Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Online Resources






As we’ve discussed, addiction to Internet sex is a vicious trap that claims many victims, many of whom are Christian and even Christian clergy.

Below is a list of just a few resources I highly recommend as you begin your journey to recovery.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are my personal favorites.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find TONS of online resources out there, many of which are Christian-based and free of charge.  Word may not be getting out in enough churches about this problem, but it sure is in cyberspace.  What satan has done through the Internet to steal, kill and destroy, God has done through the Internet to form a bridge to healing.

Take your time and browse these sites.  At the least, you’ll find confirmation in numbers that there truly is hope out of this devastation, and at the most, you’ll find healing for your life, your marriage, and your family.



This is a great resource that’s something between a blog and a website.  There are wonderful resources there, testimonies, a blog, podcasts, and many, many topics on the sidebar that apply to just about anything you’re struggling with.  Porntopurity came out of Jeff’s own struggle with Internet sex.  Through his healing, he is able to help others, and his wife Marsha gives her perspective on being a spouse of a former addict.



What an excellent resource!  Blazinggrace is full of helping resources.  There are five-years’ worth of podcasts from its radio program with a wide range of sexual addiction topics, and you can access them all for free.  Its forums are fantastic, in which anyone can comment or ask for prayer.  Its informative, educational, and helpful in healing.


 
This is a powerhouse ministry for attacking Internet sex addiction.  They offer everything from a seven- to nine-month live-in program for addicts to phone counseling for them to a 12-week phone counseling program for spouses of addicts.  There’s even a way to ask questions online to trained counselors (graduates of the live-in program).  They do warn that because of the volume of questions, they may not get to every one, and if they do, there may be a long wait for a response.


www.befreeinchrist.com

Free In Christ is a popular online support for those addicted to Internet sex.  It’s in the form of a Yahoo group that works like a cyber support group.  Strict confidentiality is assured.  They also have several online tests to indicate whether you have an addiction problem or not.  And the brilliant letter to a “Long Lust Friend” I quote below from their site.


So let me leave you with this letter that can become a personal anthem as you say goodbye to a great enemy that has masqueraded as a dear friend all these years!
 

Dear Long Lust Friend,

I want to let you know how much I have valued your friendship over the years. You have been my most loyal companion.
           When I was sad, isolated, anxious and hurting, you comforted me. We celebrated life's successes and covered up the messy failures. Looking back I am amazed at your tireless devotion. Thank you for helping me cope with the never-ending challenges of life.
           I am sad to inform you that I no longer require your devotion. You see, though you have served me well, I have nothing left to give to this friendship. I have already given you the best years of my life by sacrificing relationships, opportunities, time and money. I willingly paid these exorbitant fees and, as promised, you introduced me to some of your closest companions; pleasure, sex, pornography, masturbation and fantasy. They too became loyal and trusted friends.
          The only thing I have left is my very life and I have recently given it to Another. His promise is that I will never thirst again; and oh how thirsty you have left me. There is a price for His friendship also, but luckily, the only thing I have left is the only thing He requires. I must admit, at first I was afraid of giving my life to Another, but fear is another invented friend of yours.
          He uses words like "abundance", "joy", "fullness", "blessings", "peace" and "freedom". My infinite Friend has a small voice that is hard to hear above the clanging noise of your vernacular ("fear", "despair", "depression", "panic", "irresponsibility", "doom" and "secrecy"). That is why I must sever all ties with you.
          My Friend lays claim to the title "Prince of Peace" and to be honest, I could really use some peace right now after all the insanity you have brought into my life. Everything is topsy-turvy right now; a byproduct of the life you helped me build.
          Like you, my Friend has companions. Among my favorites are intimacy, self-respect, truth, love and hope. Instead of dying of thirst, my thirst is dying down as I drink from His living water.
So, I am saying goodbye to you my long lust friend. I know that you are always near. I feel your presence often, but I no longer need you.

Your Once Faithful Friend,

Anonymous

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NEXT POST: Grappling with the tough questions of how a couple should treat one another and communicate with each other during and after Internet sex addiction.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Repentance Once and For All









I feel for anyone and everyone who has struggled with Internet sex and has “repented” for the thousandth time.  I know that you are confused, frustrated, and feeling SO much guilt that you often doubt whether or not you are saved.

Like any addiction, there is a cycle.  This post is certainly not an attempt to oversimplify what psychologists have spent years researching.  There are many, many triggers to addictions and not everyone is launched into an addiction cycle given the same set of circumstances.  But I do believe it is important to recognize that addiction cycles do exist.  If we know that we react to certain life occurrences in the same old negative ways, then we can repent of how we’ve been dealing with our hurt and pain for perhaps years. 

For example, those dealing with an anger addiction (and yes, it can be an addiction) can gain victory over it when they recognize that as soon as someone treats them wrongly, it is equally “wrong” to yell at them in return.  Why is it wrong?  Not only because it is a non-biblical approach to resolving issues, but also because yelling does not help one to be heard more.  In fact, it produces the opposite effect, since the screamer loses the receiver’s respect of them.  Not only must the angry person repent of reacting that way, he or she must seize the opportunity to substitute their age-old reaction with a biblical one—“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).  And “Fools show annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 19:11).

Clearly it’s not different for those with a problem with Internet sex.  Nationally known speaker and author on sexual addictions, Dr. Patrick Carnes recognized the first stage that triggers sexual addiction is emotional pain (The Beginning of the Addictive Cycle, Carnes, p. 67).  If that’s true, can you imagine how hungry the Lord is to touch you where it hurts most and heal you once and for all?!
Exactly hear is the place where we repent for shunning that pain through the exercise of sexual sin.  We are not to blame for pain.  It is what it is.  But we are responsible to remedy that hurt by turning to the Lord Himself.

We’ve heard all of the definitions of the word, repent.

“To turn 180 degrees away from your old lifestyle of sin and turn toward God.”

“To have a change of mind.”

“To commit your heart to turning a new leaf.”

These are all good, workable definitions.  But in a nutshell, it means we must “turn AWAY in the opposite direction of our sin and run TOWARD God.”  The apostle Paul puts it best in 2 Cor. 7: 10:  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

It’s not enough to be sorry.  Our sorrow must drive us into the arms of the only One who heals our deep, emotional pain.  And this drive must occur each and every time our addiction cycle wants to kick in.

If we can only get to the place where we know for certain that if we jump off the cliff, the Lord will be there to rescue us.  What absolute freedom.  We arrest the addiction cycle at the first stage, then we never have to worry about the stages beyond that.  We need to spend at least three weeks in boot camp—retraining ourselves to cry out to God when that bad boy wants to shove us into that same-old-same-old. 

Just like someone addicted to food, the Internet addict must forget about the “quick fixes” of starving himself or trying a new diet pill every week.  She must change—once and for all—old habits and ring in a NEW LIFESTYLE that will last for the rest of her life.

Is it hard?  Heck, yeah!  Is it worth the work?  You answer that.

Like I mention in THIS POST, we have to believe that leaving the “dark side” is worth it!  That God IS a better alternative.  That He IS the most rewarding source of healing and contentment in light of our personal pain.  He touches us where it hurts the most.  REALLY!


Hey, readers!  Now is the time, as we draw near the close to this series, to write to me and ask any questions or raise any concerns you may have.  As always, your anonymity will be respected!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: The 2-10-5 Journal




This is the most rewarding part of our series on Internet sex addictions.  It’s also the hardest part.
I have used this type of therapy on myself off and on in my life as I went through struggles of many types.  I have also exercised this therapy on many people I have counseled over the years.  It may be grueling, but that’s the point.  And it works.

The 2-10-5 Journal, as I call it, is named after the second part of the following Scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

And it goes like this:

  1. REPENT.  This is a necessary place to start.  Ask the Lord to not only forgive you for your addiction (because it IS sin), but also ask Him to empower you for the next steps.
  2. Buy a journal with many pages that’s small enough to fit in a man’s pocket or a woman’s purse.
  3. Keep this journal and a pen with you at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc.
  4. Make for yourself a time frame that’s reasonable and non-negotiable.  I would not make that time frame shorter than three weeks (remember, it generally takes three weeks to unlearn a habit and learn a new one).  A good period would be for 30 days straight.  Never skip a day.
  5. Be completely aware of each and every thought that comes to mind, from now until the 30-day period is over.  (I told you it would be grueling!)
  6. IN THE FIRST THREE DAYS, whenever you entertain a negative thought (i.e., letting a sexual temptation or evil thought linger in your mind), take out your journal and pen and record that thought.  Make sure you put the date and the time.
  7. AFTER THE FIRST THREE DAYS, set your watch alarm or phone to go off EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR (except, of course, when you’re sleeping).  When the alarm sounds, take out your journal and pen and record the negative thoughts you had in the last hour. 
It is arduous. 

It is time-consuming. 

It is a royal pain in the keister! 

And it’s the most glorious method of training yourself to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

In the first couple of weeks, I guarantee you will want to through that darn journal out the window.  But don’t do it!  Hang in there.  You will eventually realize that you’ve been training yourself NOT to entertain thoughts you shouldn’t because the penalty—journaling!—is too great.

You will be tempted to skip an hour or two.  But be warned.  If you do, the method will most definitely fail.  That means, no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, no matter how busy you are, you must take 15 seconds every hour to record.  Even if you’re in a restaurant with Nelson Mandela, excuse yourself to go to the restroom, then record!  You are training yourself for a new lifestyle that will ensure you freedom for the rest of your life until Jesus comes.

You say, but Anthony, that is SO extreme!  Yep.  It surely is.  But isn’t it time that you take extreme measures if you’re truly serious about ending this horrible pull to Internet sex?  I am only giving you a means to fulfill our Lord’s mandate to you in 2 Cor. 10:5.  Remember, as it states in verse 4, the object is to “pull down” strongholds.  NOT to gently and leisurely invite them down.  You must DRAG DOWN those bad boys.  If you want to get rid enemy terrorists hiding in a foxhole who are trying to kill you, you don’t toss in a pretty purple smoke bomb.  You fire in a rocket-propelled grenade!!

Begin now, men and women.  Do not let this idea fade from your memory.  Make it a point to find or buy a journal as soon as you finish reading this post.  We need to treat this sickness like it’s a matter of life and death.  And for you, it IS!

There’s no turning back.  You are officially on the road to freedom.  And just imagine.  Once this new you gets into gear, can you imagine the victory you will have in other areas of your life?  EVERY area of challenge, of hurt, of opposition will be under control as you control your thoughts according to 2 Cor. 10:5!  Remember, our Lord says...

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

I am praying for you and for your spouse and for your family!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Step Four Toward Healing--The Tools







If there is a war going on in the mind to ensnare you into Internet sex, then brothers and sisters, that is where we take the battle to finally win this thing!

How do cults ensnare people?  They indoctrinate in the mind.  If they can control your mind, they’ve got your entire being.

The converse is also true.  By freeing the mind of garbage, you allow room for treasure.  This is a biblical principle…

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV).  The King James Version uses the word “treasure” for “good” here.  And since the concept of “heart” and “mind” is interchangeable in the Bible, we can see how what our mind is loaded with will impact our behavior.  EVEN IF our will is NOT to act a certain way! 

Remember Paul in Rom. 7:14-15:  “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” 

And Verses 21-23:  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

Sounds to me like there’s a war going on in the mind, doesn’t it?  In your inner being, your regenerated “spirit” being, you love God, but sin attacking the mind will change your behavior and enslave you TO THAT behavior!

So…The $64,000 question…What do we do?

As I said in the last post, prayer and meditation on the Word are powerful.  But what if we don’t know how to constrain our own mind, to harness it so that we have control over it so that a lifestyle of prayer and meditation get in there! 

Let me start by saying that if we as Christians can finally grasp this concept as it relates to gaining victory over sexual addiction, our entire lives as Christians will be revolutionized!  You want to be a carry-your-cross-daily-and-follow-me Christian?  This is it.  You want power for living abundantly in Christ every day, every minute of the day?  This is it.  You want to finally be a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2) and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”?  This is it.

In the 70’s when there were scores of self-help books, one called “Psycho-Cybernetics” introduced the principle that it takes 21 days to break a habit and form a new one.  That is a good principle, even though everyone is different and may experience a different timeframe.

Our goal here is to break the horrific habit of indulging our sensual cravings online while substituting that void (because there will be one) with God’s substitute.  And that equates to FREEDOM! 

Rather than face the hurt of negative things in life, Buddhists leaders teach their disciples to change their mind on the matter—see all things as “meaningless,” neither good nor bad.  They just are.  This works for them!  They actually feel free in the mind.  The problem with it, though, is that it’s temporary and they have to strive all the time in it.  Plus, without Jesus, there’s no salvation.  It’s good for a lifetime, then what?  Also, they blank out the mind, whereas Christians fill it with the Word and with God.  We have a true spiritual connection or relationship with one true God who created the universe!  And He is an “ever-present help in a time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

In an earlier post HERE, I talk about how the “wrong high” kicks in.  Let’s really hash this out now.  Any form of temptation will draw our minds toward this wrong high.  It’s the high that our mind wants.  When a thief is tempted to steal, he gets a wrong high when he ponders on grabbing that thing that’s not his.  The more he steals, the more addicted he is to getting that high.  So many inmates on death row insist on remaining incarcerated because they cannot trust themselves not to murder again!  They are addicted to the wrong high of murdering.

Internet sex? 

Let me be very blunt here, guys.  If you are somewhere as inane as the local DMV, you can still easily fall into the trap of a wrong high.  What if there’s a young girl sitting at the desk while you are standing across from her and she’s wearing a low-cut blouse.  Be honest.  The more you stare at that area, the more you feel dopamine rush through your veins, right?  You don’t even have to fantasize about any sexual activity with this stranger.  You simply can stare at that part of her anatomy and feel a rush.

Then what happens?  For a long time afterward, you start to feel sexually frustrated.  That rush is still there, to a certain degree.  Even though you have a beautiful wife at home, she does not compare to what you just saw, does she?  What you saw and dwelled on was a unique moment, a spontaneous thrill, if you will.  It’s that spontaneous thrill that you’re addicted to.  So you go home and get on the Internet.  And you enter into that horrible cycle of a) the hunt, b) the capture, c) the guilt, then the hunt again.

Now what COULD you have done to prevent that trap?  Men, as soon as you caught a glimpse of that woman’s chest area, you should simply stare everywhere you can EXCEPT there.  You say, Well, isn’t that avoiding the problem and not facing it head-on?  Absolutely!  You will have saved yourself hours of pain and frustration and, frankly, sin.

James 1:14-15 states:  “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  By letting desire linger, you eventually enter into sin.  That’s when and where adultery of the heart occurs.

When I was a singles pastor, I always told them, “When you’re walking down the street and a scantily-clad woman walks toward you, you can’t help that first glance, but you’re on your own when you turn around, after she passes you, to get a second (and third, and fourth,…) look.  Here, the first glance represents the temptation.  The glances after that are what gets you in trouble.  Temptation is not a sin.  The lingering desire—often translated, lust—is.

Can you see how avoiding the lust part is so much more freeing?  Lust is not only a sin, it’s frustrating.  It’s aggravating.  It’s guilt causing.  And it’s marriage betraying.

When I finally made a commitment with the Lord to free myself once and for all, I made a special pact with Him like Job in 31:1: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.”  But in order to do that, I knew I had to do something else.

I made it my personal mission to do everything in my power not to put my eyes in a position to see potentially tempting things.

When I was on staff at a large church in the Los Angeles area, there happened to be two billboards for “gentlemen’s clubs.”  (That terminology always struck me as odd.  There ARE no gentlemen who frequent them!)  And being L.A., anything goes—including most of the clothes on the girls in the ads.  I was surprised there weren’t ten accidents a day as men passed these huge billboards.

So what did I do?  I got up ten minutes earlier each day so that I could take a slightly longer route to the church; a route that was free from these ads.  By doing so, I was not only fulfilling my covenant with the Lord.  I was preventing dopamine from being released in my body.  No dopamine, no frustration, no sin.  All freedom.

Guys, don’t buy the old, “I like to admire God’s creation.”  We're not supposed to admire any of the creation anyway.  Besides, admiring THIS sort of creation leads to you know what.

I know that some of you are reading this, thinking, “I can’t take my eyes off every woman (or man) I see.  What if I work with a hottie—day in and day out.  They’ll think I’m weird if everytime I interact with them I look away.”  Then I say, with everything in you, look that person in the eyes each time and ask the Lord to show you how HE feels about that person.  He loves them as either a child of His or a potential one.  Not as an object.  His grace is so sufficient for you at that time, believe me.

We need to keep things in perspective.  We’re not dealing with pure mind control here.  We are working synergistically with a loving God who empowers us as we take steps to please Him in our lifestyle.  God WILL meet you there!

In the meantime, begin changing old habits.  Make a covenant of the eyes with the Lord.  Pray and meditate on the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to help you.  All of these things are vital to gaining victory.

Give yourselves at least 21 days to break old habits and form new ones.

In the next post, we will finally look at a way to really reinforce the breaking of old habits that lead to Internet sex sin.  It is hard.  It is even painful.  But it’s the best method I know to introduce you to a new lifestyle—one of habitual freedom instead of habitual enslavement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Step Three Toward Healing--The Sacrifice








I want to make one thing clear.  As we venture into this part of the series in which you are given the tools to bring you closer to healing from internet sex, I am assuming a lot.  I assume that I’m speaking primarily to Christians—men and women—who have a problem with the internet.  I also assume that, as Christian, you have tried everything you know to try, from a biblical perspective. 

For example, prayer is an obvious place to start.  If you haven’t started there, why not?  Do you feel too ashamed to go the Father with your sin?  Well, first of all, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8).  And secondly, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).  Thirdly, God tells us THREE TIMES in the New Testament that “whoever trusts in Him is not put to shame” (Rom. 9:23; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6).

Let me put those three points another way, in Anthony speak:  “Dude, it’s crazy not to talk to God about it because He already knows what you’ve been doing!  And not only does He know, He is perfectly able to help you.  So don’t be ashamed.  Trust Him now.”

I am sensitive to how you feel, though.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes I could only get out—HEEEELLLP!  But that’s a prayer, too.  Just put your trust in Him.

Another thing I assume you’ve tried is meditating on our Lord’s Word.  Needless to say, when we get lost, we refer to the map.

But I’m writing this part of the series to those who’ve done these things and just can’t seem to get a grasp on victory from internet sex.

In the last post, I suggested that the journey of healing may not be an instantaneous one.  It may even be very arduous.  But I am not writing this post to bring an easy way out of the illicit-sex snare.  I am writing it to those who mean business, who are SO fed up with their sin, SO feeling helpless and hopeless, and SO ready to do WHATEVER it takes to get healed from this scourge once and for all, from a biblical perspective. 

If that’s you, put your seat belt on.

“ONLY SERIOUS APPLICANTS NEED APPLY”

Are you serious?  Then get ready for a complete overhaul, a total lifestyle change, a way of life that may be very foreign to you and may even rub you the wrong way at first.

Regarding this last aspect, let me tell you a true story.  I like golf.  For years, I was a pretty good golfer.  Not great.  Just pretty good.  I had a certain grip on the golf club, used a certain swing, and played a certain strategy in order for me not to shoot in the 100’s (for non-golf readers, that’s not a good score!).

Then one day just a few years ago, I thought I would treat myself to something I’ve never had before—a good set of brand-spanking new golf clubs.  So I went to a driving range to test some new clubs to buy.  I started out rough, as usual, but midway through the big basket of balls, I was slamming the ball in the general vicinity of where I wanted it to go.  The good thing about driving ranges is that you can err a bit and it still looks like a killer drive.  Whoever’s watching can assume you meant to hit it virtually straight but a little to the right.

That’s when I was caught.  A golf pro was hitting some balls next to me.  Every one of his shots was not just in the vicinity of the center area of the range—each shot landed in the exact same spot a gazillion miles away!

“Hey, show off,” I said to him.  Not really.  But I wanted to call him that way.

“Uh, excuse me.  I’m thinking about buying these clubs.  Do you know how to tell if they’re right for me?”

“Sure,” he said.  “Let me see you hit a few.”

Well, I was excited inside.  I get to show off a little and have the guy say, “Man, you’ve got some talent!”

He never said that.  I never asked him to give me pointers, but he did.  I hated to hear them, but in the end, I was so grateful.  The pro started by saying, “Let’s start with your grip…”

What?  Start with my grip?!  Is he kidding?!  Didn’t he see how far I hit those balls?  Giving a lesson on my grip is for beginners, I thought.  Man, I was hurt.  He moved my fingers and palms a certain way like an artist molds and repositions clay on a sculpture.   

When he was done, he said, “Now hold that and swing.”

Oh, man, I just laughed.  It felt SO UNNATURAL!  It was so hard.  The first swing I took, I missed the ball entirely!  Surely this cannot be the proper grip.  And surely I couldn’t have playing golf all these years using a bad grip!  But it’s true.  I have gotten so used to doing things the wrong way, that when I tried to do things the right way, it not only felt unnatural, it was HARD!

I think you know where I’m going with this.  We can do things the wrong way and still feel like we’re pretty good people.  We can even live our entire lives including the “wrong ways” in our lifestyle and feel complacent or even hopeless thinking that the “right way” is not attainable for me.

Sometimes you have to slog through the trenches to plant a flag on the hilltop.  Tune in for the next post and we’ll take a step-by-step journey on the road of victory.
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