Why checking in daily with an ally is crucial to outgrowing unwanted sexual behavior

Updated: Nov 2, 2020



"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection."

Journalist Johann Hari said these words in a 2015 TED Talk that has since been watched more than 16 million times. He based this conclusion on scientific research from the late 1970s that found rats housed in isolation were far more likely to self-medicate with morphine than rats housed together in a park-like setting. In 2018, a new study led by the National Institute on Drug Abuse affirmed the idea that addiction thrives in isolation and dies in a genuine community. That study required rats to choose between social interaction with another rat or access to heroin or methamphetamine.

"The animals consistently chose social interaction when given the choice, and this was true when they were first given access to the drug or when they were experienced drug takers."

Okay, so how does this apply to my unwanted sexual behavior, you might be asking yourself? Well, sex addiction is often defined as an intimacy disorder. Think about it. We all long to be fully known and fully loved, but sometimes, when life and people disappoint us, we find it easier to connect with pornographic images or random sex partners than to risk rejection from our friends and families. Instead of choosing true intimacy, we replace it with the false intimacy of pornography and transaction-based sex, where we're always in control and there is no risk of rejection. But before long, we're smothered by shame and believing the lie that "if anyone really knew me, they would reject me." We've become just like a rat stuck in a barren cage with only our addiction to soothe our wounded soul.


I've known many men who feel stuck in the cage of their addiction. Some tell me they've done everything humanly possible to overcome their addictions to pornography and anonymous hookups on their own -- prayer, reading books and blogs, going to church weekly, purging apps from a phone -- but none of it worked. Don't get me wrong, those steps are all necessary and helpful, but men commonly refuse to take the one step that would unlock the power of praying and release the transformative knowledge they've learned from reading books and listening to wise experts. You have to ask for help. That's what God usually tells us each time we selfishly beg him to miraculously deliver us from our struggles. One man who battled severe sex addiction for more than two decades before finding freedom recalled how God always gave him the same answer to his prayer for miraculous deliverance from unwanted same-sex attraction: "You have to surrender your pride and confess your unwanted sexual behaviors to another man. Trust me. I will make your path straight, as I promise in Proverbs 3:5-6, but you have to set aside your own understanding and trust me with all your heart. Submit to me."


Instead of obeying, we often give God the same answer over and over and over: "NO!" We don't believe him. Instead, we cling tight to the lie that "if anyone really knew me, they would reject me."


Eventually, by the grace of God, many men hit their rock bottom. Desperate, isolated and often barreling toward physical death, they finally come to realize they are completely powerless to overcome this struggle on their own and accept that their life is out of control. In a moment of true surrender, they spill their guts to a trusted man God has placed in their lives. They fear being rejected as a bad and worthless person but instead receive unconditional love and acceptance. At this moment they learn a non-negotiable truth: You must daily process your addiction with others in order to find lasting freedom.


This truth is reflected in James 5:16, which tells us to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." If you establish a check-in process as part of a trusting relationship with an ally, it becomes much easier to obediently confess sins daily. As a result, your ally will have a better understanding of how to pray for you, allowing you to experience the healing that comes when we "pray for each other."


How to check-in


There are many methods to check in with your ally, accountability partner, guide or sponsor. Some people choose to make a phone call each day. Others prefer to leave a one-minute voicemail each night. Some journal about their day and share it via text or email. Others use a tool known as the FASTER scale. However you choose to check-in, the most important thing is that you do it consistently. Every. Single. Day. If you find yourself rationalizing why you don't have enough time to check-in, take a moment and reflect on how much time you've wasted pursuing unwanted sexual behavior in your life. You have enough time to check in daily. Make it a priority.


One of the greatest gifts a beloved friend gave me during my own recovery is the vowel check-in tool. It comes from a book about vulnerability by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection. Each night, I answer these questions in a text I send to him and a handful of allies.


A. Have I been Abstinent from selfish sexual behavior since my last check-in?

E. What Exercise have I done?

I. What have I done for myself?

O. What have I done for Others?

U. What Unexpressed emotions, feelings or thoughts do I need to share?

Y. Yeah! What can I celebrate?


By practicing vulnerability, honesty and openness each day, we speak truth to the lies that have enslaved us in sin for too long. We come to believe that we can be fully known and fully loved!


It's hard work, but I can help you build safe and healthy relationships with people who know what you've done and still choose to love you. I'd be honored to help you take that first step out of isolation and toward the radical freedom of connection. Let's talk!



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