Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Break Free from Sexual Addiction

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2007 26 Mar
Break Free from Sexual Addiction

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mike Genung's recent book, The Road to Grace: Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction, (Blazing Grace Publishing, 2006).

Sexual addictions – from porn and masturbation to adultery and prostitution – leave you trapped in sin and shame. No matter what you’ve done or how long you’ve been struggling, Jesus will give you the power to change your life if you turn to Him. The freedom Jesus offers you is so powerful that the short-lived pleasure of sex can’t compare to it. Here are 11 steps to help break free from sexual addiction:

1. Come out of isolation.

Ask God to give you the courage to admit your weaknesses and faults to others who can help you. Confess your struggles to God and pray for His help to overcome shame, pride, and the fear of rejection so you can open up with some other men. Remember that you’re not alone; many other Christians struggle with sexual addictions, and plenty of people will understand the issues you’re facing. Know that it’s impossible for you to overcome your challenges unless you have the support and encouragement of others. Expect that if you don’t expose your addiction, God will orchestrate circumstances that will eventually expose it anyway, since He loves you too much to let you continue to harm yourself and others. Start meeting with either an accountability partner or a support group every week. If you need help locating a support group in your area, visit www.blazinggrace.org for information. Whenever temptations hit you, call your accountability partner or a member of your support group to talk and pray. If you’re married, don’t hide your struggles from your wife; realize that you need to be accountable to her. But don’t burden her with the responsibilities that should belong just to your support group or accountability partner, and make sure your wife has the support she needs to pursue healing herself from the ways your addiction has hurt her.

Come out of Isolation

2. Make the necessary sacrifices

Be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to keep lust from controlling you. Realize that it’s worth it to give up whatever you need to give up to build healthy relationships with God and your wife. If you have stored pornographic magazines, burn the whole stash. If you have CDs of porn, throw them out. If you’ve downloaded porn from the Internet, clean your hard drive by formatting it. Install porn blocking software, don’t use your computer unless your wife is home and awake, and give her your access passwords. If you’re seduced by images on TV, shut off your cable service and remove the antenna. If you’ve engaged in phone sex, block access to 900 numbers from your home. If any of your mail tempts you (such as a lingerie catalog your wife receives), call to get your address removed from the mailing lists. When you’re on a business trip, don’t turn on the TV in your hotel room and, every night, call a man who’s supporting you in your healing journey. If you still stumble, travel less or get another job that doesn’t involve travel. If you’ve been having an affair, cut off all contact with the person, delete all e-mail, burn letters, and throw away anything she has given you. If she lives nearby and the temptation is too much for you, move to another region. If you’ve been visiting adult bookstores or bars, avoid those areas when you’re driving. Be sure to cut off everything that makes you stumble, but don’t worry about areas that aren’t a problem for you. Cut off your temptations now; don’t procrastinate.

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3. Don’t settle for just sobriety; go for purity

Understand that, while physical abstinence from your sexual addiction is a noble goal, it’s not enough, because you can still fall back into your addiction after a temporary break. Pursue purity, which gives you the power you need to say “no” to every temptation or lustful thought. Know that, to be sexually pure, you need a new heart, and only God can give you that. Ask God to create a clean heart within you. Stop depending on your own limited abilities and decide to rely on God’s unlimited power working through you. Realize that you’ll find purity not through counseling, reading the Bible, or any other endeavor you can do, but through the simple yet profound act of trusting God moment-by-moment in your life. Accept the reality of your brokenness and let it cause you to depend more on God and less on yourself.

4. Turn and connect

Whenever you encounter a temptation, turn away from the thought and connect with God by focusing your mind on Him and praying for His help and power. Understand that, ultimately, lust is an attempt to fill an emptiness inside you with another person. Acknowledge Jesus as the source of your life and turn to Him – instead of a broken person – for love and comfort. Rather than soaking your mind in sexual images, think about Jesus in all His glory. Ponder His awesome holiness, and as you do expect yourself to want to know Him more and spend more time thinking about Him than about sex. Make sure that no unresolved sin is blocking the process of you connecting to God; regularly confess and repent of your sins to Him, and keep short accounts with your spouse and other people. Don’t become complacent when you start to make progress fighting your addiction. Remember that it’s crucial for you to take every thought captive and stay closely connected to God every day. Read the Bible frequently to saturate your mind in God’s truths. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind daily as you spend time praying. As often as possible, spend some time praying in solitude and silence to get away from distractions. Know that the closer you grow to God, the more natural it will become for you to turn to Him instead of sex to fulfill your needs and desires.

5. Move beyond yourself to others

Realize that God designed sex as a way of connecting with another person and that He intends it to always be used to strengthen a relationship with a spouse. Focus your sexual desires outward toward your wife instead of inward toward yourself as happens with masturbation. Understand that, contrary to the popular belief that masturbation doesn’t hurt anyone, it actually harms you tremendously by making you selfish and leading you to expect instant gratification in other situations. Know that masturbation also harms your marriage because it robs you and your wife of the intimacy God wants you both to enjoy together. Don’t let your sexual urges rule over you; ask God to give you the power to master them. Use healthier means of releasing physical tension, such as vigorous exercise at least several times a week.

Move beyond yourself to others

6. Confront other sins your sexual addiction has been fueling

Recognize that, when you’re caught in sexual addiction, it soaks your heart in an evil that leads to sins of other kinds, such as lying, stealing, cheating, and compromise both at home and at work. Pray for the courage you need to be completely honest about sins in all aspects of your life. Confess your sins to God and also your accountability partner or people in your support group, dealing with each one specifically. Repent and do what it takes to be reconciled to those you’ve hurt. For example, if you’ve lied to your wife about other issues besides your sexual behaviors, do more than just apologize. Work to rebuild trust in your marriage. If you’ve stolen from your employer, repay the company the full amount. If you’ve neglected your kids, give them significant amounts of your time and energy from now on and fully express your love to them.

7. Descend into the valley of your heart

Know that, in order to truly have “mountaintop” experiences of joy and peace, you must first go down into the valley of your heart to confront the sins, lies, wounds, and distorted perceptions that lurk there. Confess all of it, one part at a time, repent, and accept the forgiveness and grace God offers you. Remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Ask God to give you the faith you need to believe that He loves you deeply, and to embrace His love and receive it into your heart.

8. Heal from sexual abuse

If you’ve been sexually abused, seek God’s help to go through the forgiveness process so you can get the poison of bitterness out of your heart. Acknowledge the reality of what you went through, and process your thoughts and feelings about it in safe relationships with the people who are supporting you as you break free of addiction, plus a professional counselor or pastor if you’d like. Express your sorrow and painfully; don’t be afraid to cry or yell or journal your feelings. Realize that God can transform even the worst suffering into something good. Ask God what you can learn from your suffering that will help you grow as a person and equip you to minister to others. Remember how deeply Jesus suffered while He was on Earth, and know that He identifies with you in your pain. Understand that Jesus loves you regardless of your past; ask Him to help you overcome shame. Choose to forgive the person who abused you. Don’t wait until you feel like it since you likely never will; realize that you need to decide to do so and rely on the help God will provide. Write a letter of forgiveness and either read it aloud to the people who are supporting you in the healing process, or mail it to the person who abused you.

9. Heal from father wounds

If your dad was either physically or emotionally absent or neglectful during your childhood, pursue healing for the wounds that left on your heart. Pray for God to guide in the healing process. Face the truth about what happened and how it has affected you. Cultivate authentic friendships with other men who will accept and love you in spite of your faults. Allow yourself to grieve what you lost because of your flawed relationship with your father. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Talk with your accountability partner or support group about what happened and ask them to pray for you in specific ways. Write a letter to your dad explaining how you were wounded, expressing your forgiveness, and blessing him. Pray about potentially mailing the letter to your dad if he is still alive.

10. Accept God’s love

Recognize that God’s love for you is completely unconditional. Stop the futile effort of trying to earn it and embrace the fact that you are already worthy of it because God says you are. Understand that it’s impossible to sin too much for God to love you. Stop trying to pass a test and simply accept the gift of His deep love for you, no matter what.

11. Accept God’s grace

Welcome God’s grace to help you move from brokenness to wholeness. Realize that God gives His very best and that His grace outshines even your worst sin. Know that God’s love cannot be earned or deserved and that your sin doesn’t stop God from loving you. Understand that God’s grace doesn’t nullify His holiness or remove the consequences of sin, but He patiently meets you where you are, even if you’re trapped deep in sin. Trust that God will gently restore the broken pieces of your life, and shower His love on you. Expect God to continue to seek you. Choose to see God as He truly is – a kind and loving God who is willing to give you his favor if you turn to Him. Know that you can approach God, no matter what you’ve done or how ashamed you feel. Make pursuing God your top priority in life. Do whatever it takes so that nothing else distracts you from developing a closer relationship with Him. Celebrate the fact that God has given you a gift much more powerful than anything sex can offer you.

Remember the most meaningful things in life are not to be found by expedient intentions.  If you or a friend is struggling with an addiction to pornography, learn the best ways to recover here.

Adapted from The Road to Grace: Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction, copyright 2006 by Mike Genung.  Published by Blazing Grace Publishing, Colorado Springs, Co., www.roadtograce.com.  
Mike Genung, a former porn addict, is now the director of Blazing Grace, a ministry to those who struggle with sexual addiction.  He has published articles on the topic, leads and helps others set up support groups, speaks, and is a co-host of the Blazing Grace Radio show.