The Biggest Problem Christians Don’t Talk About
By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
As a general rule, addictions are pretty much equal opportunity. Men and women are equally susceptible to them. And process addictions (gambling, eating, spending, sex) are no exception.
Marnie Ferree, a pioneer in the treatment of female sex and relationship addicts, calls sex the fastest growing addiction in the country, and the addiction of choice among Christians. Check out what she has to say on the topic and see if this doesn’t ring true:
“I don’t know if you have a picture in your mind of what a sexual addict looks like. I would be even more surprised if you had a picture of what a female sexual addict looks like. There are, however, many of us. And all of us must deal with the enormous shame connected with sexual addiction. Today, if someone said in a social setting—even in a Christian social setting—”I’m a recovering alcoholic,” I think many people might respond with: “Good for you. You’ve admitted you have a problem. You’re doing something about it. You’re getting help.” We have an element of respect for someone who admits to being a recovering alcoholic. But if you say, “I’m a recovering sex addict,” you will still experience enormous amounts of shame and very little understanding.”
That last sentence is the undeniable truth. All addicts battle guilt and shame, but recovering sexual addicts battle those same feelings anew when their community learns about their addiction. For that reason, male and female sexual addicts make sure they hide the addiction, especially if they’re Christians. The privacy of the Internet makes it easy to hide.
Sexual addiction is a massive, marriage-wrecking, life-destroying problem that no one talks about. Pornography is immediate, private, and affordable because of the Internet. Phones and computers have also made it easier than ever to arrange casual sexual encounters.
When it’s so easy to access, how can it be fought? Like any addiction, recovery from sexual addiction can’t be done alone.
Prayer, the Bible and the Church are powerful.
But they don’t cure addiction.
If you’re a Christian and you battle sexual addiction, you may have told your pastor or a trusted church staffer about it. And if you did, you may have been told to pray about it constantly, dive into the Word, and spend more time at church.
It’s good advice. Those things change lives and eternities. But if you have an addiction, you need to reinforce these spiritual weapons with addiction-fighting ones. Here’s Ferree again:
“Believe me, people who struggle with sexual addictions have prayed. They have tried to surrender their will to God. They have tried to get connected at church. And it has not helped. Putting a kind of spiritual Band-Aid on this problem is not going to be helpful. It is going to be harmful, because it will contribute to the hopelessness that people feel. Suppose you tell someone to “just pray more,” and they take your advice and pray more, and it doesn’t help. Then what? It will add to their despair. And few things are more powerful fuel for addictions than despair.”
So the question is, what defeats that despair and leads to healing, hope and sobriety?
Step 1. Counseling and/or medication.
At Stenzel Clinical, we specialize in process addictions. We know that quite often, depression and sexual addiction go hand-in-hand, and we know despair is something addicts fight on a regular basis.
No matter where you turn for counseling, make sure you find a place where you receive grace and hope. Seeking help for sexual addiction takes immense courage, but if you take the leap, healing is on the other side.
Step 2. The 3 C’s: Christ, Church and Community.
Ferree calls fellowship the antidote to trauma and the key to long-term recovery. You were created for community. You thrive on it. Find a group of people who know your story, who keep you accountable and who celebrate and grieve with you as you navigate the healing path.
Twelve Step programs are a great place to find this combo of community and accountability. They are places where it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to just be you.
Remember your pastor’s advice from before? Now is the time to dive into it. Study the Bible, spend quality time at church, and turn temptation into opportunities for prayer.
It’s okay to ask for help.
Sexual addition is not yet recognized in the DSM. But make no mistake: It is an addiction. If you have tried to stop your sex or pornography addiction without success, we are here for you whenever you’re ready to ask for help. You can contact us here.