Learning to Be Honest With Yourself and Others

Is it ok if I begin this month’s post with an honest confession?

I hate peeling onions. And when I say “hate”, I mean that in the strongest sense of the word. Sometimes, I think waterboarding or having my finger nails ripped off might be a more comfortable form of torture than peeling an onion. Once that outer layer is taken off and the aroma sneaks into my sinuses it’s game over. Complete waterworks from virtually every orifice in my head.

But do you know what the crazy thing is about onions? I LOVE eating them.

How is it that someone can practically melt when they’re peeling onions, but want to pile on more on their plate to consume? It’s weird, I know.

Don’t worry, you didn’t come to the SGO blog this month to read about my love/hate relationship with onions. What I really want to talk a little about is something else I’m in love with: Honesty. And believe it or not, it actually has way more to do with peeling an onion than you might think.

One of the things I’ve learned over the last 15 years working with men go from addiction to recovery is how much cultivating honesty with themselves and others is so much like peeling an onion. The process often takes place over the course of time, peeling back one layer at a time. It’s almost always a painful process for the man to go through as well as for his wife if he is married.

The problem I often find is the love/hate relationship most people have with being honest. It’s something they want in their lives, but often not something they’re willing to pay the price for. And believe me, there is a cost to being honest. The question simply becomes: Are you willing to be honest now or will you be forced to be honest later? Two different scenarios with two vastly different consequences.

But once a man can enjoy the fact that he isn’t hiding anything anymore and that he can be honest with those around him about his struggles, he’s able to enjoy the fruit (the onion) that comes about from full transparency. I remember when I came to the place in my life that I was willing to be completely honest with myself and others. There’s no feeling like it. Especially when all you’ve done for 13 years is hide behind shame and guilt.

I have the incredible honor of leading a Wednesday night group for Small Groups Online. The men in this group are some of the greatest dudes I’ve ever known. I have the utmost respect for the work they are doing to take care of their hearts and walk in purity. But it hasn’t been easy. And there are a few guys who are really walking through it right now in terms of finally getting honest with their wives regarding their struggles. It’s taken them a while and some are suffering the consequences, but they haven’t fainted from the goal of becoming the men that God has created them to be.

If we’re to truly know each other and be known, we have to learn to be honest with each other. Listen to what is says in Galatians 6:2 TPT:

”Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.“

See, I believe honesty is rooted in our ability to love ourselves and other people well. If you know that I love you, you will allow me to see inside your world. We were designed to help lighten the load of other people as they walk through the issues of life.

Small Groups Online offers an incredible opportunity for you to get to know others who deal with both similar and different struggles than you. Everyone in SGO walks shoulder to shoulder in an environment where you can be completely honest about your addiction and your recovery. No judgement whatsoever. If you’ve never really invited community into your life, SGO is the perfect place to start. Check it out today!

The men who I’ve worked with who have found long term success in recovery are those who have been able to be the most honest with themselves and those closest to them. Point blank. It doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes or have set backs. It just means they will no longer hide in the shadows of shame where they created a wall between themselves and others who care.

Take your first, real step of truthfulness toady by calling that person you’ve been meaning to talk to but haven’t. No more excuses. Honesty is waiting for you. Are you ready for it?

The Weaker I Feel, The Stronger I Become

‘But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.’– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Recently, I took a fresh look at one of my favorite passages of Scripture where Paul, the author of almost half of the books in the entire Bible, writes about a “thorn” or some kind of weakness that he suffered to keep him humble. Historically, we don’t know what the weakness was that he spoke of, only that it tormented him. He prayed three different times for God to remove this weakness from his life. The only response he receives from the Lord: “My grace is always more than enough for you.” Or it could be said: “My grace is continuously sufficient IN you”.

What does that even mean? And what does it have to do with addiction and recovery? Actually, it has everything to do with recovery.

You and I live in a culture of independence. In large part, no one likes to be seen as having a flaw or a crack in the armor. Plainly speaking, weakness isn’t deemed a very popular character trait. We want others to perceive us as having our stuff together. And while the desire to be strong isn’t bad, our true lives rarely align with that wish. The universal factor that we all share within the human race is pain. And that pain stems from a million different sources including trauma, abuse, addiction, loss, and mental illness just to name a few.

The bottom line is this: We live in a world that refuses to be portrayed as weak. And yet, Scripture speaks the value of owning your weakness and allowing God to work through it. There’s no shame in admitting you have a weakness. That you’re flawed. That you’re broken. That you can’t live this life by yourself. Remember what Paul said:

“So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.”

Now that we’ve explored what this verse means, how does it apply to our recovery journey?

I recently read a really great thought from a devotional, which said:

“In my weaknesses are opportunities for connection (one cannot heal alone), transformation and healing. I cannot say that I always delight in them, but I am leaning into them. Because it’s when we attend to our weaknesses (individually and communally), that we are most strong.” (DVO)

Wow! What a thought! The idea that our weaknesses, our sins, our addictions don’t have to be things that sink us. We don’t have to be defined by those things. What they do is instead point to the reality that we can’t get healthy by ourselves. We were never meant to! Which is specifically why Small Groups Online is helping thousands of men, women, pastors, & spouses every day. SGO gives you the opportunity to meet with others who are walking through the same kind of pain you’re walking through in an encouraging environment which will help you process addiction, betrayal, and recovery. Check out SGO today!

Over the last 15 years I’ve found that the men who tend to struggle the most in recovery are the ones who are the most disconnected from community — whether that be communication with their wives, relationships with other men in their church family, accountability relationships, or maybe even their SGO group.

Remember: We were never meant to heal in isolation. It just doesn’t happen

Paul knew exactly where he stood. He was a deeply flawed man (just like you and I). And he owned the fact that his weakness was exactly the place where God could work inside him. It was the breeding ground for transformation. For healing. And for experiencing God in a way he never had before. And so Paul experienced the power of God’s grace which strengthened him in his weakest moments.

You and I can experience that same kind of power as well. First, we have to acknowledge where we are weak. Second, we have to use those moments as opportunities to allow God to minister to our weakness. One of the specific ways God ministers to our weakness is through community. He sends people our way who care enough about our heart to ask how we’re really doing. Somehow, they’re able to cut through the BS and continue to love us. But WE are the ones who have to make the choice to allow those people in.

Let God have all access to your weakness and you will surely discover a strength that you never knew existed.

Does Your Marriage Have a Pulse?

Last month, we kicked off the new year talking about how you can take care of your heart in 2024. I won’t spoil the main topic of that post here, but trust me, I feel like you’re going to benefit greatly from that post!

This month, I want to shift the focus a little bit from managing your internal world in a healthy way to how effectively you’re taking care of quite possibly the most important relationship God has given you in this life: your marriage.

Before we get into the meat of this conversation, I want to preface this month’s focus with some confessions:

⁃ I’ve been married for almost 15 years.
⁃ I’ve made many mistakes.
⁃ I’ve achieved tremendous growth.
⁃ I’ll be making mistakes and growing until I take my last breath.

The point is this: In no way am I a marriage expert. Many of the things that I will suggest to you this month are things I’m still getting better at. I don’t know about you, but I want one of the crowning jewels of my life to be that I learned to love my wife well. And not only that, but that she truly felt that love. In 2009, our marriage had started off in a really tough spot as I was just starting to walk in recovery from my pornography addiction. So we were facing an up hill climb for sure.

Having said all of that, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) is that it is my responsibility to make sure my marriage has a pulse. You may have heard it said before that marriage is 50/50, meaning I give 50% and she gives 50%. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have to come the realization that because of my love for my wife, I’m going to give 100% to my marriage, no matter what it costs. I’m making the assumption that if you’re reading this and you’re married, there was a time when you made the decision that you wanted to join your life with someone else for the rest of your life. And so when you made that commitment, it wasn’t just that it would be for life, but that it would be a quality life. That means giving everything you’ve got to your spouse.

So how do you take the pulse on your marriage? I want to present a few thoughts in the form of questions you can ask yourself:

1. Do you pray together? Believe it or not, this has been one of the hardest areas for me to make a priority. Yes, the author of this article is admitting he doesn’t pray with his wife as much as he should. Guilty as charged. Thinking back, it’s easy to think about the “crisis” moments that brought us together. But what about the day in day out moments that we have together to simply give God thanks? Prayer is such a powerful weapon that married couples have at their disposal. It’s not only something that we should reserve for the dinner blessing or when we run into the wall. It’s a lifeline we need to be tapping into on a daily basis. Especially through recovery and the restoration of our marriage, I’ve always felt that if it weren’t by God’s grace, I would not be where I am today, nor would our marriage.

2. Do you spend time together? Let me clarify what I mean by this: Do you spend time together in the same space WITHOUT a screen in your hand or some other kind of distraction looming? In other words, are you being present to each other? This also is something I’ve had to learn over the years. If my wife is trying to talk to me and I’m on my phone or engaged in another activity, I’m not being present to her. Are you intentionally spending time with each other? Whether that be through date nights, vacations, playing cards, or even just snuggling? (and I mean the kind of snuggling that doesn’t always include sex) Few things will deepen your marriage than by simply spending time with each other where no other person or object has your attention.

3. Do you work through conflict together? Call me a slow learner – but my wife & I recently came to a pretty stark realization: While we don’t argue often, when we do, we have a hard time working through it. Not all the time, but there are some fights that where we feel like we hit the same wall over and over again. When things are good, we’re good. But when we (and by we I mean I) feel overwhelmed — whether in circumstances or emotion — it tends to leak out on to others. Again, we’re learning and we’re getting better. But we’re committed to work through it together. One example I’m working on: In the past as we’ve dealt with conflict, I’ve tended to be the one who withdraws or retreats while my wife is the one who is desiring connection. This hasn’t been easy to navigate through, but I’m committed to getting better.

4. Do you laugh together? Have you ever been out in public and seen a couple who clearly love each other? And it may be in the ways you least expect — including their ability to laugh and have fun together. I believe this area is a call back to the question I asked earlier about spending time together. As you spend time together, you will discover (hopefully) the things that bring you both joy. The things you both find interesting. And yes, the things you can both joke and tease each other about. And when I use the word tease, I certainly mean it in a playful way, not in a mean way. Recovery work is a very serious matter and so whenever you’re able to inject something fun or lighthearted in the moment, try to do it.

5. Do you dream together? The last one that I really believe will take a couple from simply living together to thriving together is the act of dreaming together. For some couples this is harder than for others. In our marriage, we’ve found this to be so life-giving. We have dreamed about God’s plans for our lives, the kind of home we could build, places that we want to visit, and what our future careers could look like. The sky’s the limit! There’s something really beautiful when two souls who have joined their lives together seek the Lord for their future and all that He has for them. I believe the Lord is honored when we seek His heart and His plans for our lives.

For some of you, reading these five questions might feel overwhelming. Where does a couple even begin to take the pulse of their marriage when there are so many indicators of health?

I want to encourage you to take some time to pray together and ask the Lord where to begin fortifying your relationship with each other. He will tell you. And once you know where to start, only tackle one area at a time. Remember, there is no deadline. You have time. It may take you six months or a year even to start consistently praying together. It may only take a you a week or two to start dreaming together. None of the areas above are accomplished over night. Just keep working at it and loving on each other well.

One of the greatest ways you can support your marriage is through joining Small Groups Online. Each week you’ll get to join other men or women who are learning to become the husbands and wives God is calling them to be. SGO is specifically designed for those walking through sexual addiction and even those who are suffering from sexual betrayal. Many couples have found incredible healing and restoration for their marriages through the help of Small Groups Online.

One final thought: Our standard of how to love our spouse well comes from Jesus. He is our model and example. Look at what Ephesians 5:25 TPT says:

”And to the husbands, you are to demonstrate love for your wives with the same tender devotion that Christ demonstrated to us, his bride. For he died for us, sacrificing himself“

When a person with some kind of compulsive behavior comes to the end of themselves and are ready to change, there’s a lot of work to do. Identifying the pain they have tried to medicate is one of the primary goals they face. And for those who are married, this complicates things significantly. Because their spouse is essentially pulled into their journey as well. As a matter of fact, they must walk through a recovery journey themselves. Because addiction is like a wrecking ball to a marriage, trust has to be built from the ground up. Over the last 15 years, I’ve had to learn to love myself well and love my wife well. It hasn’t been easy, but I can never forget one of my greatest callings (perhaps THE greatest) is to cherish my wife’s heart. I want to encourage you to go after the questions asked in this post together as a couple. It will take work for sure, but believe me when I say, your marriage is worth it!

How to Take Care of Your Heart in 2024: Feel It Then Reveal It!

Happy New Year!!! I hope that you had a beautiful holiday season between Christmas and New Year’s. I get it, the holidays are busy and there tends to come a level of craziness, but congratulations for making it across the finish line!

This year, the holidays in our household were beautiful. I would even go so far as to say it was probably the most wonderful Christmas we’ve ever had together as a family. The amount of memories and experiences we created this year with our kids was awesome. It’s so important that we teach our kids that it’s not about the amount of presents and gifts you receive but the moments you get to share with one another that matter most because those are the things that last forever.

I don’t think my mind and my heart were prepared for what I would feel on Christmas day as we lit a candle to remember our family members and loved ones who made past Christmas’ so special and are now with Jesus. What a sacred, weighty moment filled with long pauses and many many tears. I think I’ve come up with a new strategy for the painful moments we feel in life: “Feel it, then reveal it”. We HAVE to acknowledge what hurts, not stuff it down or ignore it. Pretending something isn’t there only creates a bigger problem. And then after we feel it, we need to reveal it. We need to share it with someone healthy – whether that be in prayer or with a friend or family member. The revealing release of pain allows our souls to breathe. And to truly live.

I feel like this idea of feeling and then revealing can also apply in monumental ways to our recovery from pornography and sexually compulsive behavior. How often in your life do you experience a feeling, whether positive or negative, and then you act upon that feeling in some way? There is some type of response cognitively, which may or may not trigger a memory or emotion, which then is converted into an action. For us addicts, we’re training our brains to think differently. Instead of responding the way we always have before by acting out and attempting to medicate or dull pain, we’re learning the better way: Acknowledge what is there, feel the pain that is present, and then learn to reveal and release those feelings in a healthy way.

You have may no trouble with the feeling part. I think probably 99% of people have no problem with that! But it’s the revealing that is what gets us in trouble. We stop short of talking with healthy people in our lives and letting them in to see what is real, no matter how messy it might be. I’m convinced shame has a huge hand in all of this. I know that it did with me. Remember, guilt says you’ve done something bad. Shame says that you ARE something bad. Shame says you are the problem, not that you have a problem. So when we stop short of processing painful and complicated emotions with people, it tends to become a breeding ground dealing with our pain in other potentially unhealthy ways.

Revealing the things that we’re feeling comes at a cost. It means no more hiding, no more covering up, and no more pretending. It means people will actually know the real you (possibly for the first time in your life). And trust me when I say this: It will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make! I know it was for me. You don’t often hear about a man complaining because too many people cared about his heart.

So let’s assume you care enough for your heart that you’re ready to take the journey towards honesty with other people about your internal world. What’s the next step? A great place to start would be considering Small Groups Online. SGO is a platform that offers online support groups for people seeking sexual integrity, community, and mental wellbeing. These are spaces where you are able to come with complete transparency about the current struggles are facing in your life and your marriage. Consider becoming apart of SGO today. It’s sure to be one decision you won’t regret.

Feel it then reveal it. I think this is probably one of the most important foundational practices a person can ever implement in their life. What if you made 2024 the year that you prioritize your heart in a fresh and new ways? What if you allowed the Lord to work through the lives of other people in caring for your heart? It starts with you and your commitment to becoming the person that God wants you to become. That’s someone who is healthy and whole, unashamed to be truthful about who they really are.

3 Unexpected Gifts Waiting For You This Christmas

Have you ever made plans to take a trip you weren’t expecting? While traveling on route to work, have you ever taken the left turn instead of the right? Oftentimes, and without realizing it, the unexpected moments in life bring about some of the greatest gifts we could ever imagine. IF we keep our eyes open.

Recently, my wife began leading a spouses group for Small Groups Online. At one point on our journey, this would have been very unexpected. But through the healing of her heart, she began to feel the leading to make the left instead of the right and throughout the last several months, she’s absolutely loved the honor of leading women who are experiencing the same kind of pain and betrayal she once knew.

This is a very specific example of course, but I believe there are some pretty special gifts that when recovery is done as it should be we should expect to receive. (Let me be clear: We don’t recover and heal in order to “get” a trophy to put up on our shelf. If this is the motive, we really need to check our hearts) But what are a few gifts we should expect along the journey if we’re doing things the right way?

1. Truthfulness

By far the greatest gift I ever received in recovery was becoming a person of truthfulness. Granted, it was a gift that was gained through a TON of hard work. Compare that to the former reality: For many years, I hadn’t known what honesty, integrity, and character really looked like. I hid my addiction for 13 years — mostly because of the massive amount of shame I felt. And because of that shame, I hid. I isolated myself from other people. Shame convinced me of the lie that if I told anyone about what I was really struggling with, they wouldn’t love me. They wouldn’t respect me. What I didn’t know was that those lies couldn’t be further from the truth. I had to learn that freedom only comes through revealing what is most painful in your life. It’s learning to allow others to see who you really are without the fear of rejection. For many, it’s definitely a risk. But believe me, it’s a risk worth taking.

2. Humility

I’m not sure whether you know this or not about yourself, but you have the capacity to be a very arrogant person. How do I know this? Because I have been (and can be) the exact same way. Many addicts share this quality of justifying and minimizing their behavior and blaming someone else for the problems they have. It’s having a “victim” mindset and refusing to take responsibility over your actions. I know that was really tough to hear and you may be tempted to click off of this article, but I want to challenge you to keep reading. Please hear me out: Besides truthfulness, the gift of humility is one of the most precious qualities you can receive. Until I could learn what my sin was doing not only to my own heart, but to others as well, I really couldn’t experience true healing. It’s the recognition of the ugliness of my actions all stemming from a heart that is in pain.

3. Value (for myself & the opposite sex)

Are you ready for a really uncomfortable truth? Pornography completely devalues a person’s life. I know this is difficult to hear, especially if you’re in the middle of the battle. But I remember some really important men in my life who loved me enough to tell me the truth about what porn was doing to me — even if I didn’t see it. What began as an innocent curiosity in my life grew into an almost daily need for validation from the insecurities & loneliness I would feel all throughout my pre-adolescent, teenage, and young adult years. It wasn’t until I realized that the very kind of acceptance I was seeking was actually wearing away at my own self-respect and honor. And not only that, but the way in which I viewed the opposite sex was obviously also affected. If you view someone as merely an object to be used for your own pleasure, they cease to have value.

The beauty is that ALL of these characteristics and more are available to the one who commits everything to the journey of recovery. I’ve often told people who I’ve talked to about my story that real life actually didn’t begin until 14 years ago when I started my journey. Why? Because it helped reveal who I really was on the inside. It revealed a lot of pain that I was trying to medicate. Pain that had long since gone unaddressed in my life. Once I began to identify what my specific needs were and how to meet them in healthy ways, it was like a whole new world opened up to me!

What are the blessings, the gold, the gifts you never saw coming on your journey? The things that, when you look back, you would never trade? Small Groups Online can help you to discover those gifts. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with others who are also on their own healing journey as well. What a great way to get 2024 started, prioritizing your heart to get healthy and putting yourself in community that will change your life.

3 Ways Gratitude Will Change Your Recovery

This might sound really crazy to you, but as I reflect upon the last 14 years of my journey in recovery, I can truly say how grateful I am for the road that I have walked. Might I even go so far to say, I’m thankful for the pornography addiction I walked through. “WHY???”, you might ask me as if I’ve lost my mind. (BTW, that’s a perfectly fair response)

I’m thankful for both the addiction and the recovery that accompanied it because it revealed the kind of person I really was for 13 years, and helped me to see the kind of person I COULD become — both the healthy and unhealthy versions of myself. I understand that it’s not an easy task to come to grips with the reality that both our struggles and our recovery deserve our gratitude. Who feels like giving thanks when they’re walking through fire? When they’re walking with a spouse that has felt the sting of betrayal? These are incredibly difficult moments to walk through.

In a recent group meeting, I shared with the guys that one of the benefits to the recovery journey is that as you progress and experience healing, you also gain perspective. Perspective over your past and everything that you’ve walked through that got you to the place that you’re at now. This doesn’t happen quickly or instantaneously. It happens after you’ve committed your life to the day in day out process of growth. It’s so important to be able to ask valuable questions like, “What has my addiction taught me about myself? How has my recovery journey changed me?

This month I want to share 3 ways gratitude will change your recovery — all for your betterment and your health. I’ve seen in my own life the fruit of expressing gratitude in each of these areas and how it has essentially enhanced my journey and helped me to keep going over the past 14 years:


When I made the decision to take my first steps out of darkness and into the light, I believe there was a barrier that fell in my relationship with Jesus. Sure, I had given my life to Jesus at the age of 16, but I hadn’t really given him EVERYTHING. For so many years, I had hidden so much in heart and refused to allow the Holy Spirit’s touch upon the darkest parts of my life. But that truly all changed in the Fall of 2009 when I decided I wanted to become a different person. And I haven’t looked back since. I needed a total overhaul in my understanding of who God was. I’m so thankful today for the grace He gave me through Jesus. It was first and foremost by His grace that I found freedom. And today, I’m truly grateful for His touch on my life. I believe He used the most painful moments within myself and even between my wife & I to bring about healing. I’ve often told people in recovery that I feel like the Lord waits for us to do all we can do so that He can do the things that only He can do. It’s a beautiful partnership, isn’t it? Today, I feel like I have a relationship with God that I never could have had if my addiction had continued.


As sort of a bi-product of choosing to walk in honesty and truth, I was finally able to allow other people to see the real me. For so long I felt so much fear and shame over my porn addiction. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I just couldn’t stop. What first started as a discovery had grown into full out medication and escape from the pain I wanted to avoid in life. But that all changed when I was able to let others inside. I love how one of my SGO guys said it best, “We’re on a journey of being fully known.” What a beautiful picture! And who are we really becoming fully known to? Chiefly to ourselves, but also to others. I’m so thankful that I have people in addition to my wife that KNOW the me. I can’t tell you how important it is to have safe, healthy people in your life too. Regardless of whether you ever walk through addiction or not, you need people in your life. We weren’t created to walk through life alone. And yet, that is exactly how so many people live in our world.


I feel like this little known fact bears as much repeating as possible: Gratitude has the ability to literally change the structure of your brain! Meaning your brain, your thinking, your processing becomes healthier and more responsive when you live from a place of thankfulness. This according to Brain Balance:

“Scientists conducted a study in 2008 to measure the brain activity of people thinking and feeling gratitude. What they found was “that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine.” Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel.”

How cool is that?! As neurosurgeon Dr. Lee Warren likes to say, we have the opportunity to perform self brain surgery whenever we need to. The recovery journey is a beautiful journey, but it’s not an easy journey And if we’re not careful, it’s easy to emotionally spiral through discouragement, shame, and the slow progress that is often the case. That’s why it’s so important to keep your heart rooted in gratitude. What do we have to be grateful for? I have some suggestions that you may have not considered before:

    • Gratitude for being exposed.
    • Gratitude for those who helped me navigate through pain.
    • Gratitude for hard fought healing.
    • Gratitude for being given way more chances than I deserve.
    • Gratitude for the struggles.
    • Gratitude for what the struggles revealed inside.
    • Gratitude for freedom.

Small Groups Online provides a platform to join other men who are also growing in gratitude. Men from every different background and walk of life. Some at the very beginning of recovery and others you might call “veterans”. But all are men who have forsaken isolation and have come to grips with the reality of real community in their lives. I encourage you to check out all the benefits of becoming apart of an SGO group today!

There are so many ways that gratitude will change your recovery if you allow it to. For me, I’ve made it a goal from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay my head on the pillow to be a man who remembers all that he has been given. Thanksgiving has become more than just one day a year for me. It’s a lifestyle that I try to live 24/7 365 days a year.

Target Your Triggers

In a recent group meeting, the topic of triggers came up in our discussion as I followed up on someone’s check-in. The man who had just shared about his week had shared that it was a tough week, and that there were a couple “slips” in the last few days. (Side note: In my experience, a slip is most often associated when someone acts out sexually in some way. Some men may also use the word relapse). In this instance, I followed up with him with a question I’ve asked to other men before who’ve shared the same experience:

“Do you know what your triggers were?”

As we let this question sit for a while, I could see he was really putting some thought into it. Finally, he answered with a question: “Frank, could you explain to me what exactly you mean when you say triggers?”

His response reminded me of the continual need for this conversation amongst men. Do you understand your triggers are? Or let me even say this: What drives you or pulls you in the direction of acting out sexually? No matter where you are in recovery, you should at least know a few of the most powerful triggers in your life.

Let’s zoom out a bit further. The late Dr. Mark Laaser had what I think if probably one of the greatest definitions for what triggers actually are:

“Triggers are ANY stimuli that a person interprets as sexual. This varies from person to person and depends on the person’s past experiences and memories. We can interpret as sexual input from any of our senses. For example, looking at certain pictures in the newspaper may trigger one person while the smell of a particular perfume or cologne may trigger someone else.” (From the workbook, “Faithful & True: Sexual Integrity in a Fallen World”)

I really like that definition. Because it suggests that triggers are very subjective from person to person. Meaning, they can be anything that prompts or “triggers” a sexual response. In my July 2021 article on the Small Groups Online blog, I wrote on specific triggers using a very helpful acronym: BLAST. If you’re not sure where to begin in understanding what triggers are, and more importantly, what YOUR triggers are, I would start with that article.

What I would love to devote the remainder of this article to is learning to target your triggers the older you become in recovery. The hope and the assumption on this side of the screen is that every reader would progress in recovery, heal from the pain of their past, and become the person that God created them to be. This is the ultimate goal. And as we grow and heal from things that once kept us in chains, the reality is that we will come to a place where we don’t struggle in the ways that we used to. So what does it look like for the man or woman who’s 10, 15, 20 years into recovery? Are they triggered in the same way they were in year one?

Yes and no. We all learn and grow at a different pace. Some of us faster and some of the us slower. I think a key question I like to try and always keep on my radar is this one:

“How is my heart doing today?”

Take some time to really think about that one. There’s a lot in that question to consider. One of the healthiest commitments a person can make is to their heart. If we maintain a consistent connection to what is happening in our internal world, we won’t be at the mercy of our flesh and our desires. There are nothing wrong with those things, but too many today are being led by their hearts instead of being the ones who do the leading. I’m sure you know what Proverbs 4:23 says, but if it’s been a while, let this be a fresh reminder for all of us:

“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.” (The Passion Translation)

I love how the Bible tells us that what we hunger will essentially be expressed in our lives. We’re told to give special attention to the welfare of our innermost being. Another word for welfare here is the word “health”. And as we keep our hearts healthy, our entire lives will overflow with health. How we think, how we talk, & even how we treat people will all come from a place of life because we have treated our hearts well.

One last thought about triggers: You don’t have to walk through them alone. Small Groups Online helps men find community with other men who are also walking through the same struggles involving pornography addiction, masturbation, & any other sexually compulsive behavior. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet online with a group of men who can help encourage and support you on your journey.

Shame: The Ultimate Showstopper

If you’ve walked in recovery for any length of time or even just began walking in recovery recently, most likely you’re well acquainted with shame. Shame seems to be one of the most common and universal feelings that those in addiction share with each other. If there ever was something that could deliver the final K.O. to someone trying to live the life that God created them to live, it would be shame.

At its very core, what is shame? Well, for one, shame is on a whole different level than guilt. Guilt says: “I’ve done something wrong” whereas shame says, “I AM something wrong.” What a paradigm shift in thinking and processing! One feeling pertains to your behavior. And one feeling speaks to your identity.

For so long in my addiction to pornography, I remember feeling an immense amount of shame. And it only complicated over the years as I continued to isolate myself from people. Rewind even further and I can plainly remember the first time that I discovered pornography. I don’t even now that I fully comprehended what I was watching. But it didn’t take long for me to realize there was something about this that wasn’t right. The excitement from what I was watching snagged me instantly. What I didn’t realize at the time was how deeply shame had also sunk a deep hook into my soul.

Author of “The Betrayal Bind”, Michelle Mays, says the following: “Shame creates a strange paradox because the antidote to shame lies in doing the very thing that shame tells us not to do. Shame tells us to hide, keep secrets, avoid, and withdraw. But when we share our shame, when we open ourselves to be seen, when we tell the secrets and allow others to draw close shame evaporates in the light of acceptance and understanding.”

While shame has the potential to be a real showstopper in your life, if you’re willing to be honest and open up, that potential will never become a reality. And if shame has already sunk it’s teeth into you, there is a way out. It may not be what you want to do. It may not be what you feel like doing. But I believe the level of your freedom and healing in life is directly correlated with your willingness to embrace and surrender the darkest corners of your soul.

One of my favorite verses comes from James 5:16, which says: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

In this particular verse, James is writing about the power of our prayers. If we have Christ within us, our prayers carry authority. But before we even enter into prayer, we find another action that carries just as much weight: Confession. The word confession actually means a “public acknowledgement”, something that done “freely” and “openly”. Before healing can take place in our lives, before sin can be forgiven, and yes, before any kind of understanding can occur, there must be a commitment to be honest about what is underneath the surface. And not only does it say confession is necessary, but it tacks on the phrase “to each other”. Don’t ask me what it is, but there is something powerful when I open my life to another person. When I’m willing to reach down into the painful, broken places within me and let others see the real me.

Let me be very clear, if you want to live a surface level life with everyone around you, this may not be for you. It takes great courage to be honest and to ask the hard questions. Difficult conversations don’t just become easy to have. They take practice and time to get better. I think it could be inferred that one of the guiding principles early on in James 5:16 is transparency. When someone is willing to live a transparent and honest life, no pain, no hurt, no confusion is too great to be healed. How do you learn to have difficult conversations with people in your life? Be ready and willing to open up the window to your heart and let others look inside.

Learning to have difficult conversations with the ones you love will never come easy. Most likely, it will require a ton of practice & proactivity on your part. The point we’re trying to make in this article is that you have to start by making a commitment to run to the hard places instead of running away from them.

If it helps, picture in your mind the police officer, the fire fighter, or the military service person. Do they run from the danger because they’re afraid? Not chance. Because they’ve already made a pre-determined decision that they are going to put their life, their value, their comfort on the line for others. They’re protectors and defenders. There is a courage and a strength about them because they are willing to do what others aren’t. This is the kind of conviction we must have too when it comes to having difficult conversations in life.

Small Groups Online has offered an incredible platform where you can share amongst other brothers or sisters who also understand what shame feels like. SGO provides you weekly support through online meetings hosted on Zoom. You can log on at the time of your choosing and in the environment of your choosing. And you’ll receive encouragement and engagement for your journey!

Shame doesn’t have to put you in the ground. It doesn’t have to be the end of your story. Instead, you can experience life that you never thought was possible as you expose what has existed in the darkest corners of your internal world. Bring those things into the light and get with people who can walk shoulder to shoulder with you on what could very well become the greatest days of your life.

My Responsibility In Recovery

“Lord, you’re so kind and tenderhearted and so patient with people who fail you! Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭103‬:‭8‬ ‭TPT‬‬)

Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful songs of praise and thanksgiving in Scripture that was written by King David. While we don’t know the specific circumstances that were the impetus for this song, we know that David was a man who knew the incredible grace & restoration that the Lord offered to Him. As someone who crossed definite lines of murder and adultery, this song is an account of God’s response to our sin and failings. It gives us a true picture of the God who loves us in spite of the unhealthy decisions we’ve made in life.

I love this psalm for many reasons. It also gives me a picture of God’s miraculous love for me throughout many years of addiction and recovery. And as Mark Denison (There’s Still Hope) says: “I can’t imagine where I’d be if not for that grace. But God’s grace doesn’t take away from our need to do the hard work of recovery.”

I’ve often shared with people that if it weren’t by the grace of God, I don’t know where I would be in life. What the condition of my heart would look like. What the state of my relationships would look like. The kind of person that I would have become if it were not for His hand coming into my life to pull me out of all the crap I was in.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in recovery has been identifying the specific work I need to be doing on a daily basis to care for my heart, my mind, and the choices I make as it relates to my integrity. At the age of 16, God’s grace entered my life in a way that I had never known before. And yet, because I was so young and deeply entrenched in sin, I hadn’t realized my identity. I hadn’t realized how valuable my life was.

Around the Fall of 2009, I began the journey of reclaiming my God-given identity. Through conversations with my wife about my porn addiction and facing the very possible reality of a marriage that would have ended before it began, I sought the help I needed. It wasn’t easy. It required conviction, effort, and sacrifice that was brand new to me. I thank God for that season. The Lord had shown me incredible grace (grace that felt very painful at the time) through helping me to see the damage my decisions were causing not only to my own life but to others as well.

That work has continued over the last 15 years. And today I can say that I’ve experienced more freedom and healing than I ever could have possibly imagined. But it required a choice on my part. It required work. It required taking responsibility for ME. It required uncovering deep places of pain and past trauma that I was trying to medicate.

Denison also shares 3 key questions every person in recovery must ask themselves if they’re to really progress on their journey:

  1. What work has God given you to do in the area of recovery?
  2. Are you faithfully doing that work?
  3. If not, why not?

I believe these questions help us to get very specific in identifying what we’re to go after for ourselves. Every person is different and their needs are different. But these questions serve as a wonderful framework for figuring out the kind of activity that is happening in the recovery journey.

None of us who are in recovery for addiction have any right to abdicate responsibility to anyone but ourselves. We are the ones who got ourselves into the mess we’re in. True, we may have been introduced to something or exposed somehow, but even in those situations, the burden of responsibility still falls to us on how we will steward our hearts into healing.

Thankfully, Small Groups Online helps you identity the areas in your life that need work. And this is done by offering its members a weekly Zoom meeting where they can connect with others who walking along similar paths in life. SGO comes in to help you find life-giving community that will help you grow in a ways you never could on your own.

I want to encourage you this month to check in with your heart. Has it grown stagnant in any way? Have you come to a halt in your progress? Are you feeling unsatisfied with where you’re at? Perhaps it’s because you shifted gears a while back and put your recovery on auto-pilot. Believe me, it’s so easy to do.

Remember: The overwhelming, all consuming grace of God has already forgiven you. But now, it’s time to take the reins and decide the kind of person you want to become. It’s up to you and you alone.

Crossing The Finish Line

I want to share a little secret with you: I love technology! I think to some degree I always have. And while technology isn’t the be all or end all to life, it does offer convenience and can be very beneficial to life.

One of the devices I have owned and loved has been a wireless charger that charges my iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. Amazing device! It sits on my nightstand next to my bed. I simply drop all the devices where they go on the charger and by the morning everything is topped off and back at 100%.

But can I share with you a pet peeve of mine? There have been a hand full of days that I’ve woken up before to find that because either my phone or watch wasn’t seated properly that they never charged throughout the night. They never reached 100%.

I’m sure your heart is broken over my first world problem, but bear with me because there is a very specific parallel I want to make to our own lives as it relates to walking with Jesus and in recovery:

Yesterday’s loss is no guarantee of tomorrow’s outcome.

You might need to read that sentence again. Because it’s true. Every single one of us walk through pain, make mistakes, undergo loss, suffer relapse, and screw up somehow. As I think about my own recovery journey, I remember the slips and the setbacks. I wanted to 100% my recovery within the first year. I had all the intentions of getting the W, but often came up short. It was only through much needed healing and maturing that I began to gain momentum. And soon I began to build consistency in recovery.

The word of God speaks very clearly to this frustration as we undergo the struggles and pain in life. Here’s what it says:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

Paul is most likely speaking here to the Philippian church regarding salvation in Christ. Jesus accomplished the work on the cross through his death and resurrection. He freely gave His life for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. But something we must understand is that Jesus didn’t just die for us, come back to life, and then peace out. He promised to send the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit to be with us every moment of our lives. The reality though, is between the time that we receive Christ and when we take our last breath, there is a TON of work to be done in our hearts.

I like also how The Passion Translation interprets this verse:

“I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this gracious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

I particularly love the phrase, “the process of maturing you” in that version. If we’re honest with ourselves, none of us enjoy maturity because it’s painful. It requires courage. It requires commitment. The same is true regarding our recovery journey. You must expect that there will be bumps in the road, potholes, and unexpected turns along the way. But if you commit to never give, you WILL cross the finish line!

And not only that, but you will have the greatest Resource available to you through Christ Jesus. He wants to see you succeed more than anyone else on the planet! He will see you through your seasons of struggle. So if you find yourself questioning whether recovery is still worth it, trust me, it is. You have what it takes to succeed. And the work that Christ has started within you, He will finish too. Rest assured that God is committed to your growth.

I really believe we were meant to do more than just limp across the finish line at the end of our lives. We are to run hard and yes suffer a few stumbles along the way. That’s life. But above all, we’re not meant to merely survive, but to thrive. Small Groups Online can help you learn how to thrive — not in isolation — but within safe & healthy community. You will have the opportunity to meet weekly in a safe and secure online meeting space via Zoom to help you process the pain you’re walking through. SGO is both affordable and effective and will help get you started in recovery the right way. Check it out today.

Will you be able to look back at your life and know that you left nothing on the table and gave everything you had to becoming the person that God called you to become?