Our special guest post comes from John Stampe, a Sex Addiction Recovery Coach. John writes about the 4 foundations of freedom that can assist those struggling with sex and porn addictions.
If you’ve ever confessed sexual sin to a pastor and asked for help, it’s likely you were told to ask God for the strength to stop your unwanted sexual behavior, sign up for an internet monitoring service, and get an accountability partner. These are all good things, and they’re often necessary for recovery from an addiction to pornography or sex. But … they’re not enough. Many men have prayed earnestly for freedom, dutifully subscribed to Covenant Eyes, and asked a friend to help keep them honest, only to find themselves slipping back into old addictive patterns a few weeks, months, or years later.
So what’s the problem? Well, this approach is missing some key ingredients. Managing lust by locking down your phone is not a long-term solution. Likewise, prayer without a total surrender of the heart is insufficient. So is an accountability group that provides a place to confess your struggles without challenging you to make heart-level changes. Instead, a holistic approach to recovery is required to find radical freedom.
Your ability to outgrow pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors will hinge on your passion for building a new life based on these four foundations: physical freedom, emotional freedom, spiritual freedom, and relational freedom.
This isn’t a journey for the faint of heart. Freedom requires hard work and total commitment. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains it this way: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.” Are you ready to surrender your pride and your selfishness with complete abandon, replacing them with humility, honesty, and selflessness? If so, let’s examine the solid foundation on which you can build a life of radical freedom.
The first step toward freedom is to understand that your brain is probably addicted to your unwanted sexual behavior. Simply deciding to stop acting out isn’t enough because the pharmacy in your head is very potent. “When a man regularly uses porn, he builds a strong neurological pathway so that his brain can go down that path almost automatically,” explains Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional Ted Shimer in The Freedom Fight. “Porn is a drug that chemically alters the brain.” This is why you keep acting out sexually even though it violates your values.
Here’s the good news: your brain can be reprogrammed! The concept is called neuroplasticity, which means the neural networks in your brain can change over time as you learn new behaviors. In order to renew your mind, the old neural pathways that lead you to unwanted sexual addiction must be replaced with new pathways and new habits. I’ll coach you through the process of identifying the triggers that push your brain toward acting out and establishing effective boundaries to help keep you healthy. You’ll also learn some highly practical tools to resist temptation and rewire your brain circuitry.
Dealing with your brain problem is a necessary first step, but it’s not enough for long-term freedom. We must move beyond lust management and become curious about our own stories, asking ourselves how we learned to rely on unwanted sexual behavior to numb our pain. If you’re like most guys, your answer to that question is something like “I’ve just always been that way.”
Here’s the truth: your unwanted sexual behavior is not random. You’re drawn to specific types of pornography, specific sexual acts, and specific types of people based on your past experiences. As therapist Jay Stringer says in his book Unwanted, “The formative experiences of our childhood (loneliness, pain, sexual arousal, secrecy, and relational ambivalence) are all being repeated in our unwanted sexual behavior as adults.” In other words, you have to dig deeper into the emotional pain of your past if you want to find radical freedom today. I’ll show you how.
Ultimately, the only lasting solution to any addiction is a spiritual solution. Alcoholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and all other 12-step groups are built on the fundamental truth that surrendering to God is the only path to freedom. Instead of using pornography and sex to medicate your emotional pain, I’ll help you learn how to process your feelings in an intimate relationship with our loving Heavenly Father. His supernatural help will be needed to overcome your unwanted sexual behavior.
Even the Apostle Paul confessed in Romans 7:18 that “I want to do what is right, but I can’t.” The solution, Paul wrote, is Jesus. “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25)
In a 2015 TED Talk that has been watched more than 16 million times, journalist Johann Hari reviews the latest scientific research about the causes of addiction and famously concludes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. Addiction thrives in isolation and dies in genuine community. Think about it. We all long to be fully known and fully loved, but sometimes, when life and people disappoint us, we find it easier to connect with pornographic images or random sex workers than to risk rejection from our peers and families. Before long, we’re smothering in shame and telling ourselves the lie that “if anyone really knew me, they would reject me.”
That’s why so many men, including me, try so hard to overcome unwanted sexual behavior all on our own. I failed miserably, and so will you, until you finally ask someone for help. It’s non-negotiable. You must process your addiction with others in order to find freedom.
It’s hard work, but I can help you build safe and healthy relationships with people who know what you’ve done and still choose to love you. I’d be honored to help you take that first step out of isolation and toward the radical freedom of connection.
You can learn more about John Stampe and his coaching program by visiting his website: https://www.radicallyfree.life/