4 minute read

Getting Sober in Just 30 Years

Last Updated: February 11, 2019

Mark Denison
Mark Denison

Mark Denison, D.Min., along with his wife Beth, is the founder of There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Mark has a Master’s in Addiction Recovery, is a certified PSAP (Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional), and is an active member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Mark is a former church planter, pastor (30 years), NBA chaplain, and university board chairman. Mark has written four books on recovery: Porn in the Pew, 365 Days to Sexual Integrity, A 90-Day Recovery Guide, and Porn-Free in 40 Days.

Recovery materials are replete with books on how to find sexual sobriety. The “how-to” resources are almost limitless. Google “kicking the porn habit” and you will find dozens of articles on ways to find sobriety in seven, 30, 40, or 90 days. Sadly, what you rarely find is something on how to maintain sobriety beyond the initial push. While some ministries have given us as much as a five-year plan, rare is the template for how to stay sober for the rest of your life.

So let’s talk about how to get sober in just 30 years. Why 30? Because I had to pick a number, and I hope to live another 30 years. What do I mean by “getting sober in 30 years” as opposed to “staying sober for 30 years”? That’s easy. When we shift our mindset from “staying” to “getting,” we live in the immediate. Never think of yourself as “staying” anything. Recovery is not a mountaintop you conquer, but a mountain you keep climbing.

So let’s get after it. This is my plan for the next 30 years of your life.


Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” In your addiction, you chose your actions. But in recovery, you must accept the consequences.

Long-term sobriety must be lived in a world of accountability. Paul warned, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Show me a man with ten or twenty years of sobriety and I’ll show you a man who has made himself accountable to two or three other people.


The Bible says, “Blessed are those who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1). Porn addiction recovery is about our walk, not our destination. Where you are matters less than where you are going.

John F. Kennedy said it like this: “Efforts are nothing without direction.” Arthur Ashe was asked how he rose to the number one ranking in world tennis. More concerned with his next practice, he responded, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” The same is true of recovery. To be sober in 30 years, you need to walk in that direction today.

A Short Memory

A good memory is the enemy of recovery. King David serves as a great example. He had many things over which to feel remorse and worthlessness, adultery and murder being at the top of the list.

But when he considered his past, what were the things he chose to remember? “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” (Psalm 42:4-5). Recovery is about moving forward, not looking back.


On the wall of the Betty Ford Clinic are these words: “Self-care is about setting boundaries.” I love what Warren Buffet said. “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

The Bible gives us a perfect example of boundaries. When Abraham and Lot needed to part ways, the Scriptures tell us that “Lot cast his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). Notice, he had no intention of camping in Sodom; he just wanted to check it out. The boundaries became blurred and it cost him mightily.

Related: Boundaries for Couples Facing Porn Addiction


You need a small group. If Jesus needed the 12, so do you. The Bible promises that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) for a reason–it’s true. Community decreases the temptation to isolate, and that’s good, because isolation is the incubator of all addictions.

Mother Teresa said, “I alone can’t change the world.” Chances are pretty solid that you can’t either. I love my 12-step groups. I share life with these men. They know me and I know them. Community works.


I’m sorry to drop the “D” word on you, but discipline works. Jim Rohn called it the “bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

There is a man who has made a pretty fair living by throwing a football. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. The only quarterback to win five Super Bowls, Tom Brady was asked to name the most important characteristic to lasting success. He said, “That’s easy–discipline.”

Discipline cuts off intrusive thoughts, bounces our eyes, and gets us out of bed to read recovery material when others are sleeping in. Discipline doesn’t come easy. Paul told Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). Discipline is not fun, but its rewards are priceless.


Tom Peters offers poignant advice: “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” For the man or woman in recovery, that means to schedule time to celebrate your progress.

Plan a Recovery Day. Reward yourself for your success. Find joy in knowing that while you aren’t where you’re going, you aren’t where you’ve been either. Do what Joshua did. After crossing the Jordan River, he set 12 stones in place “to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6). To find sobriety tomorrow, celebrate the sobriety you have today.


If you want to find sobriety in just 30 years, you must learn the art of follow-through now. J. Paul Getty gave a speech on the key to striking oil. “Rise early, work late, and strike oil!” Recovery comes to those who move beyond making great decisions. The person who is in recovery for 30 years knows that recovery is not knowing what to do, but doing what we know. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!” (James 1:22). Getting sober in 30 years will require follow-through, over and over again.


Those hearing the Great Sermon wanted to know what they should do next. Jesus said, “First, be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24). Don’t wait until you get to Step 9 to make amends. Making amends is not a task to be accomplished, but a journey that knows no end.

But you need to understand that making amends is not a simple apology. G.K. Chesterton said, “A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.” Making amends means reconciling with those whom you have hurt.

Give Back

You need to spend the rest of your life in Step 12–giving back. When Zacchaeus had come to Christ, he got serious fast. Without any prompting, he said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything [he had], I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). Recovery is the one gift you get more of, the more you give it away.

Rob Lowe said, “Sobriety is the greatest gift I ever gave myself.” I agree. And I leave you with this challenge. If you want to be sober in 30 days, read something else. But if you want to be sober in 30 years, put these ten principles into practice. And settle in. It’s a long ride.

  • Comments on: Getting Sober in Just 30 Years
    1. Lazarus Kioko Muthenya

      After all, it’s not because it’s easy but because it is worth it.

    2. Tim Bell

      “Find joy in knowing that while you aren’t where you’re going, you aren’t where you’ve been either.”

      One of the most encouraging statments I have heard!

    3. Sue

      It is a long ride. Praise God He gives the grace needed and new mercy every morning. “Though remorse always accompanies repentance, it is not always accompanied by repentance. Repentance removes the impediments in the way of salvation, to which death to the flesh is opposed.” Train yourself to be godly.

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