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.

Thoughts on Endurance in Recovery

Dave Boyle

One of the most famous speeches in history occurred at the time of the Second World War. The British troops were discouraged, as the Nazi’s seemed to be making gains every day. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, stood up to address the English troops one day at a particularly low point of the war and in his raspy voice said, ‘Gentleman, never, ever, ever,””.ever, ”’ever, ”’ever, give up.’ Churchill then sat back down. And we all know the results of the war; the Allied forces came back to defeat the Nazis, and the world was rid of Hitler and his henchmen for good.

But here’s a troubling hypothetical: what if the British troops had given up? What if the Americans had said, ‘this is too hard. I’m not going to take all this time and effort for something that might not work out in the end.’ Where would you be now? Well, you might not be enjoying many of the freedoms that you are currently enjoying.

Given the scenes that have been beamed into our living rooms from Iraq, and the valor of the brave men and women who are over there fighting, I am not about to compare striving for sexual sobriety with the gruesomeness of war. Yet the principle that Prime Minister Churchill wanted to get across to his troops is the very same principle that we need to use in our daily lives to stay pure, and that is endurance.

Don Henley, the drummer for the rock group The Eagles, once told a reporter that one of the reasons for the band’s success is that when the band toured, the repetition of doing the same songs over and over again, night after night, never seemed to bother them, because they loved playing the music. That’s how it must be with us if we are to stay sexually pure. You can look at having a daily quiet time, where you read God’s Word and talk to him, as repetition, or you can look at it as a new and fresh way to connect with God each morning. Going to that recovery group every Friday night–at the same place with the same people–can be repetition, or it can be an exciting challenge to share your victories and help other guys do the same. Going to the therapist’s office each week can be an act of drudgery, or it can be a healing hour where you continue your journey to get to the root of the lust that has been so destructive in your life.

Paul knew a little about perseverance and endurance. In 2 Corinthians 6:4 he says, ‘Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses.’ Later in the same book he talked about those hardships and distresses: ‘I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one (think ‘Passion of the Christ’). Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night on the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countryman, in danger from the Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food’ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). So I think he is qualified to make the following statement in Hebrews 10:36: ‘You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” So really, endurance isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. It’s been said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. And if that’s the case, then I say that 80 percent of showing up is endurance. With a web site that gets as many hits as this one, I know that there is at least one guy who is reading this who is ready to chuck his sobriety and go act out. Don’t do it! Endure! Persevere! Pray! Call somebody! Do whatever you have to do to endure in purity. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

No Higher Power

Dave Boyle

Easter Sunday is the day that separates Christianity from all of the other world religions. No other religious leader ever rose from the dead. Jesus alone accomplished that miracle. And that is why we worship Him–that is why we put our faith in Him alone for our salvation.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate this month, is also why you and I can stay free from sexual sin. The same power that brought Jesus out from the grave is the same power that you and I can plug into, on a daily basis, to bring us to, and help us maintain, sexual sobriety.

Much like a bulb is of little value if the lamp is not plugged into an outlet, so our lives will not shine to our wives, our kids or our friends if we are not plugged into God’s power source. It takes some work on our part, but the results are well worth it.

How do we ‘plug in’ to God’s power source?

The first way is to make sure you are connected to Him by talking to Him and learning about Him on a daily basis. This generally happens through a daily quiet time of prayer and Bible reading. If you have gotten away from this habit, it will probably be only a matter of time before relapse is crouching around the corner. The first point of the action plan that you received at EMB was to spend at least 15 minutes in the Word and in prayer each day, remember?

One of the things to pray for is sobriety; God will hear your earnest prayers and will be faithful. One hint: pray specifically and pray passionately. If your struggle is masturbation, pray with all of your heart that God will keep you from lusting and acting out, today. Don’t pray about tomorrow, or next week, take it one day at a time. Recovery is hard by the yard but a cinch by the inch. If your struggle is a certain woman at work, get on your knees and pray that God will fill you so full with the Spirit that you don’t notice what she looks like or what she’s wearing, but will only see her heart and that she needs Jesus. And if your issue is internet pornography, cry out to the Lord that He will get you to a point where you are so emotionally connected to your wife, or spiritually connected to a trusted friend or accountability partner, that the thought of an air brushed image on a screen holds absolutely no sway over you. If you pray specifically and passionately about your recovery, God will honor those prayers and will begin and maintain the healing process.

The other way of being plugged into God’s power source is by being in His Word. If prayer is talking to God, then reading the Bible is listening to God. Whether you use a devotional book along with your Bible, or just read a passage and think about it, always pick out one truth that you have received and meditate on it periodically through out the day. If you’re like me, you tend to forget what you’ve read, so I always put a post it note on my computer with the truth I learned that morning, and refer to it through out the day. It’s amazing how relevant that truth becomes as situations come up during the day. Then again, it’s really not all that amazing, because the same God who raised His Son from the dead, and gave Him power, is the same God who is vitally interested in you and your sobriety, and gives you power. You matter to God, and He wants to see you be successful in your pursuit of holiness.

As you celebrate Easter this month, make Christ’s resurrection power your own. It will be the best 15 minutes a day you’ve ever spent.