John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, we’re returning to the story of a damaged marriage where God intervened in powerful ways. And, uh, we’ll cover some mature topics here, so please direct the attention of younger children elsewhere for the next 30 minutes.
Mrs. Kirsten Samuel: And then, all of sudden, he said, “Mom, do you love my dad? (emotional) And that started God taking me through my vows, because when He asked me that question, we had – we had met with our restoration team and God had begun His work in me, long enough, that I could see the hope.
End of Excerpt
John: That’s Kirsten Samuel, and she’s with us again today on Focus on the Family, along with her husband, Dave, and they have an incredible story for us. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we had an amazing conversation with Dave and Kirsten last time describing the heartbreaking revelation that Dave was suffering from a lifelong and secret addiction to pornography. And as a result, his job and marriage were on the line. But God was right there in the middle of their crisis and the Samuels were almost immediately able to get the help they needed to begin restoring their relationship. It was a difficult, messy journey. If you missed the program last time, get the download. Get the smartphone app. Listen to it. Because if you’re in that spot, this is the kind of help that you need to know about. And the bottom line is, let us help you. That’s why they’re here telling their story. Their heart is that they can be vulnerable, share their story, so perhaps tens, if not hundreds of people, can be helped and healed as well in their marriages.
John: Mm-hmm. And we’ve seen literally thousands of couples helped through Hope Restored, Jim, the Focus on the Family marriage intensives that have four days or so of time unpacking and exposing and dealing with some of those things that you talked about.
Jim: You know, it’s there. We have three locations for you. It’s in Branson, Missouri, also in Michigan and in Winshape in Rome, Georgia. And we want you to reach out. We will find a way to get you through that program. And it has an 80% post two-year recovery rate. I mean, those – that means that 80% of those marriages that were headed toward divorce are two years later, still together and doing better.
Jim: And, uh, we’re here for you. And that is a wonderful program.
John: It is. And miracles do happen at these intensives. Call us if you’d like to learn more about Hope Restored or to talk to one of our counselors. That’s a free service that we offer. Uh, we can set you up for a consultation with one of those counselors when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And as we did last time, we’re covering a great new book that’s out with Kirsten Samuel called Choosing a Way Out: When the Bottom Isn’t the Bottom. And, uh, let’s pick it up right there. Uh, it was so good last time, so painful. You both had tears. I – I get it. And I so appreciate your willingness to share the story because people will be helped. And that’s the bottom line. Um, Dave, I want to ask you, because we didn’t really cover this territory last time – that addiction problem. Where did it start? What happened to you? How old were you? And it’s not an excuse at the same time, right?
David Samuel: No. Right.
Jim: I mean, it happens, but it doesn’t mean you have to choose…
Jim: …To go that direction. Explain.
David: It all started – I was exposed to pornography probably when I was 5 or 6, um, by a neighbor friend. You know, just one of those things where, “Hey, check – check out this magazine.” I was youngest of three, brought up in a military family so we moved around all the time so, you know, didn’t have a lot of friends that had a lot of history. And so, that fed my insecurity of being a boy that wasn’t into sports, you know, didn’t – wasn’t the jock, didn’t do all that stuff, was more attracted to arts and music, um, more of a sensitive temperament. And so, didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere with the guy friends that I would have at school, you know, when – when I would make friends finally after we changed, you know, military posts. And so, that whole process, that – that – pornography was my medication of choice. When I felt insecure, when I felt scared and frightened, which was a lot of the time – you know, going into a new school for the first time. And it’s hard. It was hard for me, but that was my medication of choice. Okay, before the Internet, it was more difficult to have access to any of that, so it was pretty much controlled with the exception of, you know, walking along the street and finding a magazine that somebody had tossed out the – the car window or something like that. Um, but for the most part, it was controlled. So, the first part of our marriage really, you know, had no access to it. It was – it was fine. The marriage was great. But around the time where Internet started becoming into our homes, which would have been early 90s – early, mid 90s – it really became a struggle because the access was there, the anonymity was there, the secrecy was there, was all those things that fuel an addiction where I can get away with this. And so, that just continued to snowball.
Jim: You know, in that context, before we move back to the story – um, addiction versus saturation. I mean, the culture is saturated…
David: Mm-hmm. Right.
Jim: …In pornography, to some degree – scantily clothed people, et cetera. It’s almost celebrated now. You know, a Super Bowl commercial and all the stuff we talk about. I mean, how do you not look at some of that and turn away? But you’re still being shown this almost without any desire or anything. So, I…
David: And you can’t turn away fast enough.
Jim: Yeah, you can’t…
Jim: …You’re just exposed. I mean, I have two teen boys so that – you know, Jean and I are constantly talking …
Jim: …About that. And, you know, now it’s inoculation. They’re exposed to it. Now you got to say, “Okay, what would God want you to think about here?”
Jim: And – but our – I guess the bottom-line question is…
Jim: …The culture is so saturated. How do you actually subdue that?
David: Well, I think, let’s talk about it from a parent’s standpoint of, you know, you’ve got kids in the home that are being exposed to that. You’ve got to talk about it. You’ve got to say, “Okay. What did that make you feel? What did you see? Let’s talk about that.” Was – what did…
Jim: Be more open is what I’m hearing.
David: Yeah, absolutely.
David: I mean, uh, when I would bring these things up to my parents – and I love my parents and – but no parent is perfect, right? The – the answer I would get would be would be, “The birds can fly over your head, but you don’t need to let them make a nest in your hair.” And I remember – and I remember…
John: An ancient proverb says.
David: Right. I remember as a 12-year-old thinking, what does that mean? And…
Jim: That’s like that commercial where the woman is asking for financial advice of her father.
Jim: He says something like that and she’s like, “What?”
David: And I just remember thinking, okay, that’s not the – that doesn’t help and so I’m not going to pursue these questions with my folks anymore. And so, I didn’t. And as I look back, you know, to – for someone to show a 5- or 6-year-old pornography is abuse. And I know…
David: …I know that now. You’re right, Jim. It doesn’t – it’s not an excuse…
David: …But we – because we do have a choice.
Jim: Yeah. And I just wanted to make sure we get that out on the table.
Jim: That, that was the origin. It’s the typical origins for boys, you know, that we end up seeing things at 8-, 9- , 10-years-old and it seems to be getting younger all the time. And then, you know, it – it grabs you. For all those reasons, it becomes a coping mechanism.
Jim: All right. Last time we ended in a tender moment. I mean, Kirsten, you were talking about the recovery program. You had a recovery team, which I think is incredible. I think for most people, you know, when they’re asked the question, do you have a good friend? Many people, certainly men, say “No.”
Jim: So, describe even the idea of – of a team of people that were there to help you. I mean, that – most people probably would not have that. How did you recognize it? How did you formulate it and who came to your rescue?
Kirsten: Well, like I said, we made immediate phone calls. First one I made was to, uh, Kathy and then Dave made a call to our friend Peter. We’d been in a Bible study with Peter and Debbie for a number of years and knew that we could trust them. And, um, so, Peter agreed to meet Dave for breakfast the next morning because he had 24 hours to come up with a plan. And I had nothing, and he had nothing.
David: (Chuckles) I thought, okay, I’ve been trying this for years.
David: How am I going to come up with something in 24 hours? But…
Kirsten: So, Peter and Deb…
Jim: It did push you, I guess.
David: It did push me.
Kirsten: Yeah. It pushed us.
David: That sense of urgency was there.
Kirsten: Yeah, um, so, Peter had actually participated in a restoration team for some other folks that were struggling in a marriage situation where there was some issues going on. And so, he said, “I think I have an idea.” And he presented it to us. And this idea comes from the book Restoring the Fallen. And, um, the hard part was that we had to choose between four to six people that we could trust that were as spiritually mature, that would pray for us, that would pray for our family, that would be willing to walk this journey from anywhere from 18 months to 36 months, okay. I started doing that and I’m going who do we know that would do that? And this was part of the problem. And this is what happens when there’s – when there’s an addictive cycle going on, you become extremely isolated. So, I had people that I knew, but Dave wasn’t comfortable with them. He had people he knew, but wasn’t comfortable with them. And when we had to identify, we decided to go with couples. Um, we really struggled to come up with three couples.
David: It was tough.
Jim: Mm-hmm. I think that would be most people’s dilemma.
Jim: That’s why I ask the question. But you persevered. And that’s one of the key things I want to make sure people hear, that if they’re in that spot, if you’re not connected to church, now would be a good time to get connected.
Kirsten: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Jim: That is the place really where you can find that help, whether it’s a pastor or, you know, maybe even an addiction recovery…
Jim: …Group in that church. That’s one of the great services that churches provide, right?
Jim: That’s the social net that they’re there to help people with, so I would encourage them to go that way. Let – let me move back into the story. You’re with the counselor the first time. Dave, you walk out. You know, again, you’re the one addicted to pornography.
Jim: You’ve been found out.
Jim: You go through all that sense of, you know, being the one who betrayed your spouse, et cetera. You go to the counselor. The counselor was pretty optimistic. You felt pretty buoyant, right?
David: I did, yeah.
Jim: And why?
David: Because there was a plan in place. I knew – you know, he said, “Okay, this is what we need to be walking through.” And really, when it came down to what I was struggling with in the addiction was low self-esteem. It was like, okay, how then can we take care of that? And – and there were – you know, he – his response was, we can deal with this.
Jim: This is this is fixable.
David: This is fixable.
Jim: That had to be incredibly…
David: It – it was huge.
Jim: …Positive for you.
Jim: Yes. Now, Kirsten, in that regard, he was a little more hard hitting with you, which, again, people are going, “What?!”
Jim: “She’s the victim.” And we get that. But just listen to your answer. Let’s go.
Kirsten: We sat there, and I think it was the first time that Dave and I took a deep breath was when he said, “This is fixable.” And I was like, “Okay. Okay, we’re going to make it. We’re gonna make it.” And no lie and he turned, and he looked at me and his demeanor totally changed.
Kirsten: And he said, “Kirsten, I have to ask you a question. Have you ever or are you considering taking your own life?”
Jim: Wow, just that fast.
Kirsten: That was it. And I just – I’d – I’d – I stuttered (laughter) just like I’m doing right now. I stuttered and I said, “No. Why would you ask me that?” And he said, “Because you’re suicidally depressed. You have PTSD and you have a moderate anxiety disorder and you need help now.” And he said, “You need to get on medication and if you don’t, I have to put you in the hospital.” And the ground might as well have opened up and swallowed me whole.
Jim: That had to be coming out of left field.
Kirsten: It was.
Jim: Was he accurate?
Kirsten: I had been hiding. This is the other part of the story. I had been hiding since my abuse. And I was stuck at 9-years-old.
Jim: Huh. If you can explain that, help us better understand what happened.
Kirsten: I was – I was – I was physically attacked by someone I knew and trusted at the age of 9. And the miracle of this story that, um, my counselor took me through after we had gone through our intensive counseling, I ended up needing additional, specialized counseling and, um, I was able to escape from that attack. I never told anybody. Um, the first person I told was Dave before we got married and I – but I brushed it off. I said, “I’m fine.” It was…
Jim: Nothing happened. Right.
Kirsten: “Nothing happened. I’m fine. I was never, you know…”
Jim: Other than the trauma of it happening.
Kirsten: Right. And as a 9-year-old, you don’t know how to process what just…
Kirsten: …Happened to you. You know, you don’t know how to process somebody trying to force themselves on you and all of that. And, um – and so, emotionally, I got stuck at 9. And so, I was – I couldn’t process – you know, there’s a term today called emotional intelligence. Well, I didn’t have it (laughter) because I couldn’t process it. So, when – when our counselor hit me with that, my world literally went dark. I mean, it was like, you know, how when you’re getting ready to pass out how your – your eyesight just starts to go dim and you start to see in a real pinpoint. That’s exactly what happened. It was a very visceral response. And, uh…
Jim: So, he popped the bottle.
Jim: I mean, it was coming out, all of a sudden.
Kirsten: Yeah. And so, this – all of this that I had been hiding all of these years was now exposed.
Jim: Huh. Wow.
Kirsten: And it was like God said to me, “It’s time to deal. We need to deal because I’m concerned about your health.”
Jim: I can’t imagine that jiujitsu feeling that I’m here to help my husband who’s got a really bad problem with pornography and him turning to you and saying that and it collapsing in on you…
Jim: I mean it’s almost just two very distinctly different issues. You guys were both…
Jim: …Kind of coiled around each other emotionally, spiritually, et cetera. Um, Kirsten, in your book, Choosing a Way Out, you refer to yourself as a good, Christian girl. And I think this is the right place for that question. How did you manage those two kind of opposite ends of the…? You were just trying to be this good Christian girl, probably trying to get clean from your 9-year-old experience, I would think. Like…
Kirsten: No, actually, I was completely ignoring it.
Kirsten: I had shut it off and it was like, “I’m fine. I don’t have to deal with that.” And – but the good, Christian girl image was – um, Dan Allender describes it in the – in the book The Wounded Heart that…
Jim: That’s a great book, by the way.
Kirsten: Which is a fabulous book.
David: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Kirsten: I – it took me months to read it because I had to keep putting it down because I was reading about myself.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
Kirsten: But what he described was that there’s women who become – who are abused. You go one of three directions. You go the tough girl, the promiscuous girl or the good girl. I varied between the good girl and the tough girl, mostly the good girl. It was my responsibility to make sure everybody around me was happy. Didn’t matter what I was going through. So, if somebody was upset, I took it upon myself to fix it, whatever it was.
Kirsten: That’s exhausting. That’s exhausting. And God used our counselor with a two-by-four to literally rip the rug out from underneath me and say, “I have something better for you. And this is not it.”
John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And our guests today are Dave and Kirsten Samuel. And, uh, boy, they’re sharing very candidly, and I hope you’re finding some encouragement in the vulnerability they’re expressing. Kirsten has written about their story in Choosing a Way Out: When the Bottom Isn’t the Bottom. We have copies of that ad focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Um, Kirsten, in the book, you had a powerful story about learning how to grieve. We’re touching on that, I think. But it started with that counselor asking you, “Where is Jesus?”
Jim: I mean, this is – you know, we are Christian at our core. So, that is a fair question.
Jim: In all of this, where is Jesus?
Kirsten: Yes, He’s there. And what that …
Jim: When you were a 9-year-old, was He there?
Kirsten: He was there. (emotion) When she took me back to that day and the details are vivid, she said, “Look around you and where is Jesus?” And I stood – I saw Jesus standing over my attacker’s shoulder weeping. He was weeping for me, but He was weeping for my attacker because there was something in that attacker that had caused Him to act out and God revealed that to me. Um, and it, you know, to the point that when my attacker died -again, because this was someone I knew – when he died, I grieved his death. And that to me was God’s grace in action. I could literally grieve his death and rejoice because I knew He was with Jesus now. He had come to the Lord and He had a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
Jim: Dave, let me turn to you.
Jim: Uh, you know, it’s interesting, you’re like no longer the star of the story here in terms of it’s your issue that we’re – I mean, how did you pivot being the, you know, addicted to pornography person and now you got to somehow step in and help your wife who is dealing with debilitating depression and figuring out what to do next?
David: Having always been an introvert and so I reacted like any loving husband would, where I thought, “Whew! It’s not all about me. Way to go!”
David: Which was totally the wrong – wrong answer.
Jim: Very human.
David: Very human. Um, yeah. The spotlight was off, and I could breathe a little bit.
Jim: But pressure is on in a different way.
David: Right. Right. And that – that thought lasted about a second…
David: …And then it was okay, how do I help my wife through this and how do I show her the same love and compassion and forgiveness that she has been showing me through my struggles? How do we work through this together? And – and that was – that was the thought that finally took over. But…
Jim: And Kirsten, I’m sure people are wondering, what were the next steps – one, two, three? What happened to you curled up in the corner of your doctor’s office? And just describe for them where you’ve come from and how you’re doing.
Kirsten: I’m doing great. By the grace of God, I’m doing great. Um, you know, we tell people we wouldn’t wish what we went through on any – our worst enemies, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Kirsten: Because I discovered who God is.
Kirsten: And He is so much bigger than I thought. He is so much greater than I thought. He has so much more grace for me. And He is a Father. He is the One who sustains. And I mean, you know, everybody’s walk through depression is different. I went on medication. I am no longer on medication, but that’s – doesn’t mean I won’t have to go back on it.
Kirsten: But the big thing in the depression, not only was there the mind fog, the physicalness, the – the fatigue, all of that, but it was the spiritual. Because, all of a sudden, all of my spiritual cliches didn’t work. Because I’d hit bottom. I had hit the bottom of the pit. And I remember being at the bottom and I described it as slimy and cold and damp and silent. And I would pray, and it didn’t – didn’t go anywhere. I would read my Bible and it didn’t make any sense. The only thing that made sense to me were the Psalms. And they were the Psalms where David is saying, “Gnash their teeth out. Kill them.” And it was all of that because that was all of the -the pain and the anger that was in me was finally coming out. And I discovered a few things about God. One, He can handle my anger. He already knows I have it. He can handle it. Two, He’s not afraid of my questions. And I had a lot of questions because I was like, “Where are You?”
Kirsten: “You’re not answering me.” And He was bigger. He was answering His question, “Am I big enough?” And He was saying, “I’m here.” And when I hit the bottom, Jim – I’ll never forget the image. I remember I was sitting at home, Dave was at work. I was sitting at home and I just said, “I don’t want to go on anymore.” And this was the second time that I realized that was the suicidal depression. And I said, “I don’t want to go on anymore.” And I remember crying out and saying, “God, where are You? You promised You wouldn’t leave me. But I’m alone. I don’t know where You are.” And I was sitting there with my eyes closed and, all of a sudden, I got this picture in my head. And it was Jesus standing with His arms wide open. (emotion) And He said, “I’m right here”. And when He said that, I started to breathe. I started to breathe because I knew – I knew that I knew that my God was real, and He had met me in my point of pain.
Kirsten: And He would never, ever leave me because He had – He had all of these promises and He said, “I provided for you ahead of time. Look who’s in place.” And, um, He had people surrounding us. This restoration team, I described them as a cocoon. They became the place where we crawled in and they protected us. They held us accountable, but they protected us. They asked us the hard, hard questions. So, that when we got to that point where we were coming out of the mess, we were not the same people we were when we went in.
Jim: Well, and that, uh, is so critical for people to hear. You know, that scripture that says, “I’m close to the brokenhearted” and I’ll paraphrase – it’s God is close to the broken heart and He saves those crushed in spirit.
Kirsten: Right. Yeah.
Jim: It’s almost as if He is saying the valleys will be where I teach you who you are and who I am.
Jim: And we, especially, in Western culture, we run from the valleys. We don’t go down to the valley. We want to stay up on the mountain top.
Jim: Twenty ways to make me happy. Forty five ways to do my hair. Whatever. We don’t want to go to the valley where there’s serious stuff. And, uh, that is where God will meet you. And, um, it is where we should run to, so we don’t have to linger in pain.
Kirsten: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: This has been such a great story. I want to go online, give a few practical helps to people at the website. John, you’ll give those details. We just have run out of time. But I want people that are hurting to either go there. A couple of more questions I’ll ask you about practical application to prevent the situations in your marriage. But, also, if you’re hurting right now, I mean, emotionally bleeding – I can feel it. I want you to call us. We’re here. We have a caring, Christian counselors who will call you back because they’ll schedule a time. And – and, uh, we’ll – we’ll get back to you and we will talk with you and they will provide resources for you, et cetera. Take advantage of it. Supporters provide the means for us to be able to do that for you. There is no condemnation in that. And after 43 years of ministry, we have really heard most everything and it’s okay. You can trust us. We’re not going to hurt you, but we do want to help you. And that’s a commitment that I want to make to you. So, get a hold of us. If you’re in a place in your marriage that is struggling terribly, look into our Hope Restored program. It’s for you. It’s for that couple that is really in trouble. And again, don’t hold back. Ask yourself the question, is my marriage worth it? Is there hope? And if the answer is yes, let’s go. Let’s do the work you need to do to make your marriage better. And you can do all that at the website or by calling us.
John: And we have so many resources that can help. Our team of caring, Christian counselors or Kirsten’s book, Choosing a Way Out. And then a podcast series by Greg and Erin Smalley called No Porn Marriage in which they did deeper into the impact of pornography and how you can find healing as a couple. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And I’ll encourage you to make a donation today of any amount to this ministry. Uh, you’ll help us to reach out and rescue and strengthen hurting marriages and, uh, your monthly pledge or one-time contribution makes a big difference in the work that we can do. So, please, donate as you can, and we’ll say thank you by sending a copy of Kirsten’s book to you. Again, our number – 800-A-FAMILY. Or donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Dave and Kirsten, thank you so much for being with us. It’s amazing what God has done in your marriage and in each of you individually. It’s really the picture of what having a relationship with Christ is all about. Thank you.
Kirsten: Thank you.
David: That right. You’re welcome, Jim. Thank you.
Kirsten: Thank you.
John: Well, we’re so glad that you could join us for this episode of Focus on the Family and, uh, trust that you’ve really been touched by what our guests have shared. Coming up next time, we’re going to be introducing you to an artist who God chose to paint for His glory.
Mr. Morgan Weistling: We are humans, and we don’t have it all in our heads to know exactly how something will look in nature, you know? And so, I like to go right to God’s creation and see it with my own eyes and respond to it rather than try to create it.