A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#35 - Chris's Story: "Stuck on 'Step Minus One'?" The Medical Aspects of Sexual Recovery

November 06, 2020 Chris and Waheed Jensen Season 3 Episode 9
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#35 - Chris's Story: "Stuck on 'Step Minus One'?" The Medical Aspects of Sexual Recovery
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
2:16
A Little Bit About Chris
17:52
On a Dysregulated Brain and Neurofeedback
30:49
What Keeps Chris Away from the LGBT Lifestyle?
39:48
On Step Minus One
53:52
Case Studies
59:10
Addressing Misconceptions
1:04:03
Chris Right Now
1:07:14
On Perseverance
1:11:36
On Intimacy and Companionship
1:17:07
On Challenges and the Media
1:19:58
Final Messages from Chris
1:22:30
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#35 - Chris's Story: "Stuck on 'Step Minus One'?" The Medical Aspects of Sexual Recovery
Nov 06, 2020 Season 3 Episode 9
Chris and Waheed Jensen

In this episode, Chris joins me again from Melbourne, Australia, to talk about his own journey of healing, relapses and recovery, involving decades of therapy and being part of support groups, as well as findings answers and help in the fields of neuroscience, biology and functional medicine. He shares with us insights and wisdoms gained throughout six decades of life, after having left the gay lifestyle and sought a path of healing and celibacy.

*Trigger warning:  discussion involves sexual abuse, sexual addictions and behaviors as well as relapses throughout a recovery journey*

N.B. This episode is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition, or if you'd like to know more about what is being covered in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Broken Brain podcast episode: What If It Only Took 5 Minutes To Change Your Health? with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee
- Amen Clinics - Leading US innovative psychiatric clinic using brain scans to help diagnose and treat psychiatric and other health conditions holistically
- Free 5-minute online brain health assessment from Amen Clinics
- "Straight & Narrow? Compassion Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate" by Thomas E. Schmidt
- "The End of Mental Illness" book
- The Institute for Functional Medicine
- Finding a functional medicine practitioner
- The End of Alzheimer’s - Dr. Dale Bredesen
- Step minus one workshop – the missing physical aspect of sexual recovery
- The functional medicine matrix

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Chris joins me again from Melbourne, Australia, to talk about his own journey of healing, relapses and recovery, involving decades of therapy and being part of support groups, as well as findings answers and help in the fields of neuroscience, biology and functional medicine. He shares with us insights and wisdoms gained throughout six decades of life, after having left the gay lifestyle and sought a path of healing and celibacy.

*Trigger warning:  discussion involves sexual abuse, sexual addictions and behaviors as well as relapses throughout a recovery journey*

N.B. This episode is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition, or if you'd like to know more about what is being covered in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Broken Brain podcast episode: What If It Only Took 5 Minutes To Change Your Health? with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee
- Amen Clinics - Leading US innovative psychiatric clinic using brain scans to help diagnose and treat psychiatric and other health conditions holistically
- Free 5-minute online brain health assessment from Amen Clinics
- "Straight & Narrow? Compassion Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate" by Thomas E. Schmidt
- "The End of Mental Illness" book
- The Institute for Functional Medicine
- Finding a functional medicine practitioner
- The End of Alzheimer’s - Dr. Dale Bredesen
- Step minus one workshop – the missing physical aspect of sexual recovery
- The functional medicine matrix

Waheed  00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen. Thank you so much for joining me in today's episode. In today's episode, Chris, who spoke to us a few episodes ago about 12-step programs and sexual recovery programs, he's joining me today to talk to us about his story, as well as a program that he developed and a lot of realizations that he has had throughout his own journey. I would like to add a general trigger warning at the beginning of this episode, we will be touching upon themes related to sexual abuse, sexual addictions and behaviors as well as relapses throughout a recovery journey, so please keep this in mind. And, in addition to this, Chris and I are going to be touching upon some medical topics, this episode is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition, or if you'd like to know more about what is being covered in this episode. As always, guests are sharing with us their stories, what has worked with them and what has not worked with them. So feel free to see whatever resonates with you, to examine it further, to think about it critically, and to see if it might work for you, and to see how to take it further, inshaAllah. Alright, so let's get started. Thank you so much, Chris, for joining me, again, in today's episode as a guest speaker, the first question that I'd like to ask you is, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you have come to where you are right now?

Chris  02:29
Okay, I’m 61. I was born in Australia. When I started school, I was the youngest in my class, I had a patch over my lazy eye. And so I felt different for many reasons. I was uncoordinated at sports, I always felt on the outside. School was difficult, and I didn't know why. I was always sort of taking time off from school increasingly as the years progressed in school. Around the age of five, and I've got no actual memory of this, I was sexualized by someone within the family who was about six years older than me. But the circumstances of how that happened – and I only found out about that about 15 years ago, when he actually admitted, because I'd had a number of therapists say, “Are you sure you weren't sexually abused?” And I just asked, I mentioned that within the family and this family member volunteered it. And I'm really grateful that he did, because it filled in a lot of pieces as to why I went in particular ways of acting out, a particular set of scenarios. And, basically, after that age, I was interested in looking for other boys to do the same thing with so this, in the street, from school, and it was continuous. Obviously, at that age, there was no climax, but there was certainly lots of sexual play going on. I started collecting erotic pictures such as was available in the early 1970s, when I could get a porn catalog, this is a funny story, that had images, black and white images, the size of a small postage stamp at the front cover of the magazines or the videos. So that was my first exposure to porn that was, you know, looking at these postage stamps, pictures of those magazines and videos. But at that time, I was increasingly able to get access to semi-nude, you know, male imagery, sometimes from women's magazines that were doing the mile centerfold of the month, it was semi-nude. So, you know, that was the sort of stuff I was collecting, and sort of acting out to. At the age of 16, you know, school life was falling apart. I didn't know why school was hard, why I had to keep taking so much time off, why it just felt so, so hard, that I ended up meeting up with a man who was 20 years older than me, who I got sexually involved with when I was 16. 

The relationship was never monogamous from the start, and he introduced me to deeper levels of full pornography, super eight movies, I think they were at the time, which you could project on a wall, and magazines. He also introduced me to group sex and anonymous sex. So, that was a very early introduction to that. And he owned a house where he had, I think, three other gay men living there. And being brought up with an inquiring mind and a sense of always searching for the truth, I was observing what was going on around me. I was observing the gay couples that I met through this first partner. None of them were monogamous, they were all acting out with others. And sometimes, it was, you know, the open relationship, which is, as we know, pretty much a standard gay male relationship, with few exceptions. And I was seeing that in the mid 70s, mid to late 70s, and saying that there is something a bit screwy going on here. And so always questioning that there was something else going on. I've got my journals from back then when I was writing about this. So I entered the workforce, again, it was difficult. I didn't know at that stage about my disability, my learning issues, my attention issues, and so any achievement was just hard. I tried three times at university and couldn't get past second year. And when I traveled at the age of 21, I met a Canadian and we started a relationship, which ended chaotically, a couple of years later, the relationship was over four countries and three continents. So you know, the great “gay romance” ended up in absolute chaos. But what that did introduce me to was, he'd spoken of actually someone he had been involved with years before, who was then in training to become a Catholic priest. I then later realized that this guy had been a gay activist and then had this spiritual awakening, and this was in the early 1980s. And when the relationship split up, I managed to locate this guy in Canada, and I found the seminary that he was at, and I wrote saying, “Look, I’m questioning this gay stuff, because I'm seeing chaos, dysfunction, pain..” and mentioned the journey he’s on. And so, he was the first person I met who was doing this, and for the next couple of years, we corresponded. And that was the only fellowship I had.

And, you know, in 1985, I went to Canada for his ordination, and we met for the first time. And that was important, to know that I had to find my people. In 1986, I'd moved to Melbourne, and my first counselor from interstate, who was a Christian counselor, even though I don't identify as a Christian, referred me to what was the startup of the local Exodus group in Melbourne - Exodus being what was then the network of ministries that were helping people with same-sex attraction. And so, again, I was the odd one out, I was the non-Christian in the Christian group, but it was the only support network available. And I got to tell you that, virtually, the whole leadership from those early days in that group went back into the gay world.

Waheed  11:51
Which is very unfortunate, yeah. 

Chris  11:56
And I don't say that to disparage this, it just points to the depth of the problem, and how as good as a lot of these resources are out there, there's just been, until recently, the occasional success story, long-term success story, and with everyone hoping to replicate that, and wondering what the magic formula is. In 1989, a therapist started SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) here in Melbourne and got together a group of clients to start it. So, I was part of that for three years. But again, I could never feel like I belonged, because the gays within the group, I could never really trust or feel connected with, because of my goal of recovery. And, after three years of that, when I found out about SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) and its approach, which excluded same-sex behavior, you know, three of us left SAA to start SA in Melbourne. And I felt then I was finding a place of safety, and that was important. And as I've done, I threw myself into service where, you know, getting meetings started, networking interstate and overseas, whatever, because I knew I needed as much support. At the time, I remember this feeling was, “I need support, I need support.” I didn't know I needed medical support, but I could just experience it, that I needed support, I needed help.

I finally started my first lengthy period of sobriety in 1994, it took about 18 months in SA to progressively get some sobriety. It was by no means easy, and despite, sort of, you know, working the steps, service work, doing everything I was told would make me feel “happy, joyous and free”, to quote the literature, after eight years of sobriety, I wasn't happy, joyous and free. And, in some ways, I knew the sobriety was coming to an end, but it was just feeling like I was powerless to actually do anything about it. And then, after eight years, I was back to anonymous acting out in a public place. I had a few years of that, this is from about 2002 to about 2005, where it was sort of out of control, and it seemed like everything I knew or believed, I couldn't apply. And no one really had answers. You know, all this time I was trying different therapists, I've been through 13 therapists in my life - counselors, psychiatrists, therapists, in total 13. It seems like there's hardly been a year when I've been without one of those, since I was 16. So, I got desperate, and in 2003, so this was about a year after losing that sobriety, and I was really struggling, I've heard that “People Can Change” had started. And I'm not sure how I heard about it, but I heard about their program called “Journey into Manhood (JIM)”, and I think they're up over 100 now, I can't remember, but I did JIM #7, so that goes back a long way in 2003. And I had to travel to the US to do that. And while that was good, it didn't fix a lot of stuff. You know, they told me about Mankind Project and doing New Warrior Training, and I went on and did that. Again, that didn't seem to really - it was good, but it didn't seem to really fix anything. But what happened through that, traveling to California, I met SA members in California, and I decided to go back to California and spend some time there to soak up a broader recovery culture. And I ended up on and off spending two and a half years living in Los Angeles after that, where I was going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, SA meetings, SA international conferences, I did the more advanced “People Can Change” workshop, I think it's - I can't remember what the second one's called after Journey into manhood, but I did that one as well (i.e. the Journey Continues).

What happened at a key point in early 2006 on one of my visits there, there were five of us sitting around in a coffee shop after an SA meeting, and four of the guys had all had different types of brain scans. How this happened, I don't know. But, you know, one had a SPECT scan, one had a QEEG, you know, another I think had done MRI or whatever, but they'd all had some forms of brain testing. And this was the first time I'd heard about this idea that, “You mean, you can actually look at my brain and tell me what's going on rather than everyone just guessing from the outside by my symptoms?” And I got introduced to the work of, well, broadly, this idea of testing the brain to see what's going on. I came back to Australia, found a place that could do an EEG of my brain, which is not the most advanced form, but what it showed when they did this test in 2006, they said, “You have a highly dysregulated brain.” And I had no idea what that actually meant at that time. All I knew is that that described what was going on for me, that I could know things, I could believe things, I had trouble doing those, I had trouble following through, I had energy problems, you know, and that everything I did in life was difficult, whether it was school, work, recovery or personal relationships. Everything was this intense effort. And they started me on what's called Neurofeedback, which is brain training. And, again, the fascinating thing about this is that the therapist didn't know anything about same-sex attraction or sexual stuff, they're just looking objectively at the brain and saying, “We know what a well-regulated brain looks like, and you ain't got one! Yours is off.” And the Neurofeedback is where they attach the receptors to the head, and you're looking at a computer screen, and you manage to sort of guide your brain in a desired goal, and you get a visual reward on the screen. And that started to improve a bit what was going on for me, but it was still very, very small. I would spend more time back in the US, and eventually, I got connected with a more advanced brain training organization here in Melbourne that did further testing, and they measured my attention level - there's various ways of measuring it, but when they measured my attention level and compared that with my age group, they said that I was at the 11th percentile, which meant, out of a class of 100, I was near the bottom. And when you realize that attention is this core facet of how we function in life, you know, like, why is it that I'd always had trouble crossing roads? Why is it that I had trouble when I was driving? And it was because of attention. It's the way we process everything in life, it’s attention. And if the brain is not working right, you can believe in something, you can want to do something, but you just can't do it, or you can't do it right or in the right time. And so, when they looked at these results, they said, “With what we're seeing here, you should never have been working full time.” And I'd worked 25 years’ full time. You can imagine if you're not supposed to be working full time, and you'd be doing that, the amount of stress that one would undergo, because one's trying to function in a way, you know, it's like trying to get a three-cylinder car performing in the Grand Prix (GP).

Waheed  22:35
There’s too much pressure, you cannot really do that. 

Chris  22:39
And this is objective scientific measure, this is not just some psychiatrist, you know, listening to your symptoms and throwing a label at it. This is saying, “The bit of the brain that does this is really under functioning, or the bit of the brain that does this other thing is over functioning, but neither of them are well regulated.” So they started me on a program of various - there's a broad term that covers the brain training stuff called Neuromodulation, and that's everything from Neurofeedback to another program called “Interactive Metronome Auditory Training Program”, and then also Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). And they all helped bring my attention level up from that, being at about the 11th percentile, to being around 35, which is, for those who are into mathematics, that's over one standard deviation improvement, which in psychological terms is considered significant. So, at that stage, back in 2009, in this Melbourne clinic, they had introduced me to some ideas around what we now call “Functional Medicine” and got me to see a doctor, because there was supposedly medical aspects, and my brain just couldn't cope with the complexity of all this, you know, because the doctor was talking about something called “leaky gut syndrome” and was wanting me to do tests that involved me buying something from France or from America, and sending fecal samples to here and there, and my brain just was overwhelmed by the whole prospect, and then all I could do was say, “I can do in-house treatments.” Even when they tried to give me stuff I could do at home to the brain training, it was just too hard for my brain to cope with, because when it was “You turn up here for an hour,” I said, “I can do that.” And we did I think well over 200 treatments for about five years. And they said, “Look, you've gone through nine different programs we've got, and you've reached the limit of improvement. We've got nothing more for you.” They introduced me back again to the concept of functional medicine. So, over two years ago, I went to a functional medicine doctor, which is sometimes called “Reintegrative Medicine”, sort of an overlap that is very similar. And it's often the work that naturopaths have done in the past which has made its way into the more general sort of medical community gradually. And that turned my life upside down. So, since the beginning of 2018, when I started on that, I lost 20 kilograms in weight and totally changed my diet, they found three gut conditions that I had that needed healing. And again, let's go back to Hippocrates who said that all disease begins in the gut. I was reading about traditional Islamic medicine, and it says something very similar. They did toxin tests and found the presence of heavy metals and mold. 

And learning about all this, I discovered that babies are born with the toxins that their mothers have, and over the 20th century, there's been this vast increase in chemicals within the environment, and it's a mistake that we've got this increase in childhood autism, ADD, anxiety, depression, (even cancer), and that's all happening in children now. It's because that neurodevelopmental stage, it's happening within a brain that's got toxins in it, or that's happening within a poor diet. And, you know, it's only been since I think 2004, they discovered the microbiome, and how that, you know, some say it's the second brain, some say it’s even the first brain. And that, you know, there’s neurotransmitters produced in the gut, you know, and so the health of your gut can determine how well you're doing in sexual recovery. Now, when I talk to a new guy I’m working with, I say, “Do you have gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation?” You know, are you taking antacids or, you know, to settle that? And there are hidden gut conditions that are asymptomatic, so it’s not just that. And there are also some genetic issues. As I started the detoxification process, which has involved, I think, close to 300 saunas in the last two years, there’s a particular protocol I have to follow, I've been gaining back neurological function that I've never had in my life. And it's just happened gradually, I'll give you a couple of examples, and I'll link this back to sexual recovery. I mentioned before this problem I had with crossing a road and judging traffic coming from different directions, and while when I was driving, I could never cope with roundabouts, because there was too much happening from too many directions, too much to process. About a year ago, I just suddenly realized, crossing the road is easier, it’s more natural, I’m more relaxed and more calm, I'm not as anxious. And I wasn't even having to try, it was because the brain had improved enough that I was able to do that. Now the link here with sexual recovery is that dealing with lust and temptations is like crossing the road. You've got imagery, thoughts and emotions happening in your life, and they’re the traffic of life, and we have to process and put it all together and work out how to negotiate that, to get across the road, to get through life. And if we're unable to pay attention to those paths, then life's not going to happen very well, and it's going to be chaotic. 

Waheed  30:17
That's a very beautiful metaphor, tying everything together, because at the beginning, you were saying that you've always struggled with attention, and now that you finally found attention, you were able to achieve the recovery, so to speak, that you're craving from the start. I found that very beautiful, thank you for actually sharing all of this with us. I know that it's not easy, and I really appreciate your vulnerability and your openness.

Okay, so before we talk about the program that you developed, I remember when you and I were emailing back and forth, you mentioned to me that you were agnostic-leaning and non-religious. And I was always wondering and talking to people about, you know, how people in sexual recovery and people avoiding same-sex relationships are mostly religious, because they're doing this for religious reasons. So, I was kind of intrigued when you told me that you were more agnostic-leaning or non-religious. I'm not saying that people who don't believe in God, or who are questioning or agnostic, you know, necessarily want to pursue a same-sex lifestyle, but it was kind of interesting. So I just have to ask you this question, because I'm pretty sure that a lot of the listeners would be asking the same question, what stops you from pursuing the LGBT lifestyle?

Chris  31:40
Basically, because my brain couldn't cope with it. It was too chaotic. The statistics are pretty overwhelming on that. Number one was that experience and just seeing sort of the chaos of my own life and the chaos of those I've been around and involved with. In 1996, there was a book by Schmidt called “Straight and Narrow”. He is a Christian writer, and he wrote a chapter in there called “The Price of Love”, where he basically did a meta-analysis of all the scientific - that's non-religious literature - on the status of gay relationships, gay practices and health profile. And it's about a 20-page chapter. And it went through all the science of pointing out why, for instance, one should never engage in any of the forms of anal sexuality, medically, never. Not, you know, oh, you can get away with it, but why one should never engage in those practices. Looking at that meta-analysis, it just matched my experience of the gay world, the gay life I’d seen. You know, there were some nice people I knew, but my brain needed order. And their brains might be able to cope with some of that chaos better than mine, but mine couldn't, it needed something, you know, more orderly. So that was a convicting part along the way. But also, what was happening is that I was finding something better. Because I'd found my people in various fellowships, first in church groups, and then 12-step groups, and even through stuff like “Journey into Manhood”, I was making the real connection to some jargon from SA. So, I had this experience in the early 90s, and again, it happened after I lost my sobriety in 2002, where I’d go to act out anonymously, I'd meet someone, and I’d bring them home. And once we chatted, I didn't want to have sex with them. You know, sometimes, like, we had gotten into bed and we're naked, and it was like, all I wanted to do was talk about recovery with them. There’s a saying in AA that sort of says, “A head full of AA and a belly full of alcohol doesn't go well together.”

Waheed  34:59
Of course. 

Chris  35:01
And I think this is what was happening, I was able to see what was going on. What had driven me to act out was, you know, anxiety, pressure... Once I'd met someone and formed a personal relationship, I've developed a sense of safety, which is this core survival thing. Which brings us out of “survival brain”, the addiction is in the survival brain, I'm no longer in survival brain. So it's like, “Why would I want to have sex with you? I like you.”

Waheed  35:34
Exactly. The mystique is gone. Yeah, hundred percent. 

Chris  35:38
And, so, yeah, I was finding something better. So that's my motivation. Now, along the way, I've had – well I call it a “spiritual experience” in 1991, where, after this bizarre sort of relationship and non-relationship - in the gay world, there’s this sort of vagueness about how you define a relationship, it’s always there - sort of blew up in my face. And in this moment of despair, I remember sitting on my bed on a Saturday afternoon, and it's like some sense of letting go. It was like, I felt this wave of energy come from outside and wrap around me and enfold me in a sense of love. And that's when I used the term “God”. And, after that, because I was still around the Christian groups, I went to church for a few years, a Baptist Church and then a Catholic one, but I never became a formal adherent. And, again, you know, being on the outside, that was all interesting experiences. Since then, I've had that sense of surrender, that prayer, finding that peace, that surrender, letting go and feeling a presence, that there's - I don't know if it's in Islam, but there's in Christianity this phrase that talks about the power and the presence. And I could feel the power and the presence and a sense of peace and joy. It was sort of like in a meditative state. Because I can be very intellectual, in many ways, I've tried not to define it. I want to experience it rather than define it. I don't want to wrap it up in a set of beliefs. And, look, in the future, I may end up doing that, I don't know, but, at the moment, that sort of works for me to do that. So that's part of my spirituality, and I'm around, you know, religious people, 80% of the people I connect with, my sponsor is, in Christian terms, he's a Seven-Day Creationist, you don't get much more conservative than that. He's actually amazingly spiritual and broad in every other way, but you don't normally put that together. But, you know, he's got an amazing journey, and he works with the “failures” [people experiencing failures] like I do. And, again, there's, I think it's a phrase that Jesus said, I'm not sure, but it's certainly from scripture, and I'm not a scriptural scholar by any means, that says, “What you do for the least of my children, you do to Me.” And that's been, you know, my guiding point, that if in recovery groups, we don't treat people that way, then we're not serving our God.

Waheed  39:36
Of course, of course, that's very powerful.

Chris  39:48
And, look, in the 12-step context, you know, “Step Minus One” is, you know, one that comes before them, but even in just everyday language, therapy, you know, what's the first step in recovery you may ask your psychologist, your therapist, you may even ask your mufti, whatever the same question, “Now I want to change this, what's the first step in recovery?” Typically, in 12-step programs, because 1. the science wasn't there, and 2. there was this unawareness of the vast medical history within early AA, people say, “Oh, the answer is spiritual, and you just need to get sober, work the steps and then everything will be wonderful.” And having seen that fail so many times, it took me deeper into AA history. I've actually visited Akron, Ohio, where AA started, they’ve actually got museums in the house where Dr. Bob lived, and where, you know, you can go and visit Dr. Bob's grave and all this sort of stuff. And as I got deeper into the history, and with my memory of the literature, I actually got to see that there were bits in the AA Big Book that we just conveniently overlooked. And, in the doctor's opinion, this is Dr. Silkworth, he was this world leading figure on alcoholism at the time, he was writing stuff in there like, “The body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind… Any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete… It is imperative that a man's brain be cleared before he is approached, as he has a better chance of understanding and accepting what we have to offer… And it often requires a definite hospital procedure before psychological measures can be maximum benefit.” And all those four quotes all point to a step before the spiritual, and in fact, everything is spiritual, we now know everything that you eat and drink, everything that you think and do is spiritual. There's no separation. But when I tied those together with what I'd seen, not just in SA, but also in the religious same-sex recovery groups and in the “People Can Change” groups, or “Brothers Road” as it's now called, I saw people who are doing everything that was promised, and who were still scratching their heads. And I saw the health aspects once I dealt with some of these physical issues, it all became easier, it all became more sustainable, it all became more rewarding. And I thought, “This is Step Minus One!”

Waheed  43:12
Right, so it's taking it back to the steps that’s been overlooked, as you said, so we’re going back to the origin, to square one, right?

Chris  43:21
And it was interesting, as we were chatting, I had a brief look at some stuff on traditional Islamic medicine, and, you know, they're talking there about the link between the body and depression and anxiety. I'm not sure, it's certainly centuries old, if not millennia old, some of that. So, from two years ago, when I got introduced to functional medicine, I just started listening to all sorts of health podcasts in this field, and I tied in a lot of that which I'd heard with AA history, and part of it was looking back at AA history and looking at the lifestyle that they lived back then. For instance, their nutrition was vastly different, and we look at the nutrition profile back then, they were eating largely organic food, they were eating more fermented foods, more home-cooked foods, you know, there was less processed food. And I thought, “This is the Step Minus One - if we want to learn from all of what those early alcoholics did, then we have to look at their total lifestyle, not trying to isolate something called “the steps” or “the program” and “spiritual” as separate from it all.”

Waheed  44:53
Exactly, you take it as a whole package, and you look at everything that they did and how they succeeded, right? 

Chris  44:59
Yeah. So, you know, some of the relevant things here relate to, you know, the topic of this podcast on you know, same-sex attraction. Recently, I heard a couple of female doctors who had written books about the effect of the contraceptive pill. Actually, women on the pill are more likely to be attracted to less masculine men. Within a striptease joint where women are undressing, I'm not sure what the correct term is, gentlemen's club, they’re euphemistically called, apparently the women who are on the contraceptive pill get less tips, because their hormone production is different. That when the natural hormones are regulated by the contraceptive pill, men are not picking up on the pheromones and whatever. Now, tie this also in with the fact that, you know, with toxins in the environment, you've got frogs which are becoming hermaphrodite, or whatever, and that they say sexuality is formed, often within those first few years of the seven years of life, that this is the key neurodevelopmental phase, and if the brain has toxins that it was born with, plus toxins that accumulate, you know, through nutrition and just through the environment, and it's trying to develop, that's why it misfires and produces, along with emotional experiences, same-sex attraction, transgender, all the rest. Because there's thousands of chemicals involved, it's not going to be as simple as just, you know, we can produce a nice little study on this. It's almost like you've got to do it backwards. Last night in Melbourne was a $20 million lotto, I buy tickets with the idea that, if I can win the $20 million lotto, I want to fund a study of 20 people I know in recovery, who are sincere religious people, and put them through brain scans, functional medicine tests, and get them and see where that gets them within two years. And it's almost like you've got to do it that way, and then report back - the breadth of this and the different way of looking at this – there’s an analogy here with Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's is generally considered untreatable. You look at the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen, and he's doing a similar sort of thing that I just talked about. He's identified 130 possible health factors that can affect someone, and generally there's about 20 to 30, that people are affecting their brain, when they start to address those 20 or 30 issues that are individual, you know, there's some crossover, but they’re individual, depending upon their life, they're actually getting reversal of Alzheimer's, in some cases.

Waheed  48:59
Interesting. Okay. 

Chris  49:01
And I suspect that if you got those 130 factors, and apply them to sexual recovery, you'll probably get at least some improvement in most people. 

Waheed  49:13
Right, which makes sense. And for anyone listening right now, we're not saying that each and every case of same-sex attractions goes back to toxins or organically neurodevelopmental dysfunction, right? But it's just one aspect that could be there, correct?

Chris  49:33
That's it. And as well as that, it's also where we're at currently, in terms of the brain, how we have to process recovery. And an example of this will be, I think there's been 10 guys I've worked with who've gone on to have brain scans, and on a couple of them, part of it is doing some testing where they've got to answer some questions. And they said, “Look, you've got those questions right, but we could see that you were spending 50% more energy than average to get that right answer.” In this world, we just say you “got it right, you've got the mark on the exam.” We haven’t been able to measure, until recently, the amount of energy that someone puts into this. And so that's why, for some in sexual recovery, it’s this easiest thing to process, while for others, it's this enormous amount of energy which they can't fit into the rest of their life, because they're spending an enormous amount of energy on work, on family, and now you're saying, “Put more energy into recovery”, and they just don't have it. So, two of the key factors we talked about attention previously, this energy, you know, the key functional medicine concept is mitochondrial health. Mitochondria is a part of the DNA, it's the part we get from our mother, and mitochondrial health is affected by food, by toxins, now, so we're not just talking about neurodevelopmental stage, you know, X number of years ago, we're talking about now, the way we're processing life. So, you know, improving mitochondrial health is a standard sort of functional medicine concept. All these people point to the spiritual now. The functional medicine matrix, you know, includes physical, emotional and spiritual realms. And all the podcasts I'm talking to, people are talking about the spiritual. Now, we might not always be comfortable with the way they're talking about the spiritual, but they're all starting to point towards, “You've got to have some form of spiritual life, some form of prayer and meditation, you've got to point towards a Power greater than yourself in some way in your life, a Bigger Whole”. And that impacts genetically, that changes our genes, when we engage in spirituality, it changes our neurotransmitters. When we say “change our genes”, this is the concept of epigenetics, where it's turning genes on and off, and genes are being turned on and off all day, depending upon everything we eat and drink, everything we think and do. So if we adjust what we eat and drink, and what we think and do to a more health-promoting range of things, then we're going to get better, better result, we're going to have better energy, we're going to have better functioning, the whole body will function better together. And when we get those impulses sexually, our prefrontal cortex will be able to control them better, because it's the prefrontal cortex that we need to control those primal urges, which come from the survival brain. And, you know, human beings are the only ones with the guide gate for the prefrontal cortex, and when we don't nurture that prefrontal cortex, we can't manage life well.

Waheed  53:45
Exactly. We need that for executive functioning, and if that is underdeveloped, or you know, clouded, then that becomes a problem. 

Chris  53:52
So, a few examples of people I've worked with, and I've got this from my workshop and my case studies. The first one is a spiritual leader - and these are all people who have given me permission to share their stories – a man in his 50s whose spiritual practice involves fasting, dietary regulation, you know, a large amount of prayer and meditation, service to others, whatever. When it came to pornography, he had this hair trigger. Then, when he finally got to get a brain scan, they discovered a brain injury from 40 years ago, and they said, “This is bad enough, that you'll probably need to take some medication for the rest of your life.” Now, they didn't just say only medication. In fact, medication is the last resort, not the first. They said, “We need to change your nutrition, because if we want to improve your management at this part of your life, you're going to need a brain-healthy diet, you're going to need some brain-healthy supplements, and a brain-healthy lifestyle.” So he had to get out of the toxic environment he was living in, he had to change his diet, do some of the neuromodulation techniques, computer-based brain training. And so this is the sort of comprehensive package that has led him to have the best periods, you know, in his life, by having this holistic approach to what's going on. And I compare this, sadly, to the previous 25 years around sexual recovery, where I look at, you know, four other clerics that I knew in recovery, who, despite being devout leaders, you know, very spiritual, all sorts of stuff, you know, doing everything that was asked of them, rewarding and sustainable sexual sobriety, you know, they couldn't get it. And, you know, they didn't know about this, they didn't know about how the body could impact their recovery. It's been really great with some of the younger guys I work with, particularly on the same-sex angle. Another man has giving me permission to share his story, this is a Muslim guy, who, because of lack of finances, we've been unable to get testing. But, you know, we've got some diagnosis and medications and changing nutrition. But we're also working on the emotional angles, like he was living at home, not only living at home with his mother, he shared a bedroom with his mother. And, you know, not a good start for same-sex attraction recovery. He had an appalling sleep problem, which is now just a bad sleep problem, as opposed to an appalling sleep problem. He was unable to earn a sustainable income and hold down a standard job. So, we've managed to find a job that had flexible hours, and he is now living outside of his family home, you know, he is able to be self-supporting. And I think he and others like him are only in recovery, because they know there's some physical issues going on here, they can't necessarily address them all at the time. But there's another young guy I work with in a similar way, this guy's actually had a brain scan, he knows that he's not a “bad person”. He knows that he’s not to blame, maybe he's still acting out, he knows that there's something better on offer, and that this attraction, this urge is not an intrinsic part of who he is. It's just something that is part of the whole physical, emotional and spiritual makeup.

Waheed  59:10
Beautifully said. And I know that, at this point, probably a lot of the listeners would be having so many questions. So just to kind of clarify it for everyone, and this is something that we've mentioned in the podcast in previous episodes, that the approach to any kind of recovery, whether it's from SSA, or from any other issues that we have in our lives, it's better to have a comprehensive approach to things, to focus on, you know, we definitely have to focus on the spiritual, emotional, the mental, the social, but we also have to focus on the physical, which includes, you know, our physical health, but in addition to that, we need to focus on proper nutrition, the things that we feed our body. And as you said, you know, one thing to keep in mind is that, if we focus on all of these aspects, but the physical aspects are neglected, then that's kind of deficient, right? And just like you said in your own story, and the stories of other people who have been struggling with SSA, who have been doing everything that they could, but there was also always an element missing, there could be something that is functional, that is organic in their nervous system that needs kind of attention. We're not saying that each and every person has that, but this is something to keep in mind, if and when, you know, this issue might be a problem, or if someone has tried everything, but maybe has failed, not due to psychological or emotional or social support, it could be something that is organic that is worth investigating, it may or may not be there, but it's something to keep in mind, right? Correct me if I'm wrong.

Chris  1:00:50
Absolutely. And it can be a number of simple things, like here in Melbourne, we're at a lower latitude, in winter, it's not much sunlight. Melbourne is notorious for low vitamin D levels, and vitamin D is a master regulator of the genes. And I've had a number of guys I work with who have pigmented skin, dark skin, measure their vitamin D, and it's appallingly low. And so they discuss this with their doctors and they’re now on a high level of vitamin D supplementation. Again, it's not a standalone, it's part of an overall package. And if all the things may sound overwhelming, there's a link to a podcast on how to start your health journey in five minutes a day. We break it down into one simple thing that we can do, and then the next one simple thing we can do. There’s a few people out there whom you can give a list of 20 things and they’ll knock them and just go for it all. But for most of us, we're going to be on a scale down from that, and we'll need to approach at a manageable level. So, this guy, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee out of the UK is known for making improving your health approachable. And this particular podcast breaks it down into, you know, what if it only took five minutes to change your health, five minutes a day?

Waheed  1:02:48
That's very interesting. I will definitely add all of these sources to our episode so people can access them. Another thing that I would also like to clarify with you is that, again, for anyone who's wondering, we're not saying that SSA is caused by toxins or caused by, you know, nutritional deficiencies or whatever, but we're just saying that, to achieve a healthy lifestyle, we definitely have to attend to all of these matters, because a healthy lifestyle is a part of healthy recovery, and this has to be taken into account. Because I'm pretty sure that people listening right now would be like, “Okay, are you alluding to the idea that okay, if we fix our nutrition and physical lifestyles, SSA is gonna disappear?” No, we're not saying that. We're just saying that it's part of a comprehensive approach to dealing with everything that we have in life, whether SSA or not, but just achieving a healthy lifestyle, because healthy brain, healthy body, healthy spirit, healthy mind, all ties into, you know, a healthy life that is worth living.

Chris  1:03:54
Spot on. 

Waheed  1:04:03
If I were to ask you now, Chris, where are you in your life? How are you feeling in terms of your own peace, in terms of your own development and personal evolution throughout the years? How do you feel right now? 

Chris  1:04:18
As I said earlier, I'm 61. This is my healthiest decade. This has been a decade where I'm running just under two years into it, to me, in my 60s, where changes have occurred that I'd hoped for all my life, where life has become simpler and easier, where recoveries become more sustainable and rewarding. As I said, I still do have an attention problem, and I got distracted and lost track of the question!

Waheed  1:04:57
It's completely fine! No worries, I mean, we've been recording for a long time, God bless you for actually doing this with me and for being patient. Yeah, I was just asking about where you are right now, how do you feel?

Chris  1:05:09
Okay, you know, the biggest trauma for me was not the sexual abuse, but it was living 47 years before getting an accurate diagnosis. And it's still the body memory of, “Try harder, try to make a good impression, so that you’ll belong and you won't be a failure.” Those decades of living that way are slowly fading, but that's the body memories that come back to me. And increasingly, as I'm able to see them and surrender them, I'm able to push through to the other side. And, you know, at times, I think I'm going to jinx myself, because I've had glimpses of moments when I've had better days in the past, but it's all disappeared. But this is actually week by week, month by month, getting better. I've got people who've known me for years who are saying, “This is how you changed in the last two years, you were in prison. You're more connected, you're less distractible, you're more focused.” And, so, acceptance of the pace is my challenge, and it's a 12-step concept - not exclusively a 12-step concept thought - this idea of acceptance, which is that I need to accept everything exactly as it is, that's not an endorsement of exactly where it is, it's just not internally resisting the truth of where I'm at today, whether it's lusting after another man, whether it's low energy, whether it's fear, to be able to acknowledge it, and just accept it without shame.

Waheed  1:07:08
Beautifully said, beautifully said. And, honestly, like, while you were telling us about your story, and now the fact that you're 61, I mean, kudos to you for the high level of perseverance and patience that you've had throughout the years. I mean, I talk to lots of brothers and sisters in their 20s and 30s, and they are on the verge of giving up, on the verge of, you know, just letting it all out, forgetting everything and moving away from the life that they're striving for. I just admire you, right now, because you have been through so much, and you have been, you know, as you've said, you've had so many therapists throughout the years, you've been part of so many support programs, and you've helped so many people, and I'm just in awe of you. You said that two years ago things have started to change, because you finally found, you know, you were able to connect more of the dots, and I just wanted to put it out there for people to see that, with perseverance, even if we don't reap the results in a couple of years, or even, you know, in a couple of decades, but the main point is to keep on trying and moving forward. And maybe we may arrive at a destination or not, but the point is to keep moving forward, as long as we're on that path, right?

Chris  1:08:47
Absolutely. And there's another beautiful phrase, which I haven't got in front of me from, from the SA White Book that talks about how, at times, and I think it's in… I'll definitely find the full text for you for a link. But it talks about how, at times on this journey, we've got beautiful views, beautiful visitors, at other times, we feel like we're in the fog and in deep dark valleys. At times, it feels like we're flying through the air with winged feet, with freedom, and at other times, it just feels like we're stuck in mud. But this is the most exciting adventure of our lives. And I would read those words, you know, for years in meetings and think, “I got a glimpse of this, but only a glimpse,” and I just know that, as I've done each aspect, physical, emotional and spiritual, that more of that has become true. And that is the best time in history to be dealing with same-sex attraction, because there's more, if you look at it in this broader sense of just getting healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually, rather than looking for nice little unique factors, because there are some, but if you just look at this overview of getting physically, you know, emotionally and spiritually well, then you can go to doctors who are gay-affirmative, they don't have to know anything about what you're doing this for, you know, you're just in it to get physically well.

Waheed  1:10:53
Right, exactly. If you're focusing on that aspect, yes. If you don't mind me asking, in terms of your own personal life, are you a celibate man or are you married? 

Chris  1:11:07
I’m celibate. I'm single. I believe in the power of intention, and I've heard enough about biohacking, that even at 61, I can't see this happening, but I have not ruled out the possibility of being a father. You know, I just got to see what God's got in store for me here. 

Waheed  1:11:31
Well, God bless you in whichever way is best for you. So if I were to ask you, you know, given your age and your wisdom and all the experiences that you've been through, one question that comes to mind is, as a celibate man, at your age, how do you deal with being alone, and, you know, maybe wanting an emotional connection with someone else? This is a question that is coming from me and from so many other people who are like, “I can't imagine spending my life without having someone in my life,” or how do we deal with celibacy if we don't want to get married? So, this is for the younger audience or anyone who's struggling with this, how do you deal with this personally? 

Chris  1:12:20
Look, I think it's going to be unique case for everyone. I mean, partly, for me, mentally, neurologically, I haven't had the mental space for a partner. And I haven't been capable of that, I'm more capable of that now than ever, but the relationships I've got with people in recovery - the most robust, healthy, deep, fun relationships that I have. We're having fun all the time, we're always joking around. You know, we've got to make this fun. So I'm, you know, currently here in Melbourne, we're in stage four lockdown for COVID, because it’s resurfaced, so I've not been able to travel more than five kilometers away from home in the last six weeks. I'm so deeply connected by phone, by Zoom, or whatever. And I feel so bonded to the guys I talk with, you know, to my sponsor who’s interstate. It's that psychological term of “object constancy”, which is I can feel connected to people even when they're not here with me in the room. It's this sense of safety and connection, that's profound and real. And, you know, I'm thinking of these people as part of my everyday life. So, how that's going to look for someone else? They're not me. But service is an important part of spirituality. There is a phrase that the SA founder, who I've met a number of times, would quote that says, you know, something like, “The measure you give is the measure you receive.” And that doesn't come from ignoring your needs, it's about giving from what you've got. And that giving can be as simple as picking up the rubbish in your local area when you're going for a walk or at the train station. It can be that simple. And you're giving, you're thinking of others, you're thinking of the community, you're being part of something greater.

Waheed  1:15:09
Beautiful. So, to summarize your answer, I would say, in your case, you're focusing on your connections with others as part of your support system, and another aspect is giving to the community and being part of the greater community, giving something to people, right? That's a wonderful answer. And as you alluded in your answer, there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. You can be alone as a person, but you're not lonely, because you feel surrounded by love and support, and you're giving back to the community, and people are giving to you as well.

Chris  1:15:45
Yes. And I'll tell you something touching, and I think this is the second year I've had this. Today is Father's Day in Australia. 

Waheed  1:15:54
Happy Father's Day, even though you're not a (biological) father… 

Chris  1:15:59
Someone I sponsor in recovery sent me a message wishing me a Happy Father's Day. 

Waheed  1:16:07
Awww.. You’re a father to so many people, that's so beautiful!

Chris  1:16:11
And that's such a great joy to be, you know, when I think of the chaotic gay relationships I was part of, and the harm that I did, with my emotional turmoil, and to now be able to give positively to guys in their 20s, and to not be lusting after them. I'm just so grateful for that. 

Waheed  1:16:43
It is, indeed, a huge blessing. God bless you, honestly, for the wonderful work that you're doing and helping so many people. And I'm so honored to actually be talking to you today and to be sharing your story with all of the listeners. If I may ask you, you know, we're almost done with this interview, but the last two questions. The one before last is, you've listed some of the challenges that you've faced in terms of your own brain health, so it has improved recently, and things are getting a bit easier. And, you know, the 47 years that you have lived before you got an accurate diagnosis, and being able to manage your impressions and your attention, all of that, what are some of the challenges that you also face within your community, within your family, you know, if there's any media involvement, for example, what can you tell us about that?

Chris  1:17:45
Okay. Look, I've done a bit of media stuff in the past, I've written a few things that have gotten published sometimes in reply. The media is generally pretty toxic. These days, it tends to be propaganda machines rather than some form of open inquiry. And just as they’re finding that social media can enable micro-communities, I think that's the communication I'm focusing on, rather than that broader realm, the stuff I read about in functional medicine… I think it's when you get to 16% of the market, you become a market disrupter. It’s that, if we build one at a time, connections, networks, communication, then we inch towards that, being a disruptor in ideas. The media will generally misplay you. And, so, you choose not to, you know, I keep a vague eye on the news, but sometimes there’s days or weeks when I don't even watch the news. I think there's a phrase I don't remember, it's a biblical phrase that says, “We've got to live in the world but not be of the world,” where we've got to not let the world engulf us. We've got to create our own world of value, rather than let the values of the greater world take us over.

Waheed  1:19:58
Beautifully said. And the last question for you is, what are the last words that you would like to share with us today?

Chris  1:20:04
Baby steps. Baby steps. Find something small and attainable. Listen to that five-minute health changes podcast to just give you an idea of how simple that change in life can be. And it's not just about health, it's about spiritual as well. Look for progress, not for perfection. And remind yourself - my sponsor would say this to me, and I do this with the guys I work with, and I've had it with someone I was talking to this morning – ask yourself, “How does that compare to two or three years ago?” That's a basic sort of learning paradigm that will reinforce our progress. If we're not affirming the progress, if we’re feeling too much a sense of failure, we won't be motivated to move forward. And finally, something that a Muslim guy I work with, you know, when I've asked him to describe this Higher Power, he says, “Allah is Merciful.”

Waheed  1:21:24
Indeed, indeed. Thank you for reminding us of that. Chris, I'm pretty sure a lot of people would love to get in touch with you, what is one way to email you or get in contact with you?

Chris  1:21:37
If they go to my SA website on same-sex issues, which is samerecovery.com, so that's one word, samerecovery.com, and go through the contact button there.

Waheed  1:21:55
And they will get in touch with you through that. Absolutely, we'll put that in the episode description so people can access that. Chris, I have had a huge honor today of meeting you and talking to you, I'm really blessed. And may God bless you. And I will keep you in my prayers, and I encourage all the listeners to keep Chris in our prayers. Thank you so much for your time, thank you for your efforts, and thank you for sharing with us your story and being vulnerable with us. Thank you so much. 

Chris  1:22:21
Alhamdulillah! 

Waheed  1:22:30
And with this, we have come to the end of today's episode, I hope that you guys have enjoyed it and learned from it, inshaAllah. In the next episode, we will start our second theme for the season, which is marriage and intimacy. As always, you can listen to all our episodes and find all of the transcripts for each episode on awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com, and you can listen to us on your favorite podcast apps, and you can always email me on [email protected] This has been Waheed Jensen in “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, take care of yourselves, and I'll talk to you in a couple of days’ time. Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh.

Episode Introduction
A Little Bit About Chris
On a Dysregulated Brain and Neurofeedback
What Keeps Chris Away from the LGBT Lifestyle?
On Step Minus One
Case Studies
Addressing Misconceptions
Chris Right Now
On Perseverance
On Intimacy and Companionship
On Challenges and the Media
Final Messages from Chris
Ending Remarks