Written by Simon:
While I finished reading “Breaking Free” several months back, several fundamental ideas that speak to my CD life for all these years still resonate and are useful in my ongoing recovery. In this post I want to reflect on some lies that I have believed, and still fight believing (on my ‘bad’ days), that the book connects to acting out in fantasy or behavior, or both. I would love to hear from you all about which speak to you most deeply, and which ones, not on this list, should we also be fighting? For each lie, I’ll refer to the chapter from which it comes, and some short reflections on why the lie has been relevant to my CD addiction. I also will share what I think is true of myself, according to God.
From Ch.2: What all addicts have in common (including CDs):
- I am basically a bad, unworthy person
Reflection: If I know that CD is a degrading, perverse, and ultimately futile acting out, it reflects a heart that believes that I am unworthy of ‘legitimate’, ‘appropriate’, or ‘pure’ intimacy and connection.
The truth is that in Christ, I am beloved, redeemed, worthy, righteous, and holy (Rom 9:25). What a contrast to who I say I am!
- If you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me
Reflection: One of the reasons why the CD addiction has been such a prison for me is how deeply ashamed I was of seeking my sexual gratification from wearing women’s intimate clothing. It’s almost hard to write about it even here, under the cloak of anonymity and in a community of those that understand and have experienced it. It was a part of my life I just wasn’t willing/able to bring ‘into the light’ and have the gospel shine upon, very likely because I really believed this lie (#2) for many years, perhaps even decades.
The truth is, people CAN’T truly love me UNLESS I am KNOWN…otherwise, they’re not really loving ‘me’, only a facade, a mask, a counterfeit. To really experience love, I must allow others to see my deepest dreams, fears, longings, failures, joys and hear them say, ‘you’re beautiful, just the way you are’, and God wants to redeem the world through you! (John 21:16-17).
The gospel promises this to me, but I can experience that with my closest friends when I lay down my defenses, my excuses, and my ‘euphemisms’ for sin and hear from them what’s needed for true healing.
- I can’t depend on others to meet my needs, I’ll have to depend on myself
Reflection: Although unwilling to admit it, I believed God couldn’t meet my needs related to my CD, which is why I felt hopeless and destined to ‘stay this way forever’, as so many books and people have written about. I had this fleeting hope that getting married would solve all my ‘perverted sexual fantasies’, but unfortunately, my wife couldn’t compete with my lust, anger, bitterness, and loneliness that was at the heart of my CD addiction. Of course I blamed God and my wife for my condition, as any self-righteous addict should.
The truth is that God and others are EXACTLY what I need to flourish (i.e., ‘Love God, Love People’) but I believe lies #1 and #2 too much and don’t let them in to minister to my heart as I need. And then I don’t minister to others DEEPLY, which also meets a need for connection, possibly because I believe lies #1 and #2.
- Sex is my greatest need.
Maybe I didn’t always believe this, but I can say that I believed sex was my greatest need that couldn’t be met by anyone besides myself. This relates to #3, where I believed that the Bible, God, my wife, my Christian brothers, etc were simply incapable of helping me out of my CD behavior. It was easy to resign myself to CD as my ‘thorn in the flesh’ that God was CHOOSING to make me carry my entire life. Another lie.
I think the truth is that intimacy and connection is a greater need than sex, but when I eroticize both I can’t separate them from the sexual act. Instead, I often chose the solo sex offered in CD as a poor substitute for either intimacy or connection. And it left me in more desperate need, and the addiction cycle begins again.
From Ch.3: Aligning ourselves with God
- I don’t need God and others to be free from CDing.
As I’m reading this today, it’s just so obvious that this is a lie, but one I’ve acted as if I believed forever. I reasoned that I just needed to pray more, serve more, be more successful, reduce stress, etc, and my desire to CD would go away. It’s just this way of thinking always led me back to my addiction, but I couldn’t make the connection.
What’s true is that God created me to be in communion with Him and His creation (John 14:23). In my weakness, blindness, and wickedness, I run from the God-ordained means of grace to those that are cheap substitutes instead. And am never satisfied!
5a. God can’t or won’t touch this part of me, and expects me to rely on myself (see #3 above)
I saw this as a Gal 6:5 situation, that I needed to carry my own load…but in reality, I wasn’t willing to rely on God or others to help me. Maybe because I wasn’t worthy (lie #1), no one could handle this truth about me (lie #2), or that they couldn’t actually help (lie #3).
What’s true is that God WANTS to free me of this, but I must choose to take Him at His Word. As I’ve written elsewhere, I needed help outside of my own intellect, reason, willpower, and spiritual insight to overcome CD (for more than a day/week/month at a time). That required of me the same as during my conversion experience…1) admit I am powerless and in need of a Savior; 2) Believe what God says of me; 3) Receive His forgiveness and love, often expressed through His Word and His People. Yes, simple…and yet so elusive.
- The born again believer shouldn’t struggle with sexual sin (CD) after accepting Christ…as a new creation, all of that past life is simply left behind.
Wow, I drank this Kool-Aid big time, maybe from some bad teaching or maybe just my immature self wanting the ‘easy’ way out…no inner work needed, no confession, no wrestling with sin, no recognition of my depravity…just ‘magic touch’, and it’s gone. Believing this lie made me doubt my conversion so many times, as I thought there’s no way I could be saved and be dealing with this darkness. No one else in my Christian world seemed to be at least!
What’s actually true for me is it took a recognition that I don’t have it in me to overcome this on my own. I need wisdom from others, I need confession of my sin, I need a plan of action that actually works, I need a way to get my needs met before it leads to acting out, I need to join in others’ struggles and successes. No more going this alone, there’s too much at stake for all of us.
7. Masturbation is completely normal, morally neutral, and justifiable EVEN WHEN it:
- is compulsive
- involves fantasy
- is an escape from reality
- is a mismanagement of emotions
- is addictive
- reduces intimacy with God and my spouse or future spouse
- leads to more egregious behavior
- is done under conditions I can’t tell anyone about (e.g., as a culmination of a CD ‘acting out’ session)
Nothing here to add, just blatant self-deception, rationalization, and justification of sin. Brutal.
From Ch.4: Enlisting the Help of Others
- I can manage and get free from CDing without the involvement of at least one friend, likely more, who would provide regular accountability and knows ‘all’ the dirty secrets, skeletons in the closet, and under what conditions I’m most likely to fail. [These men wouldn’t be deceived by my outward appearance and clever deceptions, but know my motivations and inclination to return to my addiction.]
I think this is where this community is so helpful to me, I’m walking daily with those fighting the same fight, and finding victory over it in Christ. Praise God.
From Ch.5: Understanding the Mold
- My traumatic past is responsible for my current (CD) addiction. Since I can’t change the past, my present and future struggles are inevitable and true freedom is impossible.
This is what I wrote about in the first blog post on “Breaking Free”…and that totally contradicts what the Bible tells us is true about me.
From Ch. 7: The Divine Caricature
- I believe who God says He is and who God says I am as His child, and accept His forgiveness, healing, nurturing, and freedom He offers in the Gospel. I believe He can meet my deepest needs and longings.
Yes, this is a LIE too…that I believe these things about God. My behavior and addiction bear witness against me! Perhaps the most sinister of them all, as I can profess this outwardly, but can see from my CD behavior, I don’t actually believe it.
But HOW to believe it? For me, I’ve needed to EXPERIENCE it through others that express the grace of God in a community of faith. But I have to be MYSELF, not some Pharisee-version of a whitewashed tomb that I often believe will make me acceptable. The worst version of myself is still acceptable in God’s sight, and if I can believe and accept it, in others’ sight too.