I can still remember all the emotions and fears I felt the day I disclosed to my wife my pornography addiction. All the shame that kept the secrets now raging with fear of an uncertain future. I finally came clean about an addiction that lasted for over 10 years. I had finally released the weight by telling someone, but now that weight was placed on my wife. What was I supposed to do next? Who could I turn to? In a panic, the following day I called my men’s pastor and admitted I needed help in breaking free of this addiction. What my pastor, therapist, and support group said in the early months of recovery began a process of shame reduction and healing. I share my experience to aid others in this fight whether you find yourself in the struggle to break free of this addiction or are a pastor, lay leader, family member, or friend listening to another person sharing their struggle. Here are three truths to remember in the battle for sexual integrity.
1. You don’t struggle alone.
The first point my pastor made was that this is a struggle where I am not alone. When he said this, I was shocked, because I believed for years that I was the only person who struggled with pornography as a Christian. I believed a core lie that if people really knew me, they would leave me, so I kept my struggle to myself. The problem with this lie is that the dissonance between the man I was in the different aspects of my life lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideations. It was my shame that kept me in this isolation and the isolation fed my addiction. To combat this lie, a study through the Barna Group shows that 65% of Christian men view pornography monthly*. This by no means lessens my sin that I own, but certainly shows this is one of the greatest fights the church must face in the 21st century. While this statistic does prove that you are not alone, it is only a first step on a process of recovery.
2. There is Hope
During the call, I remember asking my pastor, “So is there hope?” The greatest hinderance in a process towards sexual wholeness is the belief that there is no hope for that individual’s situation. However, neuroscience has shown that through the process of neuroplasticity our brains can be rewired*. When explaining neuroplasticity to someone in the beginning stages of recovery, I like to compare this process to a dirt road in a field. When you walk over a certain path long enough a dirt road is formed. Throughout our entire lives we have built coping mechanisms both adaptive and maladaptive that we perceive aid us in living life as best we know possible. While our old paths have led to death in our lives as my addiction did for me, it is by walking in a new direction consistently over time that this new path becomes easier to take. It is incredible to think that our minds really can be made new as Paul writes in Romans 12:2. So, there is hope, but a person struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors cannot do this on their own. God has a part, we have a part, and others have a part in this sanctifying process. This leads to our final point.
3. You CANNOT Fight this Battle Alone
Now for some more good news. Since you are not alone, you can’t fight this battle alone. The bad news for someone who struggles with decades of shame and isolation, you need to stop fighting alone. Remember, your best thinking got you to this state of addiction, so it is time for new inputs to help us renew our mind. The old way of thinking is, “I just have to stop it”, while the new way of thinking is, “I need to be in process to find a new way of living to outgrow this”. It is through healthy connections that new pathways are created in the mind. The problem is that experts estimate that less than 10% of Christians addicted to pornography seek effective recovery*. Dr. Patrick Carnes also found in a survey two factors that aided others in breaking sexual addiction. The first was their reliance on God and second was a small group connection*. Just like Jesus stated in the greatest commandment, we really do need to learn to truly love God and truly love others (Matthew 22:36-40).
So, if you are not alone, there is hope, and you can’t fight this alone, it is time to join a community of others who can support you in fighting this battle. A saying in addiction recovery goes, “a new community, a new identity, and a new narrative”. When we join a supportive group of others who can understand our story, we begin to see our identity as designed in being an image bearer of God. When we see our identity in light of the redeeming work of Christ that we are a new creation with a new story to be written through his Spirit. Our greatest need really is intimacy. Intimacy meaning healthy connections with God and others on God’s terms while we are in a sanctifying process.
- Which of the three points confronted lies you believe from the enemy?
- Who can you share your struggle with to locate a supportive group in this battle?
- What is the next step you need to take for healing?
65% of Christian men watch porn monthly Barna Group Survey 2014, https://www.provenmen.org/pornography-survey-statistics-2014/
What is Neuroplasticity? https://www.positivepsychology.com/neuroplasticity
Dr. Ted Roberts in email correspondence, July 5, 2019, “I would estimate under 10% are seeking meaningful recovery”
Key Factors to Overcome a Sex Addiction, Patrick Carnes, https://www.iitap.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ARTICLE_18.4-Sexual-Addiction-Patrick-Carnes.pdf
Shimer, Ted. (2020). The Freedom Fight: The New Drug and the Truths that Set Us Free. High Bridge Books. Houston, TX.