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Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction (Review)

Last Updated: November 13, 2020

Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher and his wife Marsha live in Raleigh, North Carolina. They run PurityCoaching.com and have helped hundreds of sexual strugglers, spouses, and church leaders find help and resources. Jeff has podcasted for the last six years about sexual purity through his Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast (iTunes). Jeff can be reached at jeff@puritycoaching.com.

A pastor and sex addiction. Sounds reprehensible doesn’t it? But author Tom Ryan is a real person, with a real background of family challenges. He was raised in a mainline Presbyterian church and brought to Christ through an evangelical church. He had a calling of God on his life and pursued his seminary education with passion. At the same time, he developed (as many ministers do) a secret private life filled with sexual struggles.

We don’t know about ministers who struggle sexually because they are not talking about their struggles openly from the pulpit…or anywhere. Ministers hide and closely guard their private lives. And if they get caught, they often fade away in shame from their churches, never to speak about their struggles again.

Ashamed No More gives a much needed voice of hope to struggling ministers.

One Level Deeper Than Your Normal Recovery Book

Ashamed No More is not an easy read; it’s a reflective read. It’s a book that benefits from the author’s considerable time in reflection and therapy. He has done the hard work it takes to recover. He has experienced deep healing and many levels of victory. There were times in reading this book where I found myself stepping into a deep hole of truth I had not yet experienced in my own recovery.

Ministers: You should start with this book. Tom is a minister and it will speak to you in ways easily identifiable to a minister.

Further in your recovery: You will be challenged and surprised by this book.

New to recovery: I would not start with this book. Start with a book by LaaserWillinghamStoeker, or Cusick, but keep Ashamed No More on your list.

Churches Are Not Safe Places (But Need to Be)

“The addict needs truth and community, support and love, and the healthy reintegration of her life…Way too often, the church is the last place an addict can find those things.” (65)

The author’s not cynical about churches, nor is he blaming churches for his addition. He’s burdened for them and believes they can transform into safe places for sexual strugglers. Chapter 10 outlines what a healthy spiritual community looks like:

  1. Begins with the Gospel“characterized by the teaching and ways of Jesus and by loving one another sacrificially.” (176)
  2. Respects the Frailty of Humanity“all humans are broken beings…It assumes we need God’s forgiveness and his ongoing help.” (177)
  3. We Help Each Other“at the heart of it, bearing the burdens of others requires a spirit of generosity, of love.” (179)
  4. Earn Trust“’We are ‘as sick as our secrets’ the recovery slogan goes.  Where we can be open with others about our genuine struggles and the nature of our thoughts and actions, we make huge strides in the direction of healing and wholeness.”  (181)
  5. Put Sexuality in Proper Perspective“The church emphasizes [sexuality] by silence, shunning and moralizing…Our behaviors do matter, and we can help each other understand why we have some of the impulses we have and what to do with the way we’ve been formed sexually as we’ve grown up.” (184, 186)
  6. Have Appropriate Expectations of Leaders“The truth is that many folks in the church want to be able to think that their clergy are morally pure…This false dichotomy of clergy and laity is harming the spiritual vitality of the whole church.” (187)

Big Quotes from Ashamed No More

“At the end of it, addiction is about shortcuts that become life-consuming ruts.” (47)

“To some degree, all who want to deal with compulsive behaviors have to do the very hard and threatening work of excavating, identifying, resolving, and releasing the critical elements of their stories.” (86)

“The beginning of genuine transformation is the recognition of brokenness.” (102)

[On why the church would make full use of the Twelve Steps] “First, it’s clear that Wilson’s [founder of AA] hope was that agnostics using the Twelve Steps would come to terms with the reality of God…The second reason…is that the church herself needs the honesty and the genuine acceptance of brokenness that is the ethos of the recovery movement.” (107)

“Personal transformation can also be catalyzed by deep experiences of love and habituated practices over a long period. As Ron [Mortoia] puts it, ‘Deep Love, Deep Pain, and Contemplative Practice’” (115)

“Part of healing is developing the humility that requires us to bow before the Creator of all our souls and cry, ‘Not my way, but your way. I’m no more special than anyone else; I’m no more special than God says I am.” (122)

“The struggle is where God is.” (138)

My Interview with Author Tom Ryan

I interviewed the author recently on my Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast. We talk deeply about the book, his story, and the special challenges ministers who struggle with sexual sin face.

PART ONE: How Background and Secrecy Affect Addiction

PART TWO: Darkness, Brokenness, Therapy & Healing

PART THREE: Hope For Ministers Who Struggle