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.

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:

Spiritually

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.

Socially

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.

Scientifically

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?

Combatting the Lies That We’ve Believed

As I’ve progressed in my recovery journey and work with men on a regular basis do the same, I feel like I’ve learned some pretty important truths along the way. One of those truths is learning to understand how an addiction actually finds its start.

Even before an addiction manifests into some kind of compulsive behavior, the damage has mostly likely already happened in the mind. Why is that the case?

I think it comes down to the common denominator we all share: PAIN. Pain signifies a deeper problem going within a person’s life, just like the lights on the dashboard of the car indicate the need for an oil change or an overheated engine.

When pain in a person’s life is tended to in a healthy way, that person has all the potential to grow and become better from the experience. But when pain is ignored, buried, stuffed down, it doesn’t go away. It begins to infect the entire person. And so people medicate with substances, pornography, or whatever they can get their hands on in an attempt to ease the pain.

Pain, while being an excellent indicator of a problem, can also be interpreted the wrong way as well. Because of how powerful pain can be physically, emotionally, and psychologically, it can also cause us to develop beliefs about ourselves that aren’t true. And so we begin to buy into lies about ourselves and others.

As Christians, this can most certainly bleed over into our spiritual lives as well. When we’re hurting, we’re vulnerable and so oftentimes what happens is that the enemy of our souls, the devil, comes in and whispers lies to us. Remember, he is called the Father of lies for a reason. It’s about the only thing he’s good at.

I love this quote from Pastor Chris Hodges:

“Any time we’ve fallen into the hands of the enemy, it isn’t because he forced it, it’s because we believed it. The devil attacks by putting lies into our mind that we believe.”

How true this can be! Just think about how easy is it to believe even the slightest suggestion of something that isn’t real verses really buying in and committing to the truth. Oftentimes, it takes us effort to really believe in what is true. And I believe this is a good thing because being a person of truth is worth it.

Ephesians 6 takes this so seriously as to suggest that we should be wearing specific armor to fight the battle over our lives:

“Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies.” (Ephesians 6:17)

But just a few verses earlier, a command is given to us in order to win the hard fought battles against lies:

“Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph.” (Ephesians 6:14)

I believe for many, this could very well be the starting place for their addiction: Unhealed pain which manifests in unhealthy core beliefs about one’s self. A wound that begins in the heart and travels north to the brain where other voices and opinions are entertained. After a while, agreements and assumptions are made. A scenario that never could have been conceived of before is now imagined and believed to be true. Before you know it, you have believed a lie, which only takes you further down the path of pain. And the cycle continues.

Small Groups Online helps to surround you with a community of men or women who will encourage you with truth. 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.

Truth has to be something we CHOOSE each day. Despite all that we’ve faced and the pain that we’ve walked through, the choice is still ours to make. No one else is responsible and no one else can make that choice. Scripture is clear that it’s through God and His word that we are victorious against the lies that we’ve believed. Lies don’t have to control us or dictate our future.

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Recovery This Summer

If you hadn’t noticed, the weather is changing and that means summer is nearly here! The birds are chirping loudly, the temperature is finally jumping, and grilles everywhere are starting to heat up in anticipation for the changing of the seasons. I have to say, I’m pretty excited for a new season. Not necessarily for the millions of out-of-staters who will be invading the surrounding beaches. But I am genuinely excited for the new. The different. The shifting of something I’ve experienced to something that is yet to be.

With the changing of the season, there are new routines and adjustments that need to be made. In the summer, kids are off from school. Perhaps the pace of your job slows down or speeds up depending on what you do. Vacations and family trips abound. There is a freshness and slowing of the soul (at least that is the intention).

Similar to when we flip the calendar to a new year, there are other pivotal points during the year to revisit your recovery strategy to see what’s working and what isn’t. Over the course of the last 14 years I’ve had to do this often in my own recovery journey because growth is fluid. Progress is taking place (hopefully) every day and I want to continually be prepared to take the next steps in my journey. So what are some areas in recovery to revisit as the seasons change?

  1. CommunityI’ve mentioned this quite a bit in my past writing, but I believe that finding a healthy community of individuals who are also dealing with the same or similar struggles as you is key to long-term success. Simply stated: We cannot find freedom and become the men and women we want to be without the help of others. And this requires transparency and vulnerability; the willingness to open up the dark and painful places for others to see. I’m so grateful for all those I’ve had the honor of sharing my story with throughout the last 14 years. I found a level of safety and trust that I had never known before. No judgement. No condemnation. Just a group of guys who wanted to get better, just like me. Small Groups Online offers a weekly online support group at a convenient time and place where you will be both encouraged and challenged in your recovery journey. You can also try SGO free for 15 days! Make community a priority as the next season approaches.
  2. SecurityFor those who use protection software or filtering on their devices, it’s always a good idea to go back and check that everything is set properly and you are protected. And if you’re in need of software for filtering sexually explicit or triggering content, there’s no better time to get on that train than today! Technology has only advanced in the last few years and so there are some really great options out there to help you as you engage with your devices between home and work. The important thing to remember about software is that it’s only one step along the way, it’s not the final solution. And if you’re someone who’s constantly trying to get around software, it means you’re probably more in need of community and support than you realize. There are some great options out there between X3watch, Covenant Eyes, and many others. Some will do more content blocking and filtering and others will simply monitor your activity and then email a report to someone you know and trust. I used software for many years in my recovery until I got to the place where I didn’t need it anymore. It can definitely be helpful!
  3. HonestyThe last area that I wanted to highlight is one that is more internal to an individual’s life in recovery. It’s the question of honesty and truthfulness. I think it’s always a good practice to routinely ask yourself if you’re truly surrendered to the process of freedom, healing, and restoration. This is something that can’t be forced or rehearsed. It has to be an internal decision that has to be made within a person’s life. For me, it came through brokenness and a realization of how destructive my behavior had become. I was on the path of losing everything and everyone I held dear. And so for the first time in 13 years, it was time for me to get honest with myself: Was I willing to do whatever I had to do to become the man that God had designed me to be? No more hiding, no more lying, no more minimizing. It was time to face the reality of who I had become. This is a hard reality to face for sure. But it’s also the doorway to freedom. Only at that place can a person begin the journey.

Certainly this isn’t a definitive list of all the pillars in recovery. It’s only just a few. The point I’m trying to make this month is that we have to continually pay attention to the things that matter most to us. And if we say recovery from pornography and other sexually compulsive behaviors is important, we have to translate our intentions into action.

I encourage you this month to revisit your recovery strategy and consider what can be fortified. What areas can be strengthened? What needs to improve or change so that you can take the next step to becoming a person of sexual integrity?

11 Tips for Having Great Recovery Check In’s (Part 2)

Last month, we started a two part series on how to have great recovery check-ins with people who care about your life. Sharing your recovery journey with someone is a delicate process and can’t be taken lightly. Therefore, we have to be wise with who we invite into our lives. Not everyone can handle the weight of what we have to share. Having said that, there are some incredible people out there as well who have so much to offer us!

Here are five more tips for having great recovery check ins:

1. Be defensive & be offensive with check-ins — Defensive: I’m feeling temptation right now. Offensive: Pulls, feelings, go on the offensive, reaching out to someone. Simply put, recovery takes action on our part. It takes focus and it takes clarity. We have to not only field the attacks that we may feel, but we must also lean in to truth. This is why we’re talking about a two part strategy. Ephesians 6 is one of my favorite portions of Scripture because it gives very specific instructions on how to fight in spiritual warfare. The armor of God mentioned in verses 11-18 isn’t just meant for our protection, it’s meant for our advancement. The same applies to our recovery. If we want to heal, if we want to grow, we must go after the areas of pain that send us down unhealthy paths. A great check-in helps us to do that!

2. Timing evolution — Check-in with someone before a slip, in the middle of a struggle. Recognize triggers & pulls. I’ve met very few men that have learned to do this consistently. I say this because I was one of those men in the other camp: I would wait until the battle was hot & heavy, slide into isolation, act out in some way and then run to other men to confess my transgressions. This is the opposite of what this tip is talking about. The ideal time to check-in before the temptation strikes. Someone once called this technique “book-ending”. The idea is when you know you might be walking into a scenario that might be triggering in some way for you that you reach out to someone BEFORE. And then there is a follow-up conversation AFTER on how you felt you did. Much of our success in recovery requires a great deal of forethought and planning.

3. It takes practice to become comfortable. This one is pretty self-explanatory. When it comes to conversations and communication, you get better at it when you commit to the process of doing it regularly. And so that’s why having 2-3 people is probably a pretty good number. These aren’t just people you’re having regular conversations with about sexual purity. These are people you’ll want to do life with. Hang out with them. Eat with them. Worship with them. Play with them. Build your relationship with them so your conversations have the opportunity to go deeper. What you’ll find is through time spent with people your comfort will also increase.

4. A good friend on the other end asks good questions. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to find people who are interested in going deep with you. This doesn’t have to be the most spiritual person you know, but there’s also nothing wrong meeting with someone who knows the Word and has an intimate, thriving relationship with God. Perhaps someone who has a counseling or therapeutic background. Most of all, find people who are curious. People who don’t just take what they see at face value. They’re always digging deeper to know more. These are the kind of people you want to spend your time with. You will be able to tell a surface-level person verses someone who really wants to walk with you. Yes, they will have the ability to encourage you. But they need to be able to ask the tough questions too.

5. Have many guys to talk to, text, email, & meet up with. Take advantage of communication wherever you can. Some individuals will be more able to meet at a coffee shop or for lunch. But distance may separate you geographically and maybe you’re only able to do a phone call or Zoom meeting. Even taking time throughout the week to text that person how you’re doing and what you’re feeling is super important! Be flexible with the men you’re meeting with.

And as always, if you’re looking for a community to help support you in your recovery journey, Small Groups Online would be worth a look! SGO offers a weekly online group experience via Zoom where you will join other men and women who are also seeking community. Check out Small Groups Online today!