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...