Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Overcoming Sexual Addiction: Our Story: Phil and Priscilla Fretwell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2023 5:15 am

Overcoming Sexual Addiction: Our Story: Phil and Priscilla Fretwell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1025 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 23, 2023 5:15 am

Phil and Priscilla Fretwell articulate their complex, shared path to overcoming his sexual addiction—and the hope hovering on the other side.

Show Notes and Resources

Learn more about Phil and Priscilla's ministry at

Find resources from this podcast at

Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!

Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network


Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on Family Life Today covers some sensitive but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.

Alright, now let's jump into it. So I just read a study this morning from Columbia University done in 2022, so it's recent, that said the average relationship, which includes marriage relationships, hides secrets. Guess how many?

13. Ooh, I'm going through my head to think, do I have any secrets for me? No, my question was why? Why wouldn't you tell the person that loves you more than anybody in your life your secret? You're so afraid that they could see the parts of you that you've been trying to hide for so long. And they might leave.

Yeah, they might walk out. You might be rejected and that's our greatest fear. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson and I'm Dave Wilson and you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. Phil and Priscilla Fretwell are back with us and your book Savage Marriage has this story that we've been talking about and a lot more than just your story because you go from your story to how God can meet you in the middle of some secrets, in the middle of the pain, in the middle of brokenness and do a miracle. And we're looking at a miracle because you walked us through this secretive porn struggle to actual affairs to Phil, you are an elder at your church. You're known as a symbol of society of what a man that walks with God looks like and yet you had this secret life going on. You thought you had an STD based on the life you're living and now you're going to tell Priscilla that you've been hiding something for over a decade?

Yeah. So walk through that moment because I remember when I read this in the book that you think, I might have an STD. What did that do to your mind? I mean, how did you wrestle with that? Well, I mean, it just gripped my heart. I would say, David, like nothing has ever gripped my heart of terror and her reaction, what this is going to do. Because our family really looked perfect.

It really did. I mean, we had everything you would say you would want to have in a family. Now I've got a secret that's going to potentially destroy everything. Everything. And then not only would parts of community, your church would find out, but you have five kids.

Yeah. So to expose the secret to your kids to possibly be rejected and not just Priscilla, but this is a big thing. It was a really big deal for me. And at the time, whenever I thought I had this STD, I was traveling still a lot and I knew that I had a trip coming up.

I knew I couldn't tell her and leave. So I had to go on this trip and I was, the first leg was a long plane flight. It was 13 hours and I got on the plane. And it was kind of like, you know, I had been managing the secret and the emotions here during this week because I was busy and everything. But when I got on that plane and they shut the door, you know, it was kind of like, now I'm in my own mind sitting in the chair.

There's nobody else there. And it just starts really settling with me there in that kind of dark flight over. And I started crying and I cried for five hours and I just couldn't stop. And I was trying to position my body so that I was looking at the window so nobody could see that I was just sitting there crying and crying and crying. And it was really, really hard.

And I finally got up enough courage to send a text to one of my good friends. And, you know, he and I had had a, we'd known each other since high school. So he knew I had a porn problem, but it's kind of what everybody knows about every Christian brother.

They all struggle with it, right? So that's the way I'd made it sound to him. He didn't really know the depth of the problem I had. So that's what the text was?

Just sort of? It was, I need to talk with you now. Oh, okay. And he called me on Wi-Fi on the plane. So before you even talked to him though, why five hours of tears? What was going on? Were you just devastated?

It was. I didn't know what I was going to tell her. I didn't know how I was going to tell her. I didn't know how she was going to react. Because I thought this could be the end of my life and career and family and relationship with my children and everything that I knew. So you were desperate enough, like, I'm finally going to deal with this. Yeah.

Well, I didn't know how. I just knew that because I had an STD, I couldn't hide that from her. That had to be revealed.

At least that's what I thought at that point. So what happened on the phone call? Well, my friend called me and he listened to my story and I just dumped it all out. Man, I was just- No more hiding?

No more hiding, 100% to him. And he said, well, there's one guy I know that's been able to help guys like this. And his name is Paul Speed. And I didn't know who Paul was, but he was with Whatever It Takes Ministries. And he said, I'm going to tell Paul to call you in 10 minutes.

Paul called me on the plane and I just dumped it all out. And he listened to my story and he said, well, Phil, I've got good news for you. And I said, what is it? He goes, there's freedom available for you. And I said, that's great. And he goes, but it doesn't involve any of the things that you've been doing. And I said, that's good. I've tried everything.

What do I do? And he said, Phil, he goes, you think you have a porn problem, but you've got a pride problem. And I knew I did.

I knew I did. And it was the pride and the arrogance that they kept me in secrecy for my entire life on this stuff. Explain that more. Well, the thing on the secrecy, you know, all this stuff on porn and sexuality and immorality, it feeds in darkness. It feeds in the dark recesses of secrecy. And I had kept it there.

We found that as it eventually came out, it started breaking the hold on me. And I had never, never been to a place to be able to bring it out because of my pride and arrogance about how I wanted people to see me. That had festered and festered in my life. And in a weird way, the porn experience fertilizes an arrogant life because it tells you that you are the center of this imaginary world. All these imaginary women on pages, they all love you and you can do no wrong.

And you don't have to give anything back to them at all. It's a very self-centered world, which to an arrogant, self-centered, narcissistic type man, this is like nirvana, right? And he pinpointed my issue. And he said, you're going to start breaking the back of your pride and you're going to start by telling your wife everything.

And you're not going to spare any details at all. And then you're going to move on to your children. And so he went through this whole thing of me unveiling my life to all. He said, you've been a hypocrite to so many people, Phil.

You need to go back and tell them about your hypocrisy. And I hung up the phone. It was like a 20-minute conversation.

And the Holy Spirit told me, this is the path for you. You could just tell. I could tell. He confirmed it.

I stopped crying. Not that the problem was over, but it's just I had a piece on what it was going to take to get out of this. Was that fear still there, that you could lose Priscilla? Yeah, it was, because I didn't know. And he told me. He said, you know, I don't know what's going to happen to her, but he goes, you've got to deal with your issue and let God deal with your marriage. So Priscilla, here you are again.

Yes. Hearing some news from Phil, take us back. You know, it's interesting. He came in and he looked like he just had a hard night coming back. And he looked weathered and looked like he hadn't slept. And that was kind of weird to me because he's flying business class.

Like, you know, why should you be tired, you know? Anyway, he walked in and I could see in his eyes something was happening. And I actually thought there for a second that he did have something to tell me.

And the way he looked at me, the thought came through my mind of he's been unfaithful. And he said, I have something to talk to you about. And we sat at the table and to me it looked like he was having a nervous breakdown. He was just crying and couldn't get his words out. And it was just, it was heart wrenching for both of us. And he started to tell me about his double life. And he said, I need to tell you, I've been living a double life.

In your mind you're going, what? What are you talking about? And I don't know, it just, it went from bad to worse to really ugly right there. And, you know, I just started screaming at him and getting ugly.

I don't know, we were two different people sitting at that table. I mean, Phil, did you feel like, you know, based on Priscilla's response, you wanted to pull back in that moment or did you want to lean in and say, okay, this is going to be part of the journey? I knew, I knew I had to depress.

Paul Speed had told me I needed to press. And he had told me I needed to tell her everything. So I told her, and it was the worst conversation I've ever had in my life.

And Priscilla, you are living the nightmare. What happened? Like, how did you even deal with that? You got angry, you're yelling.

And stomping and walking around the kitchen, waving my hands and just. Did you think you were done? I really did.

For a split second there, I did. I guess this is all over. This is all over. He's living a double life. He's not the person that I married. He's not the person that I saved myself for. Did you even feel like, do I even know who you are?

That's right. I mean, you're just like, who is this person? And at that moment you think all you are is a liar. That's what you are. You're a liar. Nothing you say is true. Did you say that? I don't know if I did, but I sure did think it.

Yeah. But it is. And then even, I will tell you, even walking into church, you go, every man in here is a liar.

They're all hypocrites and they're liars. And that's how I felt when I went in the next Sunday. And where was God in it for you?

Well, it's interesting. Right then, I didn't think there was God right there, right? Philip asked me, after he told me everything, all this stuff, and at the end of this conversation that we're both crying, and he said, will you do me a favor? Will you help me heal my mind? And for a split second there, I just, I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to breathe your air. I don't want you to touch me.

I don't want you to look at me. Don't do anything. But in a split second, I just, the thought came into my head, I've been with this man for 28 years. At least I could do is get him well. I don't have to stay with him.

I just get him well and then I leave. So, with asking me to help his mind heal, he told me about whatever it takes ministries, that there was a retreat for women, and it was actually five days from now. Will you go to that place for me? And so I did.

Five days later, I was on a plane to Georgia to go to a retreat, to be in a cabin with 15 other women who are as bad off as I am. And it was a godsend for me. What did you discover there? Well, it's interesting.

I discovered that God brought me there to fix me. That's a turn. Yeah. Were you surprised by that? Well, I actually was, but because of my hypocrisy, I was the Christian wife that looked like she had it all together, but she never really had an experience with the Lord Jesus. I had my ticket out of hell card, right?

I was a Christian, I believe what Jesus did, but I really didn't have an experience with my Lord. And so I'm sitting in that cabin, and they're going through the workbook. And that's what the Lord said to me. I brought you here to fix you.

And that's all I needed to hear. And I walked through all the different things in that workbook, which was the lies that have influenced my life, the wounds that I've carried my whole life, and what that has done in my belief systems of me, right? How I saw myself. And it was a life-changing weekend for me.

Were you so surprised in some ways that you aren't dealing with Phil and how messed up he is and how to cope with him? And all of a sudden you're into your own stuff. Like, isn't that crazy that that's where you went?

Yeah, it is crazy, because I went there with like five questions to ask Jenny Speed. We're going to fix this once and for all. Right. It's his problem.

It is. It is his problem. But going that weekend and working even through forgiveness, of what forgiveness really is, and experiencing that in my life towards these people who had hurt me in my life, then I realized I can also forgive Phil for what he's done. It didn't mean I had all the fuzzy, warm feelings towards Phil. It just meant I had forgiven him, and now we have to work through forgiveness. I mean, you're working on forgiveness five days after his confession.

Were you able to get anywhere near, or did you get there by the end of the weekend? Well, I believed God for forgiveness. It did not mean that I had everything is great when I get home, because it wasn't great when I got home. It was really hard to be there with him. But the one thing I was reminded of was how much God had forgiven me for my apathetic and rebellious spirit, because that's what I had been with God.

I was very apathetic towards him. And so you had a God encounter that weekend. Yes. A God who loves you, who sees you, who's heard you, who knows you, and who wants to heal you.

That's right. That's beautiful. It was a healing experience for me, and it was a life-changing experience for me. You know, growing up in a Christian home, I had never experienced that with my Lord. And for the first time, and not exactly right then at that moment, as we walked through forgiveness, I was able to see it happen, and then I could see what the Lord Jesus meant, you need to forgive one another.

It is a supernatural experience when we do that. And that was life-changing for me. And the Lord has just worked in my life. He's worked in my soul of all the things that have wounded me.

And there's still some, you know, and it's one thing at a time each day. But you know, for me, every day that I woke up, I would say, Lord Jesus, you've forgiven me for what I've done against you, and I know I can forgive Phil, because you've forgiven me. And I will tell you, I probably said that for months and months.

I do remember in Thanksgiving, I told our whole family that I had forgiven Phil, stood up in front of everybody and said, I just want you to know I had forgiven Phil. And that was the first time I can have a time that I said, okay, that's it. And yet, when you come home from that retreat where you've had an encounter with God, you just said it was still really, really hard. Often we think when we're on the mountaintop, it's just going to be different. And I'm not saying it wasn't different, but it was still hard.

What did that look like? Well, I came home, and I wanted to set some boundaries for me. He had a choice of whether he wanted to sleep in the guest room, or he wanted to make our room a twin bed.

It's a king-size bed, so you have a choice. But I didn't want him to touch me. I didn't want him to hold my hand.

I don't want anything. And it was almost as if we started a reset button in our marriage. And that reset button not only had to do with sexual intimacy, but it had to do with everything else that should be included in that. And that's the spiritual intimacy, the emotional intimacy.

That is something that we did not have in our marriage prior, the 28 years. I mean, we liked each other. We were, you know, what do you call that, compatible? You know, we liked traveling, we liked being with each other, but that spiritual and emotional intimacy we didn't have. So that was what we were going to work on. But you weren't going to be touched.

Which makes total sense. So help us understand, how did you work on that? Well, we didn't touch, right? When she gave me the choice, do you want to make our king-size bed an imaginary twin? I took that one, right?

I thought maybe our heels might touch one day, you know, or something like that. So that's what we took. But over time, and it took a while, and it was very, very slowly, there was maybe a hand squeeze. That's where we went through hand squeezes, right?

Yeah. So it kind of slowly evolved. It was weeks of not touching each other. But in those weeks, and I will say from then on, he pursued me emotionally and spiritually. What's that mean?

What's that look like? Well, he was very interested in me as a person, you know? Was that new? To me, it was new. I was like, wow, you really want to know how I feel, you know, and what I'm thinking.

So that was new for me because he had always been, we had done life logistically. This is where we are going. This is who we're going to see.

This is what the kids have to do. But it was never like, hey, what's going on with you? Where's your heart? What are you thinking?

What are you going through? It just started to be different with us. I think there's probably a lot of listeners that are thinking, that's us. That's us. We're raising our kids. We're busy. We're working. We're tired. We check in on each other. We've definitely done that.

Totally. Like, we're living life. So to check in emotionally, we long for it.

But it's a scary place to go, too. Well, we didn't even really know how to do it so much. And what God started showing us was Jesus talked to the disciples and said, I want you to be one with each other like you're one with me. And we had just kind of never understood that very well. And so we started saying, wow.

So that means between Priscilla and me, we're supposed to be spiritually intimate, just like we are with a father and just like Jesus was with a father. And so I couldn't sleep. I mean, I was waking up at two, three in the morning.

You would get up. And we've started spending probably two to four to six hours a day together, reading our Bible and praying and processing, because we just didn't know what to do. I had a journal.

I was journaling a lot. And slowly, God started creating spiritual intimacy between us that we really had never had. I mean, we had our own individual. But as far as us doing that together, we had never really built the spiritual intimacy. And so what we saw God do is, as we became spiritually intimate with one another, learning how she felt about God, how I felt about God, God built emotional intimacy out of that.

And we really, it was an amazing experience for us because we became, I think, emotionally intimate probably for the first time. Right. And Phil, you ended up, part of your process, you went to a retreat with men, but you also decided to confess everything to not only Priscilla, but your five kids.

Yeah. And it's interesting, Ann, when I first floated that idea with Priscilla, because it was at the point I was confessing to her when I got off the plane and got home, and I said, we're not going to keep this secret. We're not going to do it the way we were going to tell our kids. Man, she started really wailing because this was like, wow. And she said, well, not Beck and Anna Hope.

They're only nine and 11. And I said, no, Beck and Anna Hope too. And boy, she just lost it. Oh, I can't imagine. I mean, it was just. I mean, when I read that. Dave came in the house and said, Ann, wait till you hear this.

Like he told all of their kids, even the nine and 11 year old. Let me ask you one last question before, because we'll revisit the kid part. As you were walking through these dark days and you're trying to get out of the valley, did you ever want to just quit? Did you just feel like, you know what, I went to a retreat and that was hopeful, fell into a retreat. We have some hope, but this is so stinking hard.

I'm not sure I want to do the work. Did you ever feel like I want to quit? Yeah. Yes. You're smiling.

What's that mean? No, it's just that, you know, when you're going through a hard time like this, this is painful. You don't know, you know, you got six, nine months of pain that you're working through.

It's not like you come home and you go, yeah, everything's great. And we're back together again. It's working through both of our pain that we both hold in our hearts that we have to go back and talk about. So, yeah, there were some painful moments that we thought, okay, this is it.

We're like, we can't keep going. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Phil and Priscilla Fretwell on family life today. Stick around because Priscilla has some really important words of encouragement for wives who are going through some of the same things that she's gone through. That's in just a second.

But first, make sure you check out the Fretwell's book. It's called Savage Marriage, Triumph Over Betrayal and Sexual Addiction. You can pick up a copy at to get more specifics and insights into today's conversation. So why do we have a hard time telling people we care about the truth?

Maybe it's pride or maybe you just don't know how to bring it up. Right now you might be in a situation where your kids are asking you difficult questions, maybe even about how God made babies. How do we talk about that? Well, when you give any amount this week, we want to send you a copy of Justin and Lindsay Holcomb's book called God Made Babies, helping parents answer the baby question. It's our help to you and it's our way of saying thanks when you give this week. If you're feeling like God is calling you to partner with us with a donation, you can go online to or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

That could be a one-time gift or even a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to snail mail us and drop something in the mail to Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. All right, now here's Priscilla with some important words of encouragement if you are someone who resonates with their story. Priscilla, talk to the listener, the wife, who has discovered this with her husband and she's just really struggling. What would you say to her? I would tell her that there is hope.

There is hope in Jesus that He is there going through this with you, that there is a way out, there is a healing that can be done in your life, and there's a healing for Him too. Tomorrow, Dave and Anne are joined by the Fretwells once again where Phil's story continues. He fully reveals his sin to his kids. So stay tuned because the Fretwell's daughter, Sarah, will be joining in to tell about her experience. That's coming up tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 05:14:14 / 2023-03-25 05:25:16 / 11

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime