Common Recovery Terms and Concepts

As you begin your road to healing and recovery, you may hear some words or phrases you are not familiar with and have no idea what they mean.

You can feel like there is so much to learn and sometimes feel lost because you don’t understand what is being taught.

There may be ideas and tools that are new to you.

We want to make it easier as you begin this journey so have provided a list of terms and definitions you may hear as you learn more about betrayal trauma and begin the WORTH program.

Addictive Behaviors

Addictive behaviors are unhealthy coping skills used to mask underlying issues. These behaviors often develop in youth and are used to numb, avoid, cope with or cover fear, pain, shame, trauma, attachment, rejection or other issues. As addictive behaviors cause an immediate chemical reward in the brain, when they are used, neural pathways are created and reinforced.

Because the brain needs new/novel information to stimulate chemical rewards, addictive behaviors are often progressive and drive the user deeper into their addictive behaviors. As a result, regardless of one’s intent or will to stop, the individual often falls back into the addictive behaviors. 

Addictive behaviors may be punctuated by a pulling away or withdrawal from connection with a spouse or others. Self isolation, a single minded vision, or sole focus on the needs and wants of the addict may also be seen.

Empathy and compassion are often replaced with frustration, irritability, coupled with an increased focus on “self” and needs, rather than reaching out, serving, and connecting with others. These behaviors may also include secretiveness, large or undisclosed impulse purchases, non-logical reasoning, and a spouse may often note that something is “off” or not quite right.

Addict Brain

Addict brain refers to a biological/behavioral state when an individual has addictive chemicals accumulating to an unhealthy level in their brain. This may affect rational reasoning and judgement, rather than processing from a clear and logical state. This term is often used with or in lieu of addict fog.

Sometimes in this state, the addict may be solely focused on “chasing the next hit” or working feverishly to figure out where/when they can act out again to create another rush of dopamines and chemicals in their brain. 

After acting out, residual heightened brain chemicals remain in the brain for 90 days. Behaviors and interactions may be affected by these residual heightened chemicals. Residual addict behaviors will last for years after sobriety is gained, if not worked through. 

Addict Fog

Addict Fog refers to the mental state of a spouse when they are experiencing the effects of addiction. In this state, they may not be thinking clearly and rationally and their judgement may be clouded by the chemicals swirling around in their brain. They may engage in crazy making or gas lighting behaviors. See addict brain.

Betrayal Trauma

Betrayal trauma occurs when women discover that their spouse is or has been engaging in sexual addiction(s) and/or sexual misbehaviors. It includes triggers and emotional recall of traumatic experiences, usually involving discovering their spouse’s infidelity – virtual or otherwise. Betrayal trauma occurs not because of the sexual acting out itself, it occurs with the lies and manipulation that have been happening in a relationship that was built on trust and safety.

When trust and safety have been broken, relationship/betrayal trauma occurs. Betrayal Trauma includes PTSD like symptoms, including flashes of intense emotions and triggers.


A boundary is an IF/Then statement that allows the individual to create safety for themselves. They recognize that they can’t control another’s actions or take away their agency. A boundary is then a tool that specifies what they will do or need to do to create safety for themselves in an unsafe environment.

For example, “I recognize that you have your agency and can choose to look at pornography in our home. However, IF you choose to view pornography in our home, in order to keep myself and our children safe, THEN I will need to leave and take the children with me for our spiritual and emotional safety.” A boundary is not a consequence, it is a safety tool, and it is most effective when carefully and prayerfully pre-determined and disclosed. 

Celestial Orientation

Celestial orientation refers to a woman’s innate drive or desire to improve things around her. This is not limited solely to her physical environment, but also refers to her desire to nurture, heal and do anything that she can to mend and fix her marriage and/or other relationships. This celestial orientation is often at the base of her hope. 


Worth adheres to the betrayal trauma model and not the codependency model. Yet, there are still codependent behaviors than can occur while trying to cope living with an addict.

Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.

Co-dependents often feel compelled to solve other people’s problems, and codependency is often tied to enabling behavior – they usually end up taking on the irresponsible addict’s responsibilities. 

Their behavior starts as a well-intentioned desire to help, but in later stages of addiction, they act out of desperation. The family dynamics become skewed, so that the spouse increasingly over-functions and the addict increasingly under-functions. 

This builds resentment on both sides, along with the addict’s expectation that the over-functioning partner will continue to make things right when the addict doesn’t meet his or her responsibilities.

Some examples of codependency are: not being okay because a spouse is not okay or making poor decisions, doing everything for or expending all of your energy on behalf of your spouse, feeling trapped in your relationship, being the one that is constantly making sacrifices in the relationship.

Crazy Making

See Gas Lighting


D-Day refers to Discovery or Disclosure day. This is the moment when a grenade lands in the spouse’s lap, and she discovers or it is disclosed to her that her spouse has a sexual addiction, or has been acting out in sexual misbehaviors.

Her whole world, and the foundation of trust upon which her marriage and relationship was built is blown to bits. She is left dazed, in trauma – with PTSD triggers, wounded immeasurably, and in a maelstrom as she tries to distinguish truth from deceit.


Detaching doesn’t mean that you stop caring. It means that one honestly stops taking responsibility for another’s behavior. One still feels compassion, and hopes for the miracle of a changed heart, but doesn’t beat themselves up when it doesn’t happen.

Part of detachment is recognizing the powerlessness in owning another’s actions, and stepping into a space focusing on one’s own actions. If a spouse is making unhealthy choices, it would be unwise to continue to try to correct, or cling to them.

As one detaches emotionally, they continue to treat their spouse with respect and kindness – just as they would a roommate or neighbor, but they don’t engage emotionally in unsafe relationships.


Enabling removes the natural consequences to an addict of their behavior, and allows them to maintain or continue irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behaviors which are damaging and unhealthy. Professionals warn against enabling because evidence has shown that an addict experiencing the damaging consequences of his addiction on his life has the most powerful incentive to change. Enablers, rather than addicts, suffer the effects of the addict’s behavior, when rather than refusing to accept their behaviors, they allow them to continue. 

When dealing with sexual addiction, if a spouse chooses not to utilize boundaries, and steps around the issues rather than addressing them, she enables continued addiction and misbehavior. 

Gas Lighting

Gas Lighting and Crazy Making are interchangeable terms for this phenomenon. Perhaps you find yourself feeling secure in your opinion or feeling regarding something your partner has done. Yet, once you begin to discuss this perception with the other you second guess and doubt what had been firmly in mind.

This type of pattern leaves the recipient with “makes-me-crazy” spinning and they are never able to be sure if what they think or are feeling is valid. As a result, they are left hesitant regarding their decisions and ashamed of their emotions. Typically, the culprit who makes you feel crazy in these situations is actually projecting their own insecurities and self-hatred onto you.

God Triangle

This analogy illustrates the importance of reliance upon God, rather than relying on the arm of flesh. 

Imagine a triangle, with equal sides, with Heavenly Father at the top, the husband in the bottom left corner, and the woman in the bottom right corner.

In dealing with a spouse’s sexual addiction, there’s a lot of pain. The wife just wants things to go back to how they were before, or to return to the dream that was promised when she married her husband.

And so, many times, the wife will put all of her focus on her husband, trying to help him in his recovery or to find answers and tools that he can use to stop the addiction. As she does this, she often finds that she feels lonely, confused, consumed, dark, heavy, hopeless, exhausted, helpless, despair, and fear. As she does this, she is relying on the arm of flesh – she is trying to rely on her husband to take care of things, and take her back to what was promised, or the life they previously had. 

When he says (or indicates) “…I can’t do that,” she may feel that he is being disconnected, mean, unreliable, irritable, frustrating etc. As she realizes that she can’t rely on him and his recovery for her to be okay, she retreats back to her corner of the triangle and says “fine, I’ll do it on my own – I don’t need you.” Although she thought this would be better or easier, she usually feels overwhelmed, confused, rejected, hurt, abandoned, and experiences dark heavy feelings. She is surprised to realize that she doesn’t feel any better than she did before. 

If she relies on her husband to fix everything so she can feel better, it won’t work. Similarly, if she just relies on herself to fix everything, she finds she feels overwhelmed and also doesn’t feel any better. 

If she can turn to Heavenly Father, there she can find peace, calm, clarity, guidance, direction, light, freedom, and happiness. 

She may realize, “I feel lonely, disconnected, overwhelmed, etc. I’m having a hard time and trying to do it on my own. I feel lonely confused, hopeless etc. when my husband is having a hard time. The emotions I want to feel though are the calm, peaceful, clarity, light, guidance so how do I get there?” 

Self care and authenticity are tools which bring her closer to, and allow her to be able to rely upon Heavenly Father and find those feelings she seeks. Self care means that she takes personal action in her healing, and it is a ladder that brings her closer to God. This ladder leads her out of chaos.

The rungs of the ladder include spiritual, physical, emotional and mental self care. Examples of these may be prayer, exercise, scriptures/conference talks, studying and gaining knowledge of addiction and betrayal trauma, mindfulness and meditation etc. If she is able to take care of herself, then she’ll be more peaceful and calm and not as affected by these things.

Self care is action oriented, and she must have continuous action to move her from her state of pain. 

There is a misconception however, that if she’s moving towards God, then it feels like she’s moving away from her husband. In reality, the beauty of this triangle is that where ever she is on the ladder – she is never any further away from her husband from any point in the triangle. She can know what to do and have her direction, moving towards God as she seeks peace when her husband cycles or acts out, instead of being stuck.

She can still do all of the things on her ladder and still love her husband. As she finds the peace and calm, the clarity and guidance that Heavenly Father provides, she will have help to know what to do if her husband is acting out, and she will know what to do to find her own peace. 


Grieving is an important part of healing from betrayal trauma. As an individual experiences D-Day, she discovers that portions of her history with her spouse included lying and cheating, and she realizes that she was living with deception.

As she begins to process the betrayal, she will mentally sift through experiences and interactions with her spouse, re-examining and filling in information that was previously surrounded with doubt, holes or gaps, and uncertainty. She will fill in holes and pieces as she re-constructs her shared history with her spouse, as well as her frame of reference with him – as everything she previously believed has been pulled out from under her. As such, she will process through the grief cycle as she works through her healing from this betrayal.

The Grief Cycle

The Grief Cycle was identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as emotions and a process which individuals go through as they experience grief. There are 5 stages of this cycle including 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance and 6. Meaning. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them. The emotions involved with this grief cycle can often feel like a pin-ball machine, the emotions pinging back and forth without rhyme or reason – often many are experienced simultaneously. 

Honoring Emotions

Honoring emotions refers to recognizing and identifying what the emotion is, naming and allowing oneself to feel and allow the energy of the emotion wash over them, and then standing in and stating one’s truth. Difficult emotions are easily and quickly pushed down as one tries to avoid pain and fear.

Pushing emotions down instead of acknowledging and processing through them creates a hindrance to healing. Emotions should be honored in manners that correlate to one’s behavior systems and with integrity, so that a backlash of shame and emotions doesn’t arise due to reactive behaviors outside of one’s honor system. 

Journaling is an effective method of honoring emotions as it moves the emotions and thoughts from the head – where they were swirling around, to paper where they can be viewed objectively.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Lost Battle

As we recognize that Satan’s primary focus and goal is to destroy us, our marriages, and our relationships, the term lost battle refers to the daily battles which occur between ourselves and Satan. Some of our battles occur in our minds as we experience thoughts, which we choose to listen to or ignore – including negative self talk.

Other battles are fought and lost/won through our daily choices and interactions. A battle is “lost” when we choose to engage in, or act with behaviors that exist outside of our value systems.                                                                                       

Love Vs. Lust Vs. Sexual Addiction

Love is an intense feeling of affection and care towards another person, with a deep concern for their well-being. It is a profound and caring attraction. 

On the other hand, lust is a strong desire of a sexual nature. Pure lust is based solely on physical attraction and fantasy–it often dissipates when the “real person” surfaces. It’s the stage of wearing rose colored glasses when he or she “can do no wrong.” Being in love doesn’t exclude lust. In fact, lust can lead to love. However, real love, not based on idealization or projection, requires time to get to know each other. 

Signs of Lust: Focus on a person’s looks and body, interest in having sex, but not in having conversations, keeping the relationship on a fantasy level, not discussing real feelings. 

Signs of Love: A desire to spend quality time together in various activities (other than sex.) One gets lost in conversation and forgets about the passing hours. A desire to honestly listen to and understand each other’s feelings, serve, and help to create comfort and happiness for the other individual. Their influence creates a desire to strive to be a better person.

Maurice Harker’s Number Scale

This concept comes from Maurice Harker’s book, “Like Dragons Did They Fight” in which a number scale represents the state of the brain and how close it is to “losing a battle” or losing control and participating in addictive or harmful behaviors. The scale ranges between 1-10, but we mostly focus on the 1-5 stages, since this is where battles are won or lost.

1-2 represents the brain chemicals which are beginning to activate and swirl around. Irritability, unclear thinking, and frustration may become more noticeable. 

3-4 represents the escalation where logic, reasoning and judgement are lost as the brain begins to engage the limbic (fight, flight or freeze) part of the brain, rather than the logical and judgement based pre-frontal cortex. 

5 represents the moment when one loses control and gives into the addiction or misbehaviors which don’t coincide with the individual’s value system.

Packing Your Wagon

This term references the preparations an individual makes in case they may be forced out of their home. It refers to preparing one’s self for a hard journey ahead, on one’s own, without the help or support of a husband. 

To be wise and prepared, one recognizes that there is a possibility that this may happen, and so both figurative and literal preparations are made. A suitcase (wagon) is prepared with everything that may be needed for her to survive and succeed in the future on her own, and it is available for her at any time of the day, at a moment’s notice. 

Mental and emotional preparations are made as well, as she prepares to move forward on her own if needed. 
See Pioneer Woman Mode. 

Pioneer Woman Mode

Pioneer Woman mode embodies the sacrifice that Mormon Utah Pioneer women made. These women were thrust from their homes, often with their children and little or no provisions. They were forced to walk, sometimes barefoot, pulling handcarts with their belongings, responsible for providing for their needs and those of their children. 

Pioneer Woman Mode refers to assessing the situation, and creating a safety plan for oneself, including planning and creating financial resources, preparing emotionally/mentally, obtaining education, preparing for provisions and lodging should need arise, or if a husband is no longer able or willing to support his wife and children. 

This may also include going back to school, getting life insurance, creating savings, and even packing bags with a plan in place, should it ever be necessary for an individual to move forward without her spouse. 

See Packing Your Wagon

Satanic Spin

Satan’s sole purpose and focus is to destroy God’s children, including individuals, marriages and families. While Satan primarily distracts and attacks men through temptation, one of his most powerful tools of attack on women comes through mental torment. 

A Satanic spin refers to the negative thought processes that begin with a thought, and then builds in ferocity. 

Similar to a whirlpool, the individual becomes so stuck in the thought process that it becomes difficult to remove themselves from the cycle. When caught in this “spin” they aren’t able to think clearly or logically, high emotions are involved, and one may act outside of or contrary to their value system, later asking themselves, “What was I thinking?”

Self – Care

Self-care is the principle of taking care of oneself everyday, based in the following four areas: 

Physical – getting out of bed, exercising to move the brain from fight or flight mode and to capitalize on the healthy chemicals that come from exercise and relieve pain and stress. 

Emotional – attending a support group, reaching out to others, connecting and building healthy relationships, learning to utilize boundaries, honoring emotions. 

Spiritual – connecting with God each day through scripture, prayer, fasting, church meetings, temple, uplifting music, conference talks, church leaders, learning to rely on the arm of God rather than on the arm of flesh, and learning to surrender one’s will to follow God’s will with faith. 

Mental – taking the time to gain education, reading books and articles, researching and learning about addiction, betrayal trauma, and healing. 

Sex Fast

A sex fast is a tool used by couples to regroup and reset their intimate relationship. When a sexual addiction is present in a relationship and the addiction may have created a frequent drive toward intimacy – regardless of connection, this tool can be used to help focus on the non-intimate or physical parts of the relationship. Some experts recommend a 90 – day sex fast, which allows any residual addictive chemicals in the brain to disappear. The couple uses this time to learn to enjoy spending time together in non-physical interactions.

Sexual or Lust Addiction

Some addictions, such as drinking or smoking are socially accepted. Sexual, or lust addictions however, carry an inordinate amount of shame. Members of society and culture often begin to squirm and feel uncomfortable when someone mentions sexual addiction or pornography and masturbation. Lust addiction encompasses all sexual acting out and is not specific to just pornography. 

Slip vs. Relapse

A slip is considered to be a less serious occurrence than a relapse. Both events are negative, but they differ in the degree of impact they will have on the life of the individual.

Slips are when people pick up an addictive behavior or substance after a period of sobriety but stop again almost right away. They might have had one night where they returned to their former behavior but realized right away that it was a mistake. As soon as they sobered up they were able to return to life in recovery. A slip is often a spur of the moment event and not something that the individual has been planning.

A relapse is far more serious than a slip because it means that the individual has returned to their former addiction. The word relapse means to fall again. It often starts off as a slip, but then progresses from there. This relapse may last for days or it could be longer than this. It may mean that the current attempt to escape addiction has been completely abandoned. The individual might never have another opportunity to give up their addiction.

The person who relapses can easily end up right back where they started if they don’t stop quickly. The fact that the individual has experienced life away from the addiction, may mean that addiction is more painful than ever.

Sobriety vs. Recovery

There is an important distinction between being “sober” and being in “recovery”. The differences are clear to those who have experienced both phases in their healing process from addiction. 

When an individual is “sober” from a lust addiction without attending a mutual-help program, therapy, medication, management, then they are in a sense “white knuckling” their sobriety (alcoholics in this state are referred to as being a “dry drunk”). These individuals may be staying away from their addiction, but they are not treating the underlying issues that either led to their indulging in the first place, or which developed as their addiction progressed.

Many “sober” addicts who are not in “recovery” will experience a transfer of addictions that could involve a new addiction to food, gaming, gambling, substances, shopping etc. because they have not found a healthy way to fill the void that the lust had satisfied. They may have stopped acting out, but their life may be exactly the same, leading them to struggle with emotional or mental health issues. 

An individual who is in “recovery” is essentially in remission from their addiction. Their addiction is not cured, but is at bay in a way that allows them to be free of the cravings, mental obsession and they have treated their underlying issues (mental health, spiritual, physical) that led to or resulted from their indulgence.

These individuals have found a way to fill the void once satisfied by lust through spiritual, emotional and/or behavioral solutions that they have learned through treatment, therapy, medication management and/or mutual help groups. They have made significant changes that have allowed them to find peace in removing lust from their life and to have emotional stability.

Recovery requires the brain and thought processes to be rewired – a process that usually takes at least 1 month, for each year that the addict engaged in mis-behaviors. 

Social support, and accountability to an individual other than the spouse are key components for lasting, effective recovery. 


For a woman experiencing betrayal trauma, spinning may be caused by something that is said or done, or a trigger which throws her into a fight, flight or freeze mode (limbic brain). 

Due to a trigger, intense emotions, or crazy making, a woman may struggle to think and process or reconnect logically. Her mind and emotions “spin” around as she feels stuck and unable to “come back down” or remove herself from the spin. It is difficult to come down to the pain, fear, and shame, which underlie the spinning. Minimalizing, rationalizing, and justifying are characteristics of spinning. Our mind uses these tools to lessen pain. These are part of denial.

When spinning occurs, an effective tool of reconnection includes writing – which can move the emotions from the head to paper. This can facilitate getting to, and digging down through the fight/flight/freeze state, providing access to the pain, fear, or shame. Additionally, speaking, saying it out loud, and going through the facts of “this is what was said, this is what he told me” allows one to remove the emotions and make it fact based.

After writing down the facts, one can step back and say, “If a friend told me these facts, what would it look like? Is it as big as it feels?” They can also bounce it off of a trusted individual, in order to separate the fact from the emotion. This will provide a much better idea of the scope of what one is dealing with. If it can be removed from the head, the individual can step out of the spin. 

Thrive Document

A “thrive document” is a list of conditions that a woman creates, delineating exactly what she needs, to create a safe environment in which she is able to blossom and grow. 


Betrayal trauma can cause PTSD like symptoms. As such, an individual may hear, see, smell, taste, touch, something, or even have a thought which “triggers” a flashback or flood of memories. The ensuing emotions that can create a crippling effect both emotionally, and sometimes even physically. Symptoms often include time slowing down, tunnel vision, and an exact recall of minute details of a traumatic experience. 

Weather Check

Just as individuals step outside and survey conditions, check the local weather/road reports, watch and prepare for icy roads, dangerous areas, and even closures that will have to be navigated around, women also do this as they take note of their husband’s “weather” and temperature. 

A simple weather check can be done by laying a hand on a spouse’s chest, and listening to his heart and his breathing. As a woman does this, she looks her husband straight in the face, in the eyes, and talks with him. She can tell by the dilation of his pupils, his breathing, the tenseness of his body, and from the light in his eyes whether he is in a good place and being forthright. 

As she checks his weather, she listens to the spirit, as well as her own body (listening to your gut) to determine if he is in a ‘safe place’ for her to engage with him, and if he’s there with her. 

White Knuckling

In cases of sexual addiction, oftentimes, behaviors are viewed as “a problem I have every now and then, but it isn’t an addiction”. 

White knuckling refers to a length of time when an individual is not acting out on their addiction and so they are going through the motions of sobriety, however despite this, they are not in true recovery because they have not gone through the process and work of rewiring their brain and thinking processes to a point of real recovery. 

Individuals may “white knuckle” for years – even decades without being in true recovery. 

See sobriety vs. recovery

If you are experiencing any kind of betrayal trauma or need help moving forward, please contact us to enroll in the WORTH program