The Single Greatest Reason You Will Fail In Recovery

That sounds hopeful, doesn’t it?

Picture this with me: What if there was something more detrimental to a person in recovery than a relapse into their sexually compulsive behavior? Believe it or not, there is.

What if I told you that long-lasting freedom from porn addiction doesn’t only hinge on abstaining from watching anymore porn? Sure, this helps break a pattern of addiction, but it’s not number one on the list.

Are you ready for it?

The single greatest reason a person will fail in recovery from a sexual addiction is their unwillingness to know and be known by others in healthy accountability relationships.

Simply put: Recovery cannot become a solo act. Once it does, your chances of becoming a man or woman of sexual integrity instantly disappear. I know, I’m really riding the hope train today! But it’s the truth. Your recovery journey is one that is meant to be shared with others who also struggle the same way you do. There is so much power in knowing and being known by others who are also walking this path!

Here’s something I often need to remind myself: Whether or not I realize I need people in my life, the truth is that I need them. I’m not even the most social person either. I prefer small groups, quiet moments, and experiences that don’t involve a lot of people. But as it relates especially to my relationship with the Lord and my recovery journey, I cannot grow in isolation.

Think with me for a moment about the physical body: God created the body to include everything it needed on the inside and outside to function — two eyes, two ears, two feet, etc. But also for the inside to function correctly with the outside — without the brain, we cannot make complex decisions. Without lungs, we cannot effectively breathe and move. It all was designed to work together. You see my point.

But somehow we don’t think that applies to our own lives as it relates to our own addictions & behaviors. We depend upon others for so many reasons. When it comes to our recovery, we live as remote islands.

​I remember especially in the early part of my recovery — it wasn’t a matter of IF I was going to slip, but WHEN. The reality is that slips and relapses happen even in recovery. I needed healthy people in my life not just to confess what I had done but to hear THEIR stories too! So that I didn’t think I was the problem and I was weird for messing up.

Accountability reminds us that we’re not alone.

Accountability requires you to invite feedback, correction, discipline, and confrontation into your life. It invites others to see the real you and step in when they see an issue that could be harmful for your life. They have complete access because you’re unwilling to hide anything.

I believe there a couple reasons why many individuals don’t seek out healthy accountability for their lives:

  1. SHAME — If you’ve been in recovery for any length of time, I’m sure you understand that one of your greatest enemies to progress is shame. Shame causes us to hide, to bury, & to isolate from people who love us and care for us. I believe this to be the number one reason why so many don’t find long-lasting success in recovery. If the enemy can convince you that you’re worthless and you will never change, why seek help from anyone? That’s what shame does.
  2. PROCRASTINATION — “I’ll call ***** tomorrow.” “I’ll meet with ***** next week.” The constant pushing off what should take priority gets replaced by other demands in our lives. We allow our schedules to dictate us instead of being the ones who dictate our schedules. When you don’t make something as important as your recovery journey, don’t be surprised at the level of your struggle. Establishing safe, healthy accountability sources takes work. It takes time. And it’s worth every second. Stop putting it off.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of why people avoid accountability in their lives, but I believe these are two of the greatest reasons.

Looking back upon the last 12 years in my recovery journey, I will NEVER regret all the meetings, phone calls, text messages, groups, workshops, and other points of contact I made with people who cared about my heart. The value that all these interactions carried in my life were beyond words. Granted, at the end of the day, my recovery journey is totally my responsibility. If I wanted to, I could fall back into my former lifestyle at any moment. But that’s just it: I don’t want it anymore. And I haven’t for a long time.

While I own all of the decisions I’ve made on this journey, much of the credit for the success I’ve attained goes to those I invited into my life. The counselors, pastors, friends, and yes even my wife (most importantly) who knew they could challenge me and ask me the tough questions because they loved me. I’m so thankful for all of them! They are the people who helped me become the person I am today.

If you’re unsure how to find those kind of life giving relationships, Small Groups Online is the perfect place to begin! SGO helps you to find a weekly, online Zoom group where you will meet with others who share many of the same struggles you do. There are many days and times to choose from so finding a group to fit your schedule is really easy.

If you’re trying to do recovery on your own, you’re doing it the wrong way. Do it the right way by signing up for Small Groups Online today.

4 Ways to Help You Deal with Sexual Dreams at Night

One of the comparisons I’ve often used to describe pornography addiction is that of a wrecking ball. Our infatuation with what we see on our computer screens and smartphones many times leads to a life demolished by the unhealthy effects pornography has upon our relationships, our careers, even our very own brains. It truly is like a wrecking ball, tearing through every thing it comes in contact with.

So it begs the question, if we’re constantly exposing ourselves to sources of sexual explicit material on a daily basis, what is happening underneath the surface in our hearts and our minds? Going even further, how do we process all of this during our times of sleep?

I’ve had many conversations with men over the years who’ve been addicted to pornography and as a result also deal with pornographic dreams at night. Now, the reality is that there are probably many reasons a person experiences sexual dreams or “wet dreams” at night. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a ton of research that has been done on the subject. But I believe one of the greatest reasons we experience sexual dreams is linked to our compulsive behavior during the hours we are awake.

For me, sexual dreams occurred much more frequently in the earlier half of my recovery than they do now. I would literally spend hours, especially in the evenings, watching porn online before going to sleep. This was a pattern that continued for years. I believe this has a way of really working itself into a person’s subconscious.

And while sexual dreams aren’t something we choose, they do have the potential to bring a ton of shame and discouragement. We’re trying to become free from these unwanted sexual behaviors, not dream about them! Thankfully, today I don’t have these kind of dreams much anymore. Every so often something random will come up and I’ll wake up from one of these dreams. But I know that I have freedom from pornography, I’ve experienced much healing over the years, and porn isn’t something I desire anymore.

Even so, a major truth we need to be reminded of is that the brain also needs time to heal. And this is a process that generally takes a while.

Consider a person who experiences some kind of traumatic brain injury. Maybe from a car accident or a stroke of some kind. This is an incredible injury to one of the body’s most critical areas. Unfortunately, for some, it can take years or even a lifetime to recover. Those kinds of situations present a real physical damage to the brain. In similar ways, because we’ve viewed so many images, videos, and scenarios of hardcore pornography, our brains have been traumatized by what we’ve seen. But thankfully, the brain can recover and heal. Dr. Mark Laaser once said, that the brain is “plastic”, meaning that it while it can be shaped and influenced by negative sources, it can also heal and regenerate new neural pathways.

The point is this: There is hope. You aren’t stuck. Your heart and even your brain can be restored to health again. I believe that sexual dreams, while they are unwanted, are normal and apart of the process of healing. Just as setbacks and slips are apart of the journey, sexual dreams are too. We just have to learn how to respond when an unwanted sexual dream occurs. They can bring additional guilt and shame, but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over them either.

Our time of sleep and rest should be to RESET our brains and our bodies. It should be rest-FULL, not rest-LESS. Rest is for RESTORATION.

So what can we do if we’re experiencing sexual dreams? Here are some ideas to help…

  1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night — C’mon, we all probably know the 8 hour rule. But how often to we get consistent, solid sleep? 8 hours of sleep is my goal, but I try not to get less than 7 hours. Anything less than that and I don’t believe the body and mind can really rest the way it was meant to. Turn Netflix off, have someone hide your phone in another room, put away the Oreos and get to bed on time!
  2. End your night with prayer, Scripture, & worship — The GREATEST rest that I’ve ever gotten has come when I’m in that 7-8 hour range AND I’ve spent time with the Lord before bed. You don’t have to pray for hours or read tons of chapters, but what if each night you had a meaningful connection with Jesus before closed out your day? Turn on Spotify and fall asleep to some worship music. Let God’s Word and some great lyrics get into your soul as you close your eyes. Do some deep breathing exercises to relax your body.
  3. Consider exercising — This might seem like a strange one right before bed, but I’ve found a quick walk or run helps to actually relax my body and prepare it for rest. And it certainly releases lots of great brain chemicals like dopamine and others. Give it a shot.
  4. Don’t eat junk food before bed — This is a big one for many of us. It’s so easy to sneak an Oreo or two…or ten right before bed. This really can have a negative effect on your body and not allow it to rest properly. As well as put a few more pounds on you if you’re not careful. Try drinking lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day, but also before resting. 

How do we prevent sexual dreams? In all reality, I don’t think we can. But I do think we can limit them. If you’re walking in recovery right now and putting in practice the things you need to be doing (the heart work, being in a support group, spending time with a counselor, etc.) you’re on the right track! The tips above are simply additional things to help you rest well and hopefully avoid sexual fantasy in the dream state.

If you do continue to have sexual dreams, you can choose how to respond to them! We don’t have to allow those fantasies to plague us the rest of the day or carry shame in our hearts. We can choose to surrender every thought to God and even every dream we have too.

I love what 2 Corinthians 10:5 says in the Passion translation: “We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.”

Capture your thoughts. Capture your dreams. Don’t allow them to capture you and hold you hostage. Remember you are in process. Your heart, your mind, and your life. Be kind to yourself and be patient through the journey. If you haven’t realized it by now, hopefully you will realize it has the potential to be the most beautiful journey you will ever walk through.

BLAST: A Guide To Understanding Your Triggers

In all my conversations with men about recovery, one of the questions I ask most often is this: “Do you know what leads you to look at pornography?” And based on the look they would give me, you would think I had three heads! In general, most of the men I’ve worked with over the last several years just don’t have a clue.

Unless we understand what kind of feelings and emotions lead us to act out, we’ll repeat the same behavior over and over again. That’s a fact. For me, it took a while to figure out. But as I looked back over the 13 years that I was addicted to pornography, I observed the patterns I would go through and examine what I was feeling in those years: loneliness, disappointment, stress, rejection, feeling disrespected from people. And I hadn’t even scraped the surface.

Men either discover porn or are exposed to it in all kinds of ways. But what are the triggers that lead us back to the well time and time again? Understanding your triggers is invaluable information that can help you find healing, growth, and ultimately the freedom you so desperately long for.

As a sort of “purity coach” to men and small group leader for many years, I’ve found many beneficial tools alongs the way for helping us understand our internal world. But one of the most useful and practical tools is an acronym called BLAST, which stands for the following:

B: Bored or Burnt Out

L: Lonely

A: Angry, Apathetic, Afraid, Ashamed, or Abandoned

S: Sad, Stressed or Selfish

T: Tired

Each letter contains very accurate words to describe many of the common triggers a man or woman may experience before acting out. It certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start to understanding the feelings and emotions you’re experiencing during times you feel tempted.

Triggers can thoughts, feelings, or emotions, but they can also be external environmental factors you haven’t considered. Triggers are unique to the individual. So in that way, they can be virtually anything: a memory, a smell, a person, a location. You get the idea.

What’s important is that you understand what they are and you have a plan on how to deal with them in a healthy way. It’s time to get a game plan! I want to suggest a few ways you can better understand what your most common triggers are:

  1. Retrace Your Steps — Be a detective. Think about the last few times you looked at porn. On average, what were you feeling in those moments? Be specific. Had you just come off of a really busy day at work? Did you and your spouse just have an argument? Or perhaps it was something as simple as not having a whole lot to do that day. Identify what’s going on both on the inside and the outside.
  2. Journal What You Learn — Journaling is an incredible healthy discipline to practice for anyone, but especially for the person in recovery. When you start to discover what your triggers are, they are worthy to be remembered. You don’t want to forget the tings that tend to lead you down unhealthy paths. It’s valuable information! Plus, as you hopefully progress in your recovery, you will want to add to entries like this. Make it your goal to become as self-aware as possible.
  3. Plan For The Future — I regret that I didn’t learn my triggers earlier in my struggles with pornography. As a teenager, learning your triggers isn’t really something you’re thinking about. But I knew I wanted to be free of this stuff. I also tended to veer towards isolation and avoiding solid friendships. So once you know what trips you up, plan for the next time. The question isn’t if you are triggered again, the question is how you will be triggered. And understanding what you can do about is really important.

Here’s some ideas:

  • When you feel bored, offer to help a friend with a project.
  • When you feel lonely, call up some friends to go bowling.
  • When you feel angry, take a few deep breaths.
  • When you feel ashamed, read Romans 8:1 (and read more after that)
  • When you feel stressed, go take a walk or run.
  • When you feel sad, turn on some great worship music.
  • When you feel tired, go to SLEEP! (sleep is great for the brain)

Remember these truths: You aren’t helpless. You aren’t controlled by pornography. You’re in control of what you give your heart to. You must also become a student of your heart — learning what your heart is craving and it needs to be healthy. We’re all on a journey of learning (or perhaps re-learning) who we  really are. The more we do this, the more victory we will find in avoiding the well worn paths our addictions have taken us down for so long.

The Value of Coaching in Recovery

I never played a lot of sports when I was younger, but I did wrestle a couple years in high school. The level of physicality and endurance needed in wrestling is out of this world. I actually believe it could be the toughest sports in existence. Unfortunately, I started too late in high school and didn’t win a ton of matches. I wish I had started learning when I was much younger.

Looking back now upon my season wrestling, there are many memories I have. But one of the greatest memories will always be the quality and solidarity of the coaching involved. I don’t keep in touch with them today, but I remember my coaches names: Matt and Rodney. Matt was younger and a little more easy going, but still tough. Rodney was…there’s really no other way to say, he was hard. I think he may have had the personality of a bull dog! But something I will always remember about Rodney: He always noticed if you were giving 100% OR if you were giving anything less than that.

In athletics, coaching is critical. Ultimately, it comes down to the performance of the individual athlete. But without someone who is willing to teach you, come alongside you, and stand in your corner, I firmly believe a person has no chance at excelling. Whether it be in sports, in life, or even in recovery.

I’ve talked and written before about the power of having safe, healthy people in your life who you can be honest with about your recovery. If you’re currently doing those things already, way to go! But I think we’re living in a time now more than ever that the need is arising for a different form of support: One that is intentional, consistent, and focused.

We need more coaches in recovery. Those who have walked through addiction, found freedom, and continue to find deeper levels of healing in their own lives. And because of those things, they are willing to pass down what they’ve learned to the next guy. And at the end of the day, they’re standing in the corner, cheering that guy on no matter where he’s at.

I believe our recovery is lived out in seasons. What do I mean by this? As I reflect on my earliest days in recovery, I was blessed to be able to sit with a specialized therapist who was specifically trained in helping individuals dealing with sexual addiction. I probably spend several months off and on with this particular counselor, but it was one of the best seasons to help me understand what sexual addiction was and who I was in the midst of it.

Next came a season that I’ve always felt was the most special time for me personally: Being apart of a support group. Sitting in the same room with other men who also were addicted to pornography and other forms of sexually compulsive behavior.  Sharing my story and listening to other’s stories was beyond powerful. It was life-changing. I feel like I grew significantly in that season. So much so that I fell in love with helping other men the same I was felt helped and supported.

Today, I’m in a totally different season. I’m free from porn addiction and have experienced an incredible amount of healing. I feel like my role has shifted in many ways from one of receiving to one of giving. For years I’ve tried to help other men through the means of technology. Producing content like podcasts, videos, and blogs to help equip them on their journey.

I feel like the Lord has called me to be a coach. More accurately, a purity coach. One who helps other men give specific focus to their hearts and what’s going on inside. Even writing that sentence feels a bit strange because I know how wild and untamed my own heart can still be at times. I’m still in need of coaches for my life today, who will come alongside of me to both encourage and challenge me when I need it. I’m grateful that I can think of at least 3-4 men who I would consider to be a coach.

If you’re desiring to recruit some coaches in your life, it doesn’t have to be hard. Again, I always encourage people to find SAFE and HEALTHY individuals that are willing to walk with them through their journey. This is a starting place, not an ending point. I do believe a coach is someone who also has experience and qualifications in a particular field. So it may take you some time to find someone you would call a coach, but don’t give up!

Here are a few places you could check out to get started in finding a coach:

  1. Church — There are often many ministries within a community of faith that are trying to help individuals and families grow in their relationship with God. You may even want to start with your very own church to see if there are older, seasoned believers who would make great coaches. Talk to your pastor about the people in your church. Some churches have pastoral counselors available as well.
  2. Counseling — Search for solid, Christian counseling in your area with therapists who are certified in sexual addiction therapy. Counseling can be expensive, but it may also be a great option to try for 2-3 months to help get some expert guidance in your life. Sometimes, counselors can make incredible coaches, even for a season of time.
  3. Online — This will require some extra work as you want to make sure you’re researching someone credible and knows what they’re talking about. Look for more than just a profile. Look for a website and testimonials about the individuals you find.

Over the last year, Zoom became one of the most visited and highly utilized video conferencing services because of all the shut-downs and closures between school, work, and many gatherings the required you being in the same room as the other person. Many counselors and coaches today will offer Zoom sessions in place of in-person meetings. Many individuals have found this to actually be a much more comfortable and much more private environment.

Are you in need of a coach for your life? Someone who can help you walk through some kind of sexually compulsive behavior? I would love to be able to be of service! Please visit our ministry, Purity For Life, by going to pflhome.com. Drop us a message through the Contact section of the website and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

Perhaps you’re also looking for more community in your life. Small Groups Online offers an incredible online group experience through weekly Zoom meetings with other individuals who share and can empathize with your struggles. It’s one of the best (if not, the best) ways to get yourself out of isolation and into community with others who will encourage you and walk with you. Check out SGO today!

4 Vital Sources of Community You Can Find Today

Today, nearly twelve years into recovery from a porn addiction that consumed the better part of my adolescent and young adult life, I’m convinced now more than ever of need for healthy community.

The presence of various forms of community are the greatest tools I carry, even to this day, in order to live victoriously.

It’s really not an overstatement to say that I don’t think I would be free today without the counseling I received, the encouragement from support groups, and the comfort I received from purity coaches along the way. ALL of these sources of support were needed in order for me to become the kind of man God was calling me to be.

One of my greatest missions in life is helping other men find the freedom that I found. And that includes finding healthy sources of community where they can share their addiction with people who will help them heal. All too often, men who struggle in addiction continue to struggle because they don’t have the necessary sources of community in their lives.

As I’ve gotten healthier and healthier in recovery, I’ve come to believe there are four vital sources of community that are available to every man out there. This isn’t to say that one needs all of these sources in their lives at every moment. But perhaps there are seasons where we keep 1-2 of these sources consistent either daily or weekly, depending on what they are.

Here are 4 vital sources of community you can find today:

  1. Coaches I mention this one first because I believe there are so many “purity coaches” that are widely available at any given moment. There are countless ministries and organizations both locally and online that can be sought out for this purpose. A purity coach doesn’t even have to be a certified counselor. They simply need to be a person who has shared similar struggles and has found freedom from addiction. While I don’t hold any sort of counseling degree, I’ve long considered myself a purity coach to other men. I’ve spend countless hours on the phone and in in-person meetings with men as well as produced podcasts and videos in an attempt to coach individuals who want freedom for their lives. If you’re struggling today and need some coaching, I’d love to help you out.
  2. Groups Mark my words: There is something about gathering together with 4 or 5 other guys who share the same (or different) struggles as you do. There’s something you can only receive and you can only give within the context of a group setting. Some of the most powerful moments of healing in my life came on Monday nights early on in recovery where I gathered with just a few other guys in the same room to talk about our week. The trust, the tears, and the camaraderie we shared is something I will never forget as long as I live. It was truly a priceless experience which helped me in so many ways. It was in that season where I felt my call deepen to help other men the same way I was being helped. Today, it can be hard to find groups like these in your local area. Factor in that along with the difficulties Covid has made in meeting together. But online organizations such as Small Groups Online make it incredibly easy to find a group at the time of your choosing that you can become apart of.
  3. Counselors Spending time with a licensed counselor can be one of the most valuable opportunities for someone dealing with a sexual addiction. I often recommend to men to try and find a therapist in their area who is a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). This person has specific education and training in this field. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with a licensed Christian therapist who really helped me to understand the addiction I struggled with. The down side of counseling is that it can be incredibly expensive. But if you can afford even 2 sessions a month, I would encourage you to dedicate a season to try it.
  4. Pastors/Churches While the local church isn’t the first place I would recommend someone go for support, I would definitely not disqualify it either. Many pastors & churches are not trained to be able to effectively help individuals in the area of sexual addiction. But finding a spiritual family where you can foster healthy relationships, receive solid biblical teaching, and participate in spirit-filled worship is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery. Remember, you’re building your support structure and getting yourself out of isolation. When you allow people in to see the real you, feelings like shame, anxiety, and hopelessness cannot survive. Your spiritual family can be an excellent source of support along your journey in recovery!

Here’s what you need to know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR RECOVERY. There are so many sources of support and community available to you. But YOU must be the one to want it and find it.

Contact Small Groups Online today if you’re interested in starting the journey of knowing and being known by others who also struggle like you do. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to jump into a Zoom meeting hosted by a trained group leader waiting to get to meet you. You’ll also be invited to download and join the Live Free app where further communication and discussions are available to you throughout the week.

4 Questions You Should Ask Before Meeting With An Accountability Partner

As I approach twelve years in recovery from a pornography addiction I can tell you that many things have changed in my life. I no longer look at sexually explicit material nor do I desire to. Lustful thoughts that used to race through my brain in my adolescent and young adult years no longer have power over me. I’ve learned the devastating consequences of my behavior and how it was not only affecting me but also those around me. And I’ve found tremendous healing through grace, love, honesty, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to be the man that God is calling me to be.

But one thing hasn’t changed: My incessant need for community. For accountability. For people to see the real me.

I want to tell you a little bit about of my best friends: His name is TJ. He’s 33 years old, is married, and has two children. He’s a driver for UPS. He’s one of worship leaders at the church our family attends. And he’s quite simply one of coolest human beings I know. I love him for so many reasons, first and foremost for his deep love and faith in God.

TJ and I share a deep level of respect for each other because we know each other. And because we know each other, we’re able to care for each other’s hearts.

Oftentimes, we’ll call or text each other throughout the week and there’s one question that many times will arise to the surface:

“HOW’S YOUR HEART?”

And I know that whether the question is coming from me or from TJ, that things are about to get real. They’re about to get honest. Real honest.

Because I believe at the core of accountability is a desire to know and be known by others. And as often as I’ve said this to other men, it bears repeating here: You cannot make it through recovery alone! And further more, we as men cannot live on deserted islands away from real, meaningful relationships with other men.

Rewind back to the garden of Eden. God had created the world. The heavens and the earth. Animals. Plants. Man. But he found it unsuitable for man to be alone. And so he created a “helper” for him: Eve. And while this sets up a specific Biblical mandate for marriage in the Scriptures, at the core of this moment is an inherent need for Adam: companionship. Man was never meant to be alone. This is true in marriage, but it’s also true in our accountability relationships within recovery.

Finding 2-3 people you can invite into your story and regularly meet with is imperative for your recovery. Let me say it again: You can’t recover alone. No matter how hard you try. We’re all designed to live & thrive in the context of community.

So what are some questions that are necessary to ask as you seek out safe & healthy accountability relationships?

1. Is this person a Christian?

I believe the faith background of the people we meet with to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with really matters. Why? Because I don’t simply need good advice for my struggles. I need encouragement, challenge, and support that points me to the person of Jesus. What kind of man is God calling me to become? These are the words and thoughts I need reflected back.

2. Are they spiritually mature?

Determining if someone is a Christian opens the door to further communication with them. But what begins to lead me through that door is understanding their maturity & depth as a believer. Do they have an understanding of forgiveness and redemption? Are they struggling with freedom in their own life in some way? Can you tell the trajectory of their relationship with Jesus? Try and find someone who maybe has a few more years on you as it relates to walking with God.

3. Do they have your best interest in mind?

Are they trustworthy? Can you share in confidence with them that they will keep your story private (barring any kind of risk to yourself or others)? Are they able to not only encourage you, but ask you the hard questions about your addiction? A great accountability partner isn’t just someone who only nods their head and strokes your ego. They will be willing to step on your toes, but always offer to help you back up when you fall.

4. Are they familiar with addiction & recovery?

While they don’t have to be experts or counselors in the field of sexual addiction, it would be ideal for them to have some understanding of how this addiction works. Sexual addiction is very difficult for the person walking through it, but for those who are tasked with offering support, it may be more than they can handle. Some people simply aren’t able to offer the kind of support & encouragement needed. Not for lack of desire, but for lack of knowledge.

Asking these questions are critical before you ask someone to be an accountability partner or someone who you will be regularly sharing your story with. These people may come from your church, a small group, your work place, or perhaps even in your family. The point is to seek them out through the filter of the questions above. Start today!

Small Groups Online provides a powerful opportunity to help you become a man who’s healthy and has nothing to hide. In a weekly online meeting format, you can share your story with others who struggling just like you are. Through safe and healthy community, you’ll learn how to have those important conversations with your accountability partners and others you’re closest to.

How Do I Talk To My Spouse About Addiction & Recovery?

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten from the men I’ve worked with is this: “How do I even begin the conversation with my wife about my porn addiction &/or the recovery journey that I’m on?”

For many men, just the thought of talking to their wives about their struggles is terrifying. And truthfully, it’s not a conversation that every spouse can handle. But it’s my opinion that you should never leave your spouse in the dark when it comes to your recovery journey. Being willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly is essential for growth and credibility to be restored between you and your wife. There’s no way around it.

But believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be a conversation that feels awkward, tense, or ends with two people storming out of the room. It can be a conversation that’s healthy and good for you both. One in which you actually grow in intimacy with each other.

In her book, “Shattered Vows” (ps. 184-186) author Debra Laaser shares a way for couples to be able to connect emotionally with one another through a couples sharing exercise called FANOS. FANOS is an acronym that stands for Feelings, Affirmation, Needs, Ownership, & Sobriety.

Throughout the course of a week, we’ve all found it difficult to have deep, meaningful conversations with our spouses. Between our busy schedules, demanding jobs, and family commitments, it feels like at the end of the day, our brains are just fried. And we might be tempted to just check out from engaging with our spouses.

We’ve found in our marriage that this very simple sharing exercise can really help! Especially as it relates to talking to your spouse about your recovery if you’ve never started. Once a week, we’ll take around 15-20 minutes going back and forth sharing from each letter of the acronym. Note: This is usually done when there is no kids around! Car rides are especially great for using this tool!

Let’s briefly break down what each word is and what you specifically share:

  • F – Feelings: How am I feeling this week? (emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally etc.) This is a huge one so don’t skim over it. Go deep here. And remember, no feeling is invalid or unimportant. Feelings aren’t always based in truth, but they allow your spouse to really see inside your heart. This is probably the hardest area for a man to share from, other than sobriety. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
  • A – Affirmation: What ways can I possibly encourage my wife this week? How can I speak to her as a wife, mother, daughter of God? Speak life over your wife. Whether or not you realize it, she so desperately longs to hear your appreciation and encouragement. Being a wife and a mother is an incredibly difficult, and at times a thankless job. Tell her how much she means to you!
  • N – Needs: What needs do I have from my wife? (again emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, etc.)? This is an important one so don’t just think “more sex, please” on this one. Be real. Is there a need you have from your wife you may be tempted to receive from someone or something else? This requires some keen insight in your heart, so take your time on this one.
  • O – Ownership: What can I take ownership of this week that I’m not doing so well in? Guys, we should have plenty to express here! As a husband, dad, worker, whatever, what are areas that you can grow in? Be honest with yourself and your wife: Where are you screwing up or slacking? The goal of ownership isn’t meant for you to throw yourself under the bus. It’s meant for you to have enough humility to remember you’re actually not perfect, and you need help. We all do.
  • S – Sobriety: How is my sobriety going this week? This question is typically only for you so be honest. If there were slips, confess them. If there was growth, share it. Don’t leave anything out on this one. Details are important. Your wife deserves to know the truth in how you’re doing. Instead of you merely coming to her and confessing something, you have both worked through a conversational tool that has helped you communicate. At this point in FANOS, you have both shared intimately with each other. So it’s the perfect time to check-in with her about your progress in recovery.

One of the greatest things I cherish about my relationship with my wife is our commitment to complete honesty. Believe it or not, this is a characteristic that didn’t come instantly on day one of marriage.  It’s one that’s been cultivated over the last 12 years. And I believe each and every day, it’s gotten better. But it’s only gotten better because Tracey and I have practiced. And as one person I heard revise the classic quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

I love this model for communication with my wife.  We practiced it early on in my recovery journey and have just recently come back to it for a model of conversation. I pray that it’s helpful to you as well as you grow in oneness with the man or woman God has given you.

Being involved in community helps the process of learning how to talk to your spouse much easier. And you don’t even have to go far to find it! Small Groups Online offers specific groups that you can become apart of to help you meet others who are walking through the same struggles that you are. Through weekly Zoom meetings online and the Live Free app, you’ll find there’s always another brother who you can reach out to in your time of need. Check out SGO today!!!

2 Reasons Why Freedom (Not Sobriety) Should Be Your Goal In Recovery

One of the most popular terms a person coming out of addiction will use to share their success or failure in recovery is the word “sobriety”. In the mainline culture, it’s probably most widely used in Alcoholics Anonymous and has been for several decades. It’s a widely accepted term in recovery and has spanned to former addicts with other sorts of compulsive behaviors. Nothing about the use of the word or it’s implications is wrong. I just have one question:

Could it be that there’s more to your recovery than JUST sobriety? Is it possible that even when you’ve made considerable progress in your journey to avoid a certain behavior, there’s more healing that could be taking place in your life? More lessons you could be learning about your heart? Deeper levels of wholeness available to you as a person in recovery?

It might just be a personal gripe I have with the word. At the end of the day, it’s probably just semantics. But rarely, if ever, have I used the word “sobriety” as I talk with men about my recovery story. Because I think there’s more to recovery than just sobriety; this picture of just getting by and ticking off the number of days I haven’t had alcohol or used porn.

I believe we can experience FREEDOM. The person who is free from sexual addiction is one who has/is experiencing healing on a much deeper level than just abstinence. And so I believe there are at least a couple specific reasons why freedom matters more than sobriety. If I haven’t lost you at this point, please consider the following reasons:

  1. FREEDOM is about healing your heart while SOBRIETY is about managing your behavior.

In my experience working with men, the ones who do the best are the ones who focus on healing their hearts. This includes their mental health, emotional health, and relational health. They’re revisiting their childhood, their adolescent years, the relationship they had with their parents in search of possible traumas or abuse they may have suffered. They’re learning new ways to process feelings of pain and discomfort instead of retreating into isolation. They’re spending time with counselors &/or a support group of other men who can help them process the damage addiction has done. Recovery is about so much more than managing behavior. Freedom cannot be achieved merely by managing your behavior or abstaining from using porn. In SGO, we call this “white-knuckle” change: The attempt to get better externally by simply gritting your teeth and trying to avoid porn or the feelings that could potentially be triggering. In order for the healing process to begin taking place in your life, you must look inward. You must embrace pain, acknowledge why it’s there, and act on it in a productive way that leads to life.

  1. FREEDOM counts the lessons you’re learning in recovery while SOBRIETY counts the days without using porn.

Close your eyes for 20 seconds and reflect on what you’ve learned since coming out of addiction. If you weren’t able to think of 5-10 lessons in the span of 20 seconds, it begs the question: What is your real goal in recovery? Is it to merely tick off on your calendar all the days that you haven’t acted out? Or is it to become the person that God intends for you to be? They are two vastly different goals. If you’re a financial guy, think about it like this: Just because you don’t file for bankruptcy each year doesn’t mean you have financial freedom. Likewise, you might have racked up 30 days or 60 days without looking at something triggering, but through the process have you considered WHY you act out and what your specific triggers are? Sobriety in itself without the real investigation into one’s heart will not take you very far. Unfortunately, I’ve seen men who have been more prone to slips and relapses because they were unwilling to do the real heart work that recovery requires.

Again, at the end of the day, perhaps it’s just a matter of word play. Freedom and sobriety could very well mean the same thing. I just think we have to be intentional in our recovery and know what our end goal is. Otherwise, we’ll coast along not understanding what we’re suppose to be doing.

Make sure you know what you want out of your recovery. Are you simply in a competition with yourself to see how long you can go without using porn? Or are you entering into community with others who are struggling the same way you are? This is where freedom and healing begin!

Small Groups Online makes it really easy to find community where other men will be waiting to meet with you. Through a weekly Zoom meeting and the Live Free community, you will be given the tools you need to help you find the freedom we’ve been talking about. It’s as easy as going to the website, finding the specific group and time you’re looking for and signing up. Go check out Small Groups Online today!

2 Ways Porn Negatively Affects Your Heart (and what YOU can do about it!)

Pop Quiz: What is your most valuable possession in life? Resist the temptation the answer that question quickly, because there is a wealth (pardon the pun) of things in life that we place tremendous value on. Some very consciously and some pretty sub-consciously.

Maybe it’s your 401K that you’ve been saving for years. Or maybe it’s that beautiful boat sitting in your garage (that you haven’t used in years). Sometimes it’s the really good things life that give great value and worth to: Our careers. Our homes. Our marriages. Our children.

But what if there were something within every single one of us that we were told is our most valuable possession…and we didn’t even know it?! The book of Proverbs says this:

“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 TPT)

I love that in this single verse it essentially talks about the very possession we should guard above all other possessions: OUR HEART. We’re told to take care of our hearts. Not just our physical hearts from disease. But the very essence of who we are from unhealthy stuff in this world that tries to sneak in.

Most likely if you’re reading this article, you’ve found yourself in a place like I did where you discovered pornography and you just couldn’t stop consuming it. Perhaps you would say porn ultimately consumed you. Please understand, I don’t want you to feel shamed. I was in that same place for 13 years where I felt incredible guilt and disgust for what I was doing. I didn’t understand the gravity of what pornography was doing to my heart.

Thankfully, this August I’ll celebrate 12 years walking in freedom and healing from sexual addiction. And you can too! But it’s important to understand how pornography negatively affects our hearts to begin with. The effects can be long lasting and very harmful if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way.

1. Porn teaches your heart to objectify people.

One of the most subversive effects that pornography and other sexually explicit material has upon the human heart is that attempts to teach us that people are simply objects devoid of value and worth. It says that men and women can be used, abused, undressed, and consumed simply because their job is to provide us with pleasure. THIS IS A LIE. The perversion of sexual intimacy isn’t a new concept. It goes back thousands of years and has only become worse in the society we live in. Which is why we need to combat this lie that people are simply meant to be treated like objects.

Psalm 139 speaks of the incredible value and worth of every person, because we have been created by God: “You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me!”

Don’t allow pornography to turn your heart into nothing more than a product. Your heart is valuable and so are the people you’re so tempted to fantasize about.

2. Porn undermines your ability to deal with pain.

The human heart was created to feel an array of emotions. From moments of intense joy and happiness to deep places of sadness and anger. The reality is that we’re all going to experience a vast array of emotions through our lifetimes. The question is: How do we deal with those powerful emotions and feelings?

One of the byproducts of pornography addiction is that it subverts an individual’s responsibility to deal with those emotions in healthy ways. Instead, we run from anything that is painful or even remotely uncomfortable. Boredom, loneliness, anger, stress, and fatigue are some of the most common feelings that an addict deals with. We often used the acronym B.L.A.S.T. (Bored, Angry, Lonely, Tired) in our online group to help us discuss the ways in which we’re triggered. It’s so important that we understand WHY we are driven to act out the way that we do.

A major turning point in a person’s addiction to porn is when they’re able to be honest with themselves about the kind of pain they are medicating with pornography. Pain must be addressed. It must be looked at before any kind of healing  can take place in a person’s life.

Remember, pornography is a problem. But it’s only the medication. The even greater problem is the pain underneath the surface you’ve refused to deal with for so long. That’s what you must get at.

“SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT ABOUT IT?” 

Glad you asked! There’s a ton you can do to get your heart healthy from porn addiction. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Find a trained therapist — Preferably one who is certified in sexual addiction therapy. CSAT’s are trained to specifically help those dealing with compulsive sexual addictions.
  2. Get accountability in your life — 2-3 safe, healthy people will really go a long way in your recovery journey. Meet with them weekly at the very minimum for encouragement and so they can ask you the tough questions.
  3. Protect your devices — I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked with about their addiction that have no software protecting their devices. No filtering. No reporting. It’s almost as if you’re inviting porn to walk through your front door. That’s how easy it can be. Start with some great software that we trust: Ever Accountable.
  4. Join a support group in your community or small group in your church — Community is essential in recovery. We can’t be the men that God is calling us to be by trying to white-knuckle our way to healing. Small Groups Online offers a dynamic solution for this. Imagine a weekly Zoom meeting with 5-7 others men who share many of the same struggles as you. You will be encouraged by others and also have the opportunity to be the encourager in these meetings. Click here to find out more about Small Groups Online.

3 Steps To Take Before Talking To Your Spouse About Your Addiction

If you’ve never talked to your spouse about your addiction, there are several things that need to begin happening internally first. You’re not changing the story or covering anything up. You’re walking through the process of healing so you can become the person that God wants you to become.

1. Own Your Pain — Every single person dealing with an addiction is a person who is medicating pain somehow. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that substances like alcohol, drugs, & pornography aren’t the real problem in a person’s life. In many ways, they’re simply the MEDICATION for the problem. What you’re really dealing with on a daily basis in the inability to cope with pain in a healthy way. Whether that be some kind of stress, loneliness, or emotion that is left unchecked. By medicating the pain inside, you’re numbing yourself to the reality of who you are and you’re meant to be. I believe there’s always a reason for our pain. The key is discovering the why and the how. And it takes time to process through this stuff in our life. Even if you don’t have the answers to these questions before you talk to your spouse, you can can still begin asking the questions. Think through it. Pray through it. Look back through your past. This includes moments of betrayal, abuse, and trauma. What are moments that left an impression upon your life that caused you to begin avoiding pain?

2. Disown Your Shame — Throughout the course of my 13 year addiction to pornography, the level of shame increased to the point that I was so disgusted with myself and I didn’t know who to talk to. I was afraid for fear of rejection. I was afraid people were going to think I was weird, or even worse, a pervert. Unfortunately, at the very beginning of my addiction, I wasn’t able to see how shame would be able to sink it’s teeth deep into my life. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I was too afraid to let people know me and see what was really going on in my life. And yet, what 13 year old knows how to own his pain before he can disown his shame? I hadn’t learned how to do that nor did I have healthy people in my life that could help me. It wasn’t until the age of 26 that I realized I didn’t have to live like this. I could be free. And through the help of some really loving individuals who helped me to see what pornography was doing to my life, I began to walk in recovery. I was learning to to disown my shame. Here’s a reality I want you to begin to embrace: You aren’t defined by your addiction to pornography. You are better than the lies that porn tries to sell. You are a child of God. You are loved. And you are valuable. Once we can begin to release shame and realize our true identities, we’ll begin to walk in freedom and healing.

3. Seek Forgiveness — The last step you should take before talking with your spouse about your addiction requires a lot of courage. It takes action on your part. Perhaps you’ll notice that the first two steps are internal; actions you must begin to take within your own heart. But seeking forgiveness is all about identifying those who have been directly impacted by your addiction. If you think you are the only person who’s been affected by pornography, think again. For those who are married, the most obvious person in the line of fire is the spouse. You’ve most likely hidden the details and duration of your addiction from them. Now, it’s time to get honest with them. DISCLAIMER: Confession will be messy. It’s not easy to do. But in order to become the person that God wants you to be, you must open up and allow people to see into your life. And this should start with your spouse. Be honest with them about your behavior. Ask for forgiveness.

Owning your pain, disowning your shame, and seeking forgiveness are three of the most important steps you should take before talking to your spouse about your addiction. Remember that the long term goal in your recovery is healing, freedom, and becoming the person that God wants you to be. The goal is also to become honest with those closest to you about your deepest struggles.

Small Groups Online provides a powerful opportunity to help you become a man who’s healthy and has nothing to hide. In a weekly online meeting format, you can share your story with others who struggling just like you are. Through safe and healthy community, you’ll learn how to have those important conversations with your spouse and others you’re closest to.