One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a husband in the last 11 years is my complete inability to shop for groceries. The problem isn’t that I can’t find what’s on the list my wife gives me. It’s the fact that more often than not, my stomach does the shopping and I come home with extra boxes of cookies and chips and other food that wasn’t on the list. I was overwhelmed with way too much temptation all at once.
Likewise in recovery, we’re going to face moments where we feel overwhelmed with temptations and triggers to look at pornography or act out in some way. How do we navigate those moments successfully so that we come out on top instead of being buried in shame and guilt?
First, it’s important to understand something about temptation: Temptation is always a shortcut that leads to a dead end. There’s nothing on the other side of temptation that your soul needs.
Having said that, I think many times the area we miss the most is reaching out to another brother or source of support the moment the trigger or temptation hits. I think we’d potentially avoid many slips if we simply called someone and brought another person into our struggle. I know this is not always possible and there are other ways of dealing with triggers and temptations, but I think there are MANY moments in which we can invite someone into our life to speak life and truth and hope into what we’re feeling at that moment.
Here are a few tips for navigating through temptation and triggering moments by inviting others into the struggle:
1. Decide in advance you will reach out to someone when tempted.
I remember countless moments where I felt all alone and overwhelmed by the pressures I was feeling inside. My escape into porn led to so much regret and shame. I would call accountability partners after I had looked at porn and while they tried to encourage me, I was the one who had already made an unhealthy decision.
Imagine how much more helpful they could have been if I had made a commitment to reach out before and not after. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of your desire to be free from compulsive sexual behavior. How badly do you want to be free? Is 30 seconds of pleasure worth more to you than your future?
2. Share what you were feeling, thinking, and doing when you were tempted.
I’ve found some of the greatest questions you can answer when you’re checking in with an accountability partner are the following:
1. What am I feeling?
2. What am I thinking?
3. What am I doing?
4. What am I thinking of doing?
These questions help give yourself and a friend a very accurate picture of what was going on inside your heart at the moment you felt triggered. Don’t rush through these questions, they’re really important! As I’ve written in a previous post, we must seek to understand why we struggle the way we do. What is it that drives you to using porn to medicate your pain?
3. Remember that temptation and triggers are normal.
Never get caught up in the illusion that something is wrong with you when you undergo temptations and triggers. Even those people who don’t struggle with pornography or some other kind of drug undergo temptation. Remember what was said earlier: Temptation is merely a shortcut to a dead end. It’s short circuiting God’s best for your life and attempting to meet that need through your own lens.
Here’s a stark reminder: Even Jesus was tempted. And in those moments, He spoke truth to the one who was doing the tempting. And the same rings truth for us as well. We have to learn that when temptation strikes or we feel a pull to go down the wrong road, there are actually things we can be learning in that moment.
Moments of temptation and triggers are going to happen, there’s just no avoiding it. And in my experience, there will be times that you slip and times that you press through a temptation whether it be through prayer, calling a friend, taking a walk, or finding some kind of healthy outlet. It’s all apart of the process of growth in your recovery journey.
One last thought about temptation: You don’t have to walk through it 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.
Frank is passionate about helping individuals live with sexual integrity. He also works alongside his wife Tracey in helping spouses who have been devastated by their partner’s addiction. Frank & Tracey live in beautiful southern Delaware with their two children: Nathan and Addison.