If you are reading this, you or someone you love is probably struggling right now with some sort of unwanted sexual behaviors. And, it’s likely that this has been a problem for a long time. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you are struggling and a lot more to reach out for help. There’s so much shame, guilt and remorse – especially for those of us who are married. At times even our relationship with Christ can feel distant. The good news? The freedom you desire is absolutely possible! Compulsive sexual behavior can be overcome. There is hope! You just need the right mindset, the right support, and the opportunity to begin making the changes that will bring about that freedom. But how? Glad you asked…
The list of steps and concepts below can provide a way out of the compulsive, cyclical behaviors that have you feeling stuck. Freedom from sexual addiction is possible.
I. Make the heart-shift from control to surrender
So much of this issue is about control. We want to control who knows what about our activity. We want to keep our secrets hidden. We want to control the quality of our reputation. We want control over our devices and our vices. We want control of our own behaviors. We want to be the boss of our own life.
If you are going to find freedom from compulsive sexual behavior, you have to let go of the need to appear like someone who has it all together. You must disentangle your value as a person from your performance as a person. Mistakes and shortcomings do not make you unlovable. They make you human. And the key is surrender. Surrender is the antidote to sickness of control.
II. Accept the impact of your behavior on other people in your life
Are you married? Do you have children? Contemplate the impact of these sexual behaviors on those around you. One of the biggest lies around the topic of pornography and sexual addiction is that it is a victimless activity. Our kids don’t know, right? In reality, our family may not be able to name the specific behaviors we seek to hide, but they very likely know at some level that something isn’t right.
What about your spouse? The truth is, whenever you engage in sexual behaviors (of any type) without your spouse, you are stealing intimacy, energy and availability from your relationship with her. You are prioritizing your own sexual desires over your relationship with your spouse. Perhaps you’ve had thoughts like “she doesn’t want to be sexual so I will look elsewhere,” or “if she were more available to me, I wouldn’t have this problem”. But these excuses only serve to mask the true impact of your behaviors on your wife. Many wives feel betrayed, worthless, broken, ugly, lost and hopeless when they discover their husband’s behavior. A key step on the road to healing is to honestly acknowledge the pain that your behaviors have created in the lives of others.
III. Plug into the power of community
If you are like me, you will be tempted to try and fix things yourself because it feels like there is less shame in going it alone. The most difficult (and dangerous) part of struggling with unwanted sexual behavior is doing so when you are isolated and alone. The reality is that connectedness with other people is a very powerful remedy to shame. There is strength in community that just isn’t accessible when we are alone. Reaching out can be a scary step and it’s a necessary step! One of the most powerful things we can do is to share our feelings and our shortcomings with another human being. And the risk is worth taking!
One of the most straightforward, affordable ways you can garner some accountability for yourself is to install accountability software like Covenant Eyes on every device you use to access the internet. This will enable you to select a trusted individual and give them access to reports about your weekly internet activity. Accountability software is not a magic bullet but it can be both (1) a good deterrent against unwanted sexual behavior online and (2) an opportunity to pull your behavior out of the shadows and into the light and share a part of yourself with another person.
IV. Establish boundaries
There are feelings, situations, people, places and things that create vulnerabilities for many us. They are “triggering” for our destructive behavior cycles. One of the keys to freedom from sexual addiction is to identify where your vulnerabilities are in each of these areas and then create a plan to keep yourself thinking clearly and making the best decisions you can. You can think of these as “pre-decisions”. You need to identify – ahead of time – what you’re going to do in situations that are potentially tempting. Make decisions now rather than in the heat of the moment. Tell someone else about your boundaries. Give them permission to ask you about how you’ve been doing.
V. Find a good Christian counselor and a recovery group
As discussed previously, one of the most difficult parts of finding healing and freedom is disclosing the problem to another person. This component seems to be especially difficult with Christian men because there is immense shame tied to unwanted sexual behavior. Admitting that you are struggling with sexual behavior requires strength of commitment and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get better. God works through other men, groups and professionals to help you heal the hurt and pain of your behavior. You can achieve long-lasting freedom and new way of life when you are willing reach out. But this will not happen without intentional effort. Take ownership of your own healing and recovery journey. Find accountability. Find a recovery group. Find a good counselor who specialized in this issue. It takes a major step of courage to find a group, make a call or seek professional help. It’s not easy but nothing worth having ever comes easy.
If this blog has stirred something in you and you have questions about what to do next, now is the time to act! It’s very important for you to know that you are not alone. You are just one of the rare individuals who actually has the courage to be honest about it and to look for help! There is hope for you. Change is possible!
Christian Counseling is an excellent place to start the process of getting over an addiction to pornography. With the help of a good Christian counselor, you (and your spouse) can begin to begin to find the solutions you are seeking. If you wish to explore more about the counseling process, please do not hesitate to contact me at BeFree Counseling. I would be delighted to partner with you as you begin to explore the healing process.