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The Race to Addiction Recovery: Ready, Set, Go!

Last Updated: July 15, 2020

John Doyel
John Doyel

John Doyel dedicated himself to helping men recover from sexual sin and return to God. He led a recovery ministry at Vineyard Columbus called 180 Recover.

If you have ever been part of a race, then you know the tension of the starting line. Everyone is waiting for the starters pistol to fire and the shorter the race, the greater the tension. If it is a marathon, everyone is standing around having a good time and trying to not think about the torture their bodies are going to have to endure. There is a lot of nervous energy, but not much tension.

However, if the race is a 100-meter sprint, everyone has their feet in the starting blocks, wearing their fastest track shoes and lightest clothing. Their hands are on the ground supporting their body as it strains forward to minimize every millimeter of distance. In that moment, there is tension as they listen intently for the gun to fire.

The Marathon of Recovery

Recovery from our sexual brokenness is not a sprint but a marathon; we all know that. It is a journey we will be on for the rest of our lives. However, there is something shockingly unique about it. Unlike real marathons, the further you go and the longer you are in the race, the stronger you become. Somewhere along the way you stop thinking; “How much further do I HAVE to go?”

Instead, you begin to think, “How much further do I GET to go? I am getting stronger and better every day.”

I know it sounds crazy, but this is good—maybe even great!

You do not burn off all your energy becoming more and more physically exhausted until you collapse. Instead, you seem to be gaining strength and endurance as the weeks, months, and years pass by and the tape you will break at the end of the race is stretched gates of heaven.

I find this to be a pretty amazing idea! The Spirit tells us this in 1 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

In Hebrews 12 we read additional wisdom: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

These are the thoughts we need to have in our heads when we think about our recovery from sexual sin. However, they are thoughts that need to happen after the earthquake of our disclosure has stopped and the aftershocks have ended. There is grief and sorrow to be endured as you learn the value of just surviving one day at a time.

The Deep, Dark Hole of Shame

You may have just arrived in the metaphorical Emergency Room and are on life support, along with your loved ones, and some time in Intensive Care will be necessary to get you stabilized.

I certainly was not thinking of my recovery journey when I landed face first hitting rock bottom after my secret sins were exposed.  I was in such deep pain from the damage my choices inflicted on my wife and family, all I wanted to do was crawl into a deep dark hole and die.

In fact, for the first couple of weeks, my dark hole was in my cold basement, leaving the lights off, laying on the old sofa down there with a worn-out comforter over me. I needed a comforter over me to keep me from shaking in fear, but even more, I needed The Comforter in me to keep reminding me that he was still there.

That was me on my starting line. There was no tension about winning any race. There was only fear about if I would survive. Flaming arrows of shame and depression continued to be fired at me along with doubts and self-hatred.  However, I could not just lie there in my raging ocean of self-pity. I had to get up and start this grueling journey of living one day at a time.

No matter how depressed I was and how filled with anxiety I felt, I had to keep breathing one breath at a time. I had to eat, drink water, work on finding a job, and try to sleep at night so I could rise and spend the next day trying to survive and not die in the desert in which I had placed myself.

Perseverance is Key

In some marathons, people end up crawling to the finish line. In recovery, we find ourselves having to crawl from the starting line. It wasn’t “left foot, right foot”, as my pastor likes to say, but left-hand left knee, right-hand right knee. One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time—with few people, if any, to cheer you on.

You do not want to be on this journey. I get that. You will want to quit and give up. Your flesh exhorts you to give up and dive back into the deep end of sexual sin. The porn pool is always open, and the phony promises of escape and satisfaction keep beckoning you backward.

But you have had enough of feeling ashamed, wounding your own loved ones, and trying to satiate your insatiable lusts. You’re tired of causing pain and suffering to those you promised to love and protect. This is no longer a journey you get to choose or can walk away from. Others may choose to leave you in their dust as they run away to try and find their own survival. You will want to help them, but first, you will have to help yourself.

Begin the Crawl Today

Start your own journey of recovery and crawl off the starting line, believing that at some point you will go from crawling through pain and suffering, to slowly walking as you begin to heal, to jogging along starting to believe you just might survive, to running with a smooth and healthy gait while in the zone, to sprinting to the finish line with a cloud of witnesses cheering you on.

And in that crowd are great men and women of faith who knew what it was like to crawl. There with Jesus you will see Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel. Mary and Joseph, the 12 disciples, and millions of other believers.  God’s women and men of faith who, according to Hebrews 11:

“…through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

They are waiting to cheer you on—to see you break the tape and enter into glory.

I urge you today to begin to crawl. You used to love to do it as a baby, but now you have to do it so that in the end, as you are being healed by the Spirit and supported by a team of others, you will reach your stride and sprint to the end, transformed into the image of Jesus.

Anybody wanna race?

  • Comments on: The Race to Addiction Recovery: Ready, Set, Go!
    1. Ron Bartolo

      What he said is so true about the ,”porn ,pool” always being open, with the false promise that the next image, that next scene is going to be so amazing that one will never have to look again. I’d rather take up my cross and fight this till the day I die then just surrender and be dragged by the undertow!

    2. JEFF

      WOW! Thanks for that article. It so accurately describes my recovery journey and touches on my wife’s restoration journey. This and other articles aer so very helpful in our journey. I just recommended them to my accountability group. May Our God richly bless you and yours.

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