What is sexual addiction?
Sexual addiction is a condition that’s marked by a pattern of sexually illicit behavior that has become unmanageable. An escalation in the frequency or intensity of the use of pornography or commercial sexual services is one sign of addiction; another is the intrusion of these behaviors into the primary aspects (career, family life, finances) of an individual’s life.
Isn’t that the same as sexual sin?
Not quite. Sexual sin, while very serious and consequential, does not necessarily indicate addiction. Just as not everyone who gets drunk is an alcoholic, so not everyone who uses pornography or engages in adultery is necessarily sexually addicted. When the behavior begins to escalate and intrude into all parts of life, then it indicates addiction.
How is sexual addiction overcome?
We believe that once a man has given himself to sexually addictive behavior to the extent that he’s addicted, he will be addicted for life. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, like other addictions, sexual addiction can be managed so that the addict need never engage in the addictive behavior. Like the alcoholic who recognizes he’ll always be drawn to alcohol yet abstains from its use, so the sexual addict learns to manage his sexual desires so that he need never yield to them again. But he must always recognize that they well be a strong source of temptation, and he must make provision for that.
I’m a committed Christian man. I know what I’m doing is wrong. Why can’t I stop by just reading my Bible or praying more? Are you sure I don’t simply need more faith?
Yours is a common story. Paul said, “the good that I would, I do not. The evil that I would not, that is what I do. What a wretched man am I.” Rom. 7:18,24 We are double-minded and inheritors of original sin. As addicts, we are powerless without God’s help. We need to learn how to have more intimate fellowship with God and with others. It is not that we don’t have faith…we don’t know how to pursue a relationship with Christ in the most humble and willing ways. A part of all sex addicts don’t want to give up the addiction. We must really surrender and find true accountability.
My wife doesn’t know about my sexual acting out. Do I have to tell her? What about my children?
Eventually you will want to tell her. Why live another day without the true intimacy of really being known? Why wonder whether or not she would leave if she found out? You don’t need to tell her every detail of your acting out, but she will need to know the general nature of it. It is important to find a truly humble and willing heart first. You should also be totally committed to your marriage and to sobriety from all sexual sins before you talk to her. You may need the help of a pastor or counselor to get honest with her. Your wife will also need lots of support. Don’t expect her to just forgive and forget. Rebuilding trust and finding true intimacy will be a lifetime journey.
Our experience has been that just as you were lonely thinking that your sexual thoughts were unique to you and that you were awful for having them, your kids may be thinking the same way. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to them to know that they are not alone and not unique. Is it not better to let kids know that people struggle with problems and that there are healthy ways out? The greatest enemy of sexual health for your children is silence.
I’m scared to admit this , but my situation is different. I don’t act out with women. My sex partners are other men. The pornography I use involves men, not women. Will the participants in the groups be comfortable with me there?
You are not alone. We find that about 10% of the men who come to our groups are struggling with same-sex issues. There usually will be other men there who can relate to your story. We have never found that the men react negatively to these kinds of stories. Usually quite the opposite effect happens. We heal faster when we discover that we all need healthy fellowship with other men. We all have more things in common regardless of our sexual histories. We have also found that the Holy Spirit always brings people to our groups who have stories that can be helpful to each other.