Ready to Step Out?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the next step is for this website and the ministry it represents. As a freelance webmaster (and pastor), I’ve been working on marketing effort for another ministry of which my wife is a part. She is public on that website at the level of first name and general location. I’ve been considering coming out of incognito in order to promote the Sexual Integrity in Ministry website more effectively. I have access to some of the same marketing and promotional tools as the other ministry. That ministry’s efforts include promotional videos which are kind of hard to do anonymously. I’ve also been looking into ad placement in ministry magazines or other ministry websites. Why? It’s certainly not to get rich. This has been and probably always will be a labor of love. The main reason comes directly from the fifth of the 12 traditions: to carry this message to those in ministry who still suffer (adapted). Of course, should I choose to promote this website and ministry publicly, I would break the 12th tradition about anonymity.

Own Your Own Recovery

I’m disappointed again. Someone I invited to a 12-step meeting didn’t show up. I know he needs to come. He knows he needs to come, or at least he says he does. I think he isn’t hurting enough to make attending meetings a priority. He came to one or two meetings at my invitation but has yet to come solely on his own initiative. He doesn’t yet own his own recovery.

As a pastor, I see the same thing happen with seemingly non-addicted people. They come to church…occasionally. And they claim they enjoy it when they do, but they don’t come every week or even very regularly. Some are CEO attenders–Christmas and Easter Only. Some just come once in a while–when the guilt piles up, when someone nags them enough, when they are facing a crisis with a spiritual dimension.

My friend in need of the 12-steps is like that too. I suspect he will come again someday–when the guilt piles up, when a loved one nags him enough, or when he’s facing a crisis in his sobriety (like a slip or a relapse).

I know I was like that once in my recovery. I sought just enough help to get someone off my back or to ease the guilt I felt over an undisclosed relapse. I didn’t make meetings a priority; I didn’t make program calls; I didn’t value the 12-steps. I only sought temporary relief. The phrase “half measures” certainly applied to my recovery, and just like the Big Book says, they availed me nothing.

I remember our counselor telling me I had to make recovery a lifestyle. He said I had to own my own recovery. Recovery would never work for me if I did just enough to get my wife, my boss, or my accountability partner (or even my counselor) off my back. He told me (actually twice) that I needed to do a 90/90 (90 meetings in 90 days). I didn’t see the point of that at first, but after all, we’d paid him big bucks to straighten me out. I really should take his advice. At first, I felt a little like Naaman taking a seven-fold dip in the Jordan, but then I started noticing that going to meetings was no longer the burden it was at first. Being sober, when I truly worked the program, was actually quite enjoyable. Between the 30th and 45th day of sobriety, I started noticing changes. People around me noticed even more changes than I recognized in myself. That was really encouraging. But I would have never experienced those blessings had I not owned my own recovery. Somehow, by God’s grace I began to surrender my self-will and all the half measures that availed me nothing. As the 12-steppers say, “It works when you work it!”


Should I Confess to My Spouse? How? When?

“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” I firmly believe Step 5 cannot be ignored. This is true because confession is biblically mandated. It proceeds divine forgiveness and cleansing. Confession frees us. It breaks the power of secrecy and allows healing to begin. The act of confession, as difficult, risky, and courageous as it seems, generally feels good—that is, to the addict, and only when its over. It never gives good feelings to the spouse or others betrayed by the addict’s actions.

After you confess, you feel like you’re on cloud 9—a load’s been lifted, the burden’s rolled away. Your spouse likely feels like she’s been hit by a Mack truck. She’s wounded, deeply wounded. She’s angry,  justifiably angry. You deserve that wrath. You have sinned against this precious daughter of God who was created in His own image. She’s the one you vowed to love and cherish “till death do you part.” You made these vows to God, and in His grace, He will forgive you. You also made these vows to your beloved. She can and will forgive only as God enables her to. If she more or less shrugs off your infidelity, she’s an either a classic enabler or is bound in your relationship by a much weaker seal than the fiery, vehement, jealous, death-strong love described in Song of Solomon 8:6.

When we addicts confess to our spouses “the exact nature of our wrongs,” it’s called a “disclosure.” Most addicts would rather not do this, especially not completely and without the rationalizations, justifications, and excuses we hide behind like fig leaves. Sometimes our justifications involve shifting blame to parents, lovers, other family members, and sadly, even the spouse. This type of confession slams the semi into reverse, once again crushing our broken and bleeding beloved sprawled unconscious across the highway of destruction.

Marty Simpson Revell, an addiction specialist at the Sexual Recovery Institute, says “disclosure is an important part of the healing process,” but he cautions that if not handled with the help of therapeutic professionals and at the correct time, it can actually make matters worse. Read “The Anatomy of Disclosure” here.

Now more of my story: My first confession to my wife almost 13 years ago was prompted by guilt under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Was it complete? No. Was it without excuses? Not hardly. Did it wound her? Immensely. Did she have a support structure in place to help her heal? Not for a long time. In spite of my ignorant, self-justified, awfully timed confession, did God show up and help us both deal with the aftermath? He certainly has!

My last confession to my wife—a full disclosure of my sexual history aided by both a skilled sex addiction therapist and a highly competent polygraph technician—was thorough and complete, without excuse or rationalization. It was extremely painful—for both of us. I can’t speak for my wife, but for me, it was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done. But this time, we both had tools in place to help with healing. After disclosure, we began again with a clean slate in our relationship, well-defined sobriety for me, and a growing network of healing resources for her. Yes, after all, confession is the best thing I ever did to conquer my addiction, restore our marriage, and preserve my ministry.

Finding God in the 12 Steps

I tend to agree with Augustine’s statement that “Wherever truth may be found it belongs to the Lord” or as most folks  paraphrase it today, “All truth is God’s truth.” As a Christian and a recovering sex addict who has found much of God’s truth in the 12 Steps, I have no illusion that the 12 Steps are directly inspired by God, the “Big Book” should be added to the Canon, or that AA or any other 12 Step fellowship claiming a “God of our own understanding” as its “Higher Power” (or HP as some irreverently abbreviate) is a “Christian” program. This article published over 20 years ago in Christianity Today clarifies the relationship between secular recovery programs and the Christian faith.

However, I do find much inspiration, yes “God’s truth,” in program literature. Here are a couple quotes worth pondering from “The Solution.” Meditate on these gems:

The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves. (AA 4th ed., 25)

What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God. A new life has been given us or, if you prefer, “a design for living” that really works. (AA 4th ed., 28)