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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 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.

What Do You Want From Your Recovery In 2021?

If I were to ask you to make a wish list of your top five destinations you’d love to travel to in the entire world,  what would they be? Or what about a bucket list of ten or twenty things you’d like to do in your lifetime? No doubt many of you have already had those dreams.

Here’s a question: What do you want from your recovery in 2021? If I were to ask you to envision what kind of person you’d like to be on December 31, 2021, what kind of person would that be?

I really believe every year around this time we should be looking in two directions: backwards at the previous year we just walked through and forwards towards the new year. How have we grown? What lessons have we learned? Perhaps even a couple harder questions: Where have we struggled? Where have we declined in our progress?

But even more importantly, WHO do you want to become in 2021? No matter what 2020 was like, we need to press forward with the constant desire to get better. To heal more. To grow more. Remember that any mistakes you made this past year doesn’t discount all the progress you made. You’re not starting over from scratch. You have to keep moving.

No matter if you’re in your first year of recovery or your twentieth, there’s something you can do to get better. Consider your progress in the following areas and ask yourself where you can be strengthened:

  1. Community — Are you in a weekly small group or support group with others who share similar struggles that you have? There’s an element of healing that can only take place with other people by your side. Small Groups Online offers an excellent opportunity for you to find such a group.
  2. AccountabilityHave you sought out 2-3 individuals in which you’re communicating with on a daily basis? As I’ve always stated, these need to be safe and healthy individuals who care about your heart. People who are spiritually mature and will be able to ask you the hard questions.
  3. AccessWhat does your access to the internet and social media look like? Is the door wide open or do you have specific software set up on your devices to guard you from sexually explicit content and/or things that would trigger you to act out? There are so many great solutions out there including Ever Accountable, which I would highly recommend.
  4. Heart Last, and certainly the greatest as it relates to work you can be doing on your own: Are you actively taking care of your heart by giving it healthy outlets to process painful emotions and experiences? Have you discovered what specific triggers you have and what causes you to act out? Keeping the pulse on your heart should always be a priority.

Here’s the bottom line: Once you stop learning, you stop growing. I can remember the kind of person I was eleven years ago. And I never want to go back to being him again. I’ve worked too hard. Grown too much. Traveled too far.

2021 has the potential to be your greatest year yet! But it first requires a vision of where you want to be at the end of it. You’ll have all year to work at it, make progress, fall down, and get back up again. I’m so thankful for the grace that awaits us in 2021.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re looking for an authentic community to share your struggles with, look no further than Small Groups Online. SGO is an incredible opportunity for you to meet others who are struggling the same way you are. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere. Through communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity.

Check out Small Groups Online today!

3 Recovery Gifts You’ll Want To Unwrap This Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throughout my recovery journey, I’ve found these “gifts” invaluable. Another gift in my life has been Small Groups Online. Small Groups Online is an incredible opportunity for you to meet others who are struggling the same way you are. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere. Through communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity.

Check out Small Groups Online today!

3 Ways Love Overcame My Porn Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Groups Online is an incredible opportunity for you to meet others who are struggling the same way you are. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere. Through communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity.

Check out Small Groups Online today!

5 Lies Those Struggling with Porn Addiction Tell Themselves

Overcoming porn addiction was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. At 26 years old, I faced the greatest ultimatum I was ever given: Start dealing with the addiction OR lose a marriage that hadn’t even begun yet. At the time, I was engaged to be married to Tracey, who is now my wife. Perhaps that sounds extreme, but for me, it was a breaking point.

Individuals who are addicted have so much to overcome in the process of recovery. So often, it seems overwhelming. Behaviors must change and so do mindsets. As a matter of fact, I believe choosing the truth over the lies could be harder to change than merely the behavior itself. And for those struggling with an addiction, there are many lies one is tempted to believe. The following are just a few of those lies:

Lie #1: The payoff of coming clean won’t be worth it. When something is controlling our lives, it’s hard for us to imagine what freedom really feels like. Eleven years ago, you couldn’t have told me life would be better than the pixels I was taking pleasure in on a computer screen. But when I considered the opposite reality, I began to see the kind of man God wanted me to be. Truth: Recovery is worth it and will help you become a man of sexual integrity, not sexual brokenness.

Lie #2: No one will love me when they know who I truly am. So many men are crippled by this lie. What will people think when they see the “real” me? The fear of total rejection is too much to handle for some people, and so they remain entrapped. That was my story for 13 years! I eventually realized I was not alone and that every man deals with or has dealt with some form of sexual struggle in their lives. Truth: There ARE men who will understand you and love you — no matter what.

Lie #3: My sexual struggles will go away when I get married. There’s a huge temptation to believe that marriage will fix or cure your sexual addiction. Men everywhere think that they can go on with their secret lives and then their struggles will just magically disappear the day they say “I do” on the altar. This couldn’t be further from the truth! As a matter of fact, the opposite occurs. While marriage is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, it also has its challenges and stressful moments. Porn, masturbation, & fantasy offer many men a way out of those stressors. Truth: Sex addiction becomes a wrecking ball in marriage and will most assuredly destroy it.

Lie #4: I’m not addicted; I can quit anytime I want to. I can’t tell you how many times I believed this whopper of a lie when I was younger. Interestingly enough, while I “thought” I could quit whenever I wanted, I always felt this gnawing sense of guilt in the pit of my stomach that what I was doing was wrong. Watching porn every couple of months is no different than watching it five times a day. Its constitutes a pattern of behavior taking place in your life. Truth: An uncontrollable pattern of behavior is called an addiction — which means you can’t quit on your own.

Lie #5: God will never forgive me for the things that I’ve done. I’m thankful that God knows me well enough to know that there will be times where I will deliberately choose other things over him — and yet He will STILL forgive me when I realize the error of my ways and come back to him. He knows our propensity to screw up and that’s why He provided a place of restoration through Jesus Christ. This is one of the hardest lies to break in a person’s mind. Truth: God’s forgiveness enables a sex addict to understand and see what real love looks like. Porn leaves you feeling empty every single time.

Whether you’ve struggled with telling yourself the lies mentioned above or whether they were totally different ones, the bottom line is that pornography addiction blinds you from the truth. And unless you have safe people around you to help expose those lies for what they are, you will continue to struggle day in and day out. Remember: You can’t beat this stuff on your own!

One of the greatest steps you could ever take in your recovery journey is to become apart of a community that values and fosters the truth each and every week. Small Groups Online is that community. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere with other men who struggle just like you. Through sharing time and communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity.

Don’t buy the lies anymore! Join SGO today!

2 Reasons You Can’t Rush the Porn Addiction Recovery Process

In recent weeks, news about President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 flooded the internet. For at least a day or two after his diagnosis and subsequent stay at Walter Reid medical center, there was at least some bi-partisan support in wishing the President a “full and speedy recovery.” I can’t tell you how many times I continued to see this phrase written from friends, family members, politicians, & even world leaders who know the President. A speedy recovery.

And while I completely understand the sentiment and the wish for a quick recovery of a potentially serious virus, I began thinking more and more about that phrase: “A speedy recovery.”

It’s amazing to me how many men who come out of addiction believe there’s some kind of fast track in recovery to get on. As if recovery is some kind of fast food drive-through lane. In all reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Recovery from compulsive sexual behavior is one of the most challenging and simultaneously one of the most rewarding journeys a person can ever be on in life.

But the truth a person must embrace about recovery is that it isn’t a quick process. Exposure to pornography and the way it impacts a person’s life is very significant! And so while healing from porn addiction is possible, it takes time for someone to become the person that God created them to be.

So why can’t a person coming out of a porn addiction simply abstain from sexually compulsive behavior and be ok?

I believe there are two important reasons for why we can’t rush the recovery process:

1. Your brain needs to re-wire.

Over the course of years, scientists have studied the brain and understand it more than ever. And research has proven how damaging the effects that pornography can have upon the brain. Each exposure releases dopamine and other chemicals from the reward center of the brain:

“Scientists have long known that sexual interest and performance can be increased simply by introducing something new—like a different sexual position, a toy, or a change of partner. [1]  That’s because the brain responds to new sexual stimuli by pumping out more and more dopamine, flooding the brain just like a drug would. [2]  And “new” is exactly what internet porn sites provide: an endless stream of fresh erotic images delivered at high speed, in vivid color, 24/7. Before consumers even start to get bored, they can always give themselves another dopamine boost just by clicking on something different, something more stimulating and hardcore than before. [3] In fact, porn consumption follows a very predictable pattern that’s eerily similar to drug use. Over time, excessive levels of “pleasure” chemicals cause the porn consumer’s brain to develop tolerance, just like the brain of a drug user. [4] In the same way that a junkie eventually requires more and more of a drug to get a buzz or even feel normal, regular porn consumers will end up turning to porn more often or seeking out more extreme versions—or both—to feel excited again. [5] And once the porn habit is established, quitting can even lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to drugs.” [6]

Because of the tolerance that takes place in the brain, repeated exposure to pornography creates neuro-pathways in the brain. Imagine ditches being dug in a field. A person must continue to find a more exciting, more exhilarating high than they found before. And so the brain is literally wired to view and experience sexual intimacy through the lens of hardcore pornography. Fortunately, scientists have also described the brain as “plastic”, meaning that it can be shaped and ultimately through healthy conditioning, it can re-wire to become a healthy brain.

Your brain is incredibly important in the healing process. And it bears repeating that the brain takes time to heal. Patterns of thinking and response that have been trained for years can often equally take the same amount of time (or longer) to go back to normal. Thankfully, there are many methods of helping your brain to heal, especially when you undergo moments where you feel triggered to look at pornography.

Let’s look at a second reason why the recovery process can’t be rushed:

2. Your heart needs to heal.

Pornography is quite literally traumatizing to the soul. You might think that’s extreme, but that’s exactly the kind of effect that it has upon our hearts. Pornography teaches children and teenagers that sexual intimacy looks and feels a certain way when nothing could be further from the truth. It warps how a person views the opposite sex and teaches them that people are simply objects to be used, not actual God-created lives to be treasured.

Not only does pornography affect how we interact with others, but we use it to medicate our deepest pain. Because we don’t know what to do with feelings like anger, fear, & loneliness (plus a host of others), we attempt to run to someone who will treat us the way we think we deserve. Someone who won’t reject us. Someone who won’t stress us out. Someone who will accept us no matter what.

Pornography is filled with lies. One of the greatest lies that that you can enjoy the immediate gratification of thousands of virtual sex partners and long-term satisfaction of a real relationship. “But even if your partner has no problem with porn, it can still damage your relationship. Studies have clearly shown that porn erodes a person’s ability to love and feel loved with a real partner. [7] When men are exposed to porn, they rate themselves as less in love with their actual partners, [8] and less satisfied with their relationships and sex lives. [9] They become more critical and dissatisfied with their partner’s appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and displays of affection. [10]

Do you see how much the heart is impacted by porn addiction? Do you see the effects it can have upon the brain? It’s no wonder that we must give our recovery the time it needs and not try to rush the process. Some have said that our recovery journey takes blood, sweat, and tears if we want to see long-term success.

But there’s good news! You don’t have to walk through recovery alone. Small Groups Online helps men find community with other men who are also walking through the same struggles involving pornography addiction, masturbation, & any other sexually compulsive behavior. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet online with a group of men who can help encourage and support you on your journey.


Citations

1. Dewsbury, D. A., (1981). Effects of novelty of copulatory behavior: The Coolidge effect and related phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 89(3), 464-482. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.3.464; Wilson, J. R., Kuehn, R. E., and Beach, F. A. (1963). Modification in the sexual behavior of male rats produced by changing the stimulus female. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 56, 636-644. doi:10.1037/h0042469

2. Negash, S., Van Ness Sheppard, N., Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2016). Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting. The Journal of Sex Research, 53(6), 698-700. doi:10.1080/00224499.2015.1025123; Banca, P., et al. (2016). Novelty, conditioning, and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 72, 91-101. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017

3. Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6: 17. doi.10.3390/bs6030017; Negash, S., Van Ness Sheppard, N., Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2016). Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting. The Journal of Sex Research, 53(6), 698-700. doi:10.1080/00224499.2015.1025123

4. Pitchers, K. K., et al. (2013). Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with DeltaFosB as a Key Mediator. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Angres, D. H., & Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month 54, 696–721. doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2008.07.002; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books; Paul, P. (105). Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co. (75).

5. Banca, P., et al. (2016). Novelty, conditioning, and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 72, 91-101. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27(2), 41–44. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00137-3

6. Angres, D. H., & Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month, 54, 696–721. doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2008.07.002; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. (106-107) New York: Penguin Books; Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2002). The Mind of an Addicted Brain: Neural Sensitization of Wanting Versus Liking. In J. T. Cacioppo, et al. (Eds.) Foundations in Social Neuroscience . Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (565–72).

7. Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017; Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419; Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters with Internet Pornography, Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. doi:10.1521/jaap.2008.36.4.593; Henline, B. H., Lamke, L. K., & Howard, M. D. (2007). Exploring perceptions of online infidelity. Personal Relationships, 14, 113-128. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2006.00144.x; Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult social bonds and the use of Internet pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85, 75-88. doi:10.1111/j.0038-4941.2004.08501006.x; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a survey. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. doi:10.1080/10720160008400206[9]

8. Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Kendrick, D., Gutierres, S., & Goldberg, L. (1989). Influence of popular erotica on judgments of strangers and mates. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 159-167. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(89)90010-3

9. Perry, S. L. (2017) Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0770-y; Wery, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.046; Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Poulsen, F. O., Busby, D. M., & Galovan, A. M. (2013). Pornography use: who uses it and how it is associated with couple outcomes. Journal of Sex Research 50(1), 72-83. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.648027; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, and Satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4; Yucel, D. & Gassanov, M. A. (2010). Exploring actor and partner correlates of sexual satisfaction among married couples. Social Science Research, 39(5), 725-738. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2009.09.002

10. Zillmann, D. and Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18, 5: 438–53. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00027.x

How To Navigate Through Temptations & Triggers

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a husband in the last 11 years is my complete inability to shop for groceries. The problem isn’t that I can’t find what’s on the list my wife gives me. It’s the fact that more often than not, my stomach does the shopping and I come home with extra boxes of cookies and chips and other food that wasn’t on the list. I was overwhelmed with way too much temptation all at once.

Likewise in recovery, we’re going to face moments where we feel overwhelmed with temptations and triggers to look at pornography or act out in some way. How do we navigate those moments successfully so that we come out on top instead of being buried in shame and guilt?

First, it’s important to understand something about temptation: Temptation is always a shortcut that leads to a dead end. There’s nothing on the other side of temptation that your soul needs.

Having said that, I think many times the area we miss the most is reaching out to another brother or source of support the moment the trigger or temptation hits. I think we’d potentially avoid many slips if we simply called someone and brought another person into our struggle. I know this is not always possible and there are other ways of dealing with triggers and temptations, but I think there are MANY moments in which we can invite someone into our life to speak life and truth and hope into what we’re feeling at that moment.

Here are a few tips for navigating through temptation and triggering moments by inviting others into the struggle:

1. Decide in advance you will reach out to someone when tempted.

I remember countless moments where I felt all alone and overwhelmed by the pressures I was feeling inside. My escape into porn led to so much regret and shame. I would call accountability partners after I had looked at porn and while they tried to encourage me, I was the one who had already made an unhealthy decision.

Imagine how much more helpful they could have been if I had made a commitment to reach out before and not after. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of your desire to be free from compulsive sexual behavior. How badly do you want to be free? Is 30 seconds of pleasure worth more to you than your future?

2. Share what you were feeling, thinking, and doing when you were tempted.

I’ve found some of the greatest questions you can answer when you’re checking in with an accountability partner are the following:

1. What am I feeling?

2. What am I thinking?

3. What am I doing?

4. What am I thinking of doing?

These questions help give yourself and a friend a very accurate picture of what was going on inside your heart at the moment you felt triggered. Don’t rush through these questions, they’re really important! As I’ve written in a previous post, we must seek to understand why we struggle the way we do. What is it that drives you to using porn to medicate your pain?

3. Remember that temptation and triggers are normal.

Never get caught up in the illusion that something is wrong with you when you undergo temptations and triggers. Even those people who don’t struggle with pornography or some other kind of drug undergo temptation. Remember what was said earlier: Temptation is merely a shortcut to a dead end. It’s short circuiting God’s best for your life and attempting to meet that need through your own lens.

Here’s a stark reminder: Even Jesus was tempted. And in those moments, He spoke truth to the one who was doing the tempting. And the same rings truth for us as well. We have to learn that when temptation strikes or we feel a pull to go down the wrong road, there are actually things we can be learning in that moment.

Moments of temptation and triggers are going to happen, there’s just no avoiding it. And in my experience, there will be times that you slip and times that you press through a temptation whether it be through prayer, calling a friend, taking a walk, or finding some kind of healthy outlet. It’s all apart of the process of growth in your recovery journey.

One last thought about temptation: You don’t have to walk through it alone. Small Groups Online helps men find community with other men who are also walking through the same struggles involving pornography addiction, masturbation, & any other sexually compulsive behavior. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet online with a group of men who can help encourage and support you on your journey.

​3 Ways to Score Big in Your Thought Life

One of the most gut-wrenching plays that occur in football is when a pass that was meant to be completed is picked off by the opposing team. For all you sports people, you know this is called an interception. Interceptions seem to always happen at the worst time. Even when the quarterback looks calm and collected the team’s momentum can change in an instant due to an ill-positioned pass.

Recently, I was watching a movie with my family and it was almost as if a light bulb went off in my brain. I wasn’t struggling with my thought life at that moment, but I realized that each and every single time I replace a sexual or negative thought with Scripture, prayer, or something truthful, then I’m the one making a huge interception. Except in this case, it’s not on the field, it’s in my mind. 

The dictionary defines the word “intercept” like this: “to take, seize, or halt or cut off from an intended destination.” Interceptions don’t just happen four months out of the year on the field. Every day, men are making interceptions in one of the most important places: their minds.

Men are are going on the offense by making huge plays. How is that possible?

2 Corinthians 10:5 says it like this: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Granted, this can be difficult to do living in a sex-saturated culture with instant access to all kinds of media. But just because something is challenging doesn’t make it impossible.

A military definition of the word “interception” says it like this: “the engaging of an enemy force in an attempt to hinder or prevent it from carrying out its mission.” Impure, sexual thoughts are clearly an enemy force. The mission is clear: An impure thought — whether prompted by porn or lust — has the potential to take root in your mind urging you to act out in a sexual way, thus bringing out loads of shame, guilt, and isolation. IF YOU allow it. How do we fight these intruding thoughts from completing their interception?

Take them captive. In other words, make the interception.

In summary, what should the strategy look like in keeping our thought lives pure?

    1. Identify the Target – Identify the distraction, trigger, temptation, as soon as it crops up. Don’t be naive in thinking that just ignoring the thought will make it go away.
    2. Change the Direction – Once you’ve identified and intercepted the intruding thought, replace it with the truth, whether that be God’s Word, a lyric from a worship song, or talking to your Heavenly Father about it. By doing this, you’re shedding light upon it and it can’t hide.
    3. Score Big! – Repeat steps #1 & #2 as much as it takes! Disciplining your thought life is a process that takes lots of practice. Remember that nothing that’s valuable (a pure thought life) and worth attaining comes easy.

Surely there’s a lot more to developing a healthy thought life than just these three steps, but we all have to start somewhere.

One last thought: While it doesn’t directly say this in Scripture, I believe that God knows that we’re going to have impure, distracting thoughts at times. Especially if we’re in the thick of sexual addiction or coming out of it. And while that shouldn’t give us a pass to go wild in our heads, it should signify that God knows us — more than we know ourselves.  He knows we’re going to struggle, slip, and mess up a lot on this journey.

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.

Having said that, in my experience of watching football, it only takes one interception to come from behind and win the game. The same applies to you and I as we’re learning to develop pure and healthy thoughts.

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.