BY Jim Cress, Licensed Professional Counselor, CertifIed Sex Addiction Therapist, Certified Multiple Addictions Therapist, Certified Parter Trauma Therapist
There are a number of crucial questions when it comes to people in recovery. Some of these ponderings are more shallow, while others are deeper. If you think about it, acting out in my addiction somehow made sense. It felt good. I was able to momentarily escape some of the realities in my life. I had used this medicator since childhood. Who knows, maybe my addiction to pornography, or sexually acting out in infidelity may have kept me alive. Pain is real. Childhood and family of origin pain is palpable.
So now you have come to a place in your life where you have a longing to live free from the obsessions and compulsions of sexually acting out. At least you think you want something more. Whether your sexual secrets got discovered, or you stepped up and disclosed your infidelity, you find yourself standing here at this D-Day wondering what your future holds. Will my partner ever forgive me? Will she ever be able to heal from the damage I’ve done? And yes, am I even sure I am ready to go “all in” with what will be required of me to walk a path of integrity, healing, and honesty?
For me in my personal recovery journey as a sex addict, I truly had become tired of living a duplicitous life. I always wondered when my secret life and my public and marital life would collide. I had become aware that I no longer wanted to live in what C.S. Lewis called, “the prison of myself.” I also knew Nathaniel Hawthorne was correct when he wrote in The Scarlet Letter, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” Hawthorne also warned, “What other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one’s own self?”
I knew there was a better path, a way to come out of the shadows and darkness, and to truly walk in the light. My friend and mentor, Larry Crabb once said to me, “So sure Jim, part of you wants to masturbate to porn, but is that desire what is most deeply in you?” That question stopped me in my tracks. I pondered a moment, then said to Larry, “No my desire to masturbate to porn is not what is deepest in me. What is deepest in me is to be a man of integrity and freedom. What is deeper in me than lust is my true desire to honor God, to honor my wife and children, and yes to honor myself.” This was a turning point for me. I knew I wanted so much more.
So, first I had to choose my personal recovery because I embraced the first step, “I admitted I was powerless over lust, porn, and masturbation, and my life had become unmanageable.” I chose to embrace my recovery, no matter how my wife responded, or how other men were dealing with their own addictions and recovery journeys. I embraced the powerful truth that I must walk my own recovery for myself first. I also joined a men’s therapy group so I didn’t have to walk this journey alone. I spent several years in counseling working on my own trauma story, attachment wounds, family history, and understanding that recovery from sex addiction is a multifaceted problem that required a multifaceted treatment plan.
I also wanted and needed a warrior battle cry. I found this in Nehemiah 4:14: “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” So, after embracing and committing to my own healing as the primary reason for my recovery, I secondarily grasped the vision of doing the necessary work of becoming a man of integrity for my wife and children’s sake. Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, “Put first things first, and second things will fall right in place.”
Now, I work with and challenge men to make the choice to walk out a life-affirming vision of integrity, healing, freedom, and recovery. Literally “recovering” the abundant life God created them for. As you live out this vision, your journey of recovery becomes your legacy. As long as you are still alive, it is never too late to start. It truly is your choice. I tell everyone I work with, “We have more help and hope than you have problems.”
Deuteronomy 30:19 reminds us of the two paths we can take in life. The choice is yours.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”