Transparency in Recovery: A Vital Life Line

Ron Fevelo

“Transparency” If I may define the term for purposes of this article:

Transparency is the state of seeking to be open, candid and freely sharing about our inner world such that others will become more and more intimately acquainted with us.

Now, on the surface this may sound like a frightening concept and one that can only get in the way of being a “man in the world.” Well, in some ways that makes sense. It would be foolhardy to suggest that a man ought to be in the process of sharing of their inner self with all passersby. No, transparency must be tempered with common sense as well as with discretion. No man can be or ought to be always revealing his inner self.

Now, nearly everybody would agree that men ought to be honest, candid and frank with one another but this is not so easy to pull off in the daily grind of life. One of fundamental reason for this difficulty is that “real” men don’t, ‘show their cards’ so to speak. In a poker game you hide what’s going on on the other side of those playing cards hoping to project a false or deceptive sense of what’s really going on with your “hand.” Even more fundamental than any difficulties we may experience in revealing ourselves in a transparent way as ‘real men’ let us bear in mind that we have a far more daunting and pervasive challenge.

It happened quite a few years ago in a garden; one more beautiful than any before (because there weren’t any before) or since’.the garden of Eden! As the result of ‘the fall’ mankind broke intimacy and transparency with his Creator and had to wear a fig leaf to hide as it were, himself. This tragic occurrence has been the bane of man’s existence ever since. Not only did sin sever the perfection of that closeness with God but it seriously hampered the marital (as well as all other) relationships amongst human beings. (Fortunately, our Lord still knows us totally, intimately and perfectly.)

Many men who struggle with sexual purity will have a strong tendency to be anything but transparent. That is, they will probably increasingly feel the need to hide who they are as they become more and more given to the clandestine and become engulfed in the shame that attends to this situation. Further, this man may likely turn more and more to the object of his affection (porn, affairs, etc) which increases the shame, hiding (non-transparency) and may ultimately lead to (sexual) or other addictions.

So, what does the idea of transparency really have to do with the ‘battle?” Well, for those of you who are concerned that you may need the type of assistance given at the Every Man’s Battle Workshop let me note a few things’ When we seek to change the problems associated with sexual impurity and sexual acting out by entering the recovery process, we will find that those who have successfully established themselves in their recovery will be individuals who are, well, transparent. You will notice that they practice honesty and candor. That is, you will observe that they will talk about themselves; more specifically, they will regularly speak about their inner-world; their shortcomings, their joys and concerns, their fears and victories. They will demonstrate to their world that they know that they have nothing to hide. They are no longer living “the lie,” and don’t have a need to expend the energy to cloak themselves and hide from others.

The lifeline of transparency will connect a man to his inner world, which will allow and enable him to connect with his Lord and with other people more deeply and personally. The essence of this whole process finds its home in the well-known process of living a transformed life, which as Christians know, is an ongoing, life-long process. The process of living a transformed life involves a daily, life-long cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit as we become changed inwardly.

In summation, I believe that we ought to consider that in order to be a man who is going to be true, connected, healed and healthy, we do well to take seriously the idea of setting up a process that allows for others to “take a look” at our inner world. This process occurs naturally as an outgrowth of the process of recovery/transformation. The man who can strive for and begin to achieve the transparent lifestyle is the man who is on the way to being restored to what our Lord originally intended him to be.

Healthy Dating in Recovery

Bob Parkins

It’s easy to forget that many men who are working to maintain sexual purity are single men. There’s a perception that the majority of men in recovery are married because they have more to lose. I, therefore, applaud all men in recovery and welcome the reminder that some are yet single.

I find that, if left unaddressed, many single men in recovery groups have difficulty relating with the married men, or they feel left out altogether. For them, I give some thoughts on how to pursue healthy dating relationships while in recovery. It is imperative that single men struggling sexually continue in ongoing recovery. This is especially important if he begins a dating relationship. If you are this man and are not yet in recovery, start today. Without committing daily to recovery, your new relationship will be in trouble from the start.

I want to touch on two main components of recovery, the first being accountability, and second the deeper work required to work through the issues behind your addiction. Accountability is one of the most important tools in recovery. You should already be faithfully meeting with an accountability partner who is willing to get in your face and ask you specific and hard questions.

In addition to your accountability partner, I highly recommend an accountability group that is also willing to be confrontational. It is very unwise to choose your girlfriend or fianc’ as your accountability partner, or any female for that matter. Accountability groups may be composed of men who struggle in other areas, but should not be co-ed.

Addressing your deeper issues will require work. Usually this is best done with an experienced therapist who is familiar with sexual addiction and recovery. Give yourself time – you will need it. Working through deep issues is almost always a painful and arduous process. Before continuing to pursue a romantic relationship, ask yourself if you are ready to enter into a dating relationship. Get the input of your therapist, accountability partner, and group. Don’t rush it! If you are comfortable beginning to date again remember, sexual temptation is also a part of healthy relationships and will need to be managed with strong boundaries.

Boundaries are an important part of any relationship. Without them we would continually violate others and have difficulty holding onto our own identity and sense of self. It will be important to establish, maintain and clearly communicate both clear emotional and physical boundaries. Your accountability partner should hold your feet to the fire and encourage healthy boundaries. You also need to be accountable to your girlfriend or fianc’e. You most likely have already gotten into trouble doing “everything but.”

Physical boundaries should be set far before you approach the line of a sexual act. I would suggest considering the kinds of physical touch you feel comfortable giving and receiving either in public, or in front of her mother. This is a great place to start setting physical boundaries and will help keep the fires from burning out of control. Setting conservative physical boundaries also encourages an increase in your emotional intimacy; you will spend more time talking. Many couples add another level of safety by being alone together only in public. I also suggest setting a consequence for crossing each other’s boundaries. This should cost you something.

Before my wife and I were married, we setup a savings account for this purpose. Every time a boundary was violated we paid the account. While there was an immediate cost, we eventually had an account full of cash. I think we used the money to buy something nice after we were married, but we would much rather have been sexually pure. The monetary penalties didn’t cost us enough. I would suggest either trying something else or giving the money away.

It is also important to respect her emotional boundaries, and if you are an addict you probably crossing them by expertly manipulating and lying; both violate your girlfriend or fianc’e emotionally. You must have empathy for her. I have encountered countless men who become self-righteous and indignant after they repented and think their wife/girlfriend now owes them forgiveness – she doesn’t. That is between her and God. Allow her the time and space she needs to grieve her pain and losses. When in doubt, empathize.

A therapist or mentor couple will be invaluable in walking you through this difficult process. If you feel yourself becoming impatient with her, check your own heart. You may be feeling shame and guilt for the pain you have caused her. Regardless of how you go about it, either through acting-out or in unhealthy relationships, intimacy is what you have really been grasping for. True intimacy is not natural for the sexually addicted and takes work. Since you are used to expressing intimacy through sexual acts you will need to learn to be intimate through the expression of your heart. This is a tall order, and if you are serious about the person you are currently dating you will need to disclose the nature of your addiction and acting-out. You cannot be truly intimate and hide this part of yourself. Don’t rush into disclosure and don’t take it lightly. Disclosure is best done when you start getting serious about the relationship. It is dishonest to keep this area of your heart hidden from her as she continues to give you hers.

Sharing your heart may be one of the scariest things you have ever learned to do, but it will be the most significant aspect of a healthy relationship. You are embarking on a dangerous journey. Finding your heart and moving toward true intimacy can be very painful and rewarding. There will be times when it is all you can do to maintain sexual sobriety. Staying connected to your sources of accountability and keeping well within the prescribed boundaries are essential if you are to progress toward a truly intimate relationship. You have settled long enough for the counterfeit, now discover what God has for you.

For help in finding a Christian counselor or coach call 1-800-NEW-LIFE.

Singleness and Masturbation

Sam Fraser

We are familiar enough with the Scriptural mandates about sexual purity so I will say no more. During our season of singleness, masturbation is a very real and present temptation. As a Christian single man I struggled with it in the 70’s and 80’s failing more than I succeeded until I was married. Getting married however, did not cure me. Now having been divorced for several years, I am once again acquainted with the battle anew with masturbation as a single man.

Sex studies have concluded that for most men our sex drive, hormonally speaking, peaks at about age 15-20 or so. Since that is true as we move towards 25, 35, 45 and beyond, even though our sex drive begins to wane I didn’t notice that my frequency of acting out declined. So what gives?

The activity of masturbation is no longer exclusively about the amount of testosterone flowing through our veins. Rather it is an expression of another ‘drive’ taking place.

Of the many forces that could keep this battle raging, I want to address only one, loneliness. Acting out in this way actually may be a substitute for not having a special relationship. For many singles, from 25 on, it can become part of a lifestyle to manage loneliness.

This lesson took me from being an unmarried single into my 30’s, married into my 40’s, to divorced and single again to figure out.

As a single person I was never able to overcome this temptation alone, by myself, in isolation. I could white knuckle it for periods of time but never conquer it.

It was only after I was single again that I learned how much I needed to be connected to others. Having a couple of dear friends with whom I can share my needs, hurts and deepest feelings is like air and food–I can’t live without it! Until I had those kinds of people around me I was never able to have very much success in this important spiritual area of my life. I would masturbate the feelings of loneliness because I wasn’t connected.

For a long time I did not know how to admit this need.

With my boyhood training about being independent, self-reliant, and standing tall, coupled with “big boys don’t cry” attitudes that pretty much shut me down emotionally throughout my formative years and well into adulthood. I was programmed to grow up as a man to stand alone. To ask for help went against the very grain of my upbringing. Some men have been able to battle sexual temptation and succeed on their own. However, for me and many others like me I am unable to do it without help.

As a single man this becomes even more pronounced. Not having the type of friendships, or having the personal communication skills to express my loneliness openly and honestly had been my downfall. Since I couldn’t be real with my feelings, the development of a secret life became the place where I felt and acted in a manner that I didn’t feel was ok in my “real life.” Masturbation became the intimacy I craved in lieu of having a genuine relationship. Masturbation became the outlet I had substituted for healthy expressions of my maleness. It became sort of the social life that I did not have in real life. It was a way to cope with loneliness. It became the way to connect with myself since I was not connecting with others.

One of the great benefits of attending the Every Man’s Battle workshop is the opportunity, for many, the first time to be open and honest in a safe environment with other men to speak openly and frankly about this problem. We are all aware of the Scripture’s directives about sexual purity. But there are few places that we can openly discuss the struggles we have in this area of or spiritual life.

Churches and Christian men’s groups are beginning to respond to the need for men to talk about the battle. There are people and places that can support you. Find them or you call us at 1-800-NEW-LIFE for help.