With (More Than) a Little Help from My Friends

According to Covenant Eyes, 75% of pastors do not make themselves accountable to anyone for their Internet use, yet over half (51%) consider Internet pornography a possible temptation. Where are you in this stat? Still trying to manage this problem alone?

How long will we live in denial? We cannot conquer this beast and achieve anything even vaguely resembling sexual integrity without the help of others. We need others to hold us accountable, to encourage us to bring secrets into the light, to ask the hard questions, and to be there to extend grace when we fail. I’m grateful for the circle of Christian brothers who “know my stuff” and love me anyway. I’m thankful for those men who actually read my Covenant Eyes reports. And I definitely could not do without those men I can call at any hour when I feel tempted, resentful, fearful, or depressed.

Don’t have anyone like that in your life? You’ve come to the right place. One of the goals of this website is to encourage accountability, openness, and honesty in a safe environment. Give us a call; shoot off an email. We’re here to help.

Focus on the Family Offers Free Counseling

I received an email recently from Focus on the Family informing me of free counseling and other resources. Here’s information about these services:

  • Online Help Center. Find FAQs, helpful videos, and online communities. Chat live with a Family Help Specialist from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (MST).
  • Counseling absolutely free of charge. If you need to talk to someone, call 855-771-HELP (4357). Counselors are available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (MST). They also offer referrals to licensed Christian counselors. Learn more.

Only 2 Kinds of People?

How many kinds of people are there? Many would say only two. For millennia, reaching back into Bible times, Jewish folk have viewed themselves as God’s chosen people and everyone else as gentiles (or simply non-Jews). Evangelical Christians usually view every person as either a believer (saved) or a non-believer (lost). From a purely biological perspective, we might divide the human population into male and female, but now that gender is often considered a fluid thing, that isn’t a given anymore.

In my experience as a sex addict, I too act as if there only two kinds of people in the world: those that I find attractive (the “hot”) and those that I am not attracted to (the “not’). When I see someone, long-standing mental habits direct my eyes to take in outward appearance: hair color and style, body type, weight, clothing, etc. With this data, I quickly categorize each person a either attractive (a lust object) or not attractive (no eye candy material here). Upon entering a crowded room or walking through a busy mall or airport, my eyes dart from one person to the next—judging each “hot” or “not” before moving on to the next. Often those that are “hot” get longer looks—probably second looks, third looks, and more. With this visual inventory, I analyze, categorize, and eventually objectify many of the people I see. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this. Seems like it started at or before adolescence, but I find this habit weakens sobriety and slows down recovery. Some call this activity “street lust” or “losing custody of the eyes.” I call it frustrating because no matter what tools I use to overcome this habit, the next time I’m in a crowd, I start doing it again.

Some find it helpful to pray for those they are tempted to objectify. I think that’s a good plan, but I must pray faster than my mind can categorize. The shorter the prayer the better. On a recent trip to the city, I found myself on the freeway next to a park. As an attractive, scantily dressed jogger rounded the corner and my eyes began to lock on, I prayed a very simple prayer, “God bless you, goodbye!” At 55 miles an hour, that prayer was just long enough to break my eye-lock and dismiss that person from my thoughts. Since then, I’ve been trying the GBYG prayer in other situations and it usually works when there no time for longer prayers.

I’m not changing my theology, but I think that as far as I’m concerned God didn’t make two kinds of people, the hot and the not. He only made one kind of person—the kind that He loves. I have no need to sort out the human race on God’s behalf. My hot/not categories are useless and objectification is demeaning to the Creator of all. I haven’t broken the habit yet, but I’m learning to look at people a bit differently—the same way God looks at me—through the eyes of His love.

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!”

 

Anonymous Articles in a Denominational Magazine

ONE Magazine, produced by the Free Will Baptist denomination, recently published two articles dealing with sex addiction among pastors. The first is an anonymous article written by a pastor who identifies himself as a sex addict. The second is his wife’s response. These articles include links to resources helpful to both the addict and spouse.

We appreciate the link to the Sex Addicts in Ministry website.

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.

Confession Takes Courage

Confession is the first component of recovery. As followers of Christ, we know that confessing our sins to God brings us back into a right relationship with Him (1 John 1:9), but according to James 5:16, we should “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, so that we may be healed.”

Confession brings our sins out into the open so we (and others) can deal with them. If we confess to another believer and receive the grace and forgiveness of Christ through that person, we will find it amazingly liberating and refreshing. The first time I shared my struggles with another brother, I felt like “Christian” in Pilgrim’s Progress dropping my burden at the sight of the cross. As I imagined the pack of my sins rolling into the empty tomb to never be seen again, what joy filled my heart!

When I confessed my last relapse to my church’s leaders (the first they knew of my sexual addiction), a short time later, I arranged to have time alone with each of them so I could receive an honest, unfiltered response. One deacon told me that what I had done (my confession) really took courage. I agreed but responded by sharing a truth I discovered a while back. Yes, confession takes courage—sometimes lots of courage because the stakes are enormous. But truth is, my sin took courage too. When I acted out, I sinned boldly. I had gone places and done things that I had never done before. Sure, my fear of bringing home an STD kept me from physically engaging with another person (at least to that point), but I had unwisely discarded other fears of exposure and of my wife’s reaction to yet another betrayal.

I don’t know where the courage came from for me to sin—perhaps it was just blind stupidity fed by my addiction—but I do know where the courage came from to confess. Courage to do the right thing, to lay our heart open before God and another trusted servant of God, must certainly come from the Holy Spirit who fills us with boldness as we confess Christ as Savior and Redeemer. Take courage, my brother. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

Next time—Who do we confess to first?