By Ken Wells, MDiv, MA, LPC, CSAT, LSAC


When I was in high school, a group of us guys would go to a pond to swim. Many times the pond was murky and stirred up before we arrived. We knew we would have to wait for it to settle before we dove in. Underneath the surface on the deep end of the pond was an area of debris at the bottom where we wanted to swim. It was all concrete and re-barb that someone had dumped. There was a safe area in the vicinity but we had to wait for the wind and the water to calm in order to see what was underneath the surface of the water. Once the water cleared and we could see we dove in. Some of us even swam to the bottom of the pond and even swam between the debris once it was recognized. To just dive in without caution would be a decision that would lead to disaster.

This story is an example of what many addicts do

Throwing caution to the wind, many addicts jump into the uncertain waters of relationships and experiences without waiting for the water to calm in order to see the hazards and difficulties that are present. Some falter in the high risk situation and succumb to addiction relapse. The problem was they did not carefully survey the obstacles that were present underneath the surface. There are many examples of muddy water that should be avoided during recovery.


Listed are a few that create hazards in recovery:

Mistaking intensity for intimacy.
When your heart is broken or you feel desperately lonely in your life, you are vulnerable to mistaken intensity for intimacy in a relationship. It’s true about romance, friendship and work relationships.Romantically, you meet someone who triggers a lot of chemistry. They are fun loving. You like their humor, personality and physically and emotionally you are drawn to this person. Your attraction magnet becomes super glued to this person. Immediately you want to spend all your time with h/her. The intensity of the relationship becomes the muddy water that prevents you from evaluating and cultivating intimacy. All you see is attraction.

No time to really sit with differences, challenges or conflict. Regarding conflict, there is none at the intensity level. All you want to do is be consumed with the love and love-making in the relationship. By the time the intensity settles that requires a more realistic level of relational commitment, you can be off to another relationship of intensity leaving behind a trail of emotional carnage.

Slowing the pace of development in a relationship is an important step to staying out of the muddy waters of intensity. The same can be said about the intensity of a work relationship. Before you sell your soul to the company store, moderate your long term commitment to determine the feasibility of working with those who are around you. You can be honorable and productive without losing yourself in your work. The deeper level of healthy intimacy in a valued work environment takes time to cultivate and develop.


Making your sponsor, therapist or anyone else your guru.
To be a guru means to be a teacher which we all are to each other. However, “parentalizing” others, making them your authority- gets in the way of being your own authentic self. You may think you need to see the best therapist in the land. However, if you overtly or subtly put them on a pedestal, you likely will remain stuck in your immature behavior. When you are stuck in shame you will tend to “pedestalize” others who you think represent what you want to be. This dynamic becomes the muddy water that will prevent you from becoming your true assertive self.


Greed and envy/resentment and bitterness. Inevitably, these powerful emotions must be addressed in your recovery program.
They are mud puddles that trigger recovery imbalance and if left unaddressed will derail your recovery journey. It is typical to want more. You will tend to compare and compete with others. It is easy to compare where you are in your recovery to where someone else is.While comparing you will lose your sense of self. Comparison triggers envy about wanting what others have. You make up that others are more respected, more appreciated and loved than you are. Eventually this leads to resentment and bitterness that fuels mistaken beliefs that you are not enough and never have been or will be. Typically, these are beliefs that come from family of origin experience. Each of these feelings represent muddy water that blurs sobriety and obstructs serenity.


In recovery muddy water is more than an isolated emotion. It’s a position, a posture or an attitude that poisons recovery perspective. Don’t be careless about where you choose to swim. If you have quickly plunged into muddy water it is not too late to get out and wait for the water to settle. Are you willing to let the muddy waters in recovery to settle before you dive in?


kenwellsYou can read more insights about the importance of embracing every day experiences in recovery from Ken’s newly released book “Dare to Be Average- Finding Brilliance in the Commonplace” published by Daily House Publishing and currently on sale through

As a senior therapist at PCS, Ken has 25 years of experience in treating sexual addiction and sex offender behavior. He specializes in confronting denial in addiction and the treating the nuance of impact around sex offender behavior.  Visit