Written by Simon


I’ve been working through some key ideas I’ve considered these past 14 months in my efforts to stay sober and continue to walk out of the CD darkness. Several of them come from the book Unwanted by Jay Stringer where he makes the argument that in order to break free from our sexual addiction we need to understand: 1) how we got here; 2) why we stay; and 3) how to get out of here. Today I’d like to share about why I stayed in this life for so long.

1. I didn’t know what conditions continued to be in place in my life that led to the addiction forming in the first place.

Until I began to become aware of what conditions led me to feeling like I needed to act out, all I did was respond to the (mostly) subtle, subconscious messages that reinforced the beliefs that I was unworthy, lacking, and a failure. It’s becoming clear to me now that I ran to CD for two main reasons. First, I needed to numb the pain, as it was often unbearable to feel the loneliness, isolation, shame, and hopelessness that I had experienced for so many years in my life. Second, through CD I could strive to become, and even convince myself I was becoming, something totally different that I could find attractive and hopefully the world could too. So CD provided the means for temporary euphoria through sexual release, but I tried to delay that as long as possible in my CD sessions because by doing so, I could stay in the place where I wasn’t ugly, rejected, a complete loser, etc. By trying on outfit after outfit and catching a glimpse of a female form I could imagine for a moment, and sometimes fool myself into believing, that I could transform into something worthy of attention and love. Of course it was fleeting and ridiculous and fiction, but I could often suspend disbelief and reality long enough to escape the pain of being who I ‘really’ was.

So recognizing the kinds of experiences that are persisting in my life, and the associated messages that remind me of all my past and current failures, is one of the keys to changing the conditions I live in so that the addiction just doesn’t fit any more. It doesn’t have a place because it isn’t serving the purpose it always has. But how to live in a broken world with a broken heart without feeling all those feelings over and over? That’s a second major piece to the puzzle.

2. I didn’t believe that I was worthy of acceptance, love, and affirmation from those I felt I needed it most. My core narrative of self-hatred and self-contempt tainted my ability to find true connection with others.

I think this past week I’ve struggled more with CD thoughts coming into my head than most other times during the past year but since I’m not ‘white-knuckling’ it to stay free, I can take a few minutes to think about why that is and how life events affected me differently and kept me from relapsing.

So this week I had several ‘triggering’ episodes in close temporal proximity that have been attacking my defenses and trying to take me back to previous thought patterns. The first was a serious and ongoing medical issue in my immediate family that is having significant impacts on our relationships, finances, and mental health. I cannot control or really seriously influence the outcome and as a result, I have been feeling powerless, traumatized, fearing the future, and criticized for not handling it better.

The second was some difficult interactions at work, where I heard that I was being overly critical, second guessing, and basically a jerk to some dear colleagues who deserve better. I felt like they were angry, disappointed, wondering why I was their director, and hoping I would quit. As a result, I am feeling inadequate, unneeded, and unwanted in my workplace.

The third was a threatening phone call about being arrested and imprisoned unless I followed explicit instructions to forfeit several thousand dollars of our personal finances (which I did actually lose that day in response). In this encounter, although fraudulent and malicious in its intent (I was being victimized), I felt terrified of doing something terribly wrong; I had let my family down by breaking the law; I felt violated and manipulated; and I thought I was going to jail. I think I was having a panic attack during that episode and was totally paralyzed by fear and shame.

After just writing that, I wanted to pause and just say to God that my heart is so glad that I have been delivered this week from my CD prison and all of the torment it has brought to me over the decades. I don’t think I could have experienced all of those things in the same few days previously and not completely lost it in a binge of online and in person shopping, secret fantasy sessions, and ultimately acting out physically. Thank You, Father, for being merciful to Your servant.

3. I didn’t know how to process life in such a way that decoupled stressful events from the negative self-talk that is intimately connected with my CD addiction.

Last night I was alone in our bedroom with all the opportunity to act out as I wanted for several hours. I recalled the times where I had given into insomnia, anger, loneliness, and shame and wondered if this would be a moment where I ‘returned to my vomit’. I acknowledged that if I was going back, this would be a good time to do it, at least I had pretty good justification for it. But I didn’t, and I want to think through why God might have spared me.

I could tell pretty early on this week that I was struggling. I met for 1.5 hours with my accountability partner, talking through my stresses, pointing each other to relevant scripture, and affirming each others’ efforts to live into our integrity and take our requests to God. That was super helpful.

I reached out to some folks at church that knew what was going on and three of the past seven nights either they’ve come over and visited with us or I’ve gone to them. They’ve listened, brought food, prayed with me, and empathized with my pain.

I started re-reading Unwanted to remind myself of the key ideas that have been helpful to me and began working on this post to hopefully help others in this addiction.

I visited the prayer group (ask Barnabas for details) several times a day and posted some, read some, and prayed some for the current struggles others have been sharing.

I cooked several healthy meals and desserts for myself and my family. I spent some time talking through my struggles with those in my family experiencing the same stress due to the medical issues.

I left work early a few days and spent time outside in the sunshine and made calls when I was angry or frustrated or defeated to those I trust and who love me.

I washed my car slowly and took extra time to detail it and it’s still shiny several days later.

I confessed and apologized to my family members and my work colleagues for my hurtful words and actions and received from them forgiveness and restoration.

I processed my trauma and have come to the conclusion that in each situation I gave it my best, trusted God with the outcome, and lived into my values by being present and staying engaged, as painful and uncomfortable as it was. I can hold my head high that I didn’t check out or make excuses when I failed to live up to my standards of thought and behavior.

In summary, God has placed in my life what was needed to experience life in community and to receive love from those I need it from most. I am still broken, weak, and fragile but know that I am loved, accepted, and cherished by those close to me and my LORD. And in this light, the CD darkness has fled, at least for now.



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