Can You Feel The Pain?

One of the greatest realities I love about recovery is that there’s always something new to learn about yourself. For example, how a person deals with real emotions and pain in their life will directly affect their long-term outcome in recovery. For me, this has been proven time and time again. Let me explain.

I’m approaching my 13th year in recovery from a pornography addiction that nearly ruined my marriage and was on the verge of ruining my entire life. For 13 years, I was totally unaware of the toll that porn was taking upon my heart and mind. I lacked the understanding, and ultimately the real conviction of what I was doing and how it was affecting me and eventually those around me. I also lacked the tools necessary to fight back. But there was one thing I had that I lived very aware of: Pain.

I was living with a lot of pain: Loneliness, insecurity, fear of the future to name just a few. And I really believe to this day that unprocessed emotions and pain really contributed to my need for comfort. For something that would distract me and somehow take me out of that pain. And so I looked to pyrography to fill that void. But it would never deliver on the promise of being everything I needed. It only drove me further from God and further from people really knowing the real me.

I’m thankful today that I’m not that man that I was in 2009. I’ve lived in freedom for many years and experienced healing that I would have never dreamed of all those years ago. But there is still plenty that I’m working on in my recovery including dealing with what is uncomfortable. What is painful. Negative emotions. Anger. Disappointment. Stress. Frustration.

Recently at my place of work, this was tested. And I failed. There’s really no other way to say it. My response to a frustrating interaction to a customer on the phone combined with some other negative dynamics going on that day in my heart resulted in me getting into a serious funk. Looking back now, I’m really thankful for the drive that followed while delivering parts to one of our technicians in the field. It really allowed me to reflect on what was really going on inside my heart that day.

First, I needed to repent for my attitude. That was most important. I hadn’t conducted myself in a professional manor at all, never mind not delivering on my daily mission of bringing the Kingdom of God to work with me instead of expecting it to somehow magically appear at work! 🙂 So once that was done, I began to try and look deeper as to what was going on, but I noticed an interesting thing occur:

I felt a strong desire inside to create. To imagine. Not to fantasize, but to think of something I could do or say to bless someone. This has happened many times in the past as well when I’ve gotten myself in a dark place. Whenever I began to pray for someone else or think about a creative project, my mood seemed to shift. Upon consideration of this a while longer, I began to ask myself if this was really the right response or not?

Had I really processed my negative emotions (pain) or merely distracted myself from it?

Obviously, the things I mentioned above aren’t inherently wrong or evil in anyway. There are obviously ways worse things I could try to distract myself with, but was I in that moment really choosing to sit with the pain I was feeling for a while in an attempt to try to understand what was happening inside?

As I discussed this with a friend, they shared with me that there is a difference between processing techniques and distraction techniques as it relates to dealing with painful, negative experiences. And to be honest, I’m still not completely sure where I land in one of those two places. I don’t claim to be an expert, that’s for sure.

What I don’t want to do is live with unprocessed pain. And I don’t want that for anyone. Sadly, there are millions of people today that walk around with so much pain in their life and no way to deal with it in a healthy way.

Not surprisingly, unprocessed emotion has been proven to have the ability to affect you physically, opening up the potential for immune compromise and illness.

I leave you with with one final challenge: Feel your pain. Don’t stuff it. Don’t avoid it. Don’t pretend like it’s not there. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.

Pain is a reality of life that we have to face. We live in a fallen and broken world capable of doing so much damage. None of us make it out of here without wounds. But they don’t have to be open wounds. There is a way in which you can find freedom and healing in the midst of your pain and in whatever form that it may take.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Small Groups Online makes it incredibly simple to find a community of people who, like you, are walking through pain and are learning how to process it in a healthy way. That begins in community. SGO offers you a weekly online support group with many days and times available to best fit your schedule. You can even try out SGO at no cost for two weeks to get started.

Don’t allow pain to put you under. You don’t have to live in the shadows of your past. You can have freedom over life-controlling addictions and compulsive behaviors. Check out Small Groups Online to find the group that best matches your need today!

Creating a Vision for Your Recovery in 2022

Last year around this time, I asked you to envision where you would like to be in your recovery on December 31, 2021. So…..did you do it? Were you able to see with more than just physical eyes the next steps you wanted to take in your journey? Vision requires a deeper focus than just the current state of affairs we happen to be living in. Perhaps you reached the destination you had in mind and perhaps you didn’t. The point is this: In recovery, there will ALWAYS be new ground to take.

What does that even mean? Well, in short it’s that freedom and healing are both immediate and long term. You can become free from pornography when you hit the bottom or when you’re exposed. For many, this can happen in an instant. But it’s the healing of the soul that often takes years — even a lifetime. So we have to always be envisioning where we need to go next in the restoration of our hearts.

It’s also worth noting that having a vision alone isn’t enough. We have to be developing healthy habits that we implement daily. This is how the vision is realized and accomplished. If we’re not literally putting a vision into action practically, it will be nothing more than pipe dream.

In his own way, the apostle Paul spoke to this idea of envisioning when he said this: “I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead.” (Philippians 3:13 TPT)

As a reminder, Paul was a man who once lived as Saul before his name was changed by God. Saul’s life was marked by the murder and persecution of many Christians before he was miraculously encountered by God one day riding upon his horse. God not only changed Saul’s name to Paul, even more so he changed the man himself. Everything changed in Paul’s life and throughout the years, a man who once hated those who worshipped Jesus became one of His greatest followers. 

While this post isn’t intended to be a Bible study, I would like us to take a look at a few parts of this verse which are very applicable to our journey in recovery for the coming year. Paul is writing very personally to the church in Philippi here.

  1. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this. Throughout his entire life, Paul embraced his imperfection and flaws. He realized His need for Christ and his own inability to grow without Him. We too have to start here in our journeys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded other men (and myself) over the years of their inability to find freedom and healing by themselves. Healing your soul, re-wiring your brain, learning to handle painful emotions isn’t something a man can do by himself. He needs other men to do it! Being apart of community is one of the most foundational things you can do this year to becoming a person of health and wholeness. Small Groups Online is a great place to start building community into your life. SGO is an incredible opportunity for you to meet others who are struggling the same way you are. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere. Through communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity. Check out Small Groups Online today!
  1. I do have one compelling focus. Thinking back on my childhood, my time in school, and even various tests that I’ve taken throughout my life, I’ve always been very determined. I’ve always strived to do my best. Sadly, when I became addicted to pornography for 13 years, I lost all resolve or desire to really want to quit or get better. Nevermind all the shame that porn also caused. And mix that in with the fact that I was scared to death and felt like I had no idea how to get free. It wasn’t until I reached a serious moment of self-awareness of how unhealthy I was and how my addiction was overflowing into affecting and damaging my wife who was my fiancé at the time. I know of no other way to describe than I have dozens of times before but there was a brokenness that occurred within me. I knew my impending marriage was on the brink, but even more so I knew probably for the first time that I was destroying my life. From that moment on there became an unshakable hunger to become healthy. I threw everything I had at my addiction. I became willing to do whatever it took to find freedom. Looking back now, I can truly resonate with Paul’s words. My focus was set. Nothing was going to stop me. Everything was on the line. My wife knew I could do it. And I knew I could too. I’m thankful that that focus has lasted up to this day and continues on. We have to be steadfast on this journey and not allow any compromises. How much is your recovery worth to you?
  1. I forget all of the past. For so many, this is the first major challenge in moving forward in recovery. Because we’re all so wired to focus on not only what we’ve done, but WHO we think we are. I recently wrote an article for XXXchurch entitled, “Facing the Truth About Shame”. In that post, I write about three lies that shame tells us: 1. Shame tells us we’re alone. 2. Shame tries to convince us we’re unlovable. And 3. Shame says we have no future. THESE ARE ALL LIES! But for so many, they get stuck in their past, convinced they are someone they truly aren’t. Shame paralyzes. Not so for Paul. It was truly by the grace of God that he was able to shed a name that was associated with so much death and He accepted the name that was always meant for him. And that is our story too. We don’t have to allow our past to define who we become today or tomorrow. One thing I think is clear: God didn’t erase Paul’s memory. He knew where he had come from and who he used to be. There is a fine line between being trapped by the shame of our past and remembering where we’ve come from. For healing to really take place, we must look back to the decisions we made and the painful experiences we walked through while simultaneously keeping our eye on the person we want to become.
  1. I fasten my heart to the future. I love the climax of this verse. It brings us back around the very beginning of this post. Creating a vision for your recovery journey in 2022. Obviously you and I never had the chance to sit down with Paul over coffee and hear his life story, but I’m betting if we did, we would hear some wild things. And I’m betting you and I would get a clue of His passionate love for Christ and his desire to see the gospel advanced all over the world. This is what his heart was fastened to. Not the failures of his past or his current struggles. Not the chains that would bind him or the pain he would endure. He never lost the vision of why he was alive. We need that same laser-like focus for our lives. No doubt, the early days are difficult. And if you don’t have a recovery plan in place it makes it that much more difficult. But you can be victorious! You can be free! And you can heal! If you really want it.

I pray that 2022 will be the greatest year of your recovery ever. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much work there is to do in our hearts. That shouldn’t be your focus. Become apart of a community. Get your devices protected. If necessary, sit with a therapist for a season. Do WHATEVER you have to do to reach your vision of sexual purity. Trust me when I say that the results of your hard work will be worth it. You can do it!

The Greatest Recovery Lessons From 2021

Happy New Year!!!

I (Frank) and everyone at Small Groups Online pray that you’ve had a wonderful start to 2022. I’m really excited for all God has for us in this new year! There will be so much more great content coming on the blog this year and we’re thankful to have the opportunity to encourage you and equip you on your journey.

As this is technically the “last” post for 2021, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite posts from this last year and the lessons contained within them. A lot of words have been written and you have may not caught each month’s post. So we wanted to share what I believe to be the best of the best from 2021. It’s that time of year where everyone shares their “best of the best” content, so I figured, why not do it here too? 🙂

You’ll notice in this post I’ve listed my top 6 favorite posts with the main point of the article and some extra commentary as well. I would encourage you to read all of the articles in full as time allows.

Here are six of my favorite recovery posts from 2021:

  1. What Do You Want From Your Recovery In 2021?— I love starting every new year with having a conversation about the importance of vision in a person’s life. Charting out where you want to go in the coming months and most importantly WHO you want to become is so crucial and critical in recovery. So in this post, I asked the question that if there were an area you could get better in or become strengthened in, what would it be? I give four very important areas to look at in recovery. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil them here. But here is the main point: Once you stop learning, you stop growing. It’s so important to never forget that truth. The day I decide to kick back and think to myself that I know all there is to know about my recovery, I’ve harmed myself in a way like none other. Never stop hungering for growth your life, for improvement, and for health. There’s always some way we can get better. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it on your own. Which leads us to the next best recovery lesson from 2021…
  1. 4 Vital Sources of Community You Can Find Today — Hopefully you’ve come to this realization by now, but recovery cannot be done alone. In order to find long-term success on your journey, there’s much work to be done! But 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. In this article, I share four vital sources of community that you can find today. Community is literally one phone call, one email, one message away. It’s not hard to find. Small Groups Online offers incredible opportunities for you to meet with other men and women who share the struggles that you do. I’ve said this many times, but I’ve counted my months and years in a support group to be one of the greatest things I could have done to find freedom and healing.
  1. 2 Reasons Why Freedom (Not Sobriety) Should Be Your Goal In Recovery— Sobriety is a very popular term in recovery circles. It’s a popular indicator of the amount of time someone has gone without acting out or expressing compulsive behavior. At the heart of the word there’s nothing inherently wrong, but I believe it’s how it’s been used that has possibly gotten us off track. Experiencing freedom in recovery is the real goal, not just sobriety. If we don’t eventually make it our goal to understand the WHYS behind our behavior, we’ll never truly be free. In this post, I share 2 reasons why freedom should be the goal in recovery, just racking up more days without using porn (or whatever the addiction is).
  1. How Do I Talk To My Spouse About Addiction & Recovery?— Quote possibly one of the hardest things to do in recovery is learning how to communicate with your spouse about your addiction (if you’re married). I remember how difficult the conversations were when I was coming out of my addiction because of my history of lying to my fiancé at the time. The first year of our marriage was incredibly challenging because we hadn’t learned how to talk about the things I struggled with. We needed help. And one of the greatest tools someone gave us was an acronym: F.A.N.O.S. You’ll have to read the post to find out what each letter means but believe me when I tell you, FANOS is a really helpful tool to aid you in the conversations between you and your husband or wife. It will help you learn how to talk with your spouse about your addiction without things getting weird, awkward, or combative.
  1. BLAST: A Guide To Understanding Your Triggers  One of the greatest skills you can learn in recovery is being able to understand what your triggers are. Why do you act out the way that you do? B.L.A.S.T. is a guide for beginning to understand some of the most fundamental reasons for why we act out. Unless we understand what kind of feelings and emotions lead us to viewing pornography or masturbating, we’ll repeat the same behavior over and over again. You must become a student of your heart — learning what your heart is craving and and it’s need to be healthy. Very similar to FANOS, use this acronym frequently to try and understand what is really going inside.
  1. How Practicing Gratitude Can Change Your Brain Pt.1— The last post I would highly recommend reading is one of the most recent ones on the SGO blog: Learning how cultivating gratitude can literally transform your brain to help you think differently. Before you think I’m crazy, there’s actual science to back this up. Within this article, I share some very interesting findings about the brain, but here’s the point: The very chemicals in your brain that were released through repeated exposures to pornography can also be delivered through simple acts of giving thanks. Practicing gratitude. And it can CHANGE your brain.

I believe this is some of the best content posted on SGO from 2021. There’s so much more you could go back and read, but I hope that you’ll consider taking some of these recovery lessons and implementing them in your life in this new year. You won’t regret it.

You also won’t regret checking out Small Groups Online. SGO offers a very unique and intimate opportunity for community with other men and women who struggle with pornography and other forms of sexually compulsive behaviors. Imagine finding a group of men or women just like yourself who want more than what they’re currently experiencing. They want their lives back. They want hope. They want freedom. Community is one of the greatest ways to find these things so check out Small Groups Online today to get started on your journey!

How Practicing Gratitude Can Change Your Brain Pt.2

Last month, I talked about the specific ways in which cultivating and expressing gratitude can literally change your brain. More specifically, your brain can actually be transformed in terms of your thinking and processing complex emotions and feelings.

The late Dr. Mark Laaser has said that research has found that the brain is for all intensive purposes, “plastic”. The impact upon one’s brain from years of addiction and compulsive sexual behavior CAN be reversed. The brain can heal. Meaning this: You are NOT trapped in the same thinking and behaving you’ve always had. You can become different.

This month, I want to pivot the direction a little bit in terms of gratitude. As a man who’s been in recovery for 12 years, I’ve been afforded many incredible opportunities and resources over the years. All of which really aided me in maximizing the success of my recovery long-term. In virtually every conversation I have with a man walking through addiction, I make sure to talk about each one of these.

As I reflect back on my journey, I am grateful I experienced the following opportunities. In fact, they were so much more than opportunities. They were gifts given to me out of a genuine desire to see my life restored to what God intended it to be. I wanted to highlight a few:

  1. Counseling — I think as we’re living in a culture that is still navigating through Covid and other social anxieties, counseling may look a little different than it did 12 years ago, but there’s no doubt there’s still incredible value to having the opportunity to sit with a licensed therapist who is trained in being able to help sex addicts. Christian counselors who are trained in sexual addiction therapy are able to offer a wonderful blend of guidance from the truths of Scripture while also asking specific questions that help point to the “why” behind the addiction. I’m so thankful I was able to sit with a counselor for a season in my journey. Something to be mindful of: Counseling can be expensive, but overall I’ve found it to be worth the investment in my life.
  2. Groups — There are very few opportunities so unique and special as the group setting. Recovery groups, support group, even today Zoom groups offer the ability to form healthy community with other men or women who are struggling in very similar ways as you are. For me, this was perhaps the greatest opportunity I was afforded in my recovery journey. Every week, I looked forward to meeting with other brothers who wanted to get healthy in the same ways I was. I soon began to believe the reality that I couldn’t get healthy on my own. I NEEDED other people in my life whether I realized it or not. An even deeper truth that one is able to uncover within the group setting is understanding how much others are depending on you. In other words, you recovery isn’t just meant for you. You’re not apart of a group just for yourself. Other men need to hear about the hope, redemption, and health you have found too.
  3. Intensives — Another very beneficial opportunity in recovery is attending a weekend or week long intensive. An intensive often involves a great blend of teaching from a trained or incensed therapist, group sessions, and individual work that can be done with much more time afforded over the course 3-4 days. Intensives can be done with just a few people and range in size. I’ve been blessed to be apart of workshops that involved close to 20 men or more even. The amount of information, individual and group therapy you receive is so valuable. Even as the world still deals with Covid, many ministries and organizations are going online to offer these intensives. As with counseling, there is often a cost required for these intensives, but as previously mentioned, opportunities like these are well worth it.

What do all these things have to do with the brain? For me, it was through these experiences in my life that I found freedom and healing. Through individuals helping me understand the “why” behind my behavior to times of group interaction where I found healthy community. Every bit of it helped me…and in turn, helped my brain re-wire.

I’m so grateful today that I was given so many life-changing opportunities to heal. I know that all of these things may be accessible to you all at once. And that’s ok. Just start with one. Do something healthy for your soul today.

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.

How Practicing Gratitude Can Change Your Brain Pt.1

This month on the SGO blog, I want to begin a two part series on the power of gratitude in recovery.

Over the past 12 years in recovery, one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten has come from my wife Tracey. Throughout our marriage, during times of great anxiety, fear, worry, and doubt, Tracey has encouraged me to “practice gratefulness”. Practicing gratefulness. You see, there’s something very powerful about adjusting the needle of your heart off of your fears and onto all that you’ve been given.

For me, as I’ve practiced gratefulness throughout the years, it’s helped me to find more contentment than ever! And I believe that could very well be the greatest goals to being grateful is the establishment of contentment & satisfaction in a person’s life.

For many years of my life, I felt deeply unwanted and I also lacked purpose. I had discovered pornography at around 12 or 13 and what began as simply a curiosity delved quickly into a nightly ritual of finding the latest and the greatest thrill that would give me a real sense of fulfillment and control. But unbeknownst to me at 12, porn would lead me on a 13 year cycle of guilt and shame with no end until around the age of 26.

I’m thankful today that I’ve had freedom for many years and experienced tremendous healing from the clutches of pornography. And while I don’t even remotely desire porn anymore, there are still many times I have to dig my heels in the ground to fight for contentment.

Until we realize all that we have and all that we have been given, we will struggle with giving thanks. We will always try to seek out the next thing, the next shiny new object, the next thrill to give us relief. In many ways, we may trade one addiction for another!

You may have not known this, but gratitude has the literal power to change the brain and create new neural pathways. Similarly to how our continual dependence upon porn created literal “ditches” in our brains is the same way that gratitude also has the ability to re-wire the brain.

Specifically, the brain releases powerful chemicals that can actually cause feelings of joy and pleasure:

“Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva, a well-known meditation training site, mentioned in one of her publications that gratitude as a ‘natural antidepressant’. The effects of gratitude, when practiced daily can be almost the same as medications. It produces a feeling of long-lasting happiness and contentment, the physiological basis of which lies at the neurotransmitter level. When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.” (The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief, PositivePsychology.com, https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/)

The very chemicals that were released through repeated exposures to pornography can also be delivered through simple acts of giving thanks. Practicing gratitude. And it can CHANGE your brain.

So we can see how positively impacted the brain is from practicing gratitude. But where does a person begin?

One simple exercise you might consider is saying out loud or journaling 3 things that you’re grateful for every single day. This could be done when you wake up or before bed and doesn’t have to take very long. It’s the genuine recognition of the good things in your life. EVERYONE has the ability to find something to be grateful for. So there you go. Crate a gratitude journal.

In the next post, we’ll zoom in a little bit and specifically look at the role that gratitude takes for a person who’s actively involved in pornography or in recovery from porn. But until then, give thanks for something in your life. It could even be the fact that you woke up with breath in your lungs. Remember, it’s oftentimes the small, seemingly insignificant things that have the ability to turn the ship around and help change your attitude.

Here’s something to be thankful for: Small Groups Online! An incredible online experience that matches you up with a group that meets weekly on Zoom, comprised of other men or women who share similar struggles as you do. With SGO, you’ll quickly find an incredible community of people who can encourage you on your journey to sexual freedom. Check out SGO today!

3 Ways to Forecast Success in Recovery

I think one of the most challenging and equally under-appreciated jobs of our day has to be that of a meteorologist. Think about it with me for a second: These men and women devote their lives to studying weather patterns so that they can predict if it will be sunny or rainy on a particular day. They can be highly criticized when they make mistakes and barely noticed when they’re spot on.

What makes one meteorologist better than the other? How does he stand out from the crowd? I think there are a couple factors to consider:

  1. A great meteorologist never stops studying the weather.
  2. A great meteorologist is someone who’s been around a long time.

Commitment and experience. Focus and longevity. They never stop learning.

In the same way meteorologists work hard to predict the weather, we as men and women in recovery have the ability to forecast success in the journeys that we’re on too! We don’t have to struggle endlessly in our journey to become free.

No journey is perfect. There are plenty of slips, setbacks, even relapses along the way. But if we’re serious about what we’re trying to do, we can experience freedom and healing in our lives that we’ve never known before. And a huge part of what that looks like is understanding what makes us tick from day to day. What do I mean by that?

Forecasting success in recovery means being aware of the people, places, and things that can lead us into temptation and struggle. There are internal triggers and external triggers that we have to learn to understand how process in a healthy way. Understanding the people, places, and things that pull you down an unhealthy road would mostly fall into the external trigger category.

Take an inventory of your own life to see what areas you might be missing. Here are some areas to consider as you forecast success in your recovery:

1. PEOPLE – Ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, co-workers of the opposite sex (or same sex), strangers on social media. This is easier to do with some than with others. Perhaps this was a person you grew up with or a family member you regularly see. Maybe there was some sort of trauma or abuse that took place when you were young. Should you disown this person and simply avoid them? Perhaps. But make sure you get professional guidance and help from a trained therapist on how to go about healing in the area of triggering people. One thing is for sure: We cannot hide in caves and bury our heads in the sand trying to avoid anyone who makes us feel uncomfortable. Action Step: If there is a person you are continually triggered by, limit or even discontinue communication with them. Work to fill your life with safe, healthy people who you can grow with.

2. PLACES – This can be anything from a particular location you pass on the way to work to the room in the house that has internet access and a door you can shut. Make it a point to take a new route to work and never isolate yourself from people. I’ve met so many men over the past year that due to COVID have had to work from home. Certainly, for many this isn’t an option. But it also presents with it some challenges for the man who’s already used to hiding in secrecy over his porn addiction. Now, he has to be working 8-10 hours alone at home. It could be a place other than your home that’s really triggering. In that case, the best response is simply to avoid going there. Action Step:  If you find yourself having to work from home for long periods of time, get outside as much as you can. Taking walks, runs, and getting fresh air is some of the greatest steps you can take to refresh your body and your mind.

3. THINGS – This one is the hardest! Triggers are unique to every individual. Some people have more than others. Some have less, but they are equally as powerful. Triggers can manifest in many different ways. A memory, a thought, a word someone speaks, even a smell can contribute to a spiral downward if we’re not careful. Because a trigger can come from almost anywhere it’s important to remember you’re not going to catch every one. Every day, we’re presented with opportunities to grow masquerading themselves as temptations and triggers. In those moments, we have the choice to find a healthy outlet in the midst of our pain.  Self inventory tools like BLAST are a great place to start! BLAST stands for bored/burnt out, lonely, angry, apathetic, afraid, ashamed, abandoned, sad, stressed, selfish, and tired. This acronym will help you put into words what you’re feeling in the moment. Action Step: Perhaps the greatest thing you can do when you feel the pull to look at pornography or act out is to call someone safe, a healthy support person. 

Don’t get caught off guard in your pursuit for sexual purity! Learning yourself, your limits, and your boundaries will help you stay one step ahead on your recovery journey!

Another great place to forecast success is in the company of other men who are on the same journey you are. Small Groups Online makes this opportunity super easy and accessible. If you’re trying to find success on your own, you’re going to get stuck. We were meant to live in community! Check out SGO today for more details on how to get started!

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.