Valley Voices

Forest Benedict: When sex secrets surface

Forest Benedict
Forest Benedict

Like reality star Josh Duggar, I, too, was once shackled by sexual addiction. I now work with the walking wounded, coaching them to crawl from the ashes of addiction into the light of new life.

I imagine he’s feeling unprecedented shame. Just days after publicly confessing hypocrisy, a secret pornography addiction, cheating on his wife Anna and using the Ashley Madison cheat website, his betrayal booms across the Internet and the gossip grows. His confession will be among many. Following the submerged explosion, sexual secrets will soon ceaselessly rise to the surface of the public’s awareness, thanks to the Ashley Madison hack that has stunned us all.

Yet, for every individual whose discretions are discovered, there are countless others who remain buried in the depths of addiction. Sadly, in their shame, they stay silent. Like Duggar, most of them won’t step forward in surrender until their choices catch up with them, stabbing both them and their loved ones.

This is where he finds himself, leveled by the impact of his discovery and disclosure. I urge him to open his eyes to the opportunity before him. These suggestions could spare further suffering and guide him – and others – to growth, should they choose the higher road of recovery:

▪ Don’t deny. No doubt, he’ll want to wake from this reality. Some harmed are those closest, but many he will not know. He’s confirmed their greatest fears that even family, friends and leaders can stray from the paths they preach. None are immune to infidelity, and that is earthshaking for most. Having broken the trust of the multitudes, the response to the wreckage speaks clearer than any position he’s proclaimed. Denial deepens distrust. Acceptance heightens their hopes.

▪ Take responsibility. He was not a victim of circumstances. Blaming choices on couple conflict, a substandard sex life or internal instability always proves pointless. An addiction is not at fault. Fixation with these factors can’t contribute to change. He chose this path and can choose the next.

▪ Humbly seek specialized help. Scanning the carnage of selfish choices stirs up self-hatred. Expect cravings that promise momentary escape from the stress of self-attack. Resisting alone is a recipe for relapse. Humbly seek help. Specialists stand by, educated and equipped to pull you to safety. Since some doubters deny the science behind sexual addiction, seek only specialists. We won’t downplay a sexual addiction’s severity or discount the trauma of those betrayed by your behavior. We will help.

▪ Care for the wounded. One word describes the impact of sexual betrayal on a partner – trauma. A wife’s world has capsized, and she is drenched in doubts. She wrestles with disappointment in the divine. In this state of suffering, do not mistake her presence for allegiance. Should she stay or renounce the relationship, make her healing high priority. I have seen resilience after the devastation of disclosure. Both can learn to love again. Also, don’t let your children cascade through the cracks. They need to see a father who fights.

▪ Courageously hope. Though the darkness is great, hope remains. Many before Duggar have discovered life after the “wasted years” more connected and meaningful than anything before. Such a recovery is possible yet hard-earned. Real recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. With skilled support, he can find freedom, looking back on the day of his discovery as an unexpected, bittersweet blessing.

As I see Duggar caught by consequences, I offer compassion. This is not to condone the choices he made, but because shame is never the catalyst for significant change. The media will demonize him, but I see a hurting human being.

He represents millions of men and women who are caught in addiction, tirelessly seeking to cope with their wounds and cover their tracks. My hope is that all who are secretly struggling will seek the support they so desperately desire, not just for themselves but also for those who love them.

It takes courage to come out of hiding. But when we do, true healing can begin.

Forest Benedict is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual addiction treatment provider. He works at Roubicek & Thacker, where he is the clinical director of the LifeSTAR and YouthSTAR treatment programs, treating sexually addicted individuals and their partners in the Valley. He can be reached at or (559) 323-8484.