Every porn or sex addict who has found years of recovery has the same thing in common–the first 30 days. Before you can be sober for 30 years, you have to get sober for 30 days. If you are serious about finding lasting sobriety and real recovery, I invite you to do one thing–take the 30-day challenge.
Your first 30 days are your most important 30 days. I want to show you what has worked for me and countless others. After years of study, observation, and personal struggles, I have found ten steps–ten specific actions–critical to finding 30 days of recovery.
1. Define sobriety.
You can’t be sober until you define sober. Some groups (SAA–Sex Addicts Anonymous) offer more lenient boundaries than others (SA–Sexaholics Anonymous). Scripture is pretty clear. Any form of sex outside of marriage is not within God’s plan. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).
I always tell guys, if you aren’t sure how you should define your own sexual sobriety, ask your wife.
2. Make a spiritual connection.
Jesus was more about relationship than rules. When he spoke to the lost and lonely, he was clear, “Abide in me” (John 15:4). A spiritual connection is more than attending church and learning doctrine. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Until we find God in personal experience we are not better for hearing the truth.” Only when we connect with God through Jesus Christ can we avail ourselves to the full resources of heaven.
3. Attend 12-step meetings.
Some argue that the 12-steps are contrary to true spiritual recovery. And they are wrong. The steps trace their roots to the Oxford Group, an evangelistic movement of the early 1900s. Bill W, co-founder of AA, found his own sobriety through the Oxford Group and their work. The Oxford Group, and early 12-step meetings, encouraged open sharing, support, and reliance on God. The Bible is clear, “Confess your faults to one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16). That happens in 12-step meetings. I owe my sobriety, in large part, to the 500-plus 12-step meetings I have attended since 2013. I still go to two meetings a week.
4. Get a sponsor.
It’s not enough to go to meetings. Get a sponsor within your first 30 days. Your sponsor will help you with recovery tools and offer years of recovery expertise. As Timothy needed Paul, you need a sponsor. “As iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17), your sponsor will guide you through your first months–and years–of recovery.
5. Get on Covenant Eyes.
Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one. If one falls, the other will lift him up. But woe to the one who is alone when he falls and has no one to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). In early recovery, personal accountability is critical. Covenant Eyes provides that as the leading Internet Accountability service on the market. I have each of my sponsees on Covenant Eyes. I receive a weekly report on their internet activity. It’s easy and it’s a critical resource.
6. List your triggers.
We all have unique triggers–things that lead us down the slippery slope of relapse. For many of us, our triggers are remembered by H.A.L.T. We are most tempted when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
But we also have our personalized triggers that affect us like no one else. “Each person is tempted when he is dragged away by his own evil desires and enticed,” (James 1:14). Know your triggers so you can avoid them. Make a list.
7. Put up guardrails.
Every highway needs guardrails. They serve to keep us on the road. The recovery road is no different. A guardrail keeps us from crossing over the line and off the cliff. Guardrails protect us from anything that is toxic to our sobriety. Let me suggest the three ‘P’s.
- Avoid certain places. Drive a new route.
- Avoid certain people. Lose their cell numbers and emails.
- Avoid certain predicaments. Don’t travel alone. Never be alone with a woman other than your wife.
8. See a C.S.A.T.
“Where there is no guidance the people fall. But in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14). Notice the phrase: abundance of counselors. Not all counseling is created equal. A C.S.A.T. (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) is specially trained to treat sex addiction. When I had kidney stones recently, I went to my family doctor. But I didn’t stop there. I went on to see a urologist, who is trained specifically to treat kidney stones. I needed a specialist. Those who struggle with porn and sex addiction need a specialist. They need a C.S.A.T.
9. Commit to a 3-day intensive.
I fought this one at first. I needed to learn this undeniable truth about wives–they value honesty above all else. The Bible commands us to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). At the end of a three-day intensive counseling time with a C.S.A.T. is a full disclosure and polygraph. It brings everything into the light. Until that happens, we cannot heal.
10. Get a Life Recovery Bible.
Edited by Stephen Arterburn and others, the Life Recovery Bible will lead you through 84 daily 12-step devotions, while providing a wealth of encouragement and instruction. I read mine every morning. Through his Word, God promises to “lead you with my eye” (Psalm 32:8). At There’s Still Hope, we are so convinced of the value of the Life Recovery Bible, that if you contact us within 30 days, and simply ask, we will ship you your own copy at absolutely no cost.
Get Started on 30 Days of Recovery
Does this sound like too much for your first 30 days? Well, I’m guessing if what you were already doing was working, you might not be reading this right now. If you do the things I have suggested here, that is not a guarantee of success. But to ignore these principles is to guarantee failure. It worked for me. It can work for you.
Mark Denison, D.Min., along with his wife Beth, founded There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Mark has a Master’s in Addiction Recovery and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. The author of The Daily Walk and Porn in the Pew, Mark is a former church planter, pastor, university board chairman, and NBA chaplain. For help in your own recovery, visit his website at TheresStillHope.org.