Which is more important in recovery? Real freedom or simple sobriety. This is the question we explore this week on the podcast. Real freedom has so much more to do with the journey than the destination. And as your recovery becomes as natural as breathing, you will begin to experience deeper places of sobriety that is long-lasting and consistent.
One of the most popular terms a person coming out of addiction will use to share their success or failure in recovery is the word “sobriety”. In the mainline culture, it’s probably most widely used in Alcoholics Anonymous and has been for several decades. It’s a widely accepted term in recovery and has spanned to former addicts with other sorts of compulsive behaviors. Nothing about the use of the word or it’s implications is wrong. I just have one question:
Could it be that there’s more to your recovery than JUST sobriety? Is it possible that even when you’ve made considerable progress in your journey to avoid a certain behavior, there’s more healing that could be taking place in your life? More lessons you could be learning about your heart? Deeper levels of wholeness available to you as a person in recovery?
It might just be a personal gripe I have with the word. At the end of the day, it’s probably just semantics. But rarely, if ever, have I used the word “sobriety” as I talk with men about my recovery story. Because I think there’s more to recovery than just sobriety; this picture of just getting by and ticking off the number of days I haven’t had alcohol or used porn.
I believe we can experience FREEDOM. The person who is free from sexual addiction is one who has/is experiencing healing on a much deeper level than just abstinence. And so I believe there are at least a couple specific reasons why freedom matters more than sobriety. If I haven’t lost you at this point, please consider the following reasons:
- FREEDOM is about healing your heart while SOBRIETY is about managing your behavior.
In my experience working with men, the ones who do the best are the ones who focus on healing their hearts. This includes their mental health, emotional health, and relational health. They’re revisiting their childhood, their adolescent years, the relationship they had with their parents in search of possible traumas or abuse they may have suffered. They’re learning new ways to process feelings of pain and discomfort instead of retreating into isolation. They’re spending time with counselors &/or a support group of other men who can help them process the damage addiction has done. Recovery is about so much more than managing behavior. Freedom cannot be achieved merely by managing your behavior or abstaining from using porn. In SGO, we call this “white-knuckle” change: The attempt to get better externally by simply gritting your teeth and trying to avoid porn or the feelings that could potentially be triggering. In order for the healing process to begin taking place in your life, you must look inward. You must embrace pain, acknowledge why it’s there, and act on it in a productive way that leads to life.
- FREEDOM counts the lessons you’re learning in recovery while SOBRIETY counts the days without using porn.
Close your eyes for 20 seconds and reflect on what you’ve learned since coming out of addiction. If you weren’t able to think of 5-10 lessons in the span of 20 seconds, it begs the question: What is your real goal in recovery? Is it to merely tick off on your calendar all the days that you haven’t acted out? Or is it to become the person that God intends for you to be? They are two vastly different goals. If you’re a financial guy, think about it like this: Just because you don’t file for bankruptcy each year doesn’t mean you have financial freedom. Likewise, you might have racked up 30 days or 60 days without looking at something triggering, but through the process have you considered WHY you act out and what your specific triggers are? Sobriety in itself without the real investigation into one’s heart will not take you very far. Unfortunately, I’ve seen men who have been more prone to slips and relapses because they were unwilling to do the real heart work that recovery requires.
Again, at the end of the day, perhaps it’s just a matter of word play. Freedom and sobriety could very well mean the same thing. I just think we have to be intentional in our recovery and know what our end goal is. Otherwise, we’ll coast along not understanding what we’re suppose to be doing.
Make sure you know what you want out of your recovery. Are you simply in a competition with yourself to see how long you can go without using porn? Or are you entering into community with others who are struggling the same way you are? This is where freedom and healing begin!
Small Groups Online makes it really easy to find community where other men will be waiting to meet with you. Through a weekly Zoom meeting and the Live Free community, you will be given the tools you need to help you find the freedom we’ve been talking about. It’s as easy as going to the website, finding the specific group and time you’re looking for and signing up. Go check out Small Groups Online today!
One of the greatest things I cherish about my relationship with my wife is our commitment to complete honesty. Believe it or not, this is a characteristic that didn’t come instantly on day one of marriage. It’s one that’s been cultivated over the last 9 years. And I believe each and every day, it’s gotten better. But it’s only gotten better because Tracey & I have practiced. And as one person I heard revise the classic quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”
One method in particular that’s really been helpful for us came from a counselor friend of ours (the same guy who initially helped me out of my sexual addiction). It’s called FANOS. It’s an acronym that stands for Feelings, Affirmation, Needs, Ownership, & Sobriety. In addition to our normal conversation each day, once a week we’ll have a more intentional check-in time with each other where we have a chance to go much deeper. Note: This is usually done when there is no kids around! 🙂 We each go back and forth sharing on each letter of the acronym. Let’s briefly break down each word:
- F – Feelings: How am I feeling this week? (emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally etc.) This is a huge one so don’t skim over it. Go deep here.
- A – Affirmation: What ways can I possibly encourage my wife this week? How can I speak to her as a wife, mother, daughter of God? Speak life to your wife.
- N – Needs: What needs do I have from her (again emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, etc.)? Again, this is an important one so don’t just think “more sex, please” on this one. Be real.
- O – Ownership: What can I take ownership of this week that I’m not doing so well in? Guys, we should have plenty to express here! As a husband, dad, worker, whatever, what are areas that you can grow in?
- S – Sobriety: How is my sobriety going this week? This question is typically only for you so be honest. If there were slips, confess them. If there was growth, share it. Don’t leave anything out on this one. Details are important.
I love this model for communication with my wife. We practiced it early on in my recovery journey and have just recently come back to it for a model of conversation. I pray that it’s helpful to you as well as you grow in oneness with the man or woman God has given you!
Each year as Fall roles around many of us hear some of these questions from our spouses: “What do you want for Christmas?”, “What’s on your Christmas list?”, and “Any surprises you want from Santa this year?” Well, truth is I stopped believing in Santa a long time ago, but there is one gift that comes to mind. I know it’s a costly gift, one that takes time, focus, energy, relentless pursuit and sacrifice….but it’s all I want for Christmas!
I’ll admit I’m your typical girl when it comes to gifts — I love jewelry, clothes, massages, candy, and flowers are always a nice touch! Come on, who wouldn’t melt at receiving any of those gifts! There are numerous things I could place on my Christmas list, but the one that truly melts my heart is knowing my spouse is walking in sobriety.
The greatest and most precious gift I could receive from my spouse year after year is confidence in his sobriety. This is a gift that benefits not just me and my husband, but our children and those we minister to as well. There is a peace, trust and security that grows with each passing day as my husband is pursuing purity and having victory.
What I love most about the gift of sobriety is that I don’t have to wait for Christmas to receive it. It’s a year round blessing to me, one that I treasure and love being reminded of often. As for this girl’s Christmas list, I’ll take faithfulness over flowers any day.