Thoughts on Grief in Recovery

Thoughts on Grief in Recovery: grieving the relationship with sexual sin that was so familiar.

Perhaps you have grieved over the death of a family member or close friend. The time following a death is very painful and full of all sorts of emotions. Usually there is closure. There is a body, people send flowers and bring food. Some may sit and talk with you as you reminisce the fond times you spent together. Some may laugh at the stories and some may cry with you. There is a funeral, a gathering of loved ones who grieve their own relationship to the one who was lost. There is the burial, the cemetery, a stone marking the life span of the one who is now gone from your life. Born,died, The recovery from your loss does not end at the cemetery. It continues for a long time.

We all grieve in different ways. The depth and pain of our grief correlates with the level of attachment to the one we lost. The death of a neighbor down the street or someone at the office will not have the impact as the death of a parent, spouse or child. The extent of your grief over the loss of a pet is determined by the relationship you have with the pet. The closer you are to the one you lost, the greater the pain and work of the grief you bare.

Have you considered the fact that someone does not have to die to initiate grief? We face loses daily. As I look into the mirror, I am reminded of the loss of my youth. The grey hair and wrinkles in my face are tell-tell signs that youth has passed. Not to mention the aches and pains that accompany the aging process. We may grieve the loss of health, the loss of a job, the loss of our home to fire. We may grieve the loss of friendships due to a move. There are “good” losses that are grieved, like the loss of a child to college, to marriage or a job in another town or state. These are what we raised our children for and are to be celebrated but when the time comes, we grieve the fact that they won’t be coming home for dinner and they no longer live in our home. They now turn to their spouse for their encouragement, help, conversation, and affection instead of dad.

When we face such losses we expect to find empathy, support, understanding, encouragement, comfort, and hope. We expect people to understand or at least accept our emotional out-burst or anger which is our protest against what has been taken from us. But what support, understanding, comfort, and empathy do we receive from the loss of one of our closest companions? The one who has consoled us when we have been rejected? The one who understood when we were tired and just needed release from the pressures of life? The one who provided companionship when we were lonely? The one who filled our appetite when we were hungry? The one who would always calm our anger, no matter how obnoxiously we showed it to the world or how deeply we buried it inside? This is the friend that was most trusted and would be there for us to comfort and console. This friend always satisfied our burning desire. This friend, you know, the one who is written about in Proverbs 7: 15ff.

“I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses. With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.”

Our “friend,” the one we have turned to in times of need has been there to meet us, to comfort, seduce and entice us. But something has happened to the relationship with that “friend.” This is the “friend” that represents your sexual acting out. It is your illicit sexual partner, whether she is internet pornography, chat room, phone sex, prostitutes, massage parlors, one night stands, bar pick-ups, or a sexual relationship that has developed over time. And you have made a decision to end it. Whether it was you’re your choice or whether the choice was forced upon you by “getting caught.” Hopefully you realized that the above passage from Scripture did not end there. There was more as we pick up in verse 23:

Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver;

As a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.

If you have ended the relationship that has been so much a part of your life, you will grieve the loss as you would a death. A major part of your life has been amputated and you grieve. It helps to understand the stages of grief in order to identify what you need to do to work through your grief.

*Dr. H. Norman Wright lists the stages of grief as follows:

  • Loss
  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Denial
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Searching’s
  • Disorganization
  • Panic
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Re-Entry Troubles
  • New Relationships
  • New Strengths
  • New Patterns
  • Hope
  • Affirmation
  • Helping Others
  • Loss
  • Adjustment

As you think about the stages in light of the loss of your sexual sin, your trusted companion through thick and thin could look like this:

  • Shock – sin exposed. Out of our shock and disbelief we want to minimize the loss. Lies are often employed to try to cover the shame of the exposure.
  • Numbness – A loss of feeling. Breathing has all but stopped and is very shallow.
  • Denial – This is only temporary. I can still maintain my secret life. This is not a permanent loss. Here we are leaving the door unlocked for future opportunities to act out.
  • Emotional Outburst – May come in arguments with spouse or others. These outburst are a flood of emotions from sorrow, anxiety, sadness, rage, vindictiveness, betrayal, helplessness, rejection, abandonment, envy, woe, depression, panic, dismay, apathy, anguish, resentment, inadequacy. As Dr. Wright explains these emotions are like a tangled ball of emotions.
  • Anger – A protest to the unfairness of the loss. This anger may come in arguments with your spouse or others. Or it could be internalized and suppressed in a form of resentment toward others, a seething within the heart.
  • Fear – How will I cope without my friend who satisfies my cravings for my lust?
  • Searching’s – Maybe there is a hidden magazine or perhaps I could just do some internet surfing and maybe something would pop up “unexpectedly.”
  • Disorganization – In the past life was well organized. It had to be to hide the secret life. Now it is exposed and life is in chaos.
  • Panic – How will I cope? What will the future bring? Will I loose my family? Friends? Job? More questions than answers.
  • Guilt – that says “I did something bad.” To Shame that says “I am bad.”
  • Loneliness – The times you normally would have acted out sexually now you face the reality of feeling really alone. This is one of the triggers that leads to acting out.
  • Isolation – pulling away from relationships. Again isolation provides opportunity to relapse.
  • Depression – Inward focusing on the shame and guilt that underline your feelings of unworthiness.
  • Re-Entry Troubles – Learning about the true intimacy that you have been substituting with false intimacy for years. True intimacy is about knowing and being known without the secrecy and masks. It is about acceptance of self and others, as well as responsibility.
  • New Relationships – Learning to have accountability with guys who you can have an openness of heart. A heart that holds no secret compartments. Learning to laugh with other men and building true friendships.
  • New Strengths – Investing in new hobbies and activities with others.
  • New Patterns – May involve going to bed together with your spouse instead of staying up waiting for opportunities to indulge with the old “friend.” New Patterns may involve deeper levels of communication. Family togetherness without TV.
  • Hope – Life can be good without the old “friend.” The confirmation that you can live without this influence in my life.
  • Affirmation – A sense of wholeness. A sense that the addiction can be managed.
  • Helping Others – By being real and transparent with other men you will lead and have influence in the lives of other men as a role model.

What makes the grief work most difficult in the loss of the sexual acting out is that most of the time, at least in the early stages, you may be grieving alone and without empathy from your family and friends. This grief work is necessary and the pain is reality. Ignoring these deep emotional needs will become a set up for relapse into the old patterns of life. By processing the stages of grief you will find peace and healing. Experiencing the true intimacy with your wife is far greater than the quick substitute of the false intimacy with the “old friendship” you have chosen to let die.

Meeting with a counselor to identify the losses and help process the grief and recovery is not only recommended but is essential.

Craig Boden

If you have not already attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to do so.

After you have attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to attend our New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle

Kent Ernsting

I was smitten from my first sight of him. The first time I held my newborn son in my hands the tears began to well up in my eyes. A deep sense of love enveloped me when I looked into his amazing eyes. I loved that little guy with everything within me. I thanked God for him and I pledged him back to God from that moment. I was struck with the tremendous stewardship responsibility that I now had, to raise him to become a godly young man. I knew that I could not complete that task without God’s help and the help of many others along the way.

Now he’s 14 years old, stands 5’8′ tall, and he’s strong enough to fold me into a pretzel. He routinely aces me on the tennis court. He’s a fullback on his freshman soccer team and he feels responsible for every ball that an opponent gets past him and into the net. He’s smart and brave and he wants to show others that he has what it takes to be a man. I will probably not know if I have successfully completed my task of parenting him until he is in his thirties. The indicator will be whether or not he is living a God -honoring life and rearing godly children.

I don’t know about you, but the challenge of shepherding my son through his young adult years with purity as the goal has been a daunting one for me. How can I talk to him about purity when my own sexuality has been complicated? I have had to deal with my own issues on the subject. We all know intuitively that we need to be the one talking to our kids about sex, but how do we do it?

I am an imperfect parent, but I want to pass along some tips and strategies that I have learned from others and have used with my son.

The first is the principle that RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST. As long as I keep the relationship that I have with my son strong, then he will be willing to receive guidance and coaching from me. As Josh McDowell says, RULES WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP LEADS TO REBELLION.

I look for ways to spend time with him. Relationship growth occurs when we do things together like going to his games, working together on projects, playing pool with him, and taking him camping with me. It helps me to relate to my son and for my son to relate to me. Relationships are what life is all about.

I want him to know deeply and intimately how to connect with another person in a life-long committed relationship. I want him to experience it first in our father/son relationship. Eventually he will transfer that into a relationship with his wife.

Sex education is really not so much a matter of providing information as it is a matter of deliberate character formation. The first messages are the most potent; it is far more powerful to form a child’s view of sexuality from scratch than it is to correct the distortions the child will pick up in the world. This is a concept that I picked up from a very helpful book by Stanton and Brenna Jones, entitled How & When to Tell Your Kids About Sex. In fact, it was their book that gave me what I needed to know and say to my son when we had our first ‘key talk’ in a local restaurant. After I finished my explanation he asked, ‘Dad, do you eat that green stuff?’ as he pointed to the parsley on my plate.

I took my son camping for a weekend before he entered junior high school. Together we listened to the ‘Preparing for Adolescence’ tapes by James Dobson and we talked about the content of the tapes. Between disc golf and fishing we discussed what would be happening to him in the coming years.

We spent a weekend at a sexual abstinence until marriage conference interacting with various speakers, presentations and youth events. We went to a Promise Keeper rally for youth where the message o purity was presented through music, worship, extreme sports, speakers, and multimedia.

I take him to church regularly and help him plug in with youth groups and their events. Now he is attending Young Life where the message of purity will be reinforced. I want him to know about redemption when he stumbles and about the love of his creator sustaining him throughout his life.

Look for opportunities that will challenge both you and your son such as rock climbing, rappelling, or canoeing. Bathe your son and his future wife in prayer. Let’s talk about how it turns out when our sons are in their thirties.

Please see Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Thoughts on Joy in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings.”
‘ Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)

“Joy is not a substitute for sex, sex is very often a substitute for joy.”
‘ C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!
We find in Galations 5:22, that Joy is the second fruit of the spirit. It is high on the list of ‘fruit’ that clearly comes from heaven, through the Holy Spirit and to us.

Let’s look at the definition of Joy:

The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight.

Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.” ‘ John Locke (1632 – 1704)

Look at a significant part of joy’meditation, consideration, and expectation of future good. This is at the heart of Joy. Not simply a delight that is happening now’though I may rejoice about the present’but, significantly, the prospect and expectation of future good. To overcome the temptation of today, and to enjoy today, I must focus on: the joy that will come tomorrow by saying no to that sin; the joy that will come from all the good that God has for me today and in the future.

We find in Hebrews the power and need for joy for endurance and overcoming. Of Jesus we read ‘Who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.’ Hebrews 12:2

What are some of the good things that will ‘come tomorrow’ if I say no to sin today? Some things we find from scripture are: reward in heaven, good reputation, clear conscience, peace that comes from not having the fear of being caught.

Another vital part of Joy in Recovery is about coming to the end of my own strength and coming to the beginning of God’s strength. As long as I focus only on what I can do, arrange or manipulate, I can have no lasting joy. When I come to the end of my strength I am at the beginning of God’s.

In 1 Corinthians 12:9 the Lord told Paul that ‘My grace (God’s) is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I (Paul) will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may overshadow me.’

I think it seems strange on the surface to consider that I would ‘glory’ in my weakness. However, as I look closer at this I realize that the ‘glory’ is not about me, but about my absolute need for the Lord’s strength and power. As I embrace and acknowledge my weakness I naturally begin to look for strength and power from another source. As the power of Christ ‘overshadows’ me, I begin to find the joy that I could not find while looking to my own strength or my own prospects for the future.

And in James 1:2 we find that James exhorts us to ‘count it joy’ when we fall into temptations. He tells us the trying of our faith works patience. This prospect of giving thanks or rejoicing with temptations seems difficult if not impossible. We must do this by faith and not according to our emotions. The joy seems to be about the good that it will bring to me as I overcome in the strength of the Lord and about the God who is sovereign over all my life and circumstances. I can count that joy.

In Nehemiah 8:10 we find the exhortation that ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ I pray that the Joy of the Lord will be your strength and my strength today and from this day on.

“The joy of a spirit is the measure of its power.” ‘ Ninon de Lenclos (1620 – 1705)