Next Steps to Recovery from Pornography
I can’t count the number of times men have come to me and asked, “Why won’t God give me the freedom I’m desperately seeking?” Even those men who have been in accountability relationships for years and who have attended groups designed to help them get free from addictions and issues, like Celebrate Recovery and Freedom Sessions, still struggle with sexual temptation. These are men who love God desperately, but who are deeply shackled by their sin. It’s not that they haven’t tried to find freedom, in fact quite the opposite, they have done all they know to do, but something still isn’t right. They are often ashamed and afraid to ask for help because they believe they should be fixed, but they aren’t. Others wonder if they don’t have enough faith or it’s just about a lack of self-control — I’m here to tell you that it’s so much more than that.
I have recently heard some incredible sermons on the power of a life that is free from sin. By free from sin, I don’t mean sinless; I mean a life where we aren’t tied so tightly to sin that we don’t even have a choice whether or not we give in to it. As believers we are made new and freed from the chains that enslaved us.
As much as this is true, it isn’t a fully holistic point of view, even when we are speaking of Scripture. Yes, we aren’t bound on a spiritual level any more. We don’t need to listen to the slave master of our past when he calls us to do his bidding, but our human bodies and even our biological chemistry has been programmed to respond for a long time, and our habits need to be changed. Yes, sincere men and women who love God with a desperate passion can still struggle with habitual sin, specifically pornography.
Paul seems to speak of this when he says;
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:19,20).
Our behaviours or addictions have literally created pathways in our brains that function as worn-away shortcuts in a forest, they are always easier to use than going the long way. It’s this “sin living in” us that we need to defeat.
The good news is that God has created our brains with an ability to reprogram and repair these pathways. We can actually take hold of the “sin living in us” and starve it, allowing new pathways and shrivelling up the old ones.
So what are the next steps to getting free from pornography? Before we look at those, it would be good to review the four dimensions of healing.
- Past baggage: Usually our past is riddled with things we ran from, haven’t dealt with, or which have caused us some hurt. Eventually reminders of those things cause us to “self-medicate” or to find a way to feel better and not feel the pain that we are feeling related to our past issues.
- Spiritual freedom: We need to both accept and choose to live in the freedom that Christ provides. Choosing to live in the freedom that we have in Christ is immense.
- Physiological residue – these are the elements described above, the “pathways” in our brains. You know you have these when, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to let go or stop doing what you’re doing, just as Paul describes in Romans. See my sermon on YouTube® for more on this https://youtu.be/H6c-DDgAv50
- Belief system shifts: I’m not referring to changing your understanding of Jesus and salvation, although that’s possibly needed, too. I’m talking about beginning the process of accepting that some of the things you believe aren’t true, things like the innate belief you likely have that you need sex to survive like water or food. Processing that there may be things in our past that aren’t dealt with and we are running from, recognizing parts of our weak moments might actually be other things, etc.
In order to tackle all of these things, a few principles of healing and freedom need to occur; these are things you must do to find healing.
- Education: part of the physiological freedom involves changing the brain and becoming aware of what is going on both in the body and the brain. Even learning the truth about the porn industry helps loosen the strongholds of belief and chemical responses.
- Aggressive accountability: I suggest four “pillars” of accountability: discussing work life, family life, spiritual life and our issues with sin. Aggressive refers to the need to go after personal refinement in all of these areas and be challenged by another person in your life. Book a time to either meet or call, at the very least weekly, and sometimes more often. Be as aggressive as you need to be, and don’t let each other get away with anything. Carrying each other’s burdens in love requires loving and hard truth sometimes (Galatians 6 and Proverbs 27).
- Personal healing and spiritual freedom – the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12 Steps form an incredible tried and true resource that will help you sincerely and intentionally dig into your life and find freedom in Christ as you accept your limitations as you fight for your freedom, I use a version of the 12 steps converted for use with sexual addiction. We weren’t designed or created to be able to beat this without God, and the 12 Steps walk us through inviting God into every crack and hurt in our lives.
- Group support: There is incredible power in hearing the stories of success — and even failure — from others. I run support groups for men who are struggling with porn or other sex addiction issues. It’s an opportunity to teach things specific to the issue, answer questions that wouldn’t be asked in other environments and more. Knowing you aren’t alone is immeasurably healing. If you are interested in starting a group at your church or in your community, I would love to help walk you through and equip you to do that.
- Brain change: Starting the process of starving the sin in us and investing in making new, healthy brain pathways is more important that you can imagine. Dr. Doug Weiss, the president of the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy suggests the implementation of what he calls the Five Commandments (or Five C’s). They are:
#1 – Daily Morning Prayer
#2 – Daily Phone Calls/Accountability
#3 – Daily Bible and Recovery Material Reading
#4 – Daily (or possibly weekly, if no other options) Attend Meetings (these are specific sex addiction recovery groups)
#5 – Daily Evening Prayer
These must be implemented aggressively and without compromise for the first 90 days in order to start the process of brain change needed. It takes three days for the chemical pressure to slow, then three weeks to create new habit, but it takes three months to kill off old habits.
Your next steps to finding freedom need to include these elements. The easiest way to make these things a reality is to start or join a porn/sex addiction group in your area that teaches as well as supports you along the way. There is no compromising on these things. There will be the occasional individual who will not be able to get to a group. That person must find a counselor that he can see weekly and who can fill the role of a group, but there is no other proven route to freedom.
Please know first, that you aren’t alone; second, that you can have freedom, and third, that God loves you desperately and has something greater in store for you. He will bring all things into completion, including refining you in this area of your life, so that it can be redeemed and you can be a light to others around you.
Resources for Purity
Doing Family Right uses the resources below to walk men through finding freedom from the secret monster of lust and pornography in their lives. The first four have become our foundational tools.
The Conquer Series (video study) — an incredible resource developed by pastor Ted Roberts that intertwines education and spiritual truth to help men on their journey (conquerseries.com).