Every porn or sex addict who has found years of recovery has the same thing in common–the first 30 days. Before you can be sober for 30 years, you have to get sober for 30 days. If you are serious about finding lasting sobriety and real recovery, I invite you to do one thing–take the 30-day challenge.
Your first 30 days are your most important 30 days. I want to show you what has worked for me and countless others. After years of study, observation, and personal struggles, I have found ten steps–ten specific actions–critical to finding 30 days of recovery.
1. Define sobriety.
You can’t be sober until you define sober. Some groups (SAA–Sex Addicts Anonymous) offer more lenient boundaries than others (SA–Sexaholics Anonymous). Scripture is pretty clear. Any form of sex outside of marriage is not within God’s plan. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).
I always tell guys, if you aren’t sure how you should define your own sexual sobriety, ask your wife.
2. Make a spiritual connection.
Jesus was more about relationship than rules. When he spoke to the lost and lonely, he was clear, “Abide in me” (John 15:4). A spiritual connection is more than attending church and learning doctrine. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Until we find God in personal experience we are not better for hearing the truth.” Only when we connect with God through Jesus Christ can we avail ourselves to the full resources of heaven.
3. Attend 12-step meetings.
Some argue that the 12-steps are contrary to true spiritual recovery. And they are wrong. The steps trace their roots to the Oxford Group, an evangelistic movement of the early 1900s. Bill W, co-founder of AA, found his own sobriety through the Oxford Group and their work. The Oxford Group, and early 12-step meetings, encouraged open sharing, support, and reliance on God. The Bible is clear, “Confess your faults to one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16). That happens in 12-step meetings. I owe my sobriety, in large part, to the 500-plus 12-step meetings I have attended since 2013. I still go to two meetings a week.
4. Get a sponsor.
It’s not enough to go to meetings. Get a sponsor within your first 30 days. Your sponsor will help you with recovery tools and offer years of recovery expertise. As Timothy needed Paul, you need a sponsor. “As iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17), your sponsor will guide you through your first months–and years–of recovery.
5. Get on Covenant Eyes.
Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one. If one falls, the other will lift him up. But woe to the one who is alone when he falls and has no one to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). In early recovery, personal accountability is critical. Covenant Eyes provides that as the leading Internet Accountability service on the market. I have each of my sponsees on Covenant Eyes. I receive a weekly report on their internet activity. It’s easy and it’s a critical resource.
6. List your triggers.
We all have unique triggers–things that lead us down the slippery slope of relapse. For many of us, our triggers are remembered by H.A.L.T. We are most tempted when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
But we also have our personalized triggers that affect us like no one else. “Each person is tempted when he is dragged away by his own evil desires and enticed,” (James 1:14). Know your triggers so you can avoid them. Make a list.
Related: 19 Possible Motives Triggering Your Porn Consumption
7. Put up guardrails.
Every highway needs guardrails. They serve to keep us on the road. The recovery road is no different. A guardrail keeps us from crossing over the line and off the cliff. Guardrails protect us from anything that is toxic to our sobriety. Let me suggest the three ‘P’s.
- Avoid certain places. Drive a new route.
- Avoid certain people. Lose their cell numbers and emails.
- Avoid certain predicaments. Don’t travel alone. Never be alone with a woman other than your wife.
8. See a C.S.A.T.
“Where there is no guidance the people fall. But in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14). Notice the phrase: abundance of counselors. Not all counseling is created equal. A C.S.A.T. (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) is specially trained to treat sex addiction. When I had kidney stones recently, I went to my family doctor. But I didn’t stop there. I went on to see a urologist, who is trained specifically to treat kidney stones. I needed a specialist. Those who struggle with porn and sex addiction need a specialist. They need a C.S.A.T.
9. Commit to a 3-day intensive.
I fought this one at first. I needed to learn this undeniable truth about wives–they value honesty above all else. The Bible commands us to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). At the end of a three-day intensive counseling time with a C.S.A.T. is a full disclosure and polygraph. It brings everything into the light. Until that happens, we cannot heal.
Related: 3 Reasons Deception Is More Damaging than Porn for Your Wife
10. Get a Life Recovery Bible.
Edited by Stephen Arterburn and others, the Life Recovery Bible will lead you through 84 daily 12-step devotions, while providing a wealth of encouragement and instruction. I read mine every morning. Through his Word, God promises to “lead you with my eye” (Psalm 32:8).
Get Started on 30 Days of Recovery
Does this sound like too much for your first 30 days? Well, I’m guessing if what you were already doing was working, you might not be reading this right now. If you do the things I have suggested here, that is not a guarantee of success. But to ignore these principles is to guarantee failure. It worked for me. It can work for you.
Mark Denison, D.Min., along with his wife Beth, founded There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Mark has a Master’s in Addiction Recovery and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. The author of The Daily Walk and Porn in the Pew, Mark is a former church planter, pastor, university board chairman, and NBA chaplain. For help in your own recovery, visit his website at TheresStillHope.org.SaveSave
who can I talk to?
A therapist is always a good choice. Here and here are a couple of directories you can check to find someone in your area.
Thank you so very much for sending a Life Recovery Bible just for the asking! I would be so appreciative if you sent one for my husband to use.
Contact me through our website and we will be happy to send another Life Recovery Bible.
This article ( what to do – your first 30 days of sex recovery) motivated and inspiring me . My 30 days starting now immediately and although li realise out of many years of failures ( to open the door to freedom ) it’s not always going to be easy (This 30 days will have its challenges) but with God’s grace / non stopping God’s pure love for me and this informed guidance of this article, excuse me to be existed and looking forward to victory.
I pray to everyone who reads this article to be brave and full of courage as God wants as to live our lives.
May you all have a blessed 30 days and more.
Thanks, Roelf. Glad my article was helpful!
A Christian elder or a mature friend that’s if you can’t direct talk to your parents.
I was touched by this: “Redemption for the addict, John told us, is often reduced to sobriety. While that’s obviously of utmost importance for physical survival, it begs the question: what about those who never get clean? For whom the grip of addiction proves too strong? After all, the world Sullivan describes is a world where that population will only increase. Unfortunately, opiate addiction (as well as overdose and death) has become a very real part of my ministry. This is the part that I see most families struggle with. They try for years to help get their loved one the help they need, to get them to sobriety, and nothing seems to work. Death, in that context, seems (and is, in many ways) a giant failure. I have found that in these situations, and in these funerals, the one-sided grace of God for those who are suffering and helpless against addiction to be the only balm that can soothe, to even a small extent, the effects of this horror. And its the only thing that keeps me grounded when the realization that one back injury, or car accident, or chronic illness could send me or someone I love down the same path. “There but by the grace of God go I. Thank you for this piece, David.
How do i contsct you to receive a recovery bible?
Hello, please contact them at their website.
Thank you for standing up for the 12-steps! I was heavily addicted to pornography for over 13 years and I found NO progress until I started working the 12 steps at Celebrate Recovery. Now I’m nearly 8 years clean and still attend CR regularly, sponsoring a couple other guys as often as I can.
Can you recommend a 12 step program in Detroit area?
Hi, Jonathan – I don’t have any better information than would I’d find through Google, so I’m guessing you’ll do the same. Best to you.