Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A-Scared of A-ddiction

     I am a recovering sex addict. I have no problem saying it. When I speak and include that piece of information, people usually aproach me after and say I'm brave to do so. I don't necessarily feel brave. I feel liberated to be able to admit it. I think the reason people assume it takes so much courage to make a confession like that is because most people are afraid of the word "addiction."
     When someone contacts our office for help with something like habitual pornography use, the first thing I have them do is take a sexual addiction screening test (click here for the test). Usually they are surprised by the number if it registers in the zone for sexual addiction because they never would have thought they were an addict. I get that. I never would have called myself that before recovery either. I had a pre-conceived idea of what an addict was and I did not fit that bill. And a "sex addict"? Isn't that someone who needs sex like 6 times a day and has multiple partners and does kinky stuff?
     Addiction is present when someone engages in repeated behavior, usually in secret, that would be harmful if found out by others, and contradicts one's morals and belief systems. For example, a pastor who looks at pornography is exhibiting addictive behavior. And that was me 10 years ago. I was on staff at a church, I was the youth pastor. Every February we would have our Love and Dating sermons, our "sex talks," but I was preaching one thing and living out another behind closed doors. It wasn't every day, sometimes I would go months without slipping, but I would eventually return to my drug of choice because of the power of pornography and the vice grip of addiction. I prayed for forgiveness often, but looking back I now realize I was walking around in a lot of forgiveness but not a lot of freedom. Being "diagnosed" as a sex addict allowed me to get the help I needed because I started calling it what it was. Thank God. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was able to finally experience genuine healing and trade in my cycle of temptation, acting out, despair, asking forgiveness and then starting all over again.
     I had a disagreement with someone over an article on addiction that was posted on Facebook. A friend, actually, who is still my dear friend to this day proving friendships can survive Facebook debates!  The author of the article was claiming addiction isn't real and the comment that followed the post said "I don't see how attending a 12 step group and speaking curses over your life is helpful for any Christian." First of all, no 12 step group that I have ever attended has had us speak curses over our lives. And if he was referring to the greeting some groups utilize, "Hi, I'm Shane, recovering sex addict," that is not a curse. That is breaking through denial. That is finally being real with yourself. That is a reminder of the issue that is at hand and if I call it what it is, I'll get the proper treatment for my condition. It keeps people humble (a great thing according to the Bible). It keeps people aware, it makes people grateful. It develops a bond with others struggling and fighting the same fight (by the way, no one is forced to use that greeting or label. Completely up to the individual).
     The bottom line is this: I have never been more free than when I admitted I was an addict. I would much rather live with the label of addict (though that label doesn't define me), than living in denial and NOT calling myself an addict as I limped along in life and marriage. If calling myself an addict allows me to finally and genuinely live out verses like whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come, then so be it. Before recovery, that verse for me was more wishful thinking than reality. I no longer walk around in forgiveness. I, at last, walk around in forgiveness AND freedom. I'm not scared of addiction. I won't be scared of something that doesn't master me anymore.