By Mike Genung
4 steps for breaking free from porn, sex addiction, and sexual sin
1. Isolation must be eliminated
Mold thrives in hidden, dark places; it feeds on rotting organic matter, and does best in a lukewarm environment.
Like mold, lust grows strong when it’s hidden; it thrives in the darkness and feeds off of a lukewarm heart, rotting it out over time.
For the struggler with sex addiction, isolation is death. The only way to counter it is to be transparent with others on an ongoing basis. James 5:16 says:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
And in Proverbs 28:13 we read:
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
We aren’t meant to be lone stranger Christians. Lust is too big for us to whip on our own, and willpower doesn’t work. The only way to dissolve the shame and begin the process of breaking free from sexual sin is to expose our failures, struggles and fears to others. We give sin more power over us when we try to hide it, so the James 5:16 way of life is the only way to deal with it.
The transparency we read about James 5:16 in Proverbs 28:13 isn’t a one time event; it doesn’t end when we finish working a 30 day recovery program or if we feel a little better. We’re all broken clay pots, and we need to live connected with others for life. This is why grace is so critical to the healing process; if others don’t accept us without condemnation then we dare not be vulnerable. The freedom to be broken liberates us from the slavery of sexual sin and shame and opens up a conduit where we can receive God’s healing grace.
The James 5:16 way of life opens the door for deep friendships to develop, the David and Jonathan kind that every man wants but few find. When another man tells me “I made a big sale today” I think “good for you” and go on my way. But when he says “I’m hurting… I need help… my marriage is teetering on disaster,” I’m blessed by his honesty, and his vulnerability encourages me to be transparent with him; as we encourage and support each other a bond begins to take form. This is how the body of Christ is meant to function.
Living connected with others replaces shame with confidence; fear with peace. When we’re accepted for who are without being judged for our failures, the light of grace shows us that we’re not the scum we’d mistakenly thought we were. Consistent accountability can be a wonderful preventative against sexual sin, as the knowledge that we’d have to tell someone of a slip forces us to think of the consequences before acting out.
For complete freedom from lust, all isolation must be eliminated. Become aware of the stresses, circumstances and pleasures of life (such as video games) that set you on the path to isolation. If you feel yourself slipping into isolation, connect with God or a person. We connect with God by talking to him, and we can connect with others by a phone call, sending an email, writing a letter, or meeting them for a meal.
For those who are single, realize that being alone is not the same as being isolated. To isolate means to “set apart from.” When alone you can still find peace by communing with God, listening to uplifting music, reading a book, or exercising. Jesus often spent time alone with God, so a solitary life is not necessarily an isolated one. There are many marriages where the husband and wife are isolated (set apart) from each other. The unmarried need to make an effort to reach out to others and allow God to form a support base of the family of God around them.
So what does the James 5:16 life look like?
A. Meeting with other men once a week in a group that focuses on dealing with lust issues.
Strength in Numbers is our Christ and grace centered support group for those who struggle with sex or porn addiction. If you don’t have a group locally, please consider starting your own group – believe me when I say it’s a great need! (As is mentioned in porn statistics, half the men in church have a struggle with porn.)
When you meet, each person should share how they’re doing with lust, and then everyone should pray for the others. I cannot emphasize enough the need for specific prayer for each person and their struggles; I’ve seen God change lives from prayer. Any group that neglects prayer time is missing out on an incredible blessing.
B. Meeting with one brother on a consistent basis (weekly).
Personally I think groups are the best because they offer more support and feedback and there are more opportunities for friendships to develop, but groups aren’t the only way. If you have one solid friend who you can trust and depend on this will work.
C. Making phone calls every day to an accountability partner.
If temptation hits and you feel yourself slipping, get on the phone and have someone pray you through the situation. Don’t try to fight lust alone or rely on your own strength. Breaking the isolation habit takes time, and you may need to make one phone call each day until you get on solid ground.
2. Cut off the stumbling blocks of lust in your life
Matthew 5:29-30 says:
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
You’re in an all-out war, and there are no neutral parties. If lust isn’t killed you will be defeated; there’s no prize for second place.
In practical terms this means that the porn stash gets burned. If watching movies at home takes you down, shut off the cable service and all incoming channels. If the internet is a problem you can try setting a password on the browser, or installing a porn blocker, but understand that this isn’t a fail safe solution. I have yet to hear of a porn blocker that couldn’t be disabled or got around when someone really wanted to do so. If internet porn continues to take you down then you need to take more drastic action, which could mean shutting off all internet service.
One word about porn blockers – most guys who want to get around them, do. A porn blocker is probably more effective for an honest person than a guy who really wants to act out. Covenant Eyes has software that emails an accountability partner of your choice a list of every website that you visit. This can be a powerful deterrent to looking at porn (especially if your wife is the one who’s getting the emails.)
If there’s a relationship you’re involved with that’s sexually inappropriate, cut off all ties immediately, even if this means getting a new job or relocating. If hotel porn is a problem and you can’t leave the TV off, then have the TV removed from the room, don’t take trips alone, or stop traveling. If you have to, get a new job where you don’t travel.
Wife getting lingerie magazines in the mail? Ask her to cancel the subscription, and have her be the one to check the mail.
Whatever it takes, do it now. There must be no compromise… it’s kill or be killed, cut off the stumbling blocks under your control or allow lust to keep taking you down. We live in a culture filled with sexual sewage, and the temptations aren’t going to subside, it’s going to get worse. Apathy is an open door for lust to take more territory.
Matthew 5:29-30 tells us that 100% of the responsibility to destroy the stumbling blocks of lust rest on our shoulders. There is no “powerlessness clause”, and God isn’t going to remove your porn stash or turn off the TV for you.
Note that we need only cut off the stumbling blocks. If TV isn’t a problem for you then don’t worry about it. We all struggle in different ways; don’t give your list to others and demand they do what you did. We don’t have TV service in our home because the temptation to channel surf is too strong for me, but at work I use the internet all day without a thought of surfing porn sites (and I don’t have a porn blocker). We’re free to keep the things in our lives that aren’t a problem.
I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. – Psalms 101:2-4
3. Deal with the roots driving your lust
Accountability and cutting off the stumbling blocks are the beginning to the process of finding freedom from sexual sin, not the end. The emptiness and pain in your heart that drive you to lust must be dealt with. These issues are discussed in the answer and What I wish.
Those who struggle with sex addiction have 3 things in common – they’re isolated, they have father wound issues, and they haven’t accepted God’s grace in their heart. Discuss the roots in your group, and have your brothers pray for you, asking the Lord to replace the lies with the truth. Or you can find a qualified Christian counselor, pastor or mentor who understands God’s grace. Sex addiction is the search for God’s love in lust; the roots must be exposed and dealt with in order for the spiritual vacuum that feeds lust to be permanently shut off.
4. Keep Seeking God
Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and expose and remove the lies in your heart that keep you from accepting His grace. Ask Him to change your heart. Ask Him to lead you to the group or individual He would have you be accountable to. The Lord changes lives, not programs, and He is willing to heal your heart. You’re hungry for God’s love, so go after the One you’re hungry for.