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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Recovery Gifts You’ll Want To Unwrap This Christmas

Christmas is a few short days away now and before you kick back with your peppermint mocha, while watching way too many holiday Hallmark movies (ok, maybe that’s only a few of you husbands), I want to encourage you this Christmas to not take a break from your recovery journey. The holidays are some of the most triggering times for individuals struggling with an addiction. Research has even shown that the two most popular days for people to flock to pornography is the day after Thanksgiving and two days after Christmas.

Why is this? Well, among many reasons, being around family can very triggering. Perhaps there is some kind of pain related to different individuals at home or maybe a past abuse that occurred. Being far away is just as triggering. In these COVID-10 days we live in, some literally can’t travel to see their families this year. And the stress from that reality is simply too much for some.

Thinking back on the holidays during my addiction, I remember many moments sinking into a hole of disconnection from people and allowing myself to wallow in loneliness and despair. The irony of those of those moments is that the very thing I was running from was what my soul was really needing: a longing to know true love and be known by people.

If the holidays are especially tough for you, I want to encourage you that you don’t have to experience Christmas this year the same way you have in years past. The holidays can be a rejuvenating and refreshing time for you. That’s why there are a few recovery gifts I’d like to give you this Christmas. Make sure you unwrap these gifts before you settle into Christmas and New Year’s.

The first gift perhaps requires the most work on your part…

  1. FOCUSMaybe you’re a student who just finished mid-terms or you work at a company that just wrapped up a huge project for the year. Focus is probably the last thing you want to do during your Christmas break. I remember feeling so exhausted and burned out coming home for the holidays, I just wanted a break. It’s easy to get sidetracked and super stressed out before and during the holidays — it seems to happen every year! But we really need to pay close attention to what is going on inside of us. Asking yourself questions like, “What am I feeling?”, “What are my triggers?”, “Why am I feeling pulled to act out?” These are all incredibly valid questions to be asking yourself. You have to remember that your greatest treasure is your heart. In Proverbs, it uses some pretty strong language: “ABOVE ALL ELSE, guard your heart, because it determines the course of your life.” Slow down and hold your heart close during the holidays. Stay focused!
  2. CONNECTIONThe necessity of being around safe, healthy people during the holidays cannot be overstated. There’s so much life to be found in being with people to celebrate, to laugh, and even to cry. The flip side of the coin is that there can also be disappointment and pain that comes with being around certain family members or friends. But staying connected to your support people is so crucial during the holidays! We’re often surrounded by so many friends and family and yet we find ourselves struggling alone. Make it your goal this holiday season to sit down with people who care about your heart and your recovery journey. Share with them how you’re doing, what questions you have, and seek the Lord together so you can become the man or woman that God wants you to be! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone at times, but if that’s all you’re wanting to do, make sure you check the dashboard of your heart for any warning lights that are pointing to a deeper problem going on.
  3. REST — In what is quite possibly the most important holiday purity tip that impacts our physical and emotional health the most, getting proper rest probably tops the list. During sleep the brain performs so many incredibly helpful functions that we’re not even aware of including: reinforcing the immune system, resetting stress to zero, repairing the body physically, and even correcting traumatic moments that have occurred. That’s amazing! So remember during the holidays the importance of rest. Even when you’re tempted to stay up late into the night with friends and family, make sure you’re getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep. Your brain, your body, and your recovery will thank you!

Throughout my recovery journey, I’ve found these “gifts” invaluable. Another gift in my life has been Small Groups Online. Small Groups Online 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!

3 Ways Love Overcame My Porn Addiction

As I continue to walk in recovery from a pornography addiction, I often remind myself that it is only by love and grace that I’m at the place I am today. Eleven years ago, I received an insurmountable amount of forgiveness from those closest to me, including my wife. And even as I continued to minimize or justify the relapses I would have and the lying that accompanied it, I would experience healing in life. Little did I know then the ways in which freedom would come.

At the age of 16, I invited Jesus into my life and accepted the free gift of salvation He died to give me. And while I thought I was giving Him all of my life, I really wasn’t. My secret life of binging on pornography that had started at the age of 13 only continued, many times late into the night. It wasn’t until the age of 26 that I hit rock bottom and started to walk in freedom & healing. My secrets were uncovered. I had finally chosen to shine light upon the darkest places of my heart.

I truly believe that most of the change in my life has occurred through the love of my heavenly Father and the grace I experienced from others. How does transformation happen in a person’s life? For me, I believe that my life changed through pain, position, and purpose:

    1. Pain — Before I could begin walking in freedom and healing, I had to acknowledge the damage that I had caused myself as well as the pain I had caused others because of my addiction. Throughout the course of my battle with porn, I’d been given so many opportunities to get healthy and yet nothing really stuck. I lived in so much shame and guilt over what I was doing. I was convinced people would think I was a pervert. I’m so thankful to this day that the Lord used even the most painful moments in my life for good. The moment my fiancé slid her engagement ring across the table was one such moment. It helped me to see that I wasn’t healthy. I was sick. And so I think pain was one of the only effective means left for me to see who I was and who I was becoming.
    2. Position — It wasn’t until I literally took action upon my addiction that I began to see any difference. My routine, schedule, and priorities all needed to change. There needed to be movement in my life where for so many years I was stuck in one place. Thankfully, through the help of counselors, pastors, and support groups, I was able to find freedom from the quicksand of pornography addiction. Again, it wasn’t until I got off my butt and took action. I couldn’t wallow in shame forever. Or point the finger at someone else as the cause of my behavior. If I wanted to get better, I needed to embrace healthy outlets for processing emotions and feelings I had long ignored. My position had to change.
    3. Purpose — As funny as it may sound, when I began walking in recovery, I found a passion begin to stir inside for helping others do the same. Strangely, one of the bi-products of my addiction was that it helped me to find purpose in life. Today, I tell people that I sometimes feel like my former porn addiction was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me! It was because I had found a sense of purpose that I felt like I could really be an influence in someone’s life. I could help someone else find the healing that I had found for my life. I believe that is something we’re all called to do in our recovery journey. Get all the healing you can, but don’t let it stop with your life. Be a funnel, not a flask.

As I reflect upon my recovery journey, I can see how love overcame my addictive behavior through pain, position, and purpose. Each one of these ways has been instrumental in helping me take further steps to become the man that God wants me to be. This process continues daily until I take my last breathe in this world. I’m of the belief that it was Christ’s death on the cross that is really what has made my recovery possible. Jesus’ death on the cross has helped me to understand there is no challenge, no circumstance, no addiction too big for God’s love to overcome. How could I do any less than to honor Him with a life of sexual integrity after He has given me so much?

For me, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 sums it up pretty well: “For it is Christ’s love that fuels our passion and motivates us, because we are absolutely convinced that he has given his life for all of us. This means all died with him, so that those who live should no longer live self-absorbed lives but lives that are poured out for him—the one who died for us and now lives again.”

You may be reading this convinced you’re trapped in a vicious cycle that never ends. You’ve tried time and time again to stop your behavior on your own or maybe you haven’t even tried at all. And yet, you feel the emptiness inside. The well inside of your heart has no end.

Believe it or not, there is hope. Whether you feel it or not, freedom is possible. But it can’t be found by yourself. You can’t get better alone. Healing requires that you allow people into your world to see the real you. Do you want that for your life?

Small Groups Online 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!

5 People You Should Be Honest With About Your Porn Addiction

“Honesty is the best policy.” Perhaps you remember hearing this often repeated phrase in your childhood. I know I remember hearing it. As a child, I grew up learning that good things came from being honest. And bad things came from lying. Conviction came very easily for me a child as I think I had a pretty sensitive heart, which I would later learn could be both good and bad depending on the situation. But for the most part, I tried to be honest in everything I did. I knew that lying was wrong. It wasn’t until my world was literally shattered when I viewed hardcore pornography for the first time that I really began to learn how to lie.

What happened? The diabolical mixture of both excitement and shame broke down the walls of my heart and my mind. I entered a world that I didn’t know how to get out of. It was as if I could’t get enough of what I was watching. And yet at the same time, I hated it. This pattern continued in my life for 13 years — through middle school, high school, college, and even through a ministry position I took in a church. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I found freedom. I found a way out of the darkness. But it wasn’t until I rediscovered something I had lost early in adolescence: Honesty.

Honesty was and continues to be to this day one of the greatest keys to my freedom. Who did I need to get honest with? They are the same people I believe every man and woman must be honest with if they are to find the same freedom and healing I did. You must learn to cultivate honesty with the following people:

    1. Yourself — This is the first place that healing either starts or stops in a person’s life. For me, I had to come to a broken place, a place of reckoning where I became so aware of the state of my heart and how my addiction was affecting those around me. You’ve probably heard it described many times before as a “rock bottom” place. But even when I hit the bottom, I had to drop the shovel I was carrying. I had to stop digging the hole even deeper in an attempt to find fulfillment. My point of honesty finally occurred in two different places: In the face of complete devastation from my fiancé which then led me to a counselor’s office. I had to realize I wasn’t healthy. I was sick. My life was a complete lie. It wasn’t until I was really willing to bring all of the ugly into the light that I could take the first step.
    2. Your Spouse — The next person you need to be honest with is the person you’re meant to become one with: your spouse. And therein lies the reason why we always need to be 100% honest with them. To achieve that kind of unity with your husband or wife requires that they really know you. That you allow them to see inside of you. You don’t hide anything. You don’t keep secrets. You allow them to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even the ugly you think is too shameful. Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re not married yet. All the more reason why it’s so important to cultivate honesty in your life! If you are desiring to become married, your credibility tank needs to be full before, not after you say “I do” on the altar. Be honest with your spouse. Or, if you’re not married, be a person that someone can trust their life to when the day comes.
    3. Your Accountability Partner(s) — This may be one person or a few in your life. But an accountability partner’s specific job is to know you. And your specific job is to allow them to know you. It requires honesty with someone in order for them to effectively encourage and challenge you to be better. More than ourselves and our spouses, we need other men and women who are at a healthy place to be able to ask us the hard questions we don’t want to answer. Because the reality is we can’t walk on this journey alone. We can’t expect to get healthy by ourselves. We were never designed to live life alone.
    4. Your Support Group or Small Group — Another group of people we should be honest with about our pornography addiction is a support group or small group. The difference here between accountability partners and members of a support group is that within a support group there are other individuals like yourself who are also struggling. Part of the journey of healing is walking with others who need community just like you. Others whose lives have been broken because of addiction. One other note on this: The men and women in a support group are not only meant to be there for us, but we’re meant to be there for them too. You have something so valuable to offer to those without hope.
    5. Your God — Assuming you’re a person of faith, your honesty with the One who created you is so important. The ironic thing about this is that our God knows everything there is to know about us (see Psalm 139) and yet His desire is for truth to come from our lives. I love what Psalm 51:6 says in The Passion Translation: “I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit. So come into the hidden places of my heart and teach me wisdom.” As I referenced earlier, it was only by the grace of God that I found ultimate freedom in my life. I believe this is one person that we cannot ignore on our quest to become healthy. He not only cares about your eternity…He cares about your heart too.

One of the greatest ways you could start your journey towards honesty is to become apart of a community that values and fosters the truth each and every week. Small Groups Online is that community. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere with other men who struggle just like you. Through sharing time and 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.

Don’t buy the lies anymore! Join Small Groups Online today!