Since my own addiction recovery journey began in 2009, I have had dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities to speak with men at “square one.” Their own addiction has either just been exposed or they have just confessed it. They are in an emotional and spiritual crater. Their life seems to have fallen apart, and they don’t know what’s ahead for them. More times than not, they have a similar question: “What do I need to do?”
An All-in Approach
It’s important for anyone seeking recovery to be willing to take a comprehensive, all-in approach. It’s unrealistic to expect to get better with less than a “whatever-it-takes” attitude. The Big Book of AA says,
“If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it–then you are ready to take certain steps. At some of these, we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.”
Simply put, we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get well. And the need to recover through process is no different for a Christian than for a non-Christian. In my work with Christian men struggling with sexual addiction, I often hear them express a desire–and history of praying–that God would just “take it away.” We envision God’s healing to be an instantaneous event, rather than a long and sometimes grueling process.
The Process of Change
But Scripture indicates to us that God–although all-powerful and able to heal us in an instant–very usually brings change through time and process. In Romans 12:2, Paul challenges the church at Rome, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Greek word that we translate to “transformed” is metemorphõthë, or “metamorphosis.” Most of us hear metamorphosis and think of the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Not something that happens instantaneously, but rather over a long period of time.
In another letter, Paul encourages the church at Philippi (in Philippians 1:6) that he is confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words, God is going to work the changes we need in our lives for as long as we live. The work is never done until we leave earth for heaven. And lest this feel deflating, it’s important to remember this is good news. God working in our lives means He has not given up on us and He never will.
Getting Started on Recovery
So when a Christian who is addicted to pornography/sex comes to the point where he or she is ready to pursue recovery, there are many elements that represent this consistent, transforming process-driven work of God. Here are some of the most frequently suggested and necessary components of a person’s recovery:
- Getting into counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding a therapist helps the addicted person look back and get in touch with the truckload of baggage that most of us drag through life. Addicts have never found a healthy way to process and heal from painful and traumatic experiences. Instead they have tried to self-medicate, using porn and sex to try and heal wounds only God can heal. A good therapist can help connect dots from the past; not to remove personal responsibility, but to give a needed context that helps provide explanation and combats the shame that keeps so many people stuck.
- Finding a supportive recovery community/group. The biggest driver of addiction is isolation. Those who struggle hide because they’re afraid and ashamed. They believe if people knew the depth of the struggle they would reject them. A recovery group gives a recovering person the gift of a confidential group of people he or she can trust. These are people who will listen, understand, empathize, and not try to fix. This isn’t accountability, this is support in the form of unconditional acceptance. This allows us to avoid what the writer to the Hebrews warned about. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)
- Working a tangible process (like The Twelve Steps) with a sponsor. There is nothing sacred about The Big Book of AA, or The Twelve Steps. They are not inspired like Scripture. But they do represent a time-tested (over 75 years) and proven process through which millions of people have experienced progress in recovery. Working the process makes it possible to see and track the work God is doing in one’s life. Working with a (same-gender) sponsor/mentor is critical because that person can guide, encourage, and share out of his or her personal experience.
There are additional options and resources for people who want to get a strong start to a recovery process. Some of them include:
- Reading resources: There is a wealth of great material to encourage and equip people on their journey of recovery. We have several recommended ones on our website.
- Technology safeguards: If the Internet has been a source of temptation and opportunity to act out, then a recovery process necessitates a new, more guarded approach to using the Internet and connected devices. Although there are several good options, the gold standard is Covenant Eyes, which offers accountability and/or filtering solutions that can benefit not only the recovering person but the entire family as well.
- Intensive recovery events: A recovery intensive is a therapeutic, experiential retreat environment in which a person experiences immersive therapy in a safe environment. People who attend an intensive often say they feel they received months’ worth of therapy over a few days. This can help “connect the dots” quickly and with more clarity, and can help make ongoing therapy more productive. Awaken offers a men’s recovery intensive called the Roots Retreat.
Having a better answer to the question, “What do I need to do?” is helpful, but it can also be overwhelming. Remember all the things mentioned in this post happen over time. This is a long-term process. It is helpful to ask God daily for the ability to truly take “one day at a time,” discovering health, recovery, and freedom from addiction through the process of recovery.