again in late February.

Which brings me to the moment mentioned at the top of this article: I’m standing at the bus stop in a Spring snow storm, and I offer up another silent prayer for help. It was such a crushing thing to be absolutely all alone in the world with respect to this problem. Not a soul knew, not a single soul. It was March 30, 1999. I’d managed to stay sober for over a month, but I feared another relapse was just around the corner.

I continued my prayer on the bus. Eventually I reached my office, sat down at the computer and aimlessly surfed the Internet, for what I don’t know.

Then, to my amazement, I stumbled upon an Internet web site dedicated to helping Latter-day Saints struggling with sexual addiction. I was flabbergasted. This web site had a discussion board, or forum, in which anyone could participate. I read wonderful messages of love and hope from recovering sex addicts and their spouses. After a few hours of reading, I typed my story and cry for help, and I posted it to the web-site forum.

My message received back some wonderful responses of love and support. I continued each day to read and write to this forum. A transformation quickly came over me. Miraculously, I gained the courage and the desire to confess everything to my wife. That is where the book Out of the Shadows came in.

Some people on the web site forum strongly recommended I read Out of the Shadows. Before confessing to my wife, I purchased the book but did not open it. After confessing to my wife, I told her about this book and I asked her to read it with me in an effort to try to understand my problem. I wasn’t sure whether the book would be of any value to us, but I was desperate for anything that would calm my wife’s fears and doubts. Trusting the positive recommendations about the book I had received from messages on the web site, I hoped that perhaps Out of the Shadows could provide some answers. My wife withheld coming to any conclusions about me until we could read the book.

We started into the book and read it together regularly, out loud. We could hardly read a paragraph, without setting it down and discussing the amazing insights it revealed about my problem. These were stunning insights, to say the least, and they literally changed our lives as we came to understand, for the very first time, the nature and cause of my problem.

The next section tells some of what Out of the Shadows taught my wife and I about sexual addiction.


The full title of the book is Out of the Shadows – Understanding Sexual Addiction. Author Patrick Carnes likens sexual addiction to any other “pathological relationship with a mood altering chemical,” like alcoholism or drug dependency. Just like the next drink becomes more important to the alcoholic than family, friends, and work, so too does the “mood altering experience” of the next sexual encounter become central to the sex addict.

Regularly jeopardizing all that he loves, the sex addict vows to quit over and over, only to turn back to the addiction. Explains Carnes,

“Addicts progressively go through stages in which they retreat further from the reality of friends, family and work. Their secret lives become more real than their public lives. What people know is a false identity. Only the individual addict knows the shame of living a double life – the real world and the addict’s world.”

Carnes described my situation accurately. To think that someone had actually researched, comprehended and was now expounding on my particular problem was electrifying to me. But what made me act this way. How did I ever get into this mess, this “progressive insanity” as Carnes calls it? We continued to read and Carnes unfolded the basic model elements of what he calls “The Addictive System, consisting of four stages: (1) The Faulty Belief System, (2) Impaired Thinking, (3) The Addiction Cycle, and (4) Unmanageability.

Faulty Belief System

According to Carnes, the sexual addiction all beings with a belief system, which is faulty. There are four aspects, or core beliefs to this faulty belief system:

  1. I am basically a bad and unworthy person;
  2. No one would love me if they knew me as I am;
  3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others;
  4. Sex is my most important need.

Impaired Thinking

These four false core beliefs produce in the addict what Carnes calls “impaired thinking” or “distorted views of reality.” These impaired and distorted views of reality manifest themselves in the following forms:

  1. Denial. Ignoring the problem; minimizing behaviors.
  2. Rationalization. Arguments, excuses, justification, circular reasoning.
  3. Sincere Delusion. Addict sincerely believes his own lies, and is outraged that a spouse or arresting officer would doubt his lies.
  4. Paranoia. The addict knows he is untrustworthy, so he is convinced everyone else is too. Hence, according to Carnes, “he is certain that if anyone found out about his secret live of addictive experiences, there would be no forgiveness. Only judgment. The suspicion and paranoia heighten the sense of alienation.”
  5. The Blame Dynamic. To the addict, “[u]ngrateful children, demanding spouses, hard nosed bosses create an unfair world in which the addict deserves a reward.”

This impaired thinking insulates and protects the addict in his world of faulty core beliefs, for “[t]o be honest about one’s limitation,” writes Carnes, “would bring the wall crumbling down – and in turn, jeopardize the one source of nurturing and care that can be counted on: The sexual addiction.” Thus, Carnes argues, the impaired thinking closes the addict off from the real world and eventually propels the addict into the next stage of the Addictive System, what Carnes calls “The Addiction Cycle.”

The Addiction Cycle

Carnes identifies four steps to the Addiction Cycle:

  1. Preoccupation – Thoughts engrossed in sex.Preoccupation over thoughts of illicit sex, according to Carnes, “effectively buries the pain of remorse or regret.” But why? Why sex? Why can’t pain and remorse be buried by a good hike in the mountains, or the simple pleasure of visiting with family and friends, or a good book, or a walk in the park, or last but not least, the emotional and physical companionship of my own wife? These were the questions that plagued my wife and me. Then Carnes gave us one of the most important personal insights, one that really resonated and helped me to understand myself. He suggested that addicts are always in search of a kind of holy grail, which Carnes identifies as “the intense passion of courtship,” or “the intoxication of young love.” The fleeting, exhilarating, intensely mood-altering experience of young courtship — young love, is what addicts try to capture, or recapture as the case may be, during this preoccupation stage. But herein lies the problem and the source of woe for the addict. Because of the fourth faulty core belief discussed above (sex is my most important need), the addict’s thinking is distorted into believing that this “intense passion of courtship,” this “intoxication of young love” he seeks, is somehow bound up and embodied in the illicit sexual experience. Carnes hit the nail on the head as far as I was concerned. The strength and intensity of feeling and emotion I felt during teenage courtships were all-consuming at times, even though I never took sexual liberties with a single girl during courtship. The problem was, underneath the real world of dating and proper courtship, I had my secret life of masturbating to nude pictures in magazines. Even as I behaved myself honorably in the real world of courtship, my parallel indulgence in this secret life of nude pictures and masturbation, was the fantasy method of “actualizing” or “consummating” the real world of courtship. I realize, sadly now, that those secret sessions with the magazines became the most important and central point of my courtship. Somehow, the secret sessions merged with the real dates and courtship and one was not complete without the other. I had firmly latched onto the fourth core belief, that sex was my most important need.(This, by the way, is what I believe to be the number one argument against teen-age masturbation and so-called “harmless soft-porn.” It cripples the individual from properly relating his or her marriage partner.)
  2. Ritualization – Special routines which lead up to the sexual behavior.
    According to Carnes, the obsessive trance identified above, is enhanced by the sex addict’s ritualization. This rang true for me as well. My pattern often went like this. Still undecided and trying to resist acting out, yet fully into the preoccupation stage, I would do such things as call the escort agency to see who was available, then go to the automatic teller machine to get money, then check into the motel. All these events were not the actual acting out, and I could still turn away at any time. But doing these things, heightened the addictive grip or pull, and render me less powerless to resist the preoccupation. Finally, I would call the escort agency and make arrangements for someone to come to the motel. Then, while waiting for her to arrive, I would pace back and forth, again as part of a ritual, that pulled me deeper and deeper into the point of no return.
  3. Compulsive Sexual Behavior – The act itself.Once to this point, addicts are unable to stop. Carnes explains,”The intoxication of the whole experience is what the addict seeks in order to move through the cycle from despair to exhilaration.”
  4. Despair – Regret and hopelessness about the behavior and how to stop it.This is the “low” phase of the 4-step cycle according to Carnes. In my own experience, without fail each session with an escort would end in utter and profound sadness for me. Without fail! Carnes further explains in words that sadly summed up my own experience:

    “The despair which the addict experiences after being compulsively sexual is the “low” phase of the four-step cycle. The let-down combines the sense of failure at not having lived up to resolutions to stop with hopelessness about ever being able to stop. If the behavior was particularly degrading, humiliating, or risky, the addict’s self-pity grows. If the behavior violated basic personal values or exploited them, the addict experiences self-hatred as well. Addicts often report suicidal feelings along with their despair and shame.”

One of the most important points I learned from this book is this: The addict’s usual way of coping and dealing with the pain, guilt and shame felt in step 4, is simply go back to step 1 and start the cycle all over again. It’s the pain, guilt, shame and despair, that drive the cycle and actually make it a cycle, i.e., something that repeats itself. Going through the cycle produces shame, and it’s the shame that drives the addict back through the cycle again, over and over. In Carnes’ words:

“Standing in the wings, however, is the ever-ready preoccupation which can pull the addict out of the doldrums. The cycle then becomes self-perpetuating. Each repetition builds upon the previous experiences and solidifies the reiterative pattern of the addiction. As the cycle fastens its grip on the addict, the addict’s life starts to disintegrate and become unmanageable.”


This is what Carnes identifies as the battle in the struggle to live two different lives: normal and addictive. Relationships, finances, physical needs, lifestyle are all affected and shame is compounded. I can attest to all of this. I also agree with Carnes that the single worst consequence of this double life is the isolation. You’re the only friend you have, and a rotten one at that. As Carnes explains:

“The more intensely involved in compulsive sexual life the addicts become, the more alienated they become from their parents, spouses, and children. Without these human connections, the addicts paradoxically lose touch with their own selves. The unmanageability from the addiction has run its course when there is no longer a double life. When there are no longer friends or family to protect or job to hold, or pretenses to be made – even thought some things are valued enough to want to stop – the addiction is at its most destructive and violent point. The addict’s world has become totally insulated from real life.”

Carnes observes that the whole problem of unmanageability propels the addict back through the Addictive System by confirming and reinforcing the addict’s faulty belief that he is a bad and unworthy person. Hence the addict starts the system all over again, propelled onward by an ever more entrenched faulty belief system.

In my own experience, unmanageability marks the cross-roads in the system, the possible “jumping off point.” The addict may either go back and wallow in his faulty belief system, or he may jump off the track and confess and get help.


Out of the Shadows goes on to explore the levels of addiction (from masturbation to criminal sexual assault), the addict’s family’s role in the addiction, the problem of co-addiction, and other issues, all of which my wife and I found very helpful. But for me, the heart of this book is its breakdown, analysis and exposition of the addictive system and addiction cycle.

I felt like I was reading my own personal diagnosis. For the first time in my life I saw deep into myself and found the presence of the four core beliefs. I pinpointed the impaired thinking and distorted reality under which I had labored for years, and I finally understood what the holy grail was I had been seeking all these years, and why I continued to seek it. It was the way low estimation of my self as a person, and I was obsessively searching for an antidote. Each time I acted out, however, I violated my values and principles, thus only compounding my shame and already poor self-regard, and thus renewing and enhancing my continued search for the antidote. Hence the decades-long cycle.

By Spring of this year, I had racked up a credit card bill in excess of $6,500. My marriage was marked with continual tension and arguments. My awful dread of the hereafter was too much to bear. Not out of principle, or forthrightness, or sense of aplomb, or any other cardinal virtue, did I go to my wife. Rather, I was exhausted, beat up, sinking. I tearfully reached out a hand and brought my wife into the awful secret.

She took hold of my hand and did not let go.

Ten days later, with my wife by my side, I confessed every detail in front of my stake president. With profound sadness and dismay, he asked for my building keys and other high council materials, and he asked for my temple recommend which I had fraudulently obtained.

A stake disciplinary council was convened a few weeks later. And I as a stake high council member, who held that position only through cover-up and fraud, sat before my colleagues and confessed everything, the whole sordid thirty-year tale.

The confession process, to my wife, my stake president, and the high council, was excruciating, but I pressed on because I hated worse the pain of the double life. I wanted to kill off the double life, kill it dead. I was sick of it. I loathed it. I wanted it over, done gone. To eradicate as much of the shame as possible by confessing all was my goal to which I single-mindedly adhered. Tears were shed as I lay bare my soul and told all. My wife was also interviewed while I waited outside. After hours of prayer of deliberation to know the Lord’s will, a decision was made. I was disfellowshipped from the Church.

It is now July, 1999. I have been sober for over five months. I’m patiently waiting the distant day when the blessings of full fellowship are restored to me. I’m still somewhere in the middle of my recovery. The book Out of the Shadows has provided the bed rock of understanding for my wife and me. On this foundation, we continue to build daily in reading scriptures, church books, other books by Patrick Carnes, visits with the therapist, and I recently started participating in a twelve-step group.

Of course, the twelve steps of recovery, patterned after the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, are set forth in “Out of the Shadows.” What I really appreciate is how Carnes takes the four faulty core beliefs, and recasts and reshaped each of them into their positive corresponding true belief, and groups them with the 12 steps, as follows:

  1. I am a worthwhile person deserving of pride. Key Steps 1,2,3.
  2. I am loved and accepted by people who know me as I am. Key Steps 4,5,8,9.
  3. My needs can be met by others if I let them know what I need. Key Steps 6,7.
  4. Sex is but one expression of my need and care for others. Key Steps 10, 11, 12.


The last chapter in Out of the Shadows has a title that is somewhat haunting: “The Future if Conditional.” The chapter, however, immediately begins with a quotation from Walt Whitman which gives me hope:

“I am larger, better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.”

The future is indeed conditional for me. I hold the keys and I choose which door to open. There are many components to recovery from sexual addiction. But whatever else I learn and do in recovery, I hope I always stand guard against letting the four faulty core beliefs re-enter my belief system. The saying, “as a man thinketh so is he, is very true. I must always hold dear the thoughts that I am a good person, that others will love me as I am, that I can depend on others to meet my needs if I seek help, and that sex, in the bounds of a loving married commitment, is only one way to care and be cared for. Patrick Carnes is a true pioneer. I am forever grateful for his contribution. I count the knowledge imparted by Out of the Shadows concerning my addiction and the underlying core beliefs that support it, as one of the most important discoveries in all my possession. Out of the Shadows has literally brought me out of the shadows. It is essential reading for all who struggle with sexual addiction.


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