Discouragement in Recovery: A Silent Ambush on the Heart

Invia Betjoseph

“Why don’t you just give up on me Lord? I’m hopeless!” Sound familiar? Thousands of Christian men have uttered those words out of sheer frustration. At some point they promise God that they will stop acting out their sexual fantasies’that THIS time they are ready’ that THIS time it is different’ that they are, to quote a famous Alcoholic Anonymous saying, ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

Maybe you’re one of these men who decides to ‘starve’ himself of anything remotely sexual. You get rid of cable television, cancel the internet access, throw away all pornographic material, and even avoid having sex with your wife for a while! Several weeks pass and you notice that you don’t have the desire to view internet porn, visit massage parlors, or even masturbate! You begin to think that this is pretty easy and tell yourself, ‘maybe I can conquer this after all’ or, ‘I think I’m on my way to getting healed.’

But before you know it, lustful thoughts invade your mind like ‘pop-ups’ from Yahoo! You try not to panic but find yourself completely preoccupied with sexual thoughts for the next few hours or even days. At work you try to concentrate and endeavor to meet deadlines but your attention span is that of a woodpecker. You attempt to pay attention at staff meetings but each minute that goes by makes the struggle more intense. And then it happens’you end up in front of a computer screen or an x-rated video and for the next three to five hours you gratify your fleshly desires by viewing every known porn site under the sun, compulsively masturbate or ‘binge’ the whole weekend from massage parlors to escort services.

You cry out, ‘What happened? Why can’t I just quit?’ You not only feel disillusioned and guilty but you also feel like you are perverted to the depths of your being. You want to ‘resign’ as a Christian because you continually feel helpless and hopeless and you believe that no one can relate to you.

Well, you are not alone! You don’t believe me? Read with me Peter’s letter; specifically chapter 5:9 ”because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’

All of us are running in this race for sexual integrity and sometimes we trip and fall. And when we do, we can’t afford to just sit there and watch everyone run by. Can you imagine watching Olympic athletes trip and fall and just sit there in bewilderment as to why they fell? No, they immediately get up and run’ they don’t even wipe the dirt off of themselves. Their whole focus is the finish line. Proverbs 24:16 adequately captures the theme of what you’ve read thus far: ‘For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again!’ So before you decide to beat yourself up any further let me suggest that we pay a visit to some of our Heroes of the Faith and see just how human they really were.

In I Kings chapter 18 Elijah and the prophets of Baal engage in a contest to see who is truly God. In verse 27 when the prophets of Baal are struggling Elijah feels so confident that he begins to taunt them (how cocky we get sometimes). You know how the rest of the story goes. What amazes a lot of Christians is that after his amazing victory Jezebel puts a contract on his life and the man cowers into a cave and starts whining. God didn’t tell him to go there. The Lord even asks him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ (19:9). Do you see how human Elijah really is? Just like you and I, he distances himself from the Lord out of fear, shame, and other feelings that damage our confidence.

What about John the Baptist? Jesus says of him: ‘Among those born of women there is no one greater than John (Luke 7:28). This is a prophet who boldly spoke against Herod’s adultery, he put Pharisees ‘in their place’ and preached about the coming Messiah as if his life depended on it and he did not sugarcoat his words. Yet in Luke 7:18-19 we read that from his prison cell he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Excuse me John, wasn’t it you that said to Jesus, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’? It is amazing what despair does to the person. It slowly strips him of his confidence, blinds his eyes to past victories, and finally creates an environment in his soul in which doubt can thrive.

Let’s not forget good old Peter. When Jesus predicts his death and tells his disciples that they will all fall away on account of him our beloved brother protests, ‘even if all fall away on account of you, I NEVER will’ (Matt 26:33). Can you just picture him speaking in a baritone voice with his chest sticking out? Jesus then tells Peter that he will disown him three times. One can only imagine the level of agony Peter felt when the rooster crowed three times. The Bible says ‘he went outside and wept bitterly’ (Matt 26:75).

So, do you still feel alone? I hope not. There are many other accounts in the Bible where men and women ‘messed up’ but God used them anyway despite their shortcomings. Meanwhile, what does one do when he has messed up in the sexual integrity department? I thought you’d never ask!

First, it is very important not to mistake the absence of symptoms for cure. Just because you’ve thrown out your porn stash or haven’t masturbated for weeks does not mean that the condition of your heart has changed.

Secondly, if and when relapse occurs, there will be a tendency to abandon the whole process altogether. It is vital that you do not give up’to get up and run the race.

Thirdly, if you have someone in your life that holds you accountable pick up the 100 lb. phone and call him. Let him know what you did and do not hold back (Satan thrives on secrecy).

Fourthly, try to identify what exactly happened. Usually, there are 3-5 things happening at the same time. For example, you’re having car trouble, the boss is acting like Hitler and you have not been sleeping enough… all of the above can have a toll on your body and mind. Try to pin-point what the trigger was for you.

Finally, you need to strategize. In other words, you need to place preventative measures at each trigger point so that you do not repeat the cycle.

You know, theologians and preachers often speak about the work Christ did on the cross for our salvation. However, the work that Jesus continues to do on our behalf is often not talked about. Just as He prayed for Peter during some dark hours, so also he intercedes before the Father’s throne on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ ongoing ministry of prayer is there for you as long as you are in need of His guidance, comfort and blessing.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the beloved Scottish minister of the 19th century, wrote, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!’

If you are still sitting there asking the Father, ‘Why don’t you just give up on me? I’m hopeless!’ I would imagine he would say, ‘Because I who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).

Tiredness in Recovery: Don’t Let It Get You Lying Down

Martin Fierro

You have worked a long day, feeling a cold coming on or is it the spring time allergies, you did not have one solid meal, did not sleep well the night before, stuck in traffic, late for an appointment, forgot to call your wife back, that home project needs to be completed, the car engine light just went on AND it is only Monday. When the last hour seemed hard enough to get through to remain sexually pure in heart, mind and soul, here comes the next hour to press through.

Taking it one day at a time really can come down to a minute to minute per the environment our mind is entertaining. Part of what can make a tempting situation worse is the condition of ones mental and physical state when such life stressors occur. And it is common that tempting situations will occur with more intensity at the early onset of sexual sobriety along with when you are physically/mentally drained (the enemy does not want you to win). And sobriety can seem more intense because for the first time in your life maintaining sexually integrity, to not sexually acting out, is the healthiest option irregardless to what has occurred on any particular day of the week.

‘Well, what do I do now? I am exhausted; feel disconnected, lonely and angry. So now I sit in a lonely house with no one, what I can get myself into? This is boring; I need something to make me feel good about myself. I am so tired of going through this on my own. No one has my problems.’

Should we call the ‘whaaamm-bulance?’

Self pity not only can be a trigger to acting out, but also a key that you are physically and mentally needing rest and recovery.

Don’t let temptations catch you lying down and don’t under-estimate your tiredness in your recovery process. And the reality is that you are going to have tired days, tired of working recovery days, and both.

Let this be of encouragement to you. You are not alone. God has not abandoned you and there are others out there who want to be supportive to you as you seek sexual integrity and sobriety from the addictive behavior. But in a tired emotional and cognitive state of being we begin to believe that this cave of our emotional struggles is to be kept inside that cave, keeping our feelings in the dark.

Just the opposite is true for health and sobriety. Bring the feelings to the light. Seeking support from other brothers who are in ‘the battle’ is a great step. And when asked by that brother in arms ‘how are you doing?’ Not answering ‘fine.’ Those of you who have participated in a 12 step program know what that acronym for FINE is (we’ll just say ‘Faking it,’ Insecure, Negative and Evasive).

Here are some options to consider to help when you are tired of fighting this fight and want to just give up because of life stressors:

1. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Ground yourself spiritually. Do not rush through the prayer of ‘okay okay okay, I am sitting’..waiting’.. ahhh’.okay, waiting waiting’ um, where are you God?’ Quiet you inner talk and LISTEN. Let me encourage you to first turn off the television and/or radio. Then go and sit down somewhere comfortable, uncross you arms and take some deep breathes for at least 5 minutes while focusing on nothing but your breathing. Clear your mind.

2. Have an officer in arms/sponsor. Pick up that 600 pound phone and connect with a brother in arms. Be open and honest. Saying what is going on is not weakness. It can mentally beneficial to say it out loud (take some power away from it).

3. Remain on alert. When you become tired you can convince yourself, ‘I can handle things now, in this part of my recovery.’ Don’t open that door to temptations; keep your Armor of God on. There is a spiritual war going on with your mind and the enemy knows the best way to get you is by brainwashing (convincing) you to believe and behave otherwise.

4. Exercise. It cannot be said enough: go for a simple bike ride, swim or walk. Observe the creation of the earth, take in the splendor that is before you (watch your eyes and where you look, of course!).

5. Eat well, diet appropriately per what your doctor would recommend for you stage in life.

6. Pick up that God given gift, talent ,or skill and put it to use for others benefit.

Recovery & Stewardship: Is ‘What’s in your wallet?’ affecting your bottom-line?

Bob Parkins

Many men in recovery find they need to set limits on their spending habits; often men will include financial accountability as part of their commitment to recovery in general. Although sexual addictions have dramatic effects on some men’s finances, for many more its influence is more subtle and may lie ‘under the radar.’ For these men financial issues often surface when they begin to gain some control over their recovery by maintaining longer periods of sexual sobriety. While men begin to feel victorious over their addictions they will often increase their spending on gadgets, hobbies or other compulsive purchases. Not unlike their increased desire for sexual experiences outside biblical boundaries, they now find an increase in thirst for money or material goods that is unquenchable (Ecc 5:10).

When men enter recovery their relationship with God must become a primary focus in his life. If men have been pursuing materialism ‘under the radar,’ these financial idols will then come into conflict with their spiritual walk (Lk 16:13). As it did with lust or sexually acting out, these two passions cannot dwell together for long without consequences.

There are many emotional connections between sexual addictions and finances.

Just as in the manner people handle finances reveals their true values, so does it reveal how they manages their lives. I frequently speak about money with others in recovery as a ‘secondary addiction.’ Whether it is money, television, hobbies, alcohol, etc., there is almost always a secondary addiction underneath the more visible primary addiction. Sexually addicted men have not developed the same ability to tolerate frustration, other negative emotions, or delay gratification to the same degree as other adults. Sexually acting out is how men cope with the uncomfortable realities of life and resulting emotional pain.

Unfortunately, simply removing the method of coping [acting out sexually] does not give a person the necessary skills to cope in a fallen world. Not only does this make sexual sobriety increasingly difficult, it leaves a men feeling even more powerless and ultimately sets them up for relapse. Sexually acting out is not the only coping behavior addicts employ, there is a whole dynamic that drives many behaviors and the way they relate to others. For instance, these patterns may include avoidance, procrastination or explosive anger.

Men who systematically avoid pain may not only do so by acting out, but avoid conflict in general. Behind virtually every decision they make is the mantra of ‘avoid pain at all cost.’ If a man’s primary defense has been sexually acting out and that is no longer an option he will continue to seek avenues of avoidance. It is this dynamic that is often referred to by the term ‘dry addict.’ The ‘drug’ may not be there but the life patterns remain. In the absence of sex, he may act out with money.

Recovery is not just about abstaining from sexually acting out; it is a complete healing of the heart. Not only do men need to learn sobriety, they also needs to learn to cope with old triggers in healthy ways. Knowing this makes facing recovery more manageable as it helps to refocus on the actual issues. It empowers by causing men to seek new ways of relating. These changes are best made through ‘baby steps.’

In my own recovery I started practicing assertiveness with the phone company. It is too overwhelming to tackle some issues head-on without first preparing, practicing and gaining confidence in new skills. I gained new skills at confrontation by fighting to have bogus charges removed from my phone bill. When I began to curb my spending habits I began to closer assess my motivation for spending each time I made a compulsive purchase. Soon I began to feel uncomfortable with purchases I knew where compulsive. The first day I returned a compulsive purchase I began to feel a bit of power over it.

Ultimately men must address the triggering needs or emotions. When they can refocus on the actual problem they regain power and may no longer feel the need to spend or engage in other unhealthy secondary coping behaviors. I encourage you to own your choices, choose to view pain as an opportunity for growth and enter into the uncomfortable realms that you have avoided for years. You will slowly feel your heart stretching as you begin to tolerate more and more of what once felt intolerable. In retrospect, you may someday be amazed at the men you have grown up to be.

See Every Man’s Battle for more help.