When a guy realizes he is addicted to porn or some other sexually addictive behavior, he feels the sense of crisis in his being. He instinctively knows that a decision must be made: change or get worse. Even as simple as this decision seems, it isn't a very easy one to engage. He knows change is the only way that makes sense, but he also knows he has a history of decisions that don't make sense. What will it take for him to break free from the shackles of addiction that bind him?
Typically, a man in this early stage of recovery is filled with fear, shame, embarrassment, anger, and lots of apprehension about what lies ahead. He may come into a support group and be very convincing of how serious he is about change and recovery. He makes promises to be different and never again return to his old, self-destructive coping behaviors. But he, in fact, doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. He hopes and prays that what he is saying is true, but in his heart he doubts. He knows how easily he has broken promises in the past. And, to be honest, he also knows how afraid he is to actually give up his addiction.
There are no shortcuts in recovery from sexual addiction, or any addiction. Yet many well-meaning programs and loving individuals try to sell addicts this notion that recovery is no harder than getting the oil changed in their car. Just do a few things differently, curb a few appetites, learn a couple new tricks to keep from going back to the addiction. Yeah, that should do it. This kind of "recovery" promotes convenience over commitment, like they're just a quart or two low and if they input the right mixture they'll be fine. Not surprisingly, it never works.
We often get guys who have been "in recovery" for years, meaning they have never experienced any lasting freedom from their sexual compulsions. This doesn't mean that guys in recovery will never struggle with unhealthy desires, but these are typically guys who are really no better than when they first started "recovery." Unfortunately, they bought into the recovery of convenience and never let go of what was killing them. They never fully engaged a commitment to whatever it takes to break free and live free, even though they probably made such promises many times to themselves and others. But a recovery of convenience will never lead anybody to the places of healing pain and discomfort necessary to really be free.
I remember in the early years of my own recovery from porn and sex addiction how passionate I was about changing and never going back to my lustful behaviors. I had zeal! I made the promises, using words like "never" and "always" and "forever." And I believed it. But deep down I was a scared little kid, totally unaware of what "whatever it takes" really looked like. I was clinging to my passion in hopes that it would be enough to carry me through to a new life of purity and integrity. But passion alone can't heal the deep wounds of an addict's soul.
Over the past 14 years God has taken me on a journey of freeing my soul from the shackles of shame, lust, fear, and anger. But even though He promised me freedom at the beginning, I had to commit to truly doing whatever it took to experience that freedom on a daily basis. I had to look at areas of my life that were ugly, broken, festering with self-hatred and fear. I had to let go of "my way," humble myself before God and others, letting the full story of my deep brokenness finally see the light of day. I had to choose: do whatever it takes or just say I'll do whatever it takes.
I began to see my recovery within the framework of discipleship, being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Would I simply say I followed Jesus or would I actually follow Him -- wherever He might lead?
I was reading recently in the gospels in the Bible of the accounts of Jesus calling out His twelve disciples. A particular phrase kept coming up regularly each time Jesus would specifically call these men to follow Him, "And leaving everything, they immediately went to follow Him." (Matt. 4:18-22, Matt. 9:9, Mark 1:16-20, Mark 2:13-14, Luke 5:11, 27-28) Leaving everything! These men had their lives (and livelihood) intentionally interrupted by Jesus and they simply dropped everything and followed Him. Was that convenient? Was that comfortable? Did that cost them nothing?
Jesus calls out to every sexual addict, "Follow me." But do we leave everything, including our way of life, to follow? Too many find this call too scary, too inconvenient, too uncomfortable, too costly, and sadly only continue in the bondage of a cycle of self-destruction and idolatry. But the invitation remains: Will you do whatever it takes to live free from your addiction? Whatever it takes?
The call to recovery is simple, even if it isn't easy or comfortable. It is a call to honesty, humility, faith, and community. You must commit to telling the truth, the whole truth, no matter the cost. Whatever it takes. You must humble yourself, admitting your ways haven't worked and that you desperately need help. Whatever it takes. You must trust in your Creator, placing all your brokenness in His hands, and following wherever He leads, even into the dark, painful places. Whatever it takes. You must not walk alone, but instead immerse yourself in the authentic community of strugglers seeking to live free; no more isolation and secrecy. Whatever it takes.
Will you commit to recovery, true recovery? Or will you continue to cling to your idols as you search for a convenient answer to the brokenness in your soul? There is no such thing as painless recovery. But the choice is still yours as to the type of pain you want to endure; that which is healing or that which destroys. You can choose. I pray you take the road less traveled. Though it is hard, painful, and often dangerous, it leads to real freedom and remarkable joy. True recovery is worth the temporary inconvenience.
So, what'll it be? Change or get worse?