Listening to Your Emotions

Throughout our lives, we are trained to listen to a vast multitude of voices. Voices that have a powerful influence upon us. These voices can come from parents, siblings, family members, friends, and co-workers. Depending on the household in which we were raised, those voices determine in many ways the path we find ourselves on in our adolescent years all the way through becoming an adult. Some are incredibly healthy and life-giving while others can be destructive.

In this episode, I want to switch gears just a little bit and talk about a different voice. One you may not be totally familiar with: The voice of your emotions. Yes, believe it or not, your emotions have a voice and the real question is this: Are you listening?

Can You Feel the Pain?

One of the greatest realities I love about recovery is that there’s always something new to learn about yourself. For example, how a person deals with real emotions and pain in their life will directly affect their long-term outcome in recovery. For me, this has been proven time and time again. Let me explain.

I’m approaching my 13th year in recovery from a pornography addiction that nearly ruined my marriage and was on the verge of ruining my entire life. For 13 years, I was totally unaware of the toll that porn was taking upon my heart and mind. I lacked the understanding, and ultimately the real conviction of what I was doing and how it was affecting me and eventually those around me. I also lacked the tools necessary to fight back. But there was one thing I had that I lived very aware of: Pain.

I was living with a lot of pain: Loneliness, insecurity, fear of the future to name just a few. And I really believe to this day that unprocessed emotions and pain really contributed to my need for comfort. For something that would distract me and somehow take me out of that pain. And so I looked to pyrography to fill that void. But it would never deliver on the promise of being everything I needed. It only drove me further from God and further from people really knowing the real me.

I’m thankful today that I’m not that man that I was in 2009. I’ve lived in freedom for many years and experienced healing that I would have never dreamed of all those years ago. But there is still plenty that I’m working on in my recovery including dealing with what is uncomfortable. What is painful. Negative emotions. Anger. Disappointment. Stress. Frustration.

Recently at my place of work, this was tested. And I failed. There’s really no other way to say it. My response to a frustrating interaction to a customer on the phone combined with some other negative dynamics going on that day in my heart resulted in me getting into a serious funk. Looking back now, I’m really thankful for the drive that followed while delivering parts to one of our technicians in the field. It really allowed me to reflect on what was really going on inside my heart that day.

First, I needed to repent for my attitude. That was most important. I hadn’t conducted myself in a professional manor at all, never mind not delivering on my daily mission of bringing the Kingdom of God to work with me instead of expecting it to somehow magically appear at work! 🙂 So once that was done, I began to try and look deeper as to what was going on, but I noticed an interesting thing occur:

I felt a strong desire inside to create. To imagine. Not to fantasize, but to think of something I could do or say to bless someone. This has happened many times in the past as well when I’ve gotten myself in a dark place. Whenever I began to pray for someone else or think about a creative project, my mood seemed to shift. Upon consideration of this a while longer, I began to ask myself if this was really the right response or not?

Had I really processed my negative emotions (pain) or merely distracted myself from it?

Obviously, the things I mentioned above aren’t inherently wrong or evil in anyway. There are obviously ways worse things I could try to distract myself with, but was I in that moment really choosing to sit with the pain I was feeling for a while in an attempt to try to understand what was happening inside?

As I discussed this with a friend, they shared with me that there is a difference between processing techniques and distraction techniques as it relates to dealing with painful, negative experiences. And to be honest, I’m still not completely sure where I land in one of those two places. I don’t claim to be an expert, that’s for sure.

What I don’t want to do is live with unprocessed pain. And I don’t want that for anyone. Sadly, there are millions of people today that walk around with so much pain in their life and no way to deal with it in a healthy way.

Not surprisingly, unprocessed emotion has been proven to have the ability to affect you physically, opening up the potential for immune compromise and illness.

I leave you with with one final challenge: Feel your pain. Don’t stuff it. Don’t avoid it. Don’t pretend like it’s not there. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.

Pain is a reality of life that we have to face. We live in a fallen and broken world capable of doing so much damage. None of us make it out of here without wounds. But they don’t have to be open wounds. There is a way in which you can find freedom and healing in the midst of your pain and in whatever form that it may take.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Small Groups Online makes it incredibly simple to find a community of people who, like you, are walking through pain and are learning how to process it in a healthy way. That begins in community. SGO offers you a weekly online support group with many days and times available to best fit your schedule. You can even try out SGO at no cost for two weeks to get started.

Don’t allow pain to put you under. You don’t have to live in the shadows of your past. You can have freedom over life-controlling addictions and compulsive behaviors. Check out Small Groups Online to find the group that best matches your need today!

Recovery Wisdom from Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers will forever go down as one of the most extraordinary human beings that ever lived.

I’m 38 years old…a child of the 80’s and it’s rare I’ve ever come across someone who hasn’t heard of Mr. Rogers. Or who didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The way he captured his audience with a genuine sense of love and care was uncanny. The conversations he cultivated with his young viewers was incredible.

Countless documentaries and most recently, an incredible movie depicting his impact starring Tom Hanks was released. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I caught a really interesting quote from the movie. I wondered if it actually came from Fred Rogers. Turns out that it did:

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

BOOM 🤯 Where do you even begin with such wisdom? “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.“

I don’t know if he knew how significant those words could be to so many people stuck in lifestyles of pain and brokenness. In addiction recovery, we’re learning how to become whole again. How to heal. How to find the “whys” behind our compulsive behaviors. Only in doing so will we ever find substantial long-term success.

But until we allow those things to see the light of day, we will be confined to our own secrets and shame. In his own way, I think Mr. Rogers knew this truth. All of us, from the time we were born, we’re broken in some way. We were born with a sinful nature. In need of rescue and redemption.

The more we allow others to see inside of us, the more we talk about hard feelings, triggering emotions, the less power our addictions have over us.

The last part of his quote is huge: “The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Again…BOOM 🤯. So simple yet so profound.

In order for shame to leave us, we have to choose to KNOW people and be KNOWN by people. That is the starting place for transformation. For healing. For recovery.

Fred Rogers totally hit the nail on the head. Thanks Mr. Rogers.

Perhaps you’re wondering how you can start your journey to freedom from a compulsive sexual addiction that you feel has pretty much owned your life. I work for an online organization called Small Groups Online, which offers weekly online support groups through Zoom, making it incredibly easy to meet others who share the same or a similar story as you. Picking the right group and time for you is also easy.

Trust me, you will NEVER regret finding community for the struggles you face. You can’t afford to live without it!

Remember: Anything that is mentionable is more manageable.

2 Ways Porn Negatively Affects Your Heart (and what YOU can do about it!) (BLOG)

Pop Quiz: What is your most valuable possession in life? Resist the temptation the answer that question quickly, because there is a wealth (pardon the pun) of things in life that we place tremendous value on. Some very consciously and some pretty sub-consciously.

Maybe it’s your 401K that you’ve been saving for years. Or maybe it’s that beautiful boat sitting in your garage (that you haven’t used in years). Sometimes it’s the really good things life that give great value and worth to: Our careers. Our homes. Our marriages. Our children.

But what if there were something within every single one of us that we were told is our most valuable possession…and we didn’t even know it?! The book of Proverbs says this:

“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 TPT)

I love that in this single verse it essentially talks about the very possession we should guard above all other possessions: OUR HEART. We’re told to take care of our hearts. Not just our physical hearts from disease. But the very essence of who we are from unhealthy stuff in this world that tries to sneak in.

Most likely if you’re reading this article, you’ve found yourself in a place like I did where you discovered pornography and you just couldn’t stop consuming it. Perhaps you would say porn ultimately consumed you. Please understand, I don’t want you to feel shamed. I was in that same place for 13 years where I felt incredible guilt and disgust for what I was doing. I didn’t understand the gravity of what pornography was doing to my heart.

Thankfully, this August I’ll celebrate 12 years walking in freedom and healing from sexual addiction. And you can too! But it’s important to understand how pornography negatively affects our hearts to begin with. The effects can be long lasting and very harmful if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way.

1. Porn teaches your heart to objectify people.

One of the most subversive effects that pornography and other sexually explicit material has upon the human heart is that attempts to teach us that people are simply objects devoid of value and worth. It says that men and women can be used, abused, undressed, and consumed simply because their job is to provide us with pleasure. THIS IS A LIE. The perversion of sexual intimacy isn’t a new concept. It goes back thousands of years and has only become worse in the society we live in. Which is why we need to combat this lie that people are simply meant to be treated like objects.

Psalm 139 speaks of the incredible value and worth of every person, because we have been created by God: “You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me!”

Don’t allow pornography to turn your heart into nothing more than a product. Your heart is valuable and so are the people you’re so tempted to fantasize about.

2. Porn undermines your ability to deal with pain.

The human heart was created to feel an array of emotions. From moments of intense joy and happiness to deep places of sadness and anger. The reality is that we’re all going to experience a vast array of emotions through our lifetimes. The question is: How do we deal with those powerful emotions and feelings?

One of the byproducts of pornography addiction is that it subverts an individual’s responsibility to deal with those emotions in healthy ways. Instead, we run from anything that is painful or even remotely uncomfortable. Boredom, loneliness, anger, stress, and fatigue are some of the most common feelings that an addict deals with. We often used the acronym B.L.A.S.T. (Bored, Angry, Lonely, Tired) in our online group to help us discuss the ways in which we’re triggered. It’s so important that we understand WHY we are driven to act out the way that we do.

A major turning point in a person’s addiction to porn is when they’re able to be honest with themselves about the kind of pain they are medicating with pornography. Pain must be addressed. It must be looked at before any kind of healing  can take place in a person’s life.

Remember, pornography is a problem. But it’s only the medication. The even greater problem is the pain underneath the surface you’ve refused to deal with for so long. That’s what you must get at.

“SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT ABOUT IT?” 

Glad you asked! There’s a ton you can do to get your heart healthy from porn addiction. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Find a trained therapist â€” Preferably one who is certified in sexual addiction therapy. CSAT’s are trained to specifically help those dealing with compulsive sexual addictions.
  2. Get accountability in your life â€” 2-3 safe, healthy people will really go a long way in your recovery journey. Meet with them weekly at the very minimum for encouragement and so they can ask you the tough questions.
  3. Protect your devices â€” I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked with about their addiction that have no software protecting their devices. No filtering. No reporting. It’s almost as if you’re inviting porn to walk through your front door. That’s how easy it can be. Start with some great software that we trust: Ever Accountable.
  4. Join a support group in your community or small group in your church â€” Community is essential in recovery. We can’t be the men that God is calling us to be by trying to white-knuckle our way to healing. Small Groups Online offers a dynamic solution for this. Imagine a weekly Zoom meeting with 5-7 others men who share many of the same struggles as you. You will be encouraged by others and also have the opportunity to be the encourager in these meetings. Click here to find out more about Small Groups Online.

3 Ways Love Overcame My Porn Addiction

As I continue to walk in recovery from a pornography addiction, I often remind myself that it is only by love and grace that I’m at the place I am today. Eleven years ago, I received an insurmountable amount of forgiveness from those closest to me, including my wife. And even as I continued to minimize or justify the relapses I would have and the lying that accompanied it, I would experience healing in life. Little did I know then the ways in which freedom would come.

At the age of 16, I invited Jesus into my life and accepted the free gift of salvation He died to give me. And while I thought I was giving Him all of my life, I really wasn’t. My secret life of binging on pornography that had started at the age of 13 only continued, many times late into the night. It wasn’t until the age of 26 that I hit rock bottom and started to walk in freedom & healing. My secrets were uncovered. I had finally chosen to shine light upon the darkest places of my heart.

I truly believe that most of the change in my life has occurred through the love of my heavenly Father and the grace I experienced from others. How does transformation happen in a person’s life? For me, I believe that my life changed through pain, position, and purpose:

  1. Pain â€” Before I could begin walking in freedom and healing, I had to acknowledge the damage that I had caused myself as well as the pain I had caused others because of my addiction. Throughout the course of my battle with porn, I’d been given so many opportunities to get healthy and yet nothing really stuck. I lived in so much shame and guilt over what I was doing. I was convinced people would think I was a pervert. I’m so thankful to this day that the Lord used even the most painful moments in my life for good. The moment my fiancĂ© slid her engagement ring across the table was one such moment. It helped me to see that I wasn’t healthy. I was sick. And so I think pain was one of the only effective means left for me to see who I was and who I was becoming.
  2. Position â€” It wasn’t until I literally took action upon my addiction that I began to see any difference. My routine, schedule, and priorities all needed to change. There needed to be movement in my life where for so many years I was stuck in one place. Thankfully, through the help of counselors, pastors, and support groups, I was able to find freedom from the quicksand of pornography addiction. Again, it wasn’t until I got off my butt and took action. I couldn’t wallow in shame forever. Or point the finger at someone else as the cause of my behavior. If I wanted to get better, I needed to embrace healthy outlets for processing emotions and feelings I had long ignored. My position had to change.
  3. Purpose â€” As funny as it may sound, when I began walking in recovery, I found a passion begin to stir inside for helping others do the same. Strangely, one of the bi-products of my addiction was that it helped me to find purpose in life. Today, I tell people that I sometimes feel like my former porn addiction was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me! It was because I had found a sense of purpose that I felt like I could really be an influence in someone’s life. I could help someone else find the healing that I had found for my life. I believe that is something we’re all called to do in our recovery journey. Get all the healing you can, but don’t let it stop with your life. Be a funnel, not a flask.

As I reflect upon my recovery journey, I can see how love overcame my addictive behavior through pain, position, and purpose. Each one of these ways has been instrumental in helping me take further steps to become the man that God wants me to be. This process continues daily until I take my last breathe in this world. I’m of the belief that it was Christ’s death on the cross that is really what has made my recovery possible. Jesus’ death on the cross has helped me to understand there is no challenge, no circumstance, no addiction too big for God’s love to overcome. How could I do any less than to honor Him with a life of sexual integrity after He has given me so much?

For me, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 sums it up pretty well: â€śFor it is Christ’s love that fuels our passion and motivates us, because we are absolutely convinced that he has given his life for all of us. This means all died with him, so that those who live should no longer live self-absorbed lives but lives that are poured out for him—the one who died for us and now lives again.”

You may be reading this convinced you’re trapped in a vicious cycle that never ends. You’ve tried time and time again to stop your behavior on your own or maybe you haven’t even tried at all. And yet, you feel the emptiness inside. The well inside of your heart has no end.

Believe it or not, there is hope. Whether you feel it or not, freedom is possible. But it can’t be found by yourself. You can’t get better alone. Healing requires that you allow people into your world to see the real you. Do you want that for your life?

Small Groups Online is an incredible opportunity for you to meet others who are struggling the same way you are. It promises a safe and healthy atmosphere. Through communication with others in the group about your addiction, you will find a renewed sense of courage spring up in you to become a person of sexual integrity.

Check out Small Groups Online today!