It is hard to heal from sexual addiction. Recovery often comes slowly, and usually isn’t even started until an individual reaches “rock bottom”; that point at which hope seems snuffed out, body and mind are exhausted, and all other options have been tried and failed. But I’m fascinated by how often those entering recovery from sex addiction have already formed ideas about what they think it looks like. Thankfully, their visions are incomplete.
The typical sex addict embarking on the first steps to recovery usually has the expectation that a life free from sexual compulsions is all about not doing unhealthy behaviors. Their primary context of living has been one of drowning in selfish lust and unresolved pain, so they figure a life of purity is simply when those things don’t exist anymore. But there are some problems with this thinking, not the least of which is it misses the greater purpose of recovery and the subsequent joy it can bring.
If recovery is only about not doing something, the addict won’t last long in such a program. “Not” doesn’t inspire because it isn’t moving a person toward anything. This isn’t to say that moving away from unhealthy sexual behaviors is a bad idea, just that it doesn’t encompass the fullness of what recovery is about. Recovery is more about what the addict is pursuing than what they are fleeing.
When this shift in thinking occurs (pursuit in addition to fleeing), lots of unexpected blessings begin to show up. One of the most significant blessings is a realization that one is not defined by their behaviors. In recovery, a person might have a good day followed by two bad days followed by another good day. If their mentality remains locked in a rigid performance-based system, their identity gets swung around wildly based on how they behave. If they don’t act out today, they see themselves as good. But if they act out, they revile themselves in shame. God, however, never puts a person’s identity on a pendulum; He values all human life, whether one performs wonderfully or poorly. What an unexpected blessing for the addict carrying years of secret shame!
Other unexpected blessings in recovery include friends you never thought you’d have, a cleaned up mind as well as cleaned up behaviors, and grace. Grace may be the most wonderful unexpected blessing of all! Who would think that a person wrapped up in all sorts of sexual perversions could be wanted, accepted, loved? God would. And so would His children. Grace reaches out and invites broken people to the healing arms of Jesus, a place most addicts would never envision being accepted. But Jesus never denies a sinner access based on their brokenness. “Let all who are willing come…”
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with secret sexual sin, don’t assume your vision of recovery is comprehensive. Instead, embark on the journey yourself, and see if some unexpected blessings might just show up along the way. It’s even better than finding twenty dollars in that old winter coat of yours. And these blessings never lose their value.