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.
What is the best thing an accountability partner can do when their friend loses faith thay they can beat pornography and masturbation? We have a plan to avoid porn, but it is not being followed. I cannot take them captive and keep them from acting out. How do I remain strong and hopeful?
Hi, Eleshia – tough, tough situation. Ultimately, if he/she doesn’t want to stop then that really limits your options. You can’t force someone to do anything, at least not for long. If they’re still looking at porn, then they still have the means. Meaning, there’s still a device or a smartphone, or something that allows it to happen. I get so frustrated with people who say they struggle with looking at porn, cry out for help, but they aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to beat it. If I’m a shepherd, and I have a problem with wolves eating my sheep, why would I let the wolves into the gate and sleep with them at night? That’s what a porn addict with a smartphone is doing. They’re complaining about an issue, but not will to keep the wolf out of the pen. In those situations, as an accountability partner, I can’t help. Maybe he/she needs a bit of tough love, like I’ve written here. But, that’s your call. Regarding your question about remaining strong, maybe I can just reassure you that It’s not your job to break his/her habit, nor should you carry too much weight related to their continued choices. I bet God can relate to exactly what you’re going through. Watching His people, daily, who know that to do, continue to choose otherwise. I bet He’d also provide some Divine encouragement through His Spirit, if you turn to Him.
These are great tips, I am in a unique situation right now. Since suffering a head trauma from a work-related injury in July or 2017. I have been diagnosed with Complex PTSD, related not only to my most recent assault, but to other work-related assaults and injuries or cataphoric events in my work as an Emergency Medical worker. The last injury has left me totally disabled and with a different personality around my family due to the stress I am feeling from not being not productive from not working. My wife’s 28 year old son and his wife and their 2 year old son live with us and there has been turmoil with them, number one because they are non-believers and number two, his wife has no respect for us as the Parents living in the home, even with the fact we charge them no rent. the two of them have increasingly shown me less respect over the past three years to the point of a blowup of my wife’s son, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in which I was blamed and accused of getting extremely angry to the point she was going to call the Police on me, when I never even raised my voice. She then demanded that I leave the house and stay away for awhile. So I retreated to our Vacation property 200 miles away. I then began to get threats of Restraining Orders and demands to sign Quit Claim Deeds on our Vacation Property and more. I demanded that she hold off and that we seek Christian Marital and Individual Counseling. She seems to finally calmed down, in the meantime, I have seeked a mentor in brother-in-law who was actually the Pastor that married us in getting myself grounded in the Lord again. After a long talk and confession to the fact of my turning back to an old addiction of online porn, he had me sign up for Covenant Eyes. I had previously tried to quit “cold turkey” with no accountibility software or partner and many of these tips are the same things would be the same issues that would trigger that caused me to “fall off the wagon”, so to speak. If I would have started using Covenant Eyes months ago, I believe I would have been ahead of the game in fighting to get myself back from where I am now. I am still currently at our Vacation Place, it’s not a bad place, a 14K Acre Horse Ranch in Northern California, it was spared from the Horrible Wildfires that hit the area, this year only because us property owners have crews that maintain the property better than the state maintains their own forest. We even shared our property with the National Forest Service Firefighters and some Internationals ones for their Basecamp for most the Summer into November. I feek more relaxed here, I don’t have phone service, only internet and a few televisions channels, like MeTV, classic television and PBS, good clean programming. Then I have free access to RightNow Media through my Church, Fellowship Church of Antioch, California, which gives me some great Studies to work on, then my Mentor David, is sharing with me some great verses and questions to study and answer. I want to thank Covenant Eyes for being here to help me to be accountable to myself and God in my quest to stay sexually pure. God Bless!
I am a pastor (for some 40 years). I’ve been a poem “addict” since I was 12 years old. I became a Christian when I was 13. The open “addiction” did not go away! I was “sanctified” , and porn “addiction” did not go away! I was “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, and the porn “addiction” did not go away. I was called to ministry, and the porn “addiction” did not go away. I was ordained, and porn “addiction” did not go away. I have prayed, fasted, repented, confessed, confided and the porn “addiction” has not gone away. I have NO one who will assist me in this struggle. No brother, no friend, no mentor. I am alone and I only have the Lord to turn to. I prayed literally a thousand times that He would lead me to someone, send someone, but all to no avail. Your claims sound very quaint and hollow to me. It’s my cross to bear, alone!
Thank you for being so open and honest in sharing your story. Please know that you are not alone in this. Finding someone to walk alongside you in recovery is no easy task, especially since you want it to be someone whom you trust! Are you still in ministry? I highly recommend you check out 180 Ministries. They offer support groups where you can meet with other men who are in the same boat as you!