11 Tips for Having Great Recovery Check In’s (Part 1)

Being proactive in recovery makes all the difference in one’s long-term success. Freedom and healing didn’t just happen in my life. They were things I needed to pursue and it took action on my part to do it!

One of the greatest steps I encourage every man I work with to take is to step out of isolation and into community. Opening up your life and letting others see inside is essential for your growth and maturity. A huge part of this means being offensive in recovery and no defensive. Learning to be proactive in your communication with people who really care about your heart is so important.

Having said that, I think one of the greatest misnomers that has ever come from accountability relationships is that the burden of accountability lies upon my accountability partner and not me. In other words, it’s up to everyone else to hold ME accountable while I sit back and do nothing.

So this month, I wanted to share the first six tips on what a great check in looks like with recovery partners and other support people in your life. Next month I’ll share the final five tips…

1. Be intentional & don’t wait for the other guy! Put 3 or 4 guys numbers in your phone who you can check in with. There are some obvious benefits to this: Not everyone you reach out to will be available that moment to chat. So if you’re only trying to check in with one person, you may hit a dead-end if they’re not available. Also, having more than one person provides several different sources for feedback, encouragement, & challenge.

2. Be regular in checking in. Consistency is key. The goal is create a regular rhythm of communication so others know you’re committed to the process of recovery. And this helps you to also not become isolated in your thoughts and feelings. 2-3 times a week you’re checking in with several people to process what’s going on inside.

3. Be specific with others about about MY feelings. Feelings may not mean much to you but they’re actually really huge. Think of them as the lights on your car’s dashboard indicating when it’s time for an oil change, low tire pressure, or if there’s a real problem. You can’t ignore those lights! This is why being specific about your feelings should be one of focal points of your check in.

4. Remember that reaching out to others is an offensive action. It takes effort. We talked briefly about this earlier. Remember, the burden doesn’t lie with others to check in on you. This is YOUR recovery, not theirs. Don’t wait around for the phone to ring or the text message to come. Follow through and make the effort to reach out.

5. In the check-in, go deeper. Ask specific questions of yourself: What am I doing? What am I thinking? What am I thinking about doing? This gives your accountability partner or support person a very clear picture of how you’re doing that particular week. Specificity is really crucial when communicating thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behavior. The clearer you can be with someone, most likely the better the conversation will go.

6. Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t respond immediately. Be patient. People are people. And people get busy, right? You do too! 🙂 The most important action that you’re taking is picking up the phone and making the connection. People won’t know how you’re doing unless you start there. A great accountability partner or support person will respond to you in a timely and effective fashion. Bonus tip: As you’re waiting, remember that you have the greatest Advocate on your side that you can also talk to: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Be honest and if you have to, be raw about your state of mind. Trust me, the Lord can handle anything you throw at Him.

These tips should give you a great place to start. Next month, I’ll wrap up this series with the final five tips for great recovery check in’s. 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!

Self Pity Is Shame’s Best Friend

If you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll probably recognize this phrase instantly:

“I PITY THE FOOL!”

It took me a second, but not much longer, to remember the man with the distinct haircut, multiple rings, and massive amounts of gold around his neck as none other than Mr. T. Interestingly enough, Mr. T’s last name is Tero (I never knew that before the time of this writing). I think all these years I always thought his last name was, unsurprisingly, TOUGH 😆.

Why do I even bring up Mr. T and what in the world does he even have to do with recovery? Because of one word mentioned in that famous phrase: pity.

I don’t know that I’ve thought much about the meaning of that word in life, but I sure have experienced a considerable amount of pity, especially during the darkest years of my addiction to pornography.

What does pity actually mean? Pity is most commonly defined as a deep sorrow, regret, or disappointment over something. Feeling pity towards someone else can signify a sense of compassion for them.

The kind of pity I wanted to focus on in this post is most certainly a kind we’ve all dealt with: self pity. Think about your own life. In the moments and times you’ve felt self pity about something you did or maybe the person you were becoming. What did that do for you? Except make you feel like a bigger loser. I get it. I was there too.

Self pity almost never leads us to a healthy place. I read something interesting just today in my devotions: Self pity eventually leads to self-medication or self-destruction. What starts as sorrow or regret can eventually lead us to a very dangerous place in life.

Is it fair to say that self pity can introduces us to shame? Or at least are they closely related?

I’ve been reading an incredible book by Carl Thomas called “When Shame Gets Real: A New Way to Talk about Sex, Porn, and Masturbation.” Believe me when I tell you that this book has been both well thought out and well written. I love what Carl writes in the introduction:

“Shame cares about one thing and one thing only: suppressing you and everything that matters in your life such as your work, hopes, dreams, and passions. It wants to chase you into a little dark corner where you can stay hidden from the rest of the world, remaining ineffective and impotent.” (Introduction, pg.14)

Shame is a powerful force! And if left unchecked for years upon years, it can really debilitate someone’s life. I know that it did with me. Throughout my four years as a youth pastor, the weight of my own hypocrisy was steadily crushing me. And I remember the intensity of this shame as it reached its pinnacle while dating my wife. I had tried to stop looking at porn on my own without any kind of help from others.

My wife could see through all the lies. And she very nearly left me. Can you imagine that? Losing your marriage before it ever began. That was the place that I was at. At the height of shame. A crossroads where I had the choice: Was I going to continue living a secretive, diminished life or surrender to the very best life imaginable?

I chose a life of freedom. I wish I could say that shame instantly disappeared from my life, but that process took several years of work on my end and support from others who believed in me.

What started as frustration, regret, and disappointment quickly turned into a lifestyle where I thought the problem was me. What was wrong with ME?

This is what shame does. As Carl goes on to write in his book, “shame attacks your very nature and identity.” (Ch.1, pg.10)

Keep a close watch on your heart. When you feel yourself starting to gravitate towards self pity, reach out to someone you trust. The key in these types of situations is inviting others to help you process those feelings and emotions in a healthy way.

So often, if we’re not careful, we can get ourselves stuck in a rut where we’re believing lies about who we are. It works just like quick sand. Before we know it, we’re so stuck that we can’t escape on our own. We need the helping hand of another!

This is what Small Groups Online does by offering you the support and community you need when shame has a grip on your life. SGO offers weekly Zoom meetings on a day and time of your choosing where other men and women like yourself can truly find strength in numbers. Trust me when I say that none of us can make it very far on our own. Check out Small Groups Online today. It’s one decision you won’t regret!

Tell the Whole Truth & Nothing But the Truth

Recently, I had a pretty interesting encounter with a customer at my place of work. The week before, this individual had called in requesting some work to be done at their house. I informed them that I would write up the work to be done and as soon as we could have the owner of the company take a look at it, we would send him. So last week, when they called back in, they sounded frustrated and accused me of lying to them. I probably sounded a little bewildered on the phone simply because I had no idea what they were talking about. The man claimed I told him that I would be calling him back at the beginning of the week when in reality, I never said that.

It doesn’t feel good to be accused of lying. Perhaps it’s because before recovery my life was basically one big lie. Or, it’s probably more likely the fact that over the last 13 years, I’ve worked hard to refine my character & integrity. To become a man who is honest. Who has nothing to hide. And for that to be questioned (even if it had nothing to do with my recovery) felt like it really struck a nerve inside.

I began thinking about one of the most fundamental building blocks of addiction recovery: Honesty. The willingness to drop the walls, drop the facade, and allow others to see inside of your life. A life of honesty refuses to hide, cover up, or deny the truth. It seeks only to be completely transparent, allowing light to shine upon anything unseen.

For obvious reasons, the Bible has much to say about the importance of living an honest life. One such verse sticks out to me in writing about this subject:

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” (Proverbs 12:22)

Notice the incredible contrast here in this verse. I love how it’s implied that the Lord doesn’t associate lying behavior to a person’s identity. While sin’s imprint was upon us even from birth, it was never meant to become our identity. But for the one who lives a life of truth, in this verse, it’s said the Lord “delights” in them. The word delight is closely related to the word pleasure. Think about something that gives you pleasure. Real pleasure. The kind of pleasure that makes you whole. The kind that fulfills every longing and desire you have. This is what a life of honesty, a life of integrity, a life of truthfulness brings to our Creator.

But He doesn’t stop there. If you really think about it, truth and honesty go even beyond our words. Truth must originate from our hearts. This is a sure sign that we have been transformed and are continually being changed by Jesus’ love. Look at Psalms 51:6:

“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.”

Notice the writer uses again the word delight. Perhaps our greatest act of worship to God is the truth that emerges from a life that is fully surrendered and has nothing to hide. We all have places in our hearts that haven’t yet been exposed to His transformative touch. As long as we live there will always be these areas. The invitation is for Jesus to come into those spaces. THIS is where honesty and credibility is built. In this verses context, the Hebrew word for “inward parts” can mean “something that is covered over, hidden, or concealed.” This could also be paraphrased as “you desire light in my darkness” or “you want truth to expose my secrets”.

Doesn’t that kind of life appeal to you? It does to me.

I believe that is the kind of person we’re working to become in recovery. You may read these words and struggle to believe that you can become that person. That you can’t be honest with your spouse. You can’t be honest with your kids. You can’t be honest with your friends.

I really want you to read this closely: Nothing could be further from the truth. You have the opportunity to live the kind of life that you’ve never known. And it all could start with one conversation. One confession that becomes the standard for how you choose to live your life. Do you want to live in obscurity and isolation? Or do you want to live with the reality that nothing is hidden and nothing is off limits to the people in your life?

You can make that decision today. Small Groups Online could be the perfect opportunity for you to begin walking in truth for the first time. SGO makes it incredibly easy to become apart of a healthy community of men or women who share similar struggles as you. Through a weekly Zoom meeting at a time that is convenient for you, you will receive encouragement and support for the journey that you’re on.

You can become a person of truth if it’s something you really want. A question that often came to my mind throughout my recovery journey was this: “Am I willing to do whatever I need to do to become the man that God wants me to become?” That answer has and will always be a resounding YES. I’m thankful today for all of the ways the Lord has transformed my heart and helped me to become a person who is pursuing truth every single day.

Listening To Your Emotions

Throughout our lives, we are trained to listen to a vast multitude of voices. Voices that have a powerful influence upon us. These voices can come from parents, siblings, family members, friends, and co-workers. Depending on the household in which we were raised, those voices determine in many ways the path we find ourselves on in our adolescent years all the way through becoming an adult. Some are incredibly healthy and life-giving while others can be destructive.

This month, I want to switch gears just a little bit and talk about a different voice. One you may not be totally familiar with: The voice of your emotions. Yes, believe it or not, your emotions have a voice and the real question is this: Are you listening?

As a young boy, I was loved by two wonderful parents with all the intentions in the world of caring for me the best they could. And they did. Unfortunately, there were things I lacked as a child, a teenager, and even as a young adult. I don’t blame my parents at all for this. They did the best they could with what they knew and who they were at the time. One thing I felt like I lacked is the focus of this post: A fundamental understanding of my emotions and how to process them in a healthy way.

You may be asking yourself, “How do you really teach someone to understand their emotions?” Trust me, I don’t have all the answers in this article. As a parent to an 8 year old and a 6 year old, I feel like I’m in training every single day! Some days I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in my own life. But for the last 13 years, I’ve been on a journey to better understand my heart (i.e. my desires, my feelings, and yes my emotions).

Emotions are tricky. They are beautiful servants hard-wired into us by our Creator. Conversely, they are horrible masters. For the longest time in my life, I was enslaved to how I felt in the moment with very little understanding over what I was feeling. This led to a long addiction to pornography, fantasy, masturbation, and acting out in relationships. I was chasing the white rabbit. Something to bring relief from loneliness, pain, anxiety, fear, and anger.

I didn’t understand what my emotions were trying to tell me. Because I wasn’t listening. I didn’t know how to listen.

Recently, I stumbled across a post from Soul Shepherding (@soulshepherding on Instagram):

It would have been a miracle if I had even known how to name the emotions I felt as a young person. And yet, I believe that was the problem I faced for so long. Instead of knowing what action to take upon emotions that have the potential to quickly spiral me in a dark place, I would instead try to numb the emotion, stuff the emotion down using porn or some other kind of fantasy.

Obviously, this never worked.

Learning to listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you isn’t easy. I would even venture to say it’s an art. But as we learn what powerful feelings like anxiety, fear, emptiness, and anger are trying to tell us, we will discover what our souls are actually craving.

It’s been said that for an addict, pornography (or alcohol, drugs, etc.) isn’t the sole problem, but only a symptom of a deeper problem. If that is the case, then running from emotions is also a sign of some kind of fracture in our heart.

It’s 100% guaranteed we won’t get out of this life without experiencing something painful. So what are we responsible for?

I’m responsible to both listen to my emotions and be led by the Spirit of God. They must both accompany each other for health and wholeness to take place. The old saying, “Follow your heart” couldn’t be further from the truth. Embrace your emotions. Listen to your feelings. But don’t make unhealthy choices based out of emotion.

It’s a balancing act for sure. And it takes work, but we can become emotionally mature human beings. People who aren’t controlled by their emotions and also not detached from them. There needs to be a middle ground where we listen the voice of our emotions but also make choices that are healthy and lead to life. You might be asking, “Where do I begin?” Here’s a few places to start:

  1. Journaling — Writing may not be your favorite thing to do, but keeping a journal isn’t about length. Even if you were to write one sentence a day detailing how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, that’s a great place to start. What does the state of your heart look like from day to day? Try it today. Here’s a prompt to begin: “Today, I am feeling…” The goal of journaling isn’t to write a book or make it sound scholarly. It’s a space where you can be completely honest with yourself and the Lord.
  2. [Healthy] Friendships — Notice I didn’t just say friendship. Who are the people in your life who you would consider healthy and in turn care about your heart? Don’t mistake health for perfection. One is possible in life and the other isn’t. We’re all in process, but perhaps there are some individuals at church or small group who you should make contact with and arrange coffee or lunch together. Finding a place you can thrive in community with others is one of the greatest things you can do.
  3. Counseling — It’s become a very normal practice for people to spend time with a counselor solely for “maintenance”.  Spending a season with a therapist doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. There’s no shame in in giving your heart the attention it deserves. A person who is specialized in working with people can help you target areas in your heart that need work and attention.

There may be a step you need to take today that’s not on this list. The point is this: Don’t ignore your emotions and what they are trying to tell you. Just like the lights on our car’s dashboard tell us what’s going on underneath the hood, so do our feelings often point to something happening in our heart. People work so hard on their physical bodies and yet ignore what’s going on on the inside. Become a student of your own emotional health. Years down the road you’ll look back and thank yourself that you did so.

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!

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.

The Single Greatest Reason You Will Fail In Recovery

That sounds hopeful, doesn’t it?

Picture this with me: What if there was something more detrimental to a person in recovery than a relapse into their sexually compulsive behavior? Believe it or not, there is.

What if I told you that long-lasting freedom from porn addiction doesn’t only hinge on abstaining from watching anymore porn? Sure, this helps break a pattern of addiction, but it’s not number one on the list.

Are you ready for it?

The single greatest reason a person will fail in recovery from a sexual addiction is their unwillingness to know and be known by others in healthy accountability relationships.

Simply put: Recovery cannot become a solo act. Once it does, your chances of becoming a man or woman of sexual integrity instantly disappear. I know, I’m really riding the hope train today! But it’s the truth. Your recovery journey is one that is meant to be shared with others who also struggle the same way you do. There is so much power in knowing and being known by others who are also walking this path!

Here’s something I often need to remind myself: Whether or not I realize I need people in my life, the truth is that I need them. I’m not even the most social person either. I prefer small groups, quiet moments, and experiences that don’t involve a lot of people. But as it relates especially to my relationship with the Lord and my recovery journey, I cannot grow in isolation.

Think with me for a moment about the physical body: God created the body to include everything it needed on the inside and outside to function — two eyes, two ears, two feet, etc. But also for the inside to function correctly with the outside — without the brain, we cannot make complex decisions. Without lungs, we cannot effectively breathe and move. It all was designed to work together. You see my point.

But somehow we don’t think that applies to our own lives as it relates to our own addictions & behaviors. We depend upon others for so many reasons. When it comes to our recovery, we live as remote islands.

​I remember especially in the early part of my recovery — it wasn’t a matter of IF I was going to slip, but WHEN. The reality is that slips and relapses happen even in recovery. I needed healthy people in my life not just to confess what I had done but to hear THEIR stories too! So that I didn’t think I was the problem and I was weird for messing up.

Accountability reminds us that we’re not alone.

Accountability requires you to invite feedback, correction, discipline, and confrontation into your life. It invites others to see the real you and step in when they see an issue that could be harmful for your life. They have complete access because you’re unwilling to hide anything.

I believe there a couple reasons why many individuals don’t seek out healthy accountability for their lives:

  1. SHAME — If you’ve been in recovery for any length of time, I’m sure you understand that one of your greatest enemies to progress is shame. Shame causes us to hide, to bury, & to isolate from people who love us and care for us. I believe this to be the number one reason why so many don’t find long-lasting success in recovery. If the enemy can convince you that you’re worthless and you will never change, why seek help from anyone? That’s what shame does.
  2. PROCRASTINATION — “I’ll call ***** tomorrow.” “I’ll meet with ***** next week.” The constant pushing off what should take priority gets replaced by other demands in our lives. We allow our schedules to dictate us instead of being the ones who dictate our schedules. When you don’t make something as important as your recovery journey, don’t be surprised at the level of your struggle. Establishing safe, healthy accountability sources takes work. It takes time. And it’s worth every second. Stop putting it off.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of why people avoid accountability in their lives, but I believe these are two of the greatest reasons.

Looking back upon the last 12 years in my recovery journey, I will NEVER regret all the meetings, phone calls, text messages, groups, workshops, and other points of contact I made with people who cared about my heart. The value that all these interactions carried in my life were beyond words. Granted, at the end of the day, my recovery journey is totally my responsibility. If I wanted to, I could fall back into my former lifestyle at any moment. But that’s just it: I don’t want it anymore. And I haven’t for a long time.

While I own all of the decisions I’ve made on this journey, much of the credit for the success I’ve attained goes to those I invited into my life. The counselors, pastors, friends, and yes even my wife (most importantly) who knew they could challenge me and ask me the tough questions because they loved me. I’m so thankful for all of them! They are the people who helped me become the person I am today.

If you’re unsure how to find those kind of life giving relationships, Small Groups Online is the perfect place to begin! SGO helps you to find a weekly, online Zoom group where you will meet with others who share many of the same struggles you do. There are many days and times to choose from so finding a group to fit your schedule is really easy.

If you’re trying to do recovery on your own, you’re doing it the wrong way. Do it the right way by signing up for Small Groups Online today.

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 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.

How Do I Talk To My Spouse About Addiction & Recovery?

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten from the men I’ve worked with is this: “How do I even begin the conversation with my wife about my porn addiction &/or the recovery journey that I’m on?”

For many men, just the thought of talking to their wives about their struggles is terrifying. And truthfully, it’s not a conversation that every spouse can handle. But it’s my opinion that you should never leave your spouse in the dark when it comes to your recovery journey. Being willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly is essential for growth and credibility to be restored between you and your wife. There’s no way around it.

But believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be a conversation that feels awkward, tense, or ends with two people storming out of the room. It can be a conversation that’s healthy and good for you both. One in which you actually grow in intimacy with each other.

In her book, “Shattered Vows” (ps. 184-186) author Debra Laaser shares a way for couples to be able to connect emotionally with one another through a couples sharing exercise called FANOS. FANOS is an acronym that stands for Feelings, Affirmation, Needs, Ownership, & Sobriety.

Throughout the course of a week, we’ve all found it difficult to have deep, meaningful conversations with our spouses. Between our busy schedules, demanding jobs, and family commitments, it feels like at the end of the day, our brains are just fried. And we might be tempted to just check out from engaging with our spouses.

We’ve found in our marriage that this very simple sharing exercise can really help! Especially as it relates to talking to your spouse about your recovery if you’ve never started. Once a week, we’ll take around 15-20 minutes going back and forth sharing from each letter of the acronym. Note: This is usually done when there is no kids around! Car rides are especially great for using this tool!

Let’s briefly break down what each word is and what you specifically share:

  • F – Feelings: How am I feeling this week? (emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally etc.) This is a huge one so don’t skim over it. Go deep here. And remember, no feeling is invalid or unimportant. Feelings aren’t always based in truth, but they allow your spouse to really see inside your heart. This is probably the hardest area for a man to share from, other than sobriety. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
  • A – Affirmation: What ways can I possibly encourage my wife this week? How can I speak to her as a wife, mother, daughter of God? Speak life over your wife. Whether or not you realize it, she so desperately longs to hear your appreciation and encouragement. Being a wife and a mother is an incredibly difficult, and at times a thankless job. Tell her how much she means to you!
  • N – Needs: What needs do I have from my wife? (again emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, etc.)? This is an important one so don’t just think “more sex, please” on this one. Be real. Is there a need you have from your wife you may be tempted to receive from someone or something else? This requires some keen insight in your heart, so take your time on this one.
  • O – Ownership: What can I take ownership of this week that I’m not doing so well in? Guys, we should have plenty to express here! As a husband, dad, worker, whatever, what are areas that you can grow in? Be honest with yourself and your wife: Where are you screwing up or slacking? The goal of ownership isn’t meant for you to throw yourself under the bus. It’s meant for you to have enough humility to remember you’re actually not perfect, and you need help. We all do.
  • S – Sobriety: How is my sobriety going this week? This question is typically only for you so be honest. If there were slips, confess them. If there was growth, share it. Don’t leave anything out on this one. Details are important. Your wife deserves to know the truth in how you’re doing. Instead of you merely coming to her and confessing something, you have both worked through a conversational tool that has helped you communicate. At this point in FANOS, you have both shared intimately with each other. So it’s the perfect time to check-in with her about your progress in recovery.

One of the greatest things I cherish about my relationship with my wife is our commitment to complete honesty. Believe it or not, this is a characteristic that didn’t come instantly on day one of marriage.  It’s one that’s been cultivated over the last 12 years. And I believe each and every day, it’s gotten better. But it’s only gotten better because Tracey and I have practiced. And as one person I heard revise the classic quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

I love this model for communication with my wife.  We practiced it early on in my recovery journey and have just recently come back to it for a model of conversation. I pray that it’s helpful to you as well as you grow in oneness with the man or woman God has given you.

Being involved in community helps the process of learning how to talk to your spouse much easier. And you don’t even have to go far to find it! Small Groups Online offers specific groups that you can become apart of to help you meet others who are walking through the same struggles that you are. Through weekly Zoom meetings online and the Live Free app, you’ll find there’s always another brother who you can reach out to in your time of need. Check out SGO today!!!