by Kris White
I walked into a Starbucks the other day, groggy and ready for hot brew. The usual background music littered the place, seeming to float on the heavy aroma of steaming hot coffee. The barista prepared my cappuccino as precisely as yesterday and the day before. Set for the morning, I headed out and passed two men leaning toward each other at a small table. Their posture suggested an intimate conversation. A book on their table caught my eye—Patrick Carnes’ Facing the Shadow. I walked over, tapped the book, and said, “I know the pain.” As a practicing psychotherapist for 20 plus years, I understood professionally and personally the issues these men were addressing.
Raised in a strict, religiously fundamental home, I knew all too well the consequences of sex outside the boundaries of marriage. When I was twelve, my father prefaced “the talk” by putting an anatomy book in front of me. He did not know that I was already sexually aware. The takeaway message for me was lust is bad and sex other than in marriage is sinful. So don’t do it! Not from a lack for concern but because of his anxiety and ignorance, my father failed to equip me with anything to fight the oncoming battle.
When I was ten, my best friend led me into his older brother’s room and pulled open a large drawer to reveal a menagerie of sexually explicit magazines. To this day, this moment is a prominent fixture in my mind. I was immediately overwhelmed with the naked images before me. It wasn’t until thirty years later, two divorces, a shattered family, and a broken heart that I emerged into awareness—I was addicted.
By age forty, I established a solid practice as a clinical social worker, offering therapy for a variety of problems. After some time, I began to notice issues of sexual compulsivity brought up by my patients, which included pornography use, extramarital relationships, and cruising strip clubs. I looked into my patients’ lives and saw my own. At that point, I took a big drink of “physician, heal thyself.”
Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” No other place than in recovery is this truer. Taking a long look at the substance of our lives, most of us buckle at the path of destruction caused by our addictive behavior. In recovery, we move forward one step at a time, repeating many of these behaviors over and over. Through one discovery after another, I found my bottom—loneliness, deep and abiding, perpetuated by shame.
During my childhood, my mother used shame to punish me. She disliked the corporal methods my father required of her, preferring cold-critical enmeshment. It was my duty to make her happy; I failed miserably. She never offered physical affection though I longed for any sort of warmth from her. Cold criticism absent of affection, I later discovered, produced in me an insatiable desire for females who offered no more attention than my mother had given.
From the moment I found females interesting, I felt an obligation to please them; in turn, this became my understanding of love. Gaining attention by means of pleasing was fraught with constant failure, reinforcing the shame associated with feeling worthless and undesirable. The need to close myself off from the loneliness became unbearable. Relief came by means of acting out sexually via pornography. I created false relationships filled with acceptance and attention from women who could be pleased. These images became a virtual world where I could select an intimate encounter to fit my mood, creating a high that stemmed the loneliness momentarily.
The high did not last long, soon smothered by shame and another failed promise. Nonetheless, I fell to my knees, begged, and felt relief afforded only by grace. The experience of renewed commitment to God always brought about another high. It lasted as long as I could stave off feelings of loneliness, yet the cycle continued. In an attempt to thwart loneliness, I acted out and experienced a brief exhilaration only to be followed by pain again. In an attempt to escape, I begged again for forgiveness. Brief exhilaration came again then intense loneliness again and again.
The cycle became all too clear: loneliness, act out, brief exhilaration, pain, forgiveness, brief exhilaration, loneliness.
At my bottom, sitting in this cyclical existence of suffering, my prayer was heard.
God I am afraid of you, and I am alone. There is no love here, only fear and loneliness. I do not want this relationship. I do not want this, God.
For the first time in the unbending darkness, a profound presence imparted these words: “I have been here waiting for you to know and to see what I really am.”
Recovery is about becoming what God wants us to be, the best in us. Being human, we are imperfect, yet in the image of God we are precious. It is not God who has missed this point. The conflict is not just between you and God; it is between you and a false concept of self. Your loneliness comes from being cut off from the love which God has created you to be.
Seeking love where no love lives, you experience loneliness. Self-betrayal perpetuates the cycle, a life lived at the peak of elation then in the valley of loneliness. When pain is unbearable, recovery begins.
At Starbucks, I momentarily felt that familiar pain. It lingered a short time, soon replaced by love from self-care learned through recovery.
. . . .
Kris White is a practicing psychotherapist, LMSW, located in Plano, Texas, with 21 years of experience. His treatment focus is on helping others maintain recovery from addictions and co-dependency. He is currently writing a book on sexual addiction recovery.
Awesome. Thanks for your courage to speak out and show that there is a way that leads to life away from pornography.
First off, “Addiction” is a worldly term that enables the sinner to remain the victim. This will always cause the person swimming in the foul cesspool of sin to miss the Biblical Truth that IT IS SIN! Immediately the word “addiction” is used, the word “recovery” creeps into the picture. Again, secular humanistic reasoning and pragmatism. You cannot diagnose “addiction!” You can however diagnose cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy, because these ARE diseases. The first “step” in becoming an overcomer is calling it what God’s Word says it is…SIN! You do not “recover” from sinful behavior, you REPENT!!! Jesus Christ overcoming you is being an overcomer.
@David – I agree with you, at least in part. For many the term addiction is a term that excuses them from responsibility, but it need not be. Even the Bible uses “disease” language to speak of sin, likening sins to wounds, welts and open sores (Isaiah 1:6). But as with all analogies, sin can only be likened to disease in certain respects, not all respects. Ultimately sin is a choice, a choice made from depraved and sinful desires. As Ed Welch wisely points out: “[W]e are both hopelessly out of control and shrewdly calculating; victimized yet responsible. All sin is simultaneously pitiable slavery and overt rebelliousness or selfishness. This is a paradox to be sure, but one that is the very essence of sinful habits” (Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, p.33-34). I do not believe the terms “addiction” and “sin” need be mutually exclusive.
People who are in recovery from sexual addiction/compulsion/ sin have already come to the conclusion that they are not a “victim.” Anyone who tries to play the “victim card” when discussing their addiction has only made it to Step One (12 Steps). However, someone who is serious about recovery has moved past this dysfunctional mode of distortion and recognizes while there were events and hurts that led up to their issue, recovery is about responsibility.
The comment that you do not recover from sinful behavior is rather harsh. All sinful behavior has consequences that you must recover from. Repentance may help you with the past (stay “fessed up” with the Father”) but does nothing for the future. Recovery is learning life skills to stop that cycle the Kris mentioned above.
Repentance without Recovery will wipe the slate clean, which simply gives you a clean slate to scribble your mess on all over again. True repentance and recovery offers you a brand new slate.
While the root of sin is Adamic, the root of the manifestations of our own sins can be found in our own pasts and hurts. The dysfunctional behaviors that result from this past become our addictions. In other words, we have addictions because of Sin. Luke’s response that they need not be mutually exclusive is correct. In fact, sin and addiction are so intertwined that it is hard to discuss one without an understanding of the other. It sounds like Kris has come to this understanding. He has displayed a mature level of transparency and honesty that is not always visible in his profession.
David….’face palm’. You think its easy for people to repent from bad habits overnight? Whats your weakness? Try to let go your weakness and let me know how it goes in 21 days. Think about it.
great words, brother. if we understand pornography indulgence, we understand that there are ways in which it operates as an addiction. But as Christians we also know that using a term such as “Addiction” is not an excuse, nor is it a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Welch’s book, which you reference, is very good, i highly recommend it.
I need to continue to resist the temptation to allow myself to become ensnared in the trap of self-congratulations, or congratulating anyone else for their “well-spoken” words of wisdom and knowledge. I should not blog to get kudos, or to let people see what I think I know. I should only blog to help, speak the Truth, bring hope, and encourage those still caught in the foul cesspool of sexual sin to inevitably fall in love with Jesus Christ, and “lose their lives for His sake and the gospel” (Matt. 16:24).
We can talk all day about well-written books, well-spoken words, who knows best, strategies, doctrines, and so-called wise expertise concerning this or any other issue. The fact is Jesus Christ is the infallible authoritative Word of God and is the only source of Life and Truth. And until that reigns and rules in the heart, the heart remains black. I know I may be preaching to the choir. I only have one motive, and that is to pour out myself to “snatch them from the burning” (Jude 23).
Addiction = Recovery. Idolatry = Repentance. At one time in my life I was spending nearly $2000.00/week on drugs, and consumed with lust, daily giving over to the most perverted pornographic websites. I had also spent an equally expensive amount of my time in years of AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, and other step related “Christian addiction” programs. I attended up to the coveted 7 meetings a week; worked the steps; had a sponsor; etc. I had been in and out of several intense inpatient rehabs, and all this to no avail. If anyone understands the worldly term “addiction” I do more.
One thing that I learned in the recovery rooms was that I was encouraged to be dependent on them, for life! I also learned that “I should never replace meetings with Christianity or religion, or else I would fail!” This oft quoted statement never sat right with me. Nonetheless, I was never able to put together more than 60 days of sobriety.
I am not just talking about AA, I am also talking about all the other “Christian Recovery” programs I tried. With zeal, I was certainly memorizing a lot of scriptures, getting a lot of advice, and doing much praying and Bible reading. But I never once heard the terms “brokenness” or “repentance” emphasized as imperative. And I never EVER heard about being a Pharisee/hypocrite, the idolatry of self-will, or pride. Yes, they called it sin, but would never discuss why the sin was there. I knew I was sinning, but I did not know why. Just like in the secular recovery rooms, I felt like I was just going through motions, replacing the “drug” with another carnal thing. I was virtually hopeless, finding only fragments of fleeting pseudo-hope in steps, quotes, advice, books, people, memory verses, and self-improvement. Every bit of this was under the coined term “addiction.”
Now I agree that sexual sin can operate like an addiction. It certainly can feel like one when you are caught in it. But so can bitterness, envy, strife, slander, gossip, jealousy, outbursts of anger, wrath, and malice. Allow me to explain.
I confess once upon a time, every time someone would wrong me, as much as I disliked the fact that I was this way, I could not resist the urge, no matter how hard I tried, to broadcast their sins, faults, and evils to everyone I talked to. Where is the recovery room for THIS “addiction?” How about every time you find yourself in a very precarious situation financially, no matter how much you loathe the behavior and the guilt you feel afterward for not trusting God in faith, you give over to strife, worry and anxiety? Are you going to tell me that this too is an “addiction?”
Absolutely not! If that were the case then God would not have called sin-sin and pride-pride, He would have called it “addiction.” Allow me to be blatantly honest. I hate the term “addiction,” because it is this shallow word that helped to keep me from seeing the truth of my sin for too long! And it is for this very reason that I believe that God hates it too, because it is keeping His children from THE Truth that obtains and sustains real and lasting victory.
What is this truth to which I am referring? The truth is all I wanted in reality was for God to take away the desire for my sin. After all I was a pretty good “Christian,” just ask anybody who knew me. I just had this one problem. In reality, the only evidence I had for knowing Jesus was a huge pile of dirty rags in the corner. This was what my prayer looked like to the Lord: Let me quote, “Jesus, I need You to cleanse me, and forgive me. Wash away my guilt-stained conscience so I can feel comfortable in my own skin and serve my idols better and with more joy. Oh, and by the way, can I go to heaven too? Amen” Yes, I desperately wanted a Savior, but desperately did NOT want a Lord. I was the lord of my life and that’s the way I wanted to keep it.
The truth is I was not “addicted” and neither are you!” I was my own idol! I worshiped myself and my sin. I was the center of my own universe. I was full of pride, and full of myself. I lived for pleasure, gratification, and comfort. I was a Pharisee and a hypocrite. I was a deceiver, a manipulator, and feared not being at the helm of my own ship. I DID NOT love Jesus, I DID NOT know Him, I DID NOT want His will in my life. I DID NOT want to be a foot-washing servant of all, one who is dead to self and sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. I DID NOT want to pour myself out into the lives of others. I DID love my life in this world. I DID NOT want to be holy as He is holy. I just wanted people to think I was a good Christian. I wanted to think I was a good Christian so bad that I actually believed that lie! I spat in Jesus’ face, I defiled His name and His temple. I blasphemed the Lord by attaching His name to my evil, calling myself a Christian. I was a black hole sucking the life and light out of everyone I came in contact with. I was arrogant, rude, a liar, quick-tempered, egotistic, and absolutely rebellious; all the while believing I was a good person who only had this lust problem! I was in delusion.
The only reason I am alive today is because Jesus had the mercy to take me to a place that was bold enough and loving enough to show me this truth. That place is none other than Pure Life Ministries. It took eight grueling but also fulfilling months of strict discipline, mercy, and brutal truth to crack the rock-hard shell of my sin and pride-calloused heart. I needed no less than the merciful love of Christ to hit me in the face. It was time for me to see my sin as He sees it, not just be coddled with smooth talk, worldly terms, and polite gestures not meant to offend anybody!!!
If He had answered my selfish prayer to remove the sexual “addiction,” He would not be a merciful God. One reason: I still would have been full of selfish pride and all the things I described above. It would have only been self-improvement. Another: I would not have learned the spiritual essentials of “poverty of spirit,” a.k.a. “my desperate neediness for Jesus through a knowledge of self-nothingness,” or being mercy-doer (foot-washer).
“(Colossians 3:3-4, emphasis mine) “For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, WHO IS YOUR LIFE, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
If those in sexual sin keep hearing only that they are “addicted” they will continue to seek to eliminate only what they are “addicted” to, and will actually believe they can call that “victory.” The scripture reveals they will always see the thing (pornography, drugs, or whatever) as the cause of their “addiction” and never get to the real truth of “why” they are the way they are. Eliminating the addictive cause is like pulling weeds and leaving the roots.
“All these regulations* refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:22-23).
Dear one, I put myself on the line of scrutiny and scoffers for you. Do not be fooled by believing you are “addicted.” If you desire freedom, you need to desperately desire Jesus If you desperately desire Jesus, it will cost your life! When you truly see Him as your Life, and Life more abundantly, you will lay yours down. What idols do you still value holding onto? You? Pride? Your hopes, ambitions, and dreams? Knowledge? The desire to be right? The desire to be seen? Dissolve like a sugar cube into the Living Water of Christ Jesus, and disappear in Him. It is the only Way.
@David – It is true: most would not term certain kinds of sins as “addictions,” whereas others sins we would. I believe if we are going to use secular terms in order to communicate an idea, we should not use the term “addiction” as a kind of label, but as a simple description. For instance, a couple years ago I went to the CCEF conference titled “The Addict in Us All.” As the first speaker addressed the crowd, he opened with “Hi, my name is ____ and I am an addict.” The crowd recognized these familiar words, but of course, the speaker was using them to make a profound point: we are all “addicts.” He clarified right away: “I am addicted to myself.” There is a sense in which addiction is an appropriate description of our relationship with every sin, for all are born as slaves of sin. In fact, the whole conference was geared towards that very concept, helping attendees to radically reorient their definitions.
I agree with this approach. When we use secular labels we should go out of our way to redefine them so others know we are coming from a completely different perspective. David Powlison, a counselor at CCEF, makes a great point about this: “Labels are occasionally useful heuristically if we recognize them for what they are: crude taxonomic orderings of observations. But labels are elements within schemas of value and interpretation. Because diagnostic categories are philosophically and theologically ‘loaded,’ a Christian who seeks to be true to the Bible’s system of value and interpretation must generate biblical categories and must approach secular categories with extreme skepticism.”
So when I speak of “porn addiction” my goal to to capitalize on an often-used secular term (for the sake of drawing in the reader), but then to re-frame the reader’s understanding of addiction by introducing them to biblical categories. The hope is, after the reader is finished, our secular terms, if they are used at all, become subservient to a biblical model. This allows me to not be antagonistic toward secular labels, while at the same time commanding the use of language so readers don’t fall into trap of vain and unhelpful philosophies.
Thank you for sharing some of your story with us, David. For what it’s worth, I can personally identify with it. Change is impossible without renewing our minds, and part of mind renewal involves throwing out old mental categories that excuse or minimize sin, or categories that intentionally or unintentionally challenge the sufficiency of Christ to change us.
@Luke – By all means, “Reel them in and point them to the cross.” I appreciate the reply. You also helped me learn something new. Thanks. Iron sharpens Iron. Just one small question that you could help me define…
Which is harder to say? “I am addicted to myself? or “I worship/ idolize myself?” My counselor always told me, “If it is harder to say, then it is probably more accurate, and will bring the most freedom.”
Literally, just a few minutes ago, in a session with one of my counselees, he said, “The Lord has shown me this week that I worship myself, and that is why I have never had freedom.” Thanks again
@David – Well put. I totally agree. “I worship myself” and “I am addicted to myself” mean essentially the same thing, but to label the sin as it is–as idolatry–is not only biblical, it is also sobering. Addiction is a convenient clinical category that only describes a certain aspect of the experience. Thanks for your comments. Iron sharpens iron.
I have been in recovery from sex addiction for a number of years now. I want others who are maybe desperate for help to realize that it is possible to get much better. You might find it useful to know a little of what happened to get me to where I am today.
I won’t go into any details here but I hit rock bottom. I don’t know if that is a requirement but my therapist has said that people start to want to change when the pain becomes greater than the perceived pleasure. That was the case for me. It was terrifying to even find and go to a therapist. The shame was terrible. I had two other therapists who didn’t know much about sex addiction. They helped me a little in the beginning but looking back, for all the months I went to them they didn’t help me much at all. Then I found my current wonderful therapist. My therapist was trained in treating people like me. Within a few sessions I realized my therapist knew what I was going through and could help me. I cried with relief. I remember when my therapist asked me the first day what I thought led to me acting out. I had no idea. Looking back on that person, that person looks so different.
My therapist helped me understand that I had been blocking out discomfort by viewing porn and acting out. Not dealing with the root source of the discomfort allowed it to continue or get worse. Shame from acting out was another form of discomfort. Boredom, loneliness, fear, even physical discomfort (can’t sleep) could be masked by acting out sexually. (“It helps me sleep,” I would say to myself.)
Another big epiphany for me was seing my pattern of acting out for what it was. To mask my discomfort I would think about sexual things and flood my body with pleasure chemical. I would store images and fantasies of women in my head and pull them up later to feel good. I would use porn and later do other activities to act out. Afterwards, when the pleasure chemicals had worn off and my body was brought down off the sexual ‘high’, I didn’t feel so good. Later when I tried to stop this, the cycle seemed to get worse because I realized I couldn’t stop. I started to feel powerless and helpless and worthless. I pushed those feelings down though and focused on my next high. It would make me feel better. That cycle got worse and worse and faster and faster. When I was able to look back at myself and see this cycle for what it was, that was an important step for me I think. I saw someone talking about drug addiction. I’m curious if it has a similar cycle to what I experienced. More powerful chemicals I imagine.
Then began the long journey of dealing with the WHYs of all of these discomforts. Why did I feel lonely. Why did I feel rejected. Why did I feel worthless. (It turned out that a great big bunch of the emotional stuff was left over from when I was younger but there was also a bunch from the fact that I really hate conflict with other people). That has been a lot of work but has really paid off.
Once I had an understand of that, how do I live a healthy life? How do I nurture myself? How do I seek out others to form healthy emotional bonds that before I had no chance of doing. That is the part I’m working on now. It’s hard. People don’t seem to either 1) want to; 2) be able to; form deep emotional bonds and I’m not very good at it yet. I hate conflict and so I tend to do things to not be in conflict. For example telling the truth with people. If I feel conflict I used to have a lot of difficulty, especially if the relationship had importance to me. This is one of the issues I still deal with.
I have been in therapy for awhile and there have been times when it seemed like I had plateaued but I stuck with it because I had read that it takes 3-5 years of therapy to get better and I have continued to learn more about myself and continued to get healthier. By the way, therapists will probably never tell you it takes at 3-5 years of therapy to get better and you should take it with a grain of salt because it was something I read and I’m just one recovering person. But I think they would agree that you can’t just go a few months and be okay and I think they would agree that it’s very hard if not impossible to do it by yourself. At least in my experience, changing behavior required me to get help to work on changing my thoughts which required me to understand myself which my therapist has been instrumental in doing. I’ve had many years to ingrain bad thoughts and behaviors so it wasn’t too surprising I guess that it has taken a long time to change that.
This next part is meant to scare you a little. My understanding is that if you let it go on, it will probably get worse. It can get so bad that you may do something (if you already haven’t) that you can be arrested for. If you are saying to yourself (like I was), “I can control this,” but for a long time I could never change my behavior, then you should strongly consider getting help. By the way, if porn is one of your ‘high’s, Covenant Eyes has been a huge help for me. One of the nice tools you will be learning when you start therapy is to figure out your ‘triggers’ and sort of protect yourself from them. Your therapist can help you understand how that works.
I’ve blabbed on a lot because I want anyone reading this who is despairing to feel hope. I am a real life example of someone who got much better. I have gotten help and I’m a different, much healthier person now and I want to encourage anyone who is reading this and terrified like I was and suspects they need help, to take the plunge and get help from a knowledgable professional. I can only speak to therapy and say that finding a good therapist has probably saved me.
My last words – thank you professionals who are helping people with these kinds of problems. As difficult as it must be sometimes to listen to someone with terrible pain and see people continually make mistakes and bad choices on their road to recovery – and I’m sure watch people opt out of recovery and slide back into addiction – I hope you can take joy that there are successes and there is growth and you are changing people’s lives.
@Gary – Thanks for sharing your story with us. It is refreshing to see brutal honesty. Continue on your journey to wholeness. Without a doubt, getting to the root of behavior is absolutely vital. When we only try to correct behavior, it’s like clipping bad fruit from a bad tree. The tree itself needs to become healthy. Please poke around our blog more and read other testimonies of freedom. I also highly encourage you to listen to my one-hour webinar.
@ Gary – I appreciate your heart to want to share your testimony for others. In response to something you said, I have to testify to the following:
You write: “By the way, therapists will probably never tell you it takes at 3-5 years of therapy to get better and you should take it with a grain of salt because it was something I read and I’m just one recovering person. But I think they would agree that you can’t just go a few months and be okay and I think they would agree that it’s very hard if not impossible to do it by yourself. At least in my experience, changing behavior required me to get help to work on changing my thoughts which required me to understand myself which my therapist has been instrumental in doing. I’ve had many years to ingrain bad thoughts and behaviors so it wasn’t too surprising I guess that it has taken a long time to change that.”
Gary, as a matter of fact, the average stay of a live-in student at Pure Life Ministries is about 7 months. The live-in program is normally for the more severe and intense cases, such as myself (I was a MESS!). The success rate of the men who graduate from PLM and continue to live in victory is close to 86%.
PLM also has 12-week “Overcomer’s At Home” program for less severe cases; for men struggling usually only with pornography concerning the arena of sexual sin. I am a PLM OCAH counselor now for this intense 12-week program, and also a 3 year alumni from the live-in. I have personally witnessed the power of the Cross in not only my own life, but countless other men’s lives.
I have also witnessed the drastic miracle of transformation in all the guys I have counseled through to graduating PLM’s OCAH program. At this point I have had 7 grads, all of which are completely new men. They are successfully living as over-comers, not only their of sexual sin, but also their fear, pride, lack of humility, etc.
These are the same men who had, much like you, tried everything, seen therapists of all types, and lost everything including their marriages, jobs, and even children. So far, every one of the graduating counselees continue to live in victory. But greater and more important than that, they are absolutely different men from the inside-out, and their friends and loved ones that knew them before are floored by the men that Jesus Christ has transformed them into—Servant husbands, walking Blessings, ambassadors of Christ, miracle testimonies, and mercy-doers.
Not only are the men’s lives revolutionized, but so are their marriages and relationships. Every guy I talk to in week #1 is in despair. I tell them that in 12 weeks, if they submit and do what they are asked to do, they will be the men they always knew God wanted them to be, and in only 12 weeks. Each of them respond similarly, “Really? That sounds like a bold statement, and sounds almost too good to be true.” I simply say, “It’s not MY statement, It’s the Lord’s. The question is, ‘Will you let Him do what He needs to do?'”
I am not boasting in the program or myself whatsoever. I am boasting in the fact of what happens when a person falls in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and lives their life surrendered to His will.
The proof is in the pudding they always say, and the proof of what God’s Word says it will do, “I came to give you life, and life more abundantly” (John 10:10) speaks for itself; And it says also, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Truth is dependent upon nothing but itself.
Jesus did for me in 8 months what no therapist on earth could do; teach my how to die, and live in the fullness of His mercies. The prayer of the victor sounds something like this: “Lord, favor them at my expense.”
When Jesus healed a blind man and he went out into the presence of those who knew him before, they bombarded him with many questions. His response was simple and profound, “I don’t know anything than this: I was blind, and now I see.” In light of that I would say something very similar:
“All I know is that, what I thought was absolutely impossible in my life, and what thousands upon thousands of other men thought was equally impossible–that being such a drastic lifestyle and heart change–in such a relatively short period of time, Jesus Christ has made not only possible, but more than possible!” He did more than just deliver me from my sexual sin, He delivered me from my delusional and insanely wicked heart.
Someone is going to have to explain to not only me, but those other thousands of men, how God was able to deal death blows to every single one of those problems you described in your story, in such a short period.
Although, a good therapist or counselor can make a big difference in helping someone with destructive behavioral illnesses and habits. But when help is sought after exclusively in therapists, counselors, books, advice, steps, or any other manmade doctrine, help will certainly elude you, and sometimes forever.
That, I believe is what happens when counselors or therapists do not point their counselees to the Cross. They are basically causing the counselee do become dependent upon their own or other’s sources to find truth.
If I am thirsty, I go to the faucet or the well. I do not go ask other people for water. So why would I want to go to any other source besides the HEALER to find healing? It is true that I needed a counselor to show me how to dig my own well, but a good Biblical counselor will always tell you where the water is. That is called a heuristic approach to counseling.
Anyway, I suppose in essence what I am saying is “whenever we seek truth, or a way, or for life in any other source beside the real Source–THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life–it is no wonder it can take years for any significant change.”
However, when a person is brought to the Master, and the infallible, inerrant Truth of God’s Word begins to take root in their heart and produces fruit, the ineffable happens. Impossibilities become facts, hopeless cases become hope-giving caseworkers, the helpless and hurting become the helpful and merciful. Fear of man is turned into fear of the Lord, self-seeking is turned into need-meeting, and entire worlds are turned upside down–which is actually right side up. I have seen it. I have experienced it, because I have seen Him, and I have experienced Him. Not only me, but countless thousands of other men and women will testify the same thing. Come to Jesus, and live.
I’m so happy for anyone who is recovering. That is wonderful. I have a different story than yours and the people you work with but you might find it interesting.
I’m an athiest now. When I was a born-again Christian it did change my life – and fast. But I still had problems with fantasizing and masturbating. This was before internet port. I remember talking to my fellowship brothers about it and them saying they had had problems with it for many years. It was not talked about much though. I hope your program can change people that fast. 7 months is amazing.
I’m worried that most of the rest of the world reading this (who is not born again) are stuck with either 1) faking they are Christians to go through programs like yours which I’m pretty sure won’t work; 2) resigning themselves to not getting better 3) getting therapy or 4) continuing to get worse. I hope you don’t think that you cannot get better unless you become a Christian. That at least was not the case with me. Maybe other professionals can chime in.
Another comment about this issue. I accepted Christ and was devout and involved and changed and I loved it. Looking back though, accepting Christ didn’t remove all of the issues I had though. Things from childhood. I still had tons of issues that were not being dealt with. After therapy now I see that walked around most of my life in fear or anger and didn’t even know it. Cut off on the road by a car. Get pretty pissed? That is a sign there is something going on maybe. Take things personally? Life isn’t fair? They aren’t respecting me? That what has run through my head most of my life.
I don’t want people who aren’t Christian and know they can’t go through the program in good conscience to give up. You might try what I did. Find yourself a good therapist who has treated addiction. (I’m sorry to say that I don’t know how to figure out which ones are good other than it took me two who didn’t to find the one good one who did). Try taking the brave step of going to therapy. Be as truthful as you can even though you will be terrified of it. Commit yourself to going. Changing your behavior takes a long time (in my opinion and from what I’ve read). There are all kinds of things you have to start learning about yourself. Kind of opening your eyes up about yourself.
All of this said, I’m just one person. Not an expert. If you can’t bring yourself to become a Christian, just don’t give up. Maybe the program will accept non-Christians I don’t know. Maybe there are other professionals who can chime in and address the issue of how long it takes for someone to change addictive behavior. Bottom line though, you need to get help or you’ll get worse. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are people who can help you. It will take a little work to find them but you can and you will. I’m pulling for you. :^)
Hi. I am the spouse of a SA. I would like someone to help me sort through this mirage of determining if my husband is being genuinely repentant. I am on the verge of initiating permanent separation and/or divorce. That is not my hearts desire however I see no other options.
We’ve been married for 14 years. Second marriages, no children together, I have two grown daughters by a previous marriage. He had been divorced for 20+ years when we married. I was a Christian when we married, he was not (I broke God’s rule, I know). We had no intimacy on any level from the on-set of our marriage. He showed no sexual or emotional desires for me. I tried any and everything to no avail. He had every excuse as to why he had no desire for me…and I believed most of them, to some extent. In year six, I confronted him and told him we would either need marriage counseling or divorce. He chose counseling. Several months into Christian based therapy, I discovered the porn…lots of it on his computers. Suddenly, all of his excuses for his lack of sexual desire fell apart. He resisted therapy for the next two years. It was a roller coaster of promising to stop, getting caught, denial, defensiveness, verbal and emotional abuse, promising to stop, etc….. He would only go to counseling when getting caught again…and then would stop when the waters calmed at home. Through counseling, I decided to seek divorce. Just before meeting with an attorney, I discovered my husband in a voyeuristic act, in our home, with my 25 year old daughter. All hell broke lose. I dragged him to our counselor. At first, he denied and was defensive. Then, he relented and broke down and started crying. He seemed genuinely broken…though no confession was made. A blanket apology for “all he had done to hurt me” was the extent of the confession. A week later, he made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ. This was what I had been praying for…for so long. Now, I felt healing could begin. It didn’t. He refused to continue counseling, saying the Lord had freed him. Fear set in and I felt we were on a slippery slope. He began going to Church reguarly with me, he got baptized, however, old patterns began to surface again.
Although I did not find porn on his computers anymore, I began noticing that he stared at women…alot. Of course, he denied my crazy allegations that he was fantasizing with them. This continued for the next five years. He refused therapy and when he would go, he wouldn’t go consistently or do the work prescribed. He expected me to trust him, yet he did nothing to demonstrate trustworthiness. He got angry and defensive if I would tell him I needed to be able to trust him but still couldn’t. He would tell me it was my problem and that it was Satan infiliterating my mind. He stared in church, on vacations, shopping, any and everywhere. Nothing ever changed in our relationship, still not intimacy. He spent most of his time at home watching television. He never shared anything with me except for superficial topics. He did not demonstrate anything close to humbleness or contrition. He enjoyed his isolated office on the third floor of our home, no accountability on his computers, cell phone, hard drives, etc….It was 100% up to me to find and prove if he was acting out. When I would, he would finally admit to it after a long length of time had passed, however, then he would minimize it and say that it was in the past and I should forgive and forget. He never volunteered a disclosure but he did submit to one about five years after I first discovered the porn. It was a vague disclosure full of half truths and no confessions to any of the offenses “since” we were married…most were historical facts before we got married. Getting any honest truths out of him has been like pulling teeth..and has been slow and painful. He still hides things from me and denies SA behaviors that I have seen him continue. About three months ago, he discovered I was seeing an attorney and he decided to begin counseling again. This time with a new counselor and men’s group. Our old counselor refused to see him until he was willing to commit to the work…which he would not. I also joined the spouses group at the same time. The three months are over and nothing has changed in our relationship and nothing has significantly or consistently changed in his behavior. I’m ready to move on with my life and have an attorney ready to file divorce papers. We have a meeting set up for this week with his new counselor, his new group therapist, our old counselor, and our pastor. I asked for this meeting to get answers. If he is doing the work, why has no trust developed and why has nothing changed in our relationship and why is he still being dishonest with me and hiding SA behaviors? It has appeared that he has been telling each of these men different things to get answers that allow him to keep hiding. He has proven to do this in the past and it worked for some years. It appears he is continuing this maneuver. He is a master at manipulation and it has been impossible to build any trust with him. The list is very long of the manipulations, deceptions, and dishonesty just over the past couple of years. Any insights from anyone who has been here yourself? I’d love to hear from a recovering SA that has traveled this road of self protecting and what finally caused you to come clean with your wife.
What a long, difficult road you have traveled. The grace you have demonstrated is remarkable. Addiction of any kind takes a terrible toll on loved ones; the pain and loneliness you have suffered testifies to that as poignantly as any case I have seen.
Repentance–genuine repentance–is the issue. How wide the door opens for God’s healing when we repent; how powerless we all remain when we try to heal ourselves. It’s amazing how much anguish you would have been spared if your husband had only repented. His lack of surrender is at least one sign he does not hate his sin. The article “‘I’ll Change, I promise’ Six Signs of Genuine Repentance” describes what you should see from a truly repentant person.
You noted in your posting that any show of tough love triggers a healthy response in your husband, and that it is always temporary. The article, “Tough Love Must Stand Firm,” addresses this phenomenon. Unfortunately, the advice may come too late to help your marriage. It can, at least, help you make sense of the past.
It sounds like you have taken this all the way to the brink, and it would appear hopelessness has left you one option: dissolve the marriage and move on, as you say. I fear, however, you will repeat a pattern I have seen all too often. Recovering from divorce often includes overcoming regret and self-doubt. Despite the clear pattern of sin on the part of your husband and the hopelessness of your future together, questions will soon crowd the emptiness left after the judge’s ruling. Satan, “the accuser,” will fill your doubts with recriminations and condemnations. “What if you had tried this or that?” “What if you had been a little more…” “What if you had…” “If only you…”
Lies. All of them lies. But what powerfully debilitating lies they can be.
I would like to offer an intermediate step. It will raise the stakes for your husband without requiring you to sacrifice any more of your dignity. It is biblically sound and legally wise. It may, after all, end the marriage, but in a manner that would forever settle all the “what ifs,” leaving you truly free to “move on.”
What I recommend is a “redemptive divorce,” which is explained fully in the book of the same name.
Before you pull the trigger on the divorce, delay a couple of days, read the book, discuss it with your counselor and attorney, and decide whether or not it’s right for your situation. Take it from one who has walked a path similar to yours, you will not regret the investment of time and energy. The freedom you will receive is immeasurable and indescribable.
I pray the Lord will cover you with His comfort, fill you with His wisdom, and go before you with His power.
Thank you for your response and compassion. As a matter of fact, I left for six months earlier this year. While away, I found Redemptive Divorce on the Internet, ordered it and read it. I asked my Pastor to read it and my counselor. I did not get my Pastor’s support (as my husband has him convinced that my unforgiviness is the problem) but my counselor saw the value. I returned home due to some other family issues and gave counseling with my husband one more try. Again, he refused to be consistent and to do the work. I found and met with a good Christian attorney and he agreed to work with me on Redemptive Divorce. I left again, as I didn’t want to be home when papers were delivered. Long story short,…the process in in limbo. I believe I might have written you an email (if you are the author of the book) while I was away…but didn’t get a response. My husbands new counselors have been urging me to be patient and “support” this new process he began four months ago. My counselor of seven years (that my husband used to see as well) advises “enough is enough” and supports my decision to move on. I’m hoping for some clarity in the meeting this week.
I’m sorry you didn’t receive a response to your email earlier. I am indeed the author and I normally respond to every contact, so I’m not sure what happened. Regardless, I regret you didn’t get the response you needed at such a critical time.
You may recall the first chapter outlines a significant problem we have among pastors. In their interest to keep marriages intact at any cost, pastors typically–often naively–side with the person least likely to dissolve the legal union, even if that person is guilty of outrageous sins against his or her spouse. As long as your husband gives lip-service to the marriage, he will have the support of your church–sad as that is to say.
I have two recommendations to help you respond to well-meaning, yet naive critics. Some of this you already know from the book; I offer the following as a reminder and for the benefit of others who may read this.
First, in the book, I strongly advise finding an accountability partner during the redemptive divorce process. This should be someone objective (not a relative of either partner) and willing to tell you what you don’t want to hear. It’s this person’s job to ensure that you haven’t grown bitter and to help you remain ready to forgive in response to genuine repentance.
An accountability partner will help you say with confidence to your critics, “No, I have the objective assurance of a wise friend and the support of a respected Christian counselor that my heart is in the right place.”
Second, if you have followed the redemptive divorce process completely (not saying you haven’t), there should be TWO documents: the divorce decree AND a separation agreement spelling out exactly what you need from him in order to rebuild trust. You are free to make those requirements as stringent as you genuinely need. (This isn’t about giving someone a set of pointless hurdles to clear.)
If you have that document prepared, your critics have nothing to say. In that document, you have stated that you will not pursue divorce if he accomplishes what is needed to deal with his addiction(s) and to responsibly earn your trust. Those requirements may include:
* In-patient treatment at a Christian facility devoted to SA
* Ongoing outpatient treatment with a Christian SA specialist
* CovenantEyes on every computer he touches
* Regular interaction with an accountability partner
* Periodic progress reports from all of the above
Of course, during his treatment, you will have committed to treatment of your own. Spouses of sex addicts have much to learn about themselves, their choice of mate, and how they can either support or hinder recovery.
In the end, however, you must accept the fact that many–if not most–of your peers will not understand. They will not hear you because they do not have the ears to hear. You will lose many friends and even the support of some family. Regardless, once you have received the impartial affirmation of trained, godly advisors, you must do what is right, no matter what the outcome.
I wish I could say this will be easy, but it is perhaps the most difficult thing you can do. Standing for truth in a world that loves fiction will not be easy. Fighting for a REAL marriage will not satisfy those who would be satisfied with a sham. I can say from experience, however, that your future will be much brighter in the long run.