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!

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The Lord Will Stand With You

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”

2 Timothy 4:17

On this bonus episode, Frank shares his thoughts from 2 Timothy 4:17. Remember this week that you are not standing alone! No matter what you might be facing, you hold a mighty promise that God’s presence and His strength is yours for the taking. We pray this powerful promise blesses you today!

Creating a Vision for Your Recovery in 2022

Do you have a vision of who you want to be in your recovery journey? In this first episode of 2022, Frank shares the importance of knowing the direction and steps you want to take in your life to become a person of health and wholeness, especially as it relates to your sexual integrity. We look briefly at the life of Paul the apostle and the words he penned in Philippians 3:13. We too can have the same resolve in our lives that Paul had in his. Freedom and healing are possible for us, but before we can walk in it, we have to envision it. We pray this podcast helps you understand the vision for your own personal recovery!

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Last year around this time, I asked you to envision where you would like to be in your recovery on December 31, 2021. So…..did you do it? Were you able to see with more than just physical eyes the next steps you wanted to take in your journey? Vision requires a deeper focus than just the current state of affairs we happen to be living in. Perhaps you reached the destination you had in mind and perhaps you didn’t. The point is this: In recovery, there will ALWAYS be new ground to take.

What does that even mean? Well, in short it’s that freedom and healing are both immediate and long term. You can become free from pornography when you hit the bottom or when you’re exposed. For many, this can happen in an instant. But it’s the healing of the soul that often takes years — even a lifetime. So we have to always be envisioning where we need to go next in the restoration of our hearts.

It’s also worth noting that having a vision alone isn’t enough. We have to be developing healthy habits that we implement daily. This is how the vision is realized and accomplished. If we’re not literally putting a vision into action practically, it will be nothing more than pipe dream.

In his own way, the apostle Paul spoke to this idea of envisioning when he said this: “I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead.” (Philippians 3:13 TPT)

As a reminder, Paul was a man who once lived as Saul before his name was changed by God. Saul’s life was marked by the murder and persecution of many Christians before he was miraculously encountered by God one day riding upon his horse. God not only changed Saul’s name to Paul, even more so he changed the man himself. Everything changed in Paul’s life and throughout the years, a man who once hated those who worshipped Jesus became one of His greatest followers.

While this post isn’t intended to be a Bible study, I would like us to take a look at a few parts of this verse which are very applicable to our journey in recovery for the coming year. Paul is writing very personally to the church in Philippi here.

  1. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this. Throughout his entire life, Paul embraced his imperfection and flaws. He realized His need for Christ and his own inability to grow without Him. We too have to start here in our journeys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded other men (and myself) over the years of their inability to find freedom and healing by themselves. Healing your soul, re-wiring your brain, learning to handle painful emotions isn’t something a man can do by himself. He needs other men to do it! Being apart of community is one of the most foundational things you can do this year to becoming a person of health and wholeness. Small Groups Online is a great place to start building community into your life. SGO 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!
  2. I do have one compelling focus. Thinking back on my childhood, my time in school, and even various tests that I’ve taken throughout my life, I’ve always been very determined. I’ve always strived to do my best. Sadly, when I became addicted to pornography for 13 years, I lost all resolve or desire to really want to quit or get better. Nevermind all the shame that porn also caused. And mix that in with the fact that I was scared to death and felt like I had no idea how to get free. It wasn’t until I reached a serious moment of self-awareness of how unhealthy I was and how my addiction was overflowing into affecting and damaging my wife who was my fiancé at the time. I know of no other way to describe than I have dozens of times before but there was a brokenness that occurred within me. I knew my impending marriage was on the brink, but even more so I knew probably for the first time that I was destroying my life. From that moment on there became an unshakable hunger to become healthy. I threw everything I had at my addiction. I became willing to do whatever it took to find freedom. Looking back now, I can truly resonate with Paul’s words. My focus was set. Nothing was going to stop me. Everything was on the line. My wife knew I could do it. And I knew I could too. I’m thankful that that focus has lasted up to this day and continues on. We have to be steadfast on this journey and not allow any compromises. How much is your recovery worth to you?
  3. I forget all of the past. For so many, this is the first major challenge in moving forward in recovery. Because we’re all so wired to focus on not only what we’ve done, but WHO we think we are. I recently wrote an article for XXXchurch entitled, “Facing the Truth About Shame”. In that post, I write about three lies that shame tells us: 1. Shame tells us we’re alone. 2. Shame tries to convince us we’re unlovable. And 3. Shame says we have no future. THESE ARE ALL LIES! But for so many, they get stuck in their past, convinced they are someone they truly aren’t. Shame paralyzes. Not so for Paul. It was truly by the grace of God that he was able to shed a name that was associated with so much death and He accepted the name that was always meant for him. And that is our story too. We don’t have to allow our past to define who we become today or tomorrow. One thing I think is clear: God didn’t erase Paul’s memory. He knew where he had come from and who he used to be. There is a fine line between being trapped by the shame of our past and remembering where we’ve come from. For healing to really take place, we must look back to the decisions we made and the painful experiences we walked through while simultaneously keeping our eye on the person we want to become.
  4. I fasten my heart to the future. I love the climax of this verse. It brings us back around the very beginning of this post. Creating a vision for your recovery journey in 2022. Obviously you and I never had the chance to sit down with Paul over coffee and hear his life story, but I’m betting if we did, we would hear some wild things. And I’m betting you and I would get a clue of His passionate love for Christ and his desire to see the gospel advanced all over the world. This is what his heart was fastened to. Not the failures of his past or his current struggles. Not the chains that would bind him or the pain he would endure. He never lost the vision of why he was alive. We need that same laser-like focus for our lives. No doubt, the early days are difficult. And if you don’t have a recovery plan in place it makes it that much more difficult. But you can be victorious! You can be free! And you can heal! If you really want it.

I pray that 2022 will be the greatest year of your recovery ever. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much work there is to do in our hearts. That shouldn’t be your focus. Become apart of a community. Get your devices protected. If necessary, sit with a therapist for a season. Do WHATEVER you have to do to reach your vision of sexual purity. Trust me when I say that the results of your hard work will be worth it. You can do it!

Facing the Truth About Shame

Let’s face it: talking with someone about your addiction to pornography is difficult. Sometimes, it feels downright impossible.

How ironic is it that living in such a sex-saturated culture, we still find it awkward to be vulnerable and transparent about the sexual issues we’re having? I believe the reason for this lies not necessarily within the subject of sex, but in within the subject of shame.

Could it be that shame is really what we’re addicted to? The deep seated belief that we are the problem. That we’re unworthy. We’re unlovable.  This is the lie that addiction really sells us. We’re ushered in with feelings of pleasure and control. And before long we find that we’re not allowed to leave. We can’t escape because we feel trapped.

I’m convinced today this was the sole reason that I struggled for so many years without freedom. I not only felt shame. I believed what shame had to say to me.

There’s a fantastic new book being released in February from Carl Thomas, CEO of XXXchurch.com and founder of Small Groups Online. It’s entitled “When Shame Gets Real: A New Way to Talk About Sex, Porn, and Masturbation.” In the book, Carl shares how shame is the real threat to us. Shame has the ability to cripple a person for life. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Carl shares how living in shame prevents us from being fully present to our pain, our needs, and the real desires we have inside. And what we have to realize is that shame isn’t something to be ignored, but to be confronted. The more we ignore, the more we stuff, the more we pretend like something doesn’t affect us, the more we will spiral into our unwanted sexual behaviors. Why? Because we haven’t learned to confront shame.

Here are some common lies that shame tries to tell us:

LIE #1: Shame says you’re alone.

Please understand, NOTHING could be further from the truth. We as human beings not only live in a broken world…but we were born into brokenness and sin. We’re in need of rescue. And God did just that in His son Jesus. First and foremost, Christ is our rescue, our salvation, and our healing. I don’t know where I would be today without the saving power of Jesus in my life. But I also know that in my years of addiction, I wasn’t alone. In my recovery, I’m not alone. Because there are a countless number of other men who also share a similar story as me. Don’t allow shame to convince you you’re all by yourself and you have no hope of freedom.

LIE #2: Shame says you’re unlovable.

WRONG!!! This is one of the biggest whoppers out there. Unfortunately, so many of us have believed it at some point that our secrets stay hidden and we devolve even more. We believe that if people really knew us and our secret lives, they wouldn’t want anything to do with us. And it’s true, some may not. But those people who are safe and healthy will be able to see someone who’s in need of healing. For the longest time, I lived as a person who felt unlovable. I was afraid if people really knew the real me, I would lose everything. So I pretended, lied, and covered up the truth of my porn addiction, which only made things worse. Know this truth: You are loved — first and foremost by the One who created you and by so many others who are helping men and women find freedom every day.

LIE #3: Shame says you have no future.

I and millions of others are living proof that this is a lie. Today, I’m freer and healthier than I’ve ever been. What I didn’t realize for the 13 years that I was addicted was that my life was on a destructive path. And it wasn’t because of some kind of failure in God’s will and plans for my life, it was because of my unhealthy choices. choices. Shame attempts to call this out and direct our attention to it. Make us focus on it. Sell us the lie that we have no future. It took some pretty serious consequences in my life to unfold for me to realize the path I was on. I was living a truly diminished life. I wasn’t become the man God created me to be. But as I embraced the pain I was dealing with and the lies I was believing about myself, I began to find freedom. I did have a future…a very beautiful one at that.

Perhaps the title of this post confused you: “Facing the Truth about Shame”. Well actually, there isn’t any truth connected to shame at all, only the lies as described above. And it isn’t until we identify those lies that shame tries to convince us of that our eyes can be opened.

Small Groups Online is an excellent opportunity for you to confront shame with the help of other men and women who are doing the same! Remember, you are not alone! SGO offers you a weekly safe, secure, online meeting via Zoom which will help build healthy community in your life.

We also want to encourage you to check out Carl Thomas’ new book, “When Shame Gets Real: A New Way to Talk About Sex, Porn, and Masturbation”, which will be released in February.

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.