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.

Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 3

David Mackey

Just to review: Just as false intimacy was part of what fed our addiction, True intimacy will strengthen our recovery. So this series will look at 4 of the many facets of intimacy which can be found in an intimate relationship with God AND with others.

This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

Last month we discovered that David often equated being free from shame as a piece, a deep piece, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See’ relationship. Our struggle with shame might be at the deepest layer that someone can see in us.

In verse 2 of Psalm 31, David, reveals another facet of intimacy. ‘Turn your ear to me” be my ‘rock of refuge,’ be my “strong fortress.’ David equates God BEING his ‘Rock of Refuge’ and Strong Fortress’ with being listened to. Psalm 28:1 and 72:2-3 make a similar connection. But wait there’s more! Over 60 times in the Psalms alone, the psalmist asks God to listen or hear or turn His ear.

Being listened to is part of intimacy!

Listening, at first glance may first be seen as more of a practical or functional piece of intimacy. Most likely, as with most facets of intimacy, something deeper is inferred. These are cries to be listened to with understanding and acceptance. These cries are looking for a listener who does not belittle one’s most vulnerable heart and soul. They seek listener who loves and accepts even after hearing the hurts and pains of one’s heart.

As a counselor, people actually pay me to listen to them. Weird huh? Not so weird if one ponders how important being heard or being listened to is for us. It is such a great need. Think about how frustrating it is when someone doesn’t listen to us with even the most mundane of issues. Now think about what it feels like for someone not to listen to some deeper issues in our heart and soul.

For the practical side of intimacy, listening is a must! How will one share one’s self, or allow someone to ‘See-In-To-Me’ without being heard? The other practical side of listening is of course, talking/verbalizing. Verbalizing/talking about anything deeper then sports seems to be difficult for most men, especially men who have nurtured the secret sins of sexual impurity. That however, is a different article. But take note that David was finding intimacy, finding God as his rock by speaking/verbalizing his heart.

This all started back in the ‘Garden’ (not ‘Madison Square’ sports fans). Adam walked with God. Adam talked and God listened. God talked and Adam listened. There was intimacy. We are strengthened and encouraged when someone listens to and understands our hopes and dreams, our pain and sorrows, our fears and challenges. These tell who we really are at our core.

Take time to explore the Psalms and see the context in which David is often asking God to listen to him. David shares his loneliness, fears, discouragement, and his anger as well his joy. Sharing good stuff is part of intimacy also. Our dreams, hopes, laughter, and praise all come from within us, sometimes deep within us. David shares it all with God and in doing so connection happens. Intimacy is strengthened. He cries out for God to listen to him. God’s response seems to be to listen and accept.

See the picture? David is sitting in the safe intimacy of God as his Rock, Refuge, Fortress and pouring out his heart in all his pain, hurt and even ugliness and God is just holding and LISTENING to David in that safe refuge.

This is intimacy with God. And it is what exists in an intimate relationship with others. Someone listening to the cry of our heart, just listening and understanding and accepting.

So we find another piece of a wonderful invitation God gives us through David! God invites us to be heard and known while sitting in the Rock, Refuge and Fortress!

Intimacy: Knowing God as your Rock.

What will recovery be like knowing God in a way in which we are listened to, loved, and accepted? We can sit and look Jesus in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

What will recovery be like listening to and being listened to by others? Knowing others in a way in which they hear our hearts. We can sit and look one another in the eye and share our deepest struggles. How powerful is that in recovery?

In your recovery pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. This is not a command from God but it is an invitation. Terrifying, in our sin to be sure, but it is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

Avoiding Concealment: Living Your Days as an Open Book

Kent Ernsting

Steve got caught. He and Amy were married several years when she found porn images popping up on their home computer that he thought he’d deleted. He told her that it must have come in attached to an e-mail or something. A couple of weeks later she caught him looking at Internet porn when she normally was asleep. She was devastated, especially that he had concealed this from her and that he had deceived her.

Steve learned the hard way that keeping certain things concealed, like his struggle with sexually compulsive behavior, led to real problems. He found out that in darkness his compulsive and addictive behaviors grew and multiplied, a bit like mushrooms grow in a dark environment. Steve began to do the right thing. He took responsibility for his behavior and admitted that what he was doing was wrong. He changed his behavior and recommitted to Amy. Both Steve and Amy wanted the same thing, the restoration of their relationship. Both wanted the restoration of trust, reparation of the breech that had formed a wedge in their marriage. But how could he restore his relationship to Amy?

Steve took stock of what happened between them. The dishonesty that he had spoken to her had promoted distrust. He held on to secrets that had created an emotional and spiritual gulf between them. His secrets had led to him feeling guilty and ashamed about his behavior. He felt bad about himself and became afraid that if she knew what he had done then she would reject him. The lies and the deception were harder for her to take than his behavior and she began to doubt other areas where she had normally trusted him. She began to ask him lots of questions and whenever he was late she asked him where he had been and what he had been doing. Steve realized that he had to live his life in an open manner.

He began to recover from his compulsive behavior when he talked about it with other men who understood what he was going through. He attended a weekly group with other men who were recovering from compulsive and addictive behavior. From them he learned that he wasn’t the only one who struggled with lust and found out that it reduced his shame when he talked with them. He started to meet with an accountability partner who encouraged him with words like, ‘Good job, thanks for telling me about the struggle you’re having.’ He also found that his emerging spirituality helped him to resist cravings that he had previously struggled to overcome. He asked God to search his heart and know him and show him anything that was preventing him from living in the light.

He began to feel better about himself and he was able to lie down to sleep knowing that he had lived in integrity that day. Steve also found it helpful to meet monthly with his spiritual mentor who encouraged openness in their relationship with one another. Steve found that in order for Amy to trust him he had to tell her the truth, even when it hurt to be honest. One day she asked him if he had deposited a check into their account that he had said that he would do. He knew that she would be disappointed with him when he admitted that he hadn’t gotten to the bank that day. But he also knew that if he concealed that fact in order to avoid her temporary displeasure, he risked a much greater loss when she eventually saw the bank statement and realized that he had lied to her. He knew that he had to be open with her about the little things as well as the big things.

Steve found that he had been hiding more than just his behavior from Amy. He had been hiding his true feelings from her as well. As a result, she really didn’t know a whole lot about him. He decided not to conceal his core from her, he decided not to pretend, and he disclosed more of his true self to her. The irony of it was that when he dropped his mask and let her in, she responded well and began to accept him as he was, even with his blemishes. She loved him for who he was and they began to experience true intimacy. He found that honesty and mutual acceptance became the foundation of the intimacy they had longed to have with each other.

For help, please see Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, take the next step–healing for your marriage–by attending the New Life Weekend.