“I think you may have an addiction. You need to be in recovery.”
As soon as I heard those words, I fired my therapist. Me – an addict? Me – in need of recovery? I was an educated man, an author, a university board chairman, an NBA chaplain. I was respected as a leader in my community and in my denomination. I had heard of people who were addicts and who needed recovery. And I had no problem with “them.” But surely I wasn’t one of “them.”
Perhaps you are now where I was then. You are checking out this whole recovery thing. May I suggest, as a former skeptic of the highest order, that before you can understand what recovery is, you must understand what it is not.
That being said let me share with you eight myths associated with porn addiction recovery:
1. Addicts are weak people.
Many have the idea that those who view porn are creepers on the fringe of society. And, they would be wrong. We know that 62% of the men in church view porn, including 37% of their pastors (ProvenMen.org). Those few who are willing to walk into a 12-step meeting and say, “My name is Jeff, and I’m a sex addict,” are anything but weak.
The strongest men I know are in recovery. Recovery takes uncompromising courage.
2. Recovery and sobriety are the same thing.
You can’t claim recovery apart from sobriety, but you can be sober without being in recovery. Here’s the simple difference: sobriety is about quitting old activities, whereas recovery is about starting new ones. In Psychology Today, Sarah Benton suggests that those who simply stop destructive behaviors without embracing a full recovery plan are in danger of relapse, as “they are not treating the underlying issues.”
Sobriety is what you stop; recovery is what you start.
3. Recovery has an end.
In recovery, you collect chips, not diplomas. There is no graduation ceremony. Let me quote my favorite author. In my daily Recovery Minute devotional on our website, I recently posted, “Recovery is not a destination, but a direction. It isn’t something you achieve, but something you do. You never get off the bus or complete the journey. You just keep going in the right direction.”
4. Relapse is inevitable.
No one really knows the relapse percentage, but we know it is high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 40-60% in recovery from drug addictions experience significant relapse in their recovery. But, relapse is not inevitable. When confronted with long odds, Jesus responded, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
John promised, “Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Regardless of your past struggles, this is a new day. When you take the steps of recovery, relapse is never inevitable.
5. Relapse equals failure.
Muhammad Ali famously said, “The key to winning is to get up more times than you go down.” Setting aside the premise that it is possible to get up more times than you’ve gone down, “The Greatest” made a good point.
As bad as every slip and relapse is, it is never fatal – unless you give up. You need not live in shame. We serve a God of incredible grace. He not only forgives those who have fallen; he only forgives those who have fallen. Every relapse is a fall, but it is not fatal. Failure isn’t what happens when you go down, but when you stay down.
6. You can slow down before you stop.
I hear promises like this a lot: “I’ll cut down on masturbation to just twice a week.” That’s like telling your wife you’ve decided to only go out with other women monthly, instead of weekly, and expecting a congratulatory hug.
I heard about a man who coasted through a stop sign. When he was pulled over by a police officer, he protested. “I really don’t see the problem, officer. I slowed down!” The officer began slapping the man in the face. The man screamed, “Stop!” The officer replied, “I’ll tell you what – rather than stopping, why don’t I just slow down?” Recovery is not about slowing addictive behaviors, but ending them.
7. Addiction is a bad problem.
To say that addiction is a bad problem is to miss the point and only speak in half-truths. Why? Because it’s more than a bad problem; addiction is a bad solution. There are a lot of reasons why people have sex. In fact, Dr. John Grohol cites 237 reasons people engage in sexual activity. For millions, sex has become an addiction.
However, I have yet to meet the man or woman who said, “I’m so thankful to be an addict.” You can treat your addiction, but not until you recognize it’s a bad solution, not just a bad problem.
8. You can treat the addiction without treating the cause.
As I have observed hundreds of sex addicts through the years, I have noticed they generally fall into two camps – those who treat the addiction and those who treat the cause. Treating the addiction is like putting a bandage over a severed limb.
True healing only comes when we are willing to open ourselves to the pain of discovery. When we do that, we will almost always unearth instances of abuse, trauma, and isolation. Only then – when we begin the long process of addressing these root issues – can we get well.
Like any disease, addiction is best treated once it is best understood. That requires therapy, hard work, and the relentless pursuit of recovery. If you are serious about getting well, you need to learn all you can, and do all you can. You can start by debunking these common myths about recovery.