Category Archives: Spirituality

The first task of recovery: Establishing Sobriety

Pat Carnes is one of the “founding fathers” of the sex addiction field. One of his fundamental principles is that the first task of recovery is to “establish sobriety.” There are two ways to understand this, both of which are essential:

1. To establish sobriety, we must define it

First, we need to “establish” what we mean by sobriety. This is not as easy as it first appears. “Sobriety” – when used in reference to compulsive sexual behavior – is the state of living that is free from the addictive or compulsive behavior. Sexual sobriety is not the same thing as sexual purity … it’s not sexual perfection. It is the ongoing experience of abstaining from unhealthy, addictive sexual behaviors. But, of course, this begs the question … which behaviors are addictive, and which behaviors are healthy?

Recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs is simpler. Sobriety there means abstaining from the drug. Period. But sexual behaviors are much more varied, and recovery for most married people will not involve ongoing abstinence from sexual activity. The task of early recovery is to determine what kinds of sexual behaviors are healthy and lead to genuine intimacy, and which ones are unhealthy and destructive.

Some programs (such as Sex Addicts Anonymous) leave the definition of the specific behaviors in this category up to each individual addict. In these programs, each person decides for him or herself what behaviors are “off-limits”. Other programs are critical of this approach, believing that it creates too much room for self-delusion, and it allows people to define their sobriety so broadly that they don’t really make progress in addressing their problems.

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Make a new start with “90 Days to Sexual Sanity”

We’re excited to announce a new program to help people break free from compulsive sexual behavior and live spiritually free, sexually healthy lives! “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” is a program that offers direction and help to start a process of recovery (or re-start one that is drifting). This program is for people who are struggling with sexual behavior – whether or not this struggle is at the level of an addiction – and want to make positive change. Here’s what the program involves:

Daily “90 Days Guide” sent via email each morning

Each day participants will receive an email each day that provides teaching, next step ideas, and a recovery meditation … all designed with help for the sexual struggler in mind.

(1) You’ll get teaching about an important aspect of personal recovery and sexual health.
(2) You’ll get a specific assignment – a tangible action step – that will help you move forward in your recovery. These action steps are designed to be accomplished in a few minutes’ time.
(3) You’ll get a meditation from one of the many excellent meditation books published by Hazelden. The meditation will be specifically selected and targeted for its relevance to recovery from sexual struggles.

The goal of these daily guides is to provide brief reminders about the “how” and “why” of recovery, and to help participants take some tangible action that moves them forward in recovery.

Weekly coaching and support call

Along with the “daily next step” guides, participants in the “90 Days to Sexual Sanity” program will receive a weekly coaching call, facilitated by Mark Brouwer, which will offer a combination of teaching, accountability, and coaching around issues that participants are facing in their recovery.

For those who will be making the call from an office environment – or other place where they are unable to talk freely – opportunities will be available to get a message to the callers via instant message, so you can check in or ask a question without being overheard by someone nearby.

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Porn addiction among college students

Latest news from the “it’s about time” front: The University of Texas at Dallas is including porn addiction counseling as part of their counseling services on campus. By now, we all know what a problem porn addiction can be and it’s great to see colleges working to deal with this issue on campus. If you are in college and are spending more time looking at porn than studying, you may want to check out this website. Here is an excerpt of the article … which contains some basic info about sex addiction:

“Pornography as a potential addiction … can happen when people spend increasing amounts of time using pornography and begin using increasingly more extreme pornographic material. This increase in use occurs even though the use has negative consequences. Some people find that their entire sex life revolves around pornography and they are unable to be sexually involved with a real person without the use of pornography.

How would you know if your pornography use is harmful to you? The following are some signs that pornography use is problematic:

What about relying on God’s power to help you heal from addiction?

addiction and lightMany of the talks I give are in settings with evangelical Christians, and there is sometimes an unwritten expectation that the solutions offered in these settings should fit a specific schema. If the steps suggested for healing and recovery don’t sound “spiritual” enough, people get nervous. I recently gave a talk, and got the question “What about the power of God? Where is the power of Christ to bring healing in all this?”

I had emphasized the need for people to get into recovery groups with other guys, to get honest, and establish boundaries around sexual behavior (among other things). But to people used to hearing messages where the solution to every problem boils down to more prayer / Bible study / evangelism, this probably sounded a little spiritually weak.

I have great respect for people who are devout, and who seek growth and healing in life from habits that arise out of their faith. But too many Christians make the mistake of seeing God’s work only in the mysterious and subjective. In an email response to the organizers of the event, here is what I said about this issue:

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