by Jonathan Daugherty
This is a common question we receive in our ministry. It is often born out of a sense of shame and the idea that certain addictions are permanently embedded into a person’s character. Sexual addiction is one of those addictions that society often deems as “untreatable” and therefore should define a person for a lifetime (think pedophilia). But God’s grace isn’t just for those with “little” sins. His grace extends beyond ALL sin.
The difficulty in answering this question is that no one lives life perfectly, even in recovery. A guy (or gal) might get into a recovery program and take great strides to eliminating various thoughts and behavior patterns associated with his sexual acting out. Then, as is always the case, there are challenges that must be faced in this recovery process. Not the least of which is taking on that first overwhelming temptation to act out. Not everyone wins that initial battle. But that doesn’t mean they are tossed out of the ring. No, true recovery is about getting back up and fighting some more.
The real trouble I have with this question is that it misidentifies the person struggling with the addiction. It says they ARE a sex addict, instead of saying they are a person struggling with sexual addiction. It might seem a small distinction, but it’s huge in recognizing where the real battle lies. To identify a person only by the sinful behaviors they engage in is foolish and demeaning. Every human being is of limitless worth, made in the very image of God. This gives intrinsic value that overshadows behavior. Christ died for ALL. Therefore, all human beings are worth loving (from God’s perspective).
When a person realizes God’s unconditional love for them and accepts the free gift of forgiveness and life that is found in Christ, their identity is shaped around Jesus, not their behavior. The irony is that from this growing embrace of identity in Christ comes a lessening of acting out behaviors. Why? Because the individual begins to see themselves the way God sees them, as a precious and priceless son or daughter of the King. And a child of the King grows up to become more and more like his Father: pure and holy.
When people ask me how I identify myself in a support group setting (such as visiting a SAA or CR group), I tell them that I say, “Hi, my name is Jonathan. I’m a child of God who struggles with lust.” My identity is in my relationship to God. My weakness is in fighting my lust. But I take heart because God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
No, by God’s grace, I am not a sex addict. And you don’t have to be either…
by Jonathan Daugherty
There is an assumption in this question that I don’t believe is far fetched: there is chaos in recovery. If you ponder this assumption for a while you begin to see its validity. Let’s take a look at a sex addict, for example, who is trying to overcome his addiction.
The paradigm of sexual addiction is self-centeredness, seeking to please oneself without regard for consequence to himself or others. Oftentimes, along with this selfish pursuit of pleasure is a high degree of secrecy, shame and deception. This pattern of isolation and disconnection from healthy connections to pursue sexual acting out leads to tremendous strain on all the addict’s relationships, at home, work, and socially. Eventually, the addict finds himself living a double life.
With that picture of the addiction lifestyle firmly in place, now imagine that same addict coming to a place of emotional and spiritual brokenness over his addiction. He finally reaches a point at which he recognizes his inability to overcome his addiction alone and reaches out for help. Contrary to what he initially imagines as a smooth process of ever-upward growth in purity and healthy relationships, he soon discovers that the recovery process is filled with pain, fear, anxiety and guilt. It’s no cake walk to come out of sexual addiction. This is the chaos of recovery.
When a recovering addict discovers this chaos, he can make one of two choices. He can either bail out and return to the medicating behaviors of his addiction or he can press forward and practice new habits of purity and health. Even for those who press forward, the chaos doesn’t immediately disappear. Relationships are still strained or shattered, temptations are still present, and a history of shame lies still swirl around in his head. So, does this chaos ever stop?
Unfortunately, chaos is part of life. But the intensity of it can change and lessen dramatically over time. As one learns to engage the 4 Pillars of Purity all the pieces of chaos can be sorted out and a new hope is realized for writing a new chapter, one marked by peace, purity and true intimacy. And even as the unpredictability of life is ever present, the healed addict is no longer a prisoner to it. The chaos of recovery is overcome by the peace of God; which surpasses all understanding.
If you’re in the chaos of recovery right now, press forward. Get help from a qualified counselor and plug into a good support group. Don’t hide any longer behind an image of perfection. Instead, be real, confessing your struggles and weaknesses, and rest on the assurance that God’s grace is sufficient to guide you through the difficult valleys of chaos. Then one day you will stand firm, unswayed by temptation or trials.