When I finally decided to face my problems, I realized I had a lot to settle with God. I didn’t know where to begin. I spent several days devoting myself to a process of remembering things I had not dealt with, writing them down, praying to God for forgiveness, vowing to put those things away, and making a plan to confess them to Elaine. At the same time our church was doing a corporate 3-day fast; I joined in on that fast for the purpose of making self-examination and repentance the most important things in my life during that time.
After this–though I continued the process of remembering, confessing, and repenting for quite some time, at a lesser pace–I began to direct my thoughts more toward my most basic flaws. I wanted to know what led to me becoming a sex addict. How did it all start? I couldn’t really remember off-hand. I just knew whatever it was began early in life. The most terrifying thought was feeling like I was doomed to fail again if I couldn’t get to the origin of my addiction.
You could say the origin of my problem is common to everyone. It’s just sin. But the Sunday School answer to that question wasn’t good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for anyone else. While technically true, blaming sin for our problems is just another way of dismissing those problems and failing to deal with them. Still, I didn’t have the answers. So I got help. I found a counselor I could trust and who I felt understood me, and I went until I was told to stop. Separately, I went to an intensive workshop for people who were dealing with situations like mine, where I spent about 24 of the 72 hours working through my past, creating a narrative to help illustrate the root of my problems and how the sin I left unattended grew quickly into an impenetrable wall, behind which I hid more and more as I got older.
I learned about the psychology of addiction, the need for every man to be held accountable, and I made specific plans to place safeguards in my life and people I could trust to hold me accountable. I learned the value of confession and its role in releasing myself from shame and from the lie I told myself, that if anyone really knew me, they’d never love me.
Also during this time, I had to let go of my burning desire to fix my marriage. Maybe that sounds strange, but I couldn’t let my marriage take the place of God in my life. Did I want my marriage to succeed? Absolutely! That never changed, but I didn’t have much control over that, and I couldn’t really blame Elaine if she wanted to quit. So I had to give it up. It was a big deal to me, to the point that I can remember exactly where I was when I finally said, “Ok, God. If you want to take my marriage away, I will be alright, and I will trust you.” That attitude has stuck with me in a lot of hard situations, and it really makes life in general so much easier.
By not dealing with my issues while I had the chance, I opened myself and my family up to a lot of financial hardship. God had blessed me with a really great job, and I made more money than most people my age. But I had been a terrible steward. Sin is like this awful, giant Kraken that spreads its tentacles into all the areas of your life and chokes you to death, and I became an impulsive spender on top of my other problems. I spent money on everything from food to clothes to video games.
Once everything came out, on top of the debts I had incurred I had bills from counselors and intensive workshops. And I faced potential loss of employment because of my inappropriate work relationships.
I wish I could say that once I faced my problems, everything in my life was just peachy. Eventually, Elaine and I did recover our marriage, and I did regain her trust. It wasn’t a quick fix, and it wasn’t easy. And I fully believe that God would have taken my marriage away in order to bring me back to Him. I’m thankful it didn’t come to that. I’m thankful Elaine chose to forgive me and work with me to rebuild our life. I’m thankful that I get to wake up next to her each day and do life with her and our children.
It’s not any easier to do the right thing, but after what I’ve been through I’ve learned how to deal with sin appropriately. I’ve learned how to recognize harmful rituals that lead to sin and break the cycle of addiction in my life. I’ve learned the importance of meeting regularly with other men who are serious about accountability. And above all else, I’ve learned that there is no replacement for a daily meeting time with the Lord.