Addiction, Betrayal And Learning To Forgive

I understand the devastating impact of sex addiction. Now I’m helping others find freedom…
Cat Etherington, Director of Recovery, Naked Truth Project.

Sitting on holiday celebrating my husband Dave’s birthday by the beach, life was finally beginning to seem normal. We had been married for two years and having both come from challenging circumstances, we had just discovered faith together and were exploring spirituality at the same time. It was fresh, exciting, and peaceful. I asked to use Dave’s phone to search for something online and noticed his internet search history tab. I curiously clicked… and seconds later, my world crashed into a thousand pieces. Dave had been viewing online pornography.

I was speechless and wondered if this would be the end of my marriage. I sat there in shocked silence, trying to pluck up the courage to speak up and get answers.

You might think I overreacted. You might be wondering why I couldn’t just get over it. Porn isn’t that big of a deal, is it? But this wasn’t the first time that sex addiction had caused me great pain. My story up to that point in life had been overshadowed by the wounds and brokenness I had experienced having been betrayed some years earlier by a previous partner.

Cat and Dave Etherington


On that occasion, I had been using my partner’s laptop when a series of explicit sexual chat room conversations were discovered. He had been talking to women online, arranging to meet them for sex, as well as excessively browsing porn websites. He had even organised for sexual encounters to take place in my house while my children were sleeping upstairs. It was devastating, heartbreaking and so painful. I lost my job soon afterwards, coming to terms with this discovery affected everything.

But surely Dave would be different… because he was a Christian, right? God had sent him into my life!? Dave knew how much this issue had hurt me in the past and had promised me that porn wasn’t a struggle for him. He knew that this was the one area that I couldn’t cope with, and yet here I was, with tears streaming down my face, wondering if everything I had fought for, the restoration I had personally gone through, was about to be ruined.

I’d spent ten years addicted to drugs and committing petty crime. I’d gone through rehab three times before finally finding freedom. At one stage I’d had both of my children taken from my care by social services, and my parents stopped speaking to me. I was caught up in a world of ignorance and arrogance. I couldn’t recognise that my addiction was that bad, I thought rehab was for ‘real’ drug addicts and celebrities, and I thought I could keep going forever in this destructive lifestyle. I had also used sex as a currency, a tool to get what I wanted. It helped me survive years of drug addiction. But I was never addicted to sex like others had been.


When I met Dave in an alcoholic support group, I was warned not to marry someone from a similar background as me, but then we both became Christians. He was the first person I’d led to Jesus and we started this incredible spiritual journey together.

Thankfully, following my painful discovery, Dave and I worked on our marriage and we were able to get through that difficult season. He had only looked at porn a handful of times since we had been together and was at the latter end of his struggles. I understand due to my own addictions that when you’re an addict, you hurt people you love without even thinking of the consequences. I was able to forgive Dave, and he was brilliant, agreeing to do absolutely whatever he had to do in order to save our marriage.

Cat Etherington

Thankfully, following my painful discovery, Dave agreed to do absolutely whatever he had to do in order to save our marriage and we were able to get through that difficult season. He had only looked at porn a handful of times since we had been together and was at the latter end of his struggles. I understand due to my own addictions that when you’re an addict, you hurt people you love without even thinking of the consequences.

Although I wanted to forgive Dave for the deception he brought into our marriage, forgiveness is far from easy – Christians can often refer to it as a spiritual discipline and I understand that, but I know how difficult it is to apply. When I was in the depth of my pain and trauma, I often felt added shame and guilt for feeling like I wasn’t ready to forgive. I tried to exercise forgiveness when I didn’t necessarily want to. When we value the relationship of the person who has hurt us, we can be naturally inclined towards forgiveness, but we’re also frightened that they might hurt us again. We may want to attempt to recalibrate power in a relationship, and it’s really normal for this barrier to present itself – it’s what we’d call a forgiveness dilemma.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, I know there were times I would seek to exercise the discipline of forgiveness, and times I found it really hard. I came in and out of my ability to forgive.  In the midst of pain and trauma, it was a daily struggle to live in forgiveness with my husband. What helped most with this was committing to work though the challenges I had with my own pain, create a sense of internal safety, and work on my own self-worth so that forgiveness didn’t feel like such a threat.

Choosing forgiveness can be a long journey, but I’m so glad I chose to forgive. Today, Dave is a Baptist minister and a hospital chaplain, and I’m the director of recovery for Naked Truth Project, a charity working to help those affected by the damaging impact of porn.

I first found out about Naked Truth Project when I heard founder Ian Henderson speak at Spring Harvest. I loved what the charity was doing, but knew there needed to be help offered for those who had been betrayed by partners who had sex addiction issues. I didn’t want others to feel how I had felt, so alone and afraid. I trained as a life coach, launched my own business, and began to volunteer for the charity. Soon I joined Naked Truth as an employee and it has grown from there today I see transformation every week.

People who meet me and hear my story cannot believe where I came from. I live a healthy, stable, and happy life. I’m clean. My husband is clean. We have a great marriage. I feel passionate about helping others recover from addiction and trauma. You can be free, you can get better… there is hope! Whatever your situation, whether you’re stuck in a pornography rut or you’ve been hurt by a partner, I want to encourage you to get help and truly believe that your situation can be different. If my life can change, anyone’s can… there is always hope!

Written By: Esther Jolliffe 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *