by Jonathan Daugherty
At our 3-day intensive workshops for men I make a guarantee to all the guys in attendance. I loudly and slowly proclaim,
"You will fall on this recovery journey. Not, you 'might' fall, or it's in the realm of possibility a fall could happen. No, you WILL fall."
Thankfully, that isn't my closing word of encouragement to the guys at the workshop. But I want the point to be clear: no one recovers from secret sexual sin without stumbling. No one.
What, then, is a person to do when they fall? If it is inevitable, what is even the point of trying? Why would anybody sign up for more failure? It seems like "recovery" is pointless if it involves failing.
It may seem that way, until you examine more closely the process of true change and growth (i.e. maturity).
How many of us have achieved success (at anything) without failure? Anyone? Anyone? I didn't think so. Personal growth, especially spiritual growth, is never achieved apart from falling down. If you learned to walk as a child, you did so after falling down over and over and over again. If you made the team in school, you did so after missing thousands of shots or "getting it wrong" innumerable times. Whether it be art, science, business, or politics, success is only achieved on the tail end of lots of failure. But the difference is in what those who succeeded did in response to each failure: they learned from it.
I don't remember learning to walk, but I know that I've never been a big fan of physical pain. So, I'm pretty certain that every time I fell down in my attempts to walk and scuffed a knee or bumped my head on any immovable object, the resulting pain became a lesson for the next time I would be brave enough to give walking another try. Bump after bump, and bruise after bruise, I discovered balance and motor skills. In essence, each failure provided an opportunity to learn something new about what I was actually trying to achieve: walking! (And, today, even as an "expert" walker, I haven't walked perfectly my whole life; I still stumble at times, especially after reclining for hours in front of a football game.)
What is the goal of sex addiction recovery? Is it never falling? If so, everyone who has ever attempted recovery has failed. Repeatedly.
What if the goal of recovery was growth in community; living an unhidden life in open, transparent relationships with those we love? If that's what "running" looks like for a sex addict, at what stage do they start this journey? Marathon champion? Hardly! They're infants, immature in both the process and the understanding of living a life of purity and integrity. Would you expect a baby to run a marathon without first learning to walk? Why, then, do we expect a sexually addicted person to develop healthy, loving, transparent relationships without first learning to "walk?"
The grace of God affords us everything we need for this difficult recovery journey. By grace, we are invited to come out of the dark and into the Light. By grace, we are free to be honest about our struggles; even our failures. By grace, our progress is not measured by our falling, but rather by choosing to get up and keep trying. By grace, every bump and bruise of failure is turned into an opportunity to learn and grow and mature. By grace, we can walk and not faint, we can run and not grow weary. (Isa. 40:28-31)
But not without stumbling along the way.
Will you embrace grace? For yourself as well as those you pass judgment on for falling? May the grace of God give you a new compassion for the many spiritual infants stumbling and falling all around (even yourself). May you see the hand of Jesus reaching out, and His gaze of encouragement and joy cast upon those who have stumbled, saying, "It's okay. Everybody falls. Let me pick you up so you can try again..."
by Jonathan Daugherty
If you were a soldier captured in enemy territory and held prisoner for 5 years by your enemy, would you not long to taste freedom? Of course, right? Suppose, then, one day your comrades pull off a spectacular rescue mission that bursts wide your prison door and carries you back to your home land. Could you even begin to describe the joy, the elation, the pure abundance of grateful emotion from no longer being under the dominant, oppressive restraint of your enemy? It would be heavenly. I used to think this would be the case for those in recovery from sexual addiction. I was sad to find that I was wrong.
I've lost count of the numbers of men I've met in recovery who still live in a cloud of hopelessness and despair. I mean, they're doing the work, attending groups, setting up appropriate boundaries, everything a well-meaning recovery program teaches them to do. But somehow there's no sense of freedom, of the chains being removed and them coming home to a land where loved ones have long awaited their rescue. Why is this the case for so many in recovery?
I believe much of this hopelessness can be boiled down to a terrible phrase that gets tossed about in recovery circles as if it were the holy grail of what one must understand if they are going to do recovery "right." The phrase?
"Once an addict, always an addict."
I cringe every time I hear it. It's toxic, false, and a primary obstacle for so many longing for the freedom that recovery seems to promise, but isn't delivering. The phrase drips with despair, placing a label upon you that you must carry the rest of your life. It's probably just a matter of time until addicts must ring a bell and shout, "Unclean!" before entering public places.
If you adopt this statement, and embrace the philosophy behind it, you will never taste freedom. You can't know hope or joy or peace. Such a belief of despair will hang around your neck, always reminding you that you're "marked," diseased, unchosen. It becomes a prison unto itself, no need of real walls or steel bars or shackles. It is plenty strong to paralyze you in despair, setting you adrift farther and farther from true recovery.
The craziness I find in this statement is that we would never apply it to other areas of life. Imagine a doctor diagnosing a patient with obesity and issuing a prescription of diet and exercise only to conclude by saying, "But, as we all know, once a fatty, always a fatty." What?! Or suppose a 6th-grade math teacher tells one of her students who is flunking, "Here's some extra work for you to make up your grade, but the truth is, once a failing student, always a failing student." Do you see the absurdity of such "logic?" All it can do is prevent freedom and growth, not promote it.
So many want to point to human nature, sociology, even psychology, to support the "once an addict, always an addict" idea. Example after example can be given of people in recovery from any kind of addiction who relapsed. This becomes their conclusive evidence that it is in the "nature" of the addict to always function as an addict (forget the fact that thousands of addicts are living free from their former addictive compulsions). And many who promote various recovery programs support this "it's in their nature" idea. Which, to me, is diabolical exploitation. In one breath, an addict is being told to sign up for their recovery program to break free from the dark shackles of addiction. In the next breath, they are being told freedom is actually an impossibility because "once an addict, always an addict." Detestable!
Freedom is possible! There is hope of a new identity, not one wrapped up in porn, lust, selfishness and anger (2 Cor. 5:17). Addiction no longer needs define you. And you don't have to let others try to keep you shackled there either (Psalm 118:5-7). If you are part of any program that promotes this idea of "once an addict, always an addict," run for your life! (literally) Don't allow such negative, hopeless drivel keep you from the sweetness of true recovery. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and it won't come without a struggle to let go of poor coping and engage healing from deep hurts. But it's worth it to walk in a new identity, one who is cherished by God, loved by friends, and free to serve and help others.
Would you like to be free? Contact us today for help. We would love to hear your story and help you break free from the shackles of hopelessness...
by Jonathan Daugherty
Humility is essential to mature in wisdom and compassion. Pride ever blocks us from becoming agents of grace to lost and broken friends and neighbors.
I watched a movie lately that struck a cord deep inside me, one that hadn't been moved in quite some time. This movie dealt with issues of racism, death, selfishness, hate, and even grace. I didn't expect the core of my being to be rattled by a mere movie. After all, aren't movies simply for entertainment? Apparently not all movies. At least not The Grace Card.
The story follows the lives of two cops, Mac, who is a white racist, still bitter over the tragic death of his son 17 years earlier, and Sam, a black part-time preacher hoping to soon hang up the badge for his "true" calling, full-time ministry in the pulpit. They unexpectedly get thrust together as partners while Sam awaits a transfer due to a promotion on the force. Neither are thrilled with the arrangement. But both are right where God wants them, the place where grace most often thrives: suffering.
Mac's racism challenges everything Sam preaches about on Sunday but struggles to live out the rest of the week. How can God expect Sam to love someone who is so deliberately unlovable? As the story unfolds, there are multiple opportunities for Sam to extend grace and for Mac to receive it. But just as is true in real life, not all those opportunities end well. In fact, at one point they both just throw up their hands in frustration, neither wanting to give or receive anything good in the partnership. Often the effects of grace are not immediate.
Without spoiling the movie, I will say that grace ultimately wins in a profound way, a way that struck that cord deep in my soul. It wasn't so much that grace "won" as it was in how that victory came about, as if the avenue of grace was even more important than it's ultimate effect. Grace won because it was given away.
I cannot count the number of ways in which God's grace has blessed my life. I've tried. But His grace is simply too vast, too rich, too perpetual. Wave upon wave wash over my life and I am literally consumed by the beauty and kindness of God's grace. But, unfortunately, I probably could count the number of ways I have given grace. It's difficult and unnatural to love the unlovable or be kind to hateful souls. But loving the lovable isn't grace, it's just natural and expected (and easy). God wants to draw us out of the shadows of what is comfortable and natural, to be His agents of grace to people unlike us, who don't care for us, who might even hate us. Those are the souls He wants us partnered with, divine appointments of suffering that demand grace be given.
I needed that cord in my soul struck. It had been too long since it vibrated, reminding me that a quest for comfort is not the way of grace. Jesus never alienated himself from suffering, from humanity, from the broken or angry or bitter. He knew better than any of us that grace is meant to live in such connections, to be given most freely to the most undeserving, even those who spit in our face and utterly reject such kindness. I pray my soul never stops resonating with this simple truth: it's better to give grace than to receive it.
I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same,
& be your friend always.