More Fences

Picking up from the last post about secondary boundaries, today we’ll look at 3 more. Again the idea isn’t to manage our lives by avoiding these boundaries at all costs. Instead it is about using these boundaries as signals to help us navigate life in a God honoring way, especially as it pertains to sexual integrity. Let’s jump in.

4. Intellectual – think curiosity. Intellectual boundaries are those places in our minds where we may end up triggered. The most common example of this is when a guy says he saw something on TV or in a magazine, then felt curious, so he jumped online and googled it. He is basically asking to be slimed. It is something that has or could have a sexual hook to it. It could be a person’s name, a product or object, or even an article. If your radar is up and your mind starts to wonder towards something with a sexual edge to it, it is probably an Intellectual Boundary.

5. Psychologicalmental health issues. Some people act out sexually in times of depression. Others in the swings of a bipolar disorder or in the manic phases of bipolar disorder. Still others in the midst of anxiety or when they feel panicky. Mental health issues play an important role for some people and seeing a doctor to discuss medication is the right next step. If you (or someone close to you) can help see a trend or pattern of sexual volatility around mental health struggles, it’s time to get that checked out.

6. Financialmoney. I’ve talked to guys who act out on payday and for very different reasons. Some because they feel powerful and in control, they feel adequate and want to celebrate their achievements. Others because payday is a reminder of their inadequacy and shortcomings, knowing there is too much month and not enough check. Financial talks with spouses can be stressful, as can figuring out how to pay for your son/daughters next semester at college. Mounting debt, unexpected auto expenses, medical bills, etc. can all be a factor. With financial boundaries, the goal is to have a plan in place to handle the issues that will arise. Perhaps on the front end that looks like taking a Crown Financial or a Financial Peace class. It also looks like be on the same page as your spouse, which those classes can help with.

I urge you to discuss these boundaries with your accountability partners. Ask them to help you identify trends and to see your blindspots. Get their input on what appropriate boundaries are and what the plan should look like to deal with them. Be prayerful with them to invite God in, and ask His input on your structure and path forward.

3 Things We Must Admit for Recovery

I’ve been thinking a little bit about the core beliefs of sexually addicted men and how skewed they are. Our actions and reactions to life are predicated on our core beliefs. If they are slightly out of whack, not grounded in biblical truth or altogether false we are sure to stay stuck. Here are 3 core beliefs I think every man must acknowledge and admit in order to see his sanctification and recovery process move forward.

1 – BELIEF: Sex is vitally important to my well-being. ADMISSION: Sex is something I’ve come to value too highly and I am willing to trust God with it.

It was a huge hurdle for me to surrender sex. I’d say I trust God with my finances, my health, my business, my kids and their health, etc. etc. But trust God with my sex? Let Him be in charge of whether or not I ever have it again? Yikes. And it was a fundamental shift that was absolutely necessary for me to find freedom. The prayer went something like this: “OK God. I’ve put too much importance on sex. But I don’t want to undervalue it either! So you be the judge and you be the determining factor. If I never have sex again; I trust you. If I have frequent sex again; I trust you. As the author of the act, I trust you”.

2 – BELIEF: If anyone knows the truth about my struggle they will reject me. ADMISSION: I have to face rejection to find freedom.

I hate rejection. Even that little tinge of rejection I feel when I’m at a summer BBQ with folks I don’t really know and it seems like I’m odd man out for the conversations going on. Yuck. Hate it. That little tinge of rejection is amplified exponentially when it comes to shameful things like my sexual struggles. I was deathly afraid of being found out. Yet being found out was the best thing that ever happened to me. Freedom is found in facing your fears. Especially rejection.

3 – BELIEF: My life goes well when I’m in control. ADMISSION: I am NOT the best CEO of my life.

This has been a tough one to learn. Over and over again. And over. Again. When I think I’m the best person to be in charge of my life something inevitably and divinely happens to remind me that its a myth. When I think I’ve got it altogether I’m kidding myself. The objective truth is that I can manage some things really well. I’m gifted in areas and can steward those gifts quite well. And the objective truth is also that when I try to manage every thing in my life, I blow it up. I am not the best CEO and that is exactly why I need a savior.

I often need a reminder of this truth; so I’ve been keeping a little note on my computer. It helps me stay grounded even as I blog.

I would love to hear what you’ve had to admit to see recovery happen in your life. I’m sure there are more than these few. Please let me know in the comments section!

 

Rewiring your Brain

I am often asked about the brain chemistry behind sexual addiction. While it would take a book to cover the topic adequately (and there is a great one I’ll mention at the end of the post), we can bring it down to lay terms. Simply said, when we engage sexually we activate the areas of the brain that chemically make us feel love, warmth, acceptance, euphoria and peace. Adrenaline, oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, etc for all you detail oriented folks. Most men who struggle with sexual integrity issues have connected the guilt and shame of life with the “love and euphoria” chemicals of sexual engagement. Neuropathways in the brain have formed which, when activated, follow this course:

negative emotions——–> sexual engagement (fantasy, masturbation, porn, emotional/physical affairs, sex with spouse)———->chemicals of love and euphoria released

In other words, we’ve learned how to use sex as the needle to deliver a chemical cocktail anesthetic that medicates negative emotions and shameful self concepts.

What begins as a narrow, shallow walking path eventually becomes so engrained and solidified that it is becomes a deep and wide trench. Those neuropathways, or trenches, are easy to access and fall into. Likewise, they are incredibly difficult to get out of.

Thankfully God created our brains with the ability to rewire. This is known as neuroplasticity. One of the simplest ways to begin rewiring the brain is to follow biblical guidance in two ways. First, when sexual temptation hits, we must take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Then we must replace those thoughts with what the bible says is pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, right, admirable and noble (Phil 4:8). Those thoughts would ideally be vivid memories of times and situations where you felt love and peace. It could be a family vacation photo, an anniversary, grandkids, Jesus, particular verses, etc.

In terms of brain chemistry, what we are doing is interrupting the old neuropathway and replacing the sexual thoughts with memories that tap into the nerve centers of love and euphoria. We’re accomplishing the same goal [releasing the chemical cocktail] only now we are doing so in a way that honors God. We stop using our sexuality as the needle to administer the anesthetic.

I hope you’ll begin practicing this technique. If you’re like I was in the beginning of my recovery journey, you probably have multiple opportunities each day to practice this! If you do, you are faithfully practicing what Paul exhorts us to do; be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).

A helpful read regarding pornography and the brain is Wired for Intimacy: Dr. William Struthers.