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.

Give Yourself the Grace You Deserve

Recently, my wife & I were sitting with someone and in the midst of our conversation, this person mentioned two very significant words that my heart latched onto: grace platform. In fact, this person seemed to underscore the incredible importance of building our lives upon a grace platform as we’re walking through a season of grief and loss.

In last month’s post, I shared that on September 11th, we tragically and unexpectantly lost my mom to suicide. It was an event that has impacted my life forever and one that I had no blueprint for. How does someone walk through losing a parent…let alone losing them to suicide?

Tracey & I recently began walking with a counselor for help in understanding how to grieve well. We’ve been blessed to have many people come around us and it was in a recent session that I heard these words “grace platform” spoken to us.

What does this even mean? What does it mean to live my life upon a grace platform? A few summarizing thoughts:

  • It means being kind to your soul in the midst of struggle, pain, or loss.
  • It means rejecting any kind of language that contains the word “should” or “shouldn’t” (i.e. “I shouldn’t be feeling the way I’m feeling or thinking the way I’m thinking”).
  • It means allowing yourself to not only feel what hurts, but lean into those feelings to gain perspective.
  • It means accepting the reality of what IS, not what you think it should be (see, there’s that word again!)

I can’t emphasize enough the power of living upon a grace platform. I’ve found myself over the years learning this for myself and encouraging the men I’ve worked with to do the same. In addiction recovery, the reality is that you ARE going to be triggered, tempted, and walk through moments of struggle. While it’s not healthy to give ourself a pass and do whatever we want, we have to also be kind to our hearts. There is tension when there is transformation because oftentimes it isn’t instantaneous – it’s progressive. This is where grace needs to be applied.

In our current cultural climate, grace is something that is neither easily given or received. If you don’t believe me, just hop over to Twitter for 5 minutes and you’ll see what I mean. That’s a whole other post entirely. We’re not talking specifically this month about giving grace to others. But more so learning to give yourself grace, especially when you walk through something painful.

As we’ve walked through our process of grieving, one of the key passages that has brought us both comfort and tension is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

“But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” (The Passion Translation)

Before this specific verse, Paul was writing about some kind of hinderance or struggle he was carrying in life. There’s no specific indication of what it was, but it surely seemed like it was something he wanted to live without. He begs God to remove it from him! And then comes God’s response in verse 9.

“My grace is ALWAYS more than enough for you…

…And my power finds it’s FULL expression through your WEAKNESS.”

From what we lack and feel most fragile in comes grace and power that overcomes it all.

The beautiful reality is this: God’s grace and power works more effectively in our weakness, not in our strength. Within in our brokenness, not in the appearance of having it all together. Within our surrender, not how tough we can portray ourselves.

So if the Lord is ready to give you grace, what’s stopping you from doing the same? Giving yourself the permission to receive His grace. I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful as my wife & I have been walking through grief.

You may be reading this and you’re not actually walking through some kind of loss right now. It’s ok, because all of this applies to your recovery as well. Those who go far in recovery realize the journey it actually is. The marathon. It can be filled with moments of growth, victory, & healing. But within that journey there’s also plenty of struggle. Slips. Relapses. Setbacks.

It requires MUCH grace from the Lord, from our spouses, and especially from ourselves.

Small Groups Online offers the kind of grace platform I’ve talked about in this post. Each week, you’ll be able to join others online in a safe, secure environment where you can be free to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. With NO judgement. Becoming apart of community is so vital for your journey.

This week, when expectations flood your mind of what should or what shouldn’t be in your life, give yourself the grace you deserve. Be kind to your heart. By all means, don’t take shortcuts to relieve your pain. But be authentic with yourself and others of what you’re thinking and feeling.

Navigating Through Grief & Loss In Recovery

On the evening of Sunday, September 11th, my life and the lives of family would be forever changed. It was the day that I received the phone call that my mom had passed away. In an instant, time stopped and I felt like a little boy all over again. To make this already unbearable news even worst, I was told by my Dad that she had taken her own life.

Nothing can prepare a person for this kind of phone call. And believe me when I say that I wasn’t prepared whatsoever. My wife and I were leading a small group in our home that evening and I was expecting news that my Mom would be coming home from a stay at the hospital. Thinking back now, we must have scared our friends who were with us that night.

As people have asked us how we’ve been doing the last couple months, the answer I seem to consistently give is that we’re navigating. There are good days, bad days, and really, really hard days filled with so many questions and emotions. And yet, in the midst of this life-changing event, I’ve felt my heart lean into Jesus in a way that I never have before. Perhaps I’m an anomaly, but I’m actually not angry with God or angry with my Mom. I know this isn’t everyone’s story, but it’s mine.

I’m thankful also that on this journey that I haven’t chosen to go back to old behaviors and my former lifestyle as someone who lived with a sexual addiction. In the midst of my grief and loss, I haven’t felt the urge to medicate my pain. I believe this truly is a testament to the work that I’ve done over the last 14 years in recovery.

Again, I understand that everyone’s story is different. And that’s why I really wanted the heart of this post to be for encouraging those of you who may feel like you’re not doing so well. Believe me when I say, there is no judgement here. I completely understand that walking in sexual purity while navigating through life-altering trauma can be a serious recipe for disaster for many.

So what are some important things to remember if you’re walking through some kind of loss in the midst of also trying to keep your recovery strong and consistent? How do you stay healthy? Perhaps not a surprise, but a lot of what you will read may not seem radically different from what healthy recovery should normally look like.

  1. Stay in the Word & Worship — Believe me when I tell you that if you’re a person walking in recovery from some kind of addiction AND you’re walking through some kind of loss, be it the traumatic kind or even the smallest kind, you’ll need to be reminded there is always hope available to you. In recent months since losing my mom, continually staying in the Word of God and in His presence has been that hope for me. Jesus is our hope when all seems lost. When there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, He is our light. And the peace that He’s brought to my heart in this midst of this loss and as I navigate through recovery has been so precious to me.
  2. Stay in CommunityAs in recovery, you want to keep an eye on how much time you’re spending alone. It’s very easy when you’re in a place of loss to withdraw and pretend you don’t need people in your life. When it’s actually the complete opposite that is true. If our relationship with the Lord is any kind of model it shows us that we are beings designed for relationship. Inviting healthy, safe people into our lives helps others to see they can speak into our pain and hit helps us to realize we’re truly aren’t alone. Community is where we were meant to live. That doesn’t mean you have to be everyone’s best friend. But it does mean you should keep a few meaningful consistent relationships always at hand for the tough times.
  3. Stay Aware of Your HeartIt’s time we learned that our hearts are always speaking to us. We have needs, wants, and desires that long to be fulfilled. Not only is this happening as we journey through recovery, but it is intensified as we walk through some kind of loss. If we look upon our hearts as we do our car’s dashboard, then we’ll understand there are moments when we’re low on gas or that we need an oil change soon. What does this translate to for our hearts? Perhaps it’s that we need to slow down, re-fuel our tanks with life-giving friendships or the presence of God. Maybe there routines or rhythms in our lives that need to change. Even as I write these words, I feel the vulnerability and fragility of my own heart. I know there are certain things I will need today to keep moving in a healthy direction. Pay attention to what your heart is telling you.

Navigating through recovery can be really intensive. But couple that with loss and you may just feel like you’re in a war for survival. That’s why the ideas above are really important to keep central in your life. You need to be rooted in what is healthy and nourishing for your soul. Small Groups Online is one avenue you can take to accomplish this! SGO delivers an incredible opportunity for you to cultivate community in your life. Each week, you’ll join an online group of other men or women like yourself who are also walking through their recovery. Your group will be private, encouraging, and convenient as there are many days and times to choose from during the week.

If you’re trying to navigate your recovery while walking through the grieving process or you’ve experienced some kind of loss, there is so much help and support out there. Consider implementing the tips listed above and you’ll be on the road to becoming healthier than you ever could have imagined!

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!

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!

2 Ways Porn Negatively Affects Your Heart (and what YOU can do about it!)

Pop Quiz: What is your most valuable possession in life? Resist the temptation the answer that question quickly, because there is a wealth (pardon the pun) of things in life that we place tremendous value on. Some very consciously and some pretty sub-consciously.

Maybe it’s your 401K that you’ve been saving for years. Or maybe it’s that beautiful boat sitting in your garage (that you haven’t used in years). Sometimes it’s the really good things life that give great value and worth to: Our careers. Our homes. Our marriages. Our children.

But what if there were something within every single one of us that we were told is our most valuable possession…and we didn’t even know it?! The book of Proverbs says this:

“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.” (Proverbs 4:23 TPT)

I love that in this single verse it essentially talks about the very possession we should guard above all other possessions: OUR HEART. We’re told to take care of our hearts. Not just our physical hearts from disease. But the very essence of who we are from unhealthy stuff in this world that tries to sneak in.

Most likely if you’re reading this article, you’ve found yourself in a place like I did where you discovered pornography and you just couldn’t stop consuming it. Perhaps you would say porn ultimately consumed you. Please understand, I don’t want you to feel shamed. I was in that same place for 13 years where I felt incredible guilt and disgust for what I was doing. I didn’t understand the gravity of what pornography was doing to my heart.

Thankfully, this August I’ll celebrate 12 years walking in freedom and healing from sexual addiction. And you can too! But it’s important to understand how pornography negatively affects our hearts to begin with. The effects can be long lasting and very harmful if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way.

1. Porn teaches your heart to objectify people.

One of the most subversive effects that pornography and other sexually explicit material has upon the human heart is that attempts to teach us that people are simply objects devoid of value and worth. It says that men and women can be used, abused, undressed, and consumed simply because their job is to provide us with pleasure. THIS IS A LIE. The perversion of sexual intimacy isn’t a new concept. It goes back thousands of years and has only become worse in the society we live in. Which is why we need to combat this lie that people are simply meant to be treated like objects.

Psalm 139 speaks of the incredible value and worth of every person, because we have been created by God: “You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me!”

Don’t allow pornography to turn your heart into nothing more than a product. Your heart is valuable and so are the people you’re so tempted to fantasize about.

2. Porn undermines your ability to deal with pain.

The human heart was created to feel an array of emotions. From moments of intense joy and happiness to deep places of sadness and anger. The reality is that we’re all going to experience a vast array of emotions through our lifetimes. The question is: How do we deal with those powerful emotions and feelings?

One of the byproducts of pornography addiction is that it subverts an individual’s responsibility to deal with those emotions in healthy ways. Instead, we run from anything that is painful or even remotely uncomfortable. Boredom, loneliness, anger, stress, and fatigue are some of the most common feelings that an addict deals with. We often used the acronym B.L.A.S.T. (Bored, Angry, Lonely, Tired) in our online group to help us discuss the ways in which we’re triggered. It’s so important that we understand WHY we are driven to act out the way that we do.

A major turning point in a person’s addiction to porn is when they’re able to be honest with themselves about the kind of pain they are medicating with pornography. Pain must be addressed. It must be looked at before any kind of healing  can take place in a person’s life.

Remember, pornography is a problem. But it’s only the medication. The even greater problem is the pain underneath the surface you’ve refused to deal with for so long. That’s what you must get at.

“SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT ABOUT IT?” 

Glad you asked! There’s a ton you can do to get your heart healthy from porn addiction. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Find a trained therapist — Preferably one who is certified in sexual addiction therapy. CSAT’s are trained to specifically help those dealing with compulsive sexual addictions.
  2. Get accountability in your life — 2-3 safe, healthy people will really go a long way in your recovery journey. Meet with them weekly at the very minimum for encouragement and so they can ask you the tough questions.
  3. Protect your devices — I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked with about their addiction that have no software protecting their devices. No filtering. No reporting. It’s almost as if you’re inviting porn to walk through your front door. That’s how easy it can be. Start with some great software that we trust: Ever Accountable.
  4. Join a support group in your community or small group in your church — Community is essential in recovery. We can’t be the men that God is calling us to be by trying to white-knuckle our way to healing. Small Groups Online offers a dynamic solution for this. Imagine a weekly Zoom meeting with 5-7 others men who share many of the same struggles as you. You will be encouraged by others and also have the opportunity to be the encourager in these meetings. Click here to find out more about Small Groups Online.

3 Steps To Take Before Talking To Your Spouse About Your Addiction

If you’ve never talked to your spouse about your addiction, there are several things that need to begin happening internally first. You’re not changing the story or covering anything up. You’re walking through the process of healing so you can become the person that God wants you to become.

1. Own Your Pain — Every single person dealing with an addiction is a person who is medicating pain somehow. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that substances like alcohol, drugs, & pornography aren’t the real problem in a person’s life. In many ways, they’re simply the MEDICATION for the problem. What you’re really dealing with on a daily basis in the inability to cope with pain in a healthy way. Whether that be some kind of stress, loneliness, or emotion that is left unchecked. By medicating the pain inside, you’re numbing yourself to the reality of who you are and you’re meant to be. I believe there’s always a reason for our pain. The key is discovering the why and the how. And it takes time to process through this stuff in our life. Even if you don’t have the answers to these questions before you talk to your spouse, you can can still begin asking the questions. Think through it. Pray through it. Look back through your past. This includes moments of betrayal, abuse, and trauma. What are moments that left an impression upon your life that caused you to begin avoiding pain?

2. Disown Your Shame — Throughout the course of my 13 year addiction to pornography, the level of shame increased to the point that I was so disgusted with myself and I didn’t know who to talk to. I was afraid for fear of rejection. I was afraid people were going to think I was weird, or even worse, a pervert. Unfortunately, at the very beginning of my addiction, I wasn’t able to see how shame would be able to sink it’s teeth deep into my life. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I was too afraid to let people know me and see what was really going on in my life. And yet, what 13 year old knows how to own his pain before he can disown his shame? I hadn’t learned how to do that nor did I have healthy people in my life that could help me. It wasn’t until the age of 26 that I realized I didn’t have to live like this. I could be free. And through the help of some really loving individuals who helped me to see what pornography was doing to my life, I began to walk in recovery. I was learning to to disown my shame. Here’s a reality I want you to begin to embrace: You aren’t defined by your addiction to pornography. You are better than the lies that porn tries to sell. You are a child of God. You are loved. And you are valuable. Once we can begin to release shame and realize our true identities, we’ll begin to walk in freedom and healing.

3. Seek Forgiveness — The last step you should take before talking with your spouse about your addiction requires a lot of courage. It takes action on your part. Perhaps you’ll notice that the first two steps are internal; actions you must begin to take within your own heart. But seeking forgiveness is all about identifying those who have been directly impacted by your addiction. If you think you are the only person who’s been affected by pornography, think again. For those who are married, the most obvious person in the line of fire is the spouse. You’ve most likely hidden the details and duration of your addiction from them. Now, it’s time to get honest with them. DISCLAIMER: Confession will be messy. It’s not easy to do. But in order to become the person that God wants you to be, you must open up and allow people to see into your life. And this should start with your spouse. Be honest with them about your behavior. Ask for forgiveness.

Owning your pain, disowning your shame, and seeking forgiveness are three of the most important steps you should take before talking to your spouse about your addiction. Remember that the long term goal in your recovery is healing, freedom, and becoming the person that God wants you to be. The goal is also to become honest with those closest to you about your deepest struggles.

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 spouse and others you’re closest to.

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!

3 Steps to Discovering Why You Are Addicted

Healing takes more than time. It takes intentionality. It takes the humility and courage to call what hurts by its name and the resolve to do the work that freedom demands.”  Jackie Hill-Perry

Recently, near the end of the men’s group that I lead, I was getting ready to pray for all the guys in our group. Every man in the group has an incredibly unique story, and so when the time comes for us to pray together in our meetings, I always find these to be powerful moments for God to move within our hearts.

On this particular night, I felt like a specific word was given to me for all of us to embrace: Investigation.

In the journey towards freedom and healing from our unwanted sexual behaviors, I have found that we go through different phases of restoration: Confessing the destructive choices we’ve made, receiving forgiveness from those we have betrayed, and discovering a safe, healthy community we can belong to. These are all critical and necessary steps we must take in order to heal.

And yet, as important as these steps are, I’ve found only one thing to be the glue that holds all of these other things together: Investigating the heart. Discovering “WHY” we medicate our pain is perhaps the greatest step we can take to finding long lasting healing.

How do we discover the “why” behind our addictions and other compulsive behaviors? For this, we have to go back to the word mentioned earlier: Investigation. How does an actual investigation begin? After some kind of crime has been committed, the goal of law enforcement & other investigators is to discover how the crime occurred in the first place. Evidence must be gathered, witnesses must be interviewed, & ultimately, the person who committed the crime must be found and taken in.

Please understand, I’m not suggesting that you try and police your hearts looking for any and every potential cause to the struggles you face. A person could go crazy trying to figure this out. What I am suggesting is that virtually 100% of the time there is a link between pain and addiction. Behind every addiction is a source of pain, abuse, or trauma of which an individual tries to medicate. This is where the journey begins: Venturing into the unknown places of the heart with a flashlight and looking for the places that have been damaged by the actions of others or ourselves.

Sometimes, the cause of the hurt is from an abuse that took place when you were a child. Sometimes, the manipulation of our minds & hearts started when porn was accidentally discovered in our own home. Or it could even be as elusive as a lie or agreement we make about ourselves that works its way into our thinking.

Wherever the source of our pain stems from,  we’re the ones responsible to do the real soul work that is necessary in recovery. Where do we begin?

      1. Launch the Investigation — One of the most difficult decisions a person will ever make in recovery is doing the heart surgery required for healing. And while this isn’t easy to do, you don’t have to do it alone. Having a counselor come alongside of you who is certified in sexual addiction therapy is a great start. They can ask the right questions and aid you in tracing the potential sources of any unwanted behavior. Oftentimes, they will help you look at your past and your present.
      2. Discover the Evidence — In virtually every crime scene there is evidence that needs to be discovered by investigators with the goal of leading them to the person responsible. The same is true for our lives in recovery. We have to comb through the places of pain, trauma, or abuse to find what things could have contributed to our addiction. Being involved in community helps this process significantly. 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.  
      3. Identify the Suspects — Our ultimate goal is to find where the source of our unwanted sexual behaviors lie. You might think that the the person who binges on porn every night has a porn problem. The reality is that they have a pain problem. And discovering the culprits hiding behind that pain is crucial. Counselors, support groups and many other resources available to you today can help you discover what’s really going on in your life.

I love the words of Psalm 139:23-24, which says: “God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— the path that brings me back to you.”

Remember that the recovery journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a combination of time and intentionality on your part to find the freedom you so desperately long for. But rest assured, YOU CAN DO IT. Never give up on becoming the best version of yourself.