THE SHORT ANSWER IS A RESOUNDING YES! The longer answer is that you can recover from sex addiction and never act out again—if you do what is necessary to achieve sexual sobriety. Addiction is a disease—a treatable disease. In order to treat it, however, you must, in my opinion, get past the idea that you will be cured if you just pray hard enough. I prayed for thirty-six years to be cured. Finally, I heard a quiet voice in my heart and mind whisper that I needed to quit relying solely on prayer and start doing something so the Lord could then do His part. He did not let me down.
It turns out that addiction is not just a spiritual malady. There are physical and emotional components as well. In much the same way that we need to treat and regulate diabetes, we need to treat and regulate addiction. When I was acting out on my addiction, I was unconsciously trying to self-medicate to dull the pain in my heart and mind that was originally the result of depression and childhood sexual and emotional abuse. As a child, I had learned to disappear into fantasy where all the women were nice to me and happy to see me. As I grew older, the fantasies grew more complex and more sexual, fueled by occasional binges of pornography. Fantasy was my mind’s coping mechanism. I learned it as a child; I perfected it as an adult.
If you cannot stop looking at pornography or engaging in other sexual behavior that you think is wrong, you need to consider the possibility that you are not merely listening to the naughty voice of a little red devil with a pitchfork on your shoulder telling you to do dirty things. There is a distinct possibility that, like me, you have developed a lust and fantasy coping mechanism that “helps” you deal with the unhappy and stressful times in your life.
You also need to understand that there is a difference between sin and addiction, and a difference between repentance and recovery. Addiction is not sin; repentance is not recovery. They are all interconnected, but they are not the same thing. Sex addiction compels you to sin, but it is not the same thing as sin. Likewise, just because you repent of your sins, it does not automatically mean that you have recovered from your sex addiction.
Think about it. You have sincerely repented so many times that you can’t count them anymore. Why then do you keep going back to the pornography and acting out sexually? Is it because your repentance isn’t sincere enough? Do you not cry hard enough? Do you not have enough resolve or conviction or contrition? Maybe it’s something else. Is it possible that the issue is not a lack of repentance from sin, but rather a lack of recovery from addiction?
So what do you do to find recovery? The first thing you have to do is get in contact with someone who has suffered from, but is successfully overcoming, sex addiction. You need to talk to someone who has been to hell and lived to tell about it. You need to talk to someone who can look you in the eye and tell you flat out, “I know what you’ve been through because I have been there myself. I can help you get better. You can watch me and do what I do. You can ask me questions and I will tell you the answers from experience.” In 12 Step programs we call this guy a sponsor. He will save your life. We will help you find one if you e-mail us at Recovery[at] RowboatAndMarbles [dot] org.
In addition, you need to connect with a 12 Step group. You need the fellowship of those who have gone before you and found recovery. Contrary to what the ignorant and self-righteous might believe, these groups are full of people who have humbly and successfully found real sexual sobriety and are sharing their experience, strength and hope with others who want to do the same. They are some of the most extraordinary individuals I have ever met. The meetings are positive, inspiring and hopeful because of those people who are in recovery.
Your addiction wants you to remain alone—solitary, unhappy and cut off from people who can help you. Addiction thrives on loneliness, shame and despair. If you want to deal with your addiction in a way that works, walk into a 12 Step meeting and make some friends. I promise they will greet you with smiles.
Finally, to recover, you need to heal up the wounds that cause the pain you are trying to medicate. A therapist or professional counselor can help you understand what is going on that makes you hurt. The Lord wants you to be whole—spiritually, mentally and physically. I am sure of that.
If I can instill one idea in your head, it is this: You can definitely recover—but you cannot recover on your own! By contrast, you most definitely can stay addicted on your own. As I said, your addiction’s continued survival depends on your remaining isolated. Like me, you’ve proven ten thousand times that going solo is a perfect recipe for failure. Even if you’re the toughest, smartest, most spiritual person you know, rest assured that your addiction is more cunning, baffling and powerful than you are—and it doesn’t care a bit about your strength of spirit. Reach out to those who have gone before you. It will save your life; it will save your soul.
Recovery and sexual sobriety feel fabulous! Please let those in recovery share their experience strength and hope with you.