This post has been updated as of November 2020.
As a Sexual Integrity Mentor™, I see it happen every holiday season to many of the men I mentor.
Slips. Relapses. People essentially take a holiday from their recovery, and as a result, fall back into many of their old sexual sin habits.
It can make for a very “Bah, humbug” kind of holiday season for them, and for their spouse and loved ones.
If you’ve struggled with sexual temptation and sexual sin in the past, don’t be a Scrooge this Christmas. Take my advice and practice these proven tactics and strategies to help make this holiday season a sexually sober one filled with pure joy and no regrets.
1. Set and share your goal now–no slips!
This one might seem obvious. But believe me, it’s not. In our old ways of thinking, an addict’s mind feasts on a lack of commitments and convictions. We like to give ourselves all the wiggle room we can find. We love to use phrases like “kind of, sort of…” Don’t give yourself an inch over the holidays, because you know you’ll turn it into a mile-long journey of aimless wandering.
Commit NOW to NO SLIPS (sudden lapses in progress, aka, looking at porn, entertaining thoughts about sexual fantasies, masturbation, etc.) over the holidays. And don’t just tell yourself and tell God, but tell your allies.
2. Create and share a written Holiday Plan.
It’s a common best practice among those who struggle with addiction and travel, whether for business or pleasure, to make a travel plan before your next trip. Since the holidays often involve travel, and more importantly, a general departure from healthy rituals and familiar surroundings, this is absolutely essential.
Your holiday plan should be written down and shared with your allies (if you haven’t caught on to my plural reference here yet, it’s a reminder that you need to have more than one ally). In your one-page plan, start with the basics–where you’ll be when, who you’ll be with, and what you expect to be doing.
Focus on identifying the potential threats to your sexual sobriety that lie ahead. Things like planned holiday parties or family gatherings, especially if you think alcohol will be served; friends or relatives you expect to be around who’ve created difficult or stressful situations for you in the past; triggers you’ve experienced in past holidays, like sleeping in your old bedroom in the home where you grew up if that is also where you had your earliest sexual experiences.
Plan ahead with your eyes wide open to potential threats to your sobriety, and talk them out with at least one ally. Come up with your “fire drills,” your plan of action should you find yourself triggered to act out sexually. Have your alternative actions identified and written down in advance, and ask your allies for permission to call them if and when you need them.
3. Keep practicing your Daily Disciplines.
One of the most important best practices of sexually sober men is consistently doing what I call the Daily Disciplines. That’s spending at least 15-30 minutes each day connecting with God–we call those your Spiritual Disciplines, and 15-30 minutes each day learning about and developing healthy habits of sexual integrity–we call those your Recovery Disciplines.
Spiritual Disciplines can include prayer and meditation, reading scripture or in-depth Bible study, reading a book by a favorite Christian author, time spent in worship, etc.
Recovery Disciplines are activities focused on seeing the battle more clearly and growing in your knowledge and understanding of how to live in freedom from sexual sin. So they can include things like reading a book specific to recovery from sex addiction, doing a workbook lesson in a sexual integrity curriculum you may be going through, listening to a podcast by a sexual addiction recovery expert, etc.
The key thing to know is this–there’s a direct correlation between the frequency and quality of time a person spends doing their Daily Disciplines and the quality of their recovery and frequency of their slips. Those of us who work with men and women in recovery from habitual sexual sin and sex addiction see this frequently.
So don’t take an extended break from your Daily Disciplines this holiday season. Make it a priority to spend time away from others to continue practicing your Daily Disciplines and you’ll avoid having to look back on this holiday season with regrets.
4. Stay connected to your support system.
Hopefully, by now you’ve developed a support system that includes people and practices that are helping you grow into a person of sexual integrity. That typically includes your allies, a recovery group of some kind, and a mentor or coach and/or counselor.
Plan to stay in touch with all of these important people and programs over the holidays. In BraveHearts, I conduct a weekly group mentoring session for men who struggle that meets via Zoom video chat. Phone and video-based support groups are fast becoming an essential part of an overall recovery plan because they’re so easily accessible.
If you haven’t joined one yet, plan to do so now. There are plenty of free and paid groups to choose from. And thanks to some recent advances in video technology, it’s almost as good as being there in person.
5. Keep practicing healthy habits of self-care.
As a man who’s struggled in the past with both sexual addiction and food addiction, the holiday season poses a double-threat to my sobriety. For others, it’s the preponderance of holiday parties and free-flowing alcohol.
Whatever your second drug of choice might be, this is the time of the year to be on the alert for the one-two punch of multiple addictions. Practicing healthy habits of good self-care will help you mitigate the risk of taking a twin-toboggan ride down the slippery slope. Go for frequent walks outside. Practice mindfulness or meditation exercises. Take a trip to the local grocery store to buy some healthy foods you can stash away in your parent’s fridge.
Don’t leave all of your healthy habits at home. Bring them with you wherever you go.
Follow these recommendations and let the only “slippery slopes” you encounter this holiday season be the ones you navigate with a sled.