Who better to talk to you about the roadblocks to recovery from sex addiction than a recovering sex addict with years of sobriety under his belt? That’s why we’re doing something a little different today, and instead of Cherith sharing with you, Steve is going to tell you a little about a few of the lies he used to believe that really got in the way of healing.
We’ve seen these same issues pop up again and again as we’ve worked with other couples on the road to recovery, so we figured it was time to address them.
Recovery from Sex Addiction Requires Readjusting what We Believe
I spent decades of my life as a slave to sexual addiction, all along wanting out (on some level) and believing I could and would get out soon. Instead, it just spiraled further and further out of control until my whole world started to cave in around me.
When God suddenly broke through and got ahold of me, opening my eyes to the reality of my condition (sort of like Saul on the road to Damascus) He began to reveal lie after lie I’d spent far too long believing. These lies had become giant roadblocks to recovery. They kept me in the chains of sexual addiction.
But when I surrendered to God He began to reshape my thoughts. As I spent time in the Word, truth began to tear away at those roadblocks. Before long I started to see how deluded I had been and God faithfully replaced each lie with truth so that true and lasting recovery could begin.
So let’s look at 4 of the most prevalent roadblocks to recovery from sex addiction and see if we can replace them with truth.
Roadblocks to Recovery Lie # 1: I Don’t Need to Confess Everything
This is a big one. Of all the lies addicts tell themselves, we’ve come to learn this is likely the most prevalent, and probably the most effective of the roadblocks to recovery. It’s a crafty little deception, used by the enemy to drag us back into the addiction again and again.
I believed it for most of my adult life. I was fully convinced I didn’t really have to confess everything to my wife in order to stop.
I would screw up, confess to God, and try really hard not to do it again. Until I inevitably did it again. Every now and then I would get caught and “come clean” confessing to whatever I got caught doing and nothing more.
I convinced myself since I’d already confessed the rest to God, I didn’t need to be honest about the extent of my problem with my wife. I was “forgiven.”
The problem is, that doesn’t really line up with Scripture:
Proverbs 13:5 – The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace.
1 Peter 3:10-12 – for the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil.
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
See, the problem with living a life of deceit is, first of all, God hates it! Deep down we all know this. So, when our lives become a giant lie it brings shame and disgrace on us, just like the Bible promised it would. We end up living in that place of shame, and the enemy knows exactly how to use it.
I remember having thoughts like, “You’re just going to do it again eventually, you know you are. Why fight it? Just do it now.” Or, “You know who you really are. She doesn’t, but you do. You know you’re good for nothing. You know you’re a giant screw up. You’ll never be better, so just do what feels good. It’s who you are, and you know it. No one knows, so no one is getting hurt.”
If what we want is to break away from those vicious thoughts, and the never-ending cycle of sin and experience a rewarding, fulfilling, victorious life we have to start with a commitment to “keep our tongue from speaking evil and our lips from telling lies.” We have to “turn away from evil and do good” in order to open God’s eyes to watch over us and His ears to our prayers. We have to confess our sins to our wives so they can join with us in prayer, to unleash the healing power of God.
But why does it have to be our wives we confess to, you’re probably wondering. Sexual sin is different from other sins. Sexual sin is a sin against our own bodies, and when we married our wives they became one flesh with us. Part of our own bodies. This is why it needs to be her we confess to.
Not only that, when we became Christians, the Holy Spirit of God took up residence in our hearts, uniting Himself with our bodies as well.
We don’t belong to ourselves. Whether our wives know about it or not, we’ve made both her and the Holy Spirit a part of our sin. We’ve robbed them of what belongs to them and they have a right to know what we’ve dragged them into. All of it!
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Mark 10:6-9 – But “God made them male and female from the beginning of creation. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
1 Corinthians 7:4 – The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
Roadblocks to Recovery Lie # 2: I need sex.
The idea that sex is a “need” for men has become fairly accepted in almost all circles. Especially within the church. It’s kind of sad, since it doesn’t really line up with Scripture at all. It’s no surprise, though, that it is also one of the lies that stand in the way of recovery from sex addiction.
Part of our recovery included a period of 90 days of total abstinence. No sex, no porn, no masturbation, nothing. Going in, I was hesitant to even try it. I didn’t believe it could be done. Especially not by me. I’d never done that! Never.
From the point of puberty on there had never been a 90-day period in which I had not gratified myself in one way or another. I really believed it wasn’t possible because I’d bought into the lie that I needed sexual release.
Yet God had clearly asked us to do it, so I chose to take a step of faith and obey. Those 90 days opened my eyes to the truth about my own sexuality. I had so deeply perverted what God had designed to be something beautiful and satisfying. I had taken what was meant to unite me to my wife and made it into an unquenchable appetite for debauchery that left me miserable and perpetually unsatisfied.
I used to struggle with the Bible passages that say it’s good for a man not to marry so he can devote himself fully to God. I thought, “How would that even work? What are those men supposed to do with their sexual needs? Huh…Oh well…” and I’d put it out of my mind. Now I understand God wasn’t asking something impossible at all. Because sex is absolutely NOT a need.
Don’t get me wrong, we really want it, and those 90 days were tough! I went through withdrawal the same as any other addict would when deprived of his drug. But I learned that it could be done.
As my appetite for the distorted version of sex I’d grown to depend on waned my whole mindset started to change. My head cleared and I could see how twisted my view of women had become. I could see my wife for the gift that she was.
My heart broke for what I’d put her through and I found I had no interest in consuming her or any other woman anymore. Instead, I wanted to hold her and comfort her and connect with her intimately. I wanted to be her best friend the way she’d always been mine. I wanted to appreciate and fully experience the connection we had when we were physically united.
When the 90 days came to an end and we were sexually re-united I was astonished to find this new outlook on sex had changed everything about the experience. The satisfaction I’d been chasing all my life, to no avail, was suddenly mine! When I honored my sexuality according to God’s standards it became good, just as He had created it to be.
Now, sex has become a privilege rather than a need. No longer am I continually looking for my next hit. Instead, I live my life with no expectations. When it happens, it’s wonderful and I greatly enjoy it. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. No big deal at all.
I know it seems impossible to believe, but it’s true! With God’s help, we all have the capacity to enjoy sex as it was designed to exist: as an experience of deep physical connection between a husband and wife that brings joy and richness to their marriage.
*A quick note of honesty and transparency from Cherith:
While Steve has found such satisfaction in our new physical relationship, I must admit that it is still a great struggle for me. (We seem to have switched roles as it was greatly satisfying to me before the betrayals.) I am praying for, and believing God for a day when I will be able to enjoy it as I used to. But for now, it is still fairly broken for me.
Don’t get me wrong, everything Steve said is true. It is so much healthier now, and I believe it will become as fulfilling and satisfying for me as it is for him in time, but there are some broken places that still need to heal. I’d love it if you’d pray with me for that day to come soon!
1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5 – God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and His ways.
Roadblocks to Recovery Lie #3: I Can’t Make the Drastic Moves, they Will Ruin my Life
Whether it be to quit my job, tell the kids, move to a different area, whatever… We tend to convince ourselves these huge steps are impossible because taking them will ruin our lives. But really, the addiction is ruining our lives. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to end it.
This particular lie also prevents us from complete surrender to God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s best for us. What it really comes down to is, we don’t trust Him to take care of us in these extreme situations. But the only way to truly recover is to surrender everything we have to God, leveraging our wives’ counsel in the process.
God gave us our wives. They are our partners, and they need to be a part of this process. They’ll be able to greatly help us figure out which steps need to be taken and which ones don’t.
For me, there were two huge steps God asked me to take that I believed I absolutely could not do. I was terrified of both. He asked me to quit my job, and to confess my infidelities to my church. In both cases, the surrender ended up being the catalyst to God’s miraculous work, moving mountains before our eyes.
I’ll never forget the day I went in to tell my boss I had to quit. My career was a big part of my identity. I had climbed the corporate ladder and was a vice president in my company. I was proud of all I had achieved. We had a pretty comfortable life financially too. I was sure obedience in this area would cause us to lose our house at the very least, and probably everything else too.
But God asked me to hand it all over to Him. I had been unfaithful with multiple women in my office and there was just no way I could stay there and stay pure at that point in the recovery process. I had to quit and trust Him with the rest.
I sat there in front of my boss and confessed everything to him. I told him I had to make it work with my wife, so I had to walk away. I just didn’t see any other option…and in stepped God.
To my great surprise, my boss immediately told me my marriage was the most important thing, and the company would do anything it could to see it succeed. But he was sure we could figure something out so I could stay with the company and still succeed in recovery.
He put me on a three month (paid) leave of absence in which I would be permitted to mostly focus on my recovery but also do a little work from home. He said we’d re-evaluate at the end of those three months.
What unfolded in the months that followed is too long a story to tell here. Long story short, God opened one door after another (in completely unexpected ways) to allow me not only to keep my career intact, but to continue to see it grow!
I’ve been able to keep my position working mostly from home permanently. I’ve been able to start a new side business with my best friend and accountability partner, a strong Christian man who now also works alongside me at my day job so that I never have to be alone in a tempting situation. Most importantly, I’ve been able to work my recovery and start this ministry along with my wife!
Not only was my life not ruined by my obedience, it was made better!
The other huge thing I had to do was confess to my church. I grew up in the church. My dad is my pastor. I’m in the worship band. I had a reputation as a good Christian man. Making the decision to surrender to God in this area was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. I fought it hard!
But the humility required to stand before a body of believers who knew me as the fake person I had pretended to be for so long and admit who I really was changed everything. Something inside of me broke as all the lies were shattered. I couldn’t live in that pretend world anymore because everyone knew the truth. To my great surprise it freed me.
I went home from church that Sunday so light, and so encouraged! My church family had seen me in my brokenness and they had embraced me. Their prayer support, not to mention their accountability made the recovery that followed possible. That day is the day I have deemed, the first day of true recovery!
So let me encourage you. Whatever that big thing is – the thing you know God is asking you to do, but you are absolutely terrified to do – DO IT! True recovery from sex addiction begins with obedience to God. Trust Him and obey!
Roadblocks to Recovery Lie #4: Recovery is about behavior. If I can just “be good” I’ll get better
1 Chronicles 29:11-14 – Yours, oh Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, oh Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as the One who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from You alone, for You rule over everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and at Your discretion people are made great and given strength.
Oh our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious Name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to You? Everything we have has come from You, and we give You only what You first gave us!
For years I believed if I could just stop acting out I would “be in recovery.” Everything I did to heal was totally focused on my behavior. I would try so hard. I’d go a week without acting out and then mess up. But then I’d just convince myself THAT was the last time. So I was still in recovery because I was going to stop the behavior.
But the idea that healing is all about behavior is a lie and a huge roadblock to recovery!
Real recovery from sex addiction has very little to do with behavior and everything to do with our hearts. Real recovery from sex addiction is fully exposing ourselves before the Lord, giving Him all of us, and allowing Him to remake us.
Behavior that is pleasing to Him will naturally follow, but should still never be the focus.
Jesus spent a lot of His three-year ministry here on earth dealing with religious people who put all their focus on following rules. As we study His life they’re the only group of people we see Him really get upset with. This tells me the Lord does not have a lot of patience for legalistic mindsets that put all the emphasis on behavior while neglecting the heart.
All He’s really after is our hearts!
Matthew 23:25-27 – What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
We don’t want to be like these men! We don’t want to live our lives as hypocrites and blind guides. We’ve been called to lead our families spiritually, and it all starts with our own hearts. We have to surrender our hearts to God and allow Him to clean us from the inside out.
When I finally realized this, it changed everything. By the start of 2019 I will have been clean for more than two years, but the only reason that’s true is because I finally stopped focusing on staying clean. Somewhere around the beginning of 2017 I fully surrendered my heart to God. I began pouring all my effort into knowing Him. I spent tons of time reading the Bible and humbly coming before Him in prayer, asking Him to speak to me through His Word.
He did! Right away He began using some of the most unlikely sections of Scripture to speak right into my situation. He used His Word to set me free from the tangled web of lies my life had become. The thing about us liars is, we tend to believe lies! The mountain of myths about recovery from sex addiction we believe can be directly connected to a life marked by deception.
Don’t you want to be free of it all? It really does all start with the courage to humble yourself.
Why not try something that really helped me get my heart in the right place? Get down on the floor (for real) and lay yourself out before God both literally and figuratively. Put your face on the ground and admit to Him what you are. Tell Him all about your failures and then acknowledge who He is.
No one else needs to be around to see it. This isn’t a show, it’s just you and God.
Admit to Him that you cannot do it on your own and humbly ask for His help. Ask Him to take your hard heart of stone and make it into a tender heart of flesh. Ask Him to break down the lies and reveal truth to you. Ask Him to speak to you clearly as you seek Him through His Word. Plead for your wife’s healing. Ask Him to give you faith, love, and humility to lead your family well with the heart of a servant – just like Jesus. Ask Him for the Holy Spirit to guide you and remake You.
Luke 11:9-13 – And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
You fathers – if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
The behavior follows the heart! Our recovery from sex addiction will come with a surrendered heart, so let’s get our hearts right! We’re not promised tomorrow. Let’s demolish these roadblocks to recovery and choose to follow God. Let’s do it today!