By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Seattle Christian Counseling
References “The Storm of Sex Addiction” by Connie A. Lofgreen
Recovery from any addiction takes more than merely resolving to never do it again. If it were as easy as saying, “No,” it wouldn’t be an addiction. You need to develop a system, internal and external, that will empower you to change your lifestyle. If you long for sobriety, but have no idea how to achieve it, read through the list below. These are four basic techniques to help you get started on the journey to sober living.
1. Dedicate Yourself Completely to Your Sobriety
In sports there is a saying, “Be the pig, not the chicken.” Coaches want athletes to be like the pig who gives its life for breakfast. A pig cannot settle for handing you some bacon and going on its cloven-hoofed way. It must give everything. No one wants a chicken who is only willing to make a small sacrifice. Recovery from addiction requires the same level of dedication. Either give it everything you have, or do not bother showing up. Because it is going to take everything you have in order to get well. Recovery must be your first priority. Otherwise, the drain of peripheral obligations will have you finding excuses to push aside the hard work of recovery. (107)
The same attitude was required by Christ of his followers. He made it clear to those who wished to follow him that unless their passion for his ministry superseded everything else (even family), they might as well stay at home. (Luke 14) “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God,” he told them in Luke 9. Yes, believers and recovering addicts will falter and fall backward during their journey of growth. The only way through these valleys is to remember that what you are struggling toward is better than what you left behind. Even when it does not seem like it.
2. Seek Individual or Group Therapy
It is almost impossible to overcome sexual addiction alone. You may be able to white-knuckle through periods of abstinence, but sporadic dry spells are no cure. Sexual addiction is rooted in a maladaptive understanding about relationships. Growing up, you were taught incorrectly how to interact with other human beings. You need to find a professional Christian counselor who can help you identify where you go wrong in relationships, why you act this way, and how to implement a healthier alternative. “Therapy is an opportunity for an addict to experience a mutual relationship in which his needs and feelings can be felt and expressed safely. A caring and non-reactive therapist provides a secure base from which a client can explore internal conflicts, learn to manage strong emotions, and try new ways of thinking and operating in the world.” (108)
Joining group therapy with other sexual addicts will help you stay on track. Meeting with others who share the same problem can help alleviate the shame and loneliness of addiction. A group also provides accountability because they expect to hear about your progress. When the Lord made Adam, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18 NIV) We need others. It is the way God made us. Accept that you cannot achieve sobriety alone, and find a group that wants to help you create a better life.
3. Practice Self-Care
For some reason, most people have internalized taking care of themselves as being selfish. We are encouraged to do nice things for other people, but shamed for doing them for ourselves. You are important, too. If you want a healthier life than the one you have now, sex addiction is not the only aspect of wellness you should focus on. You need to make sure you are getting sufficient sleep, nutrition, and opportunities for rest. By rest, I mean breaks such as actually having a weekend.
Your mind and body are like any other machines. They can only work for so long until they need to be turned off and recharged. If you are overburdened, but feel too guilty to refuse people when they ask for your help, check out our series on why boundaries are healthy.
4. Engage in Meditation and Mindfulness
I have a friend who likes to put their hands over their eyes when they get really stressed. Like playing peek-a-boo with a baby, it makes everything disappear for a minute. A mini-vacation. Recovering addicts need to find a way to take their own “mini-vacation.” Addicts are particularly susceptible to mental stress during recovery for at least two reasons: they have to navigate life’s challenges without the “help” of the source of their addiction, and they struggle with the stigma of being an addict. We are our own worse critics, and few people have as much ammunition against themselves as addicts.
In her book, “The Storm of Sex Addiction,” Connie A. Lofgreen encourages meditation during recovery. While some may shy away at this suggestion, considering it unchristian, think of it as an opportunity to be alone with God. Everyone needs time to take a break from the chaos inside their heads. To stop the cycle of dwelling on shortcomings. Meditation does this. It’s like reorganizing the junk drawer in your skull. Take 15 minutes to replace negativity with positivity, and to remind yourself of your successes and how you will keep them going. “When addicts incorporate regular meditation or other mindfulness practices into their daily routines, they progress more quickly and have stronger recoveries.” (111)
Seek Christian Counseling For Sexual Addiction Recovery
If you want to become free from addiction, you need a support system. Part of that system ought it be a professional Christian counselor. Find a counselor who will help you understand why you became so reliant on your addiction, and will help you find healthier methods of handling life’s challenges. A professional Christian counselor will help you draw on the strength God offers his children during times of crisis. Take heart in Psalm 9:9, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
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