February 23, 2007

Sexual Addiction: Breaking the Cycles

Breaking the Cycles of Sexual Addiction
By Ross Gunn III
{Originally published for the National Network of Youth Pastors}

"Everyone else has gone to bed, and it has been a very long day. My Sonday was a typical one for a Pastor: rushing out the door early, teaching Sonday School, church, lunch with staff, afternoon counseling, evening meetings and follow-up calls. Who ever said being a pastor was easy?

This week I've clocked over 78 hours. I am constantly surrounded with people, but I feel so alone. No one could possibly understand the tremendous pressures, responsibilities and the temptations I face every day. I feel like I'll never meet everyone's standards of perfection. The amount of guilt and shame I carry is overwhelming! The church is supposed to be a model of unconditional love, and yet I feel like I am always on trial, always having to prove myself.

This late hour is my time to let down my guard; to meet my own needs. It's a time when I can feel human again. Under the guise of doing more ministry, I “reach out” to others online. At least that’s what I tell myself. My chat room talks with Stacy have been exciting and fulfilling. Although she is only sixteen, she has a level of empathy that is rare in a woman three times her age. I know that I shouldn't be opening up to her, but after all… I am a pastor. Perhaps we shouldn't be so graphic and intimate in our discussions, but that's what she likes, so I do it anyway. I know that my wife would disapprove, but Stacy and I have a lot in common, and I find that she allows me to feel – well, like a man; like a person with value and worth.

What disturbs me most about chatting with Stacy is my fantasy of a more sexual relationship with her. I rationalize that away, since I can't see her. I often spend hours viewing pornography after we log off. I know porn is not good, but it allows me to enjoy being intimate with someone, even if they are just pictures. After all, I need to feel good – to be released from the pressures of the day…

At least I am not as bad as my grandfather with his kinky magazines, or my Dad with his adulterous affairs. Yet every time I go through my ritual of chat rooms, pornography and masturbation, I know something is deeply wrong. I feel ashamed; I ask God’s forgiveness – but nothing seems to change. I feel that at the heart or core of who I am... I am a hypocrite – I am a liar – I am bad.

I wish I could stop, but I can't. It seems like I want this more and more each week. My late night activities are harming my family and it’s affecting my ministry. I feel like I'm caught in a revolving door of acting out, confessing my sins and vowing that I will never get on the Internet again. I hope my wife never finds out. I’m getting by for now…but when I’m alone, I daydream about talking to Stacy and I can’t wait till we meet again next Sonday night!"


This story illustrates some of the damage that sexual addiction can have on a Pastor, his marriage, his family and his ministry. Since opening my own counseling office in 1998, I have counseled a lot of Pastors, Elders, Staff, Church Members, "Seekers" and some who have rejected God and I've noticed a recurring pattern or cycle in all of the lives of people struggling with sexual addiction. Below is a brief summary of the sexual addiction cycle and some of the tools needed to break the cycle.

The Sexual Addiction Cycle

1) Heart Issues & Core Beliefs: The Bible describes the heart as being like a treasure chest (Psalm 119:11; Luke 2:51). It's where we store our most intimate beliefs about God, ourselves, and others. It holds our values, our worth, our purpose , our significance, our sense of security, our understanding of pain and reward and our deepest beliefs about faith, hope and love.. These 'treasures' may be good or bad, healthy or destructive. We often view our treasures in terms of extreme black and white beliefs. Many of our deepest memories of trauma, abuse and abandonment dwell in the darkest corners of our heart. The heart also the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our heart impacts all of our thoughts, feelings, choices, behaviors and relationships. When our heart is “out of synch” with the Holy Spirit and with Scripture, we tend to view and live life from a distorted perspective. This distortion plagues our daily lives, making us vulnerable to “stress triggers” that can set us off into a destructive pattern of thinking, feeling choosing and acting out destructive behaviors.

2) Stress Triggers: Everyone experiences stress. But some kinds of stress reinforce our unhealthy heart/core issues, and tempt us to dwell on the negative. These stress triggers magnify the pain of our heart.

3) Negative Emotional State: Like a bad song that we can't get out of our heads, we begin to rehearse the negative feelings attached to our unhealthy heart. We become depressed, anxious, bitter, guilty and fearful as we nurse the pain in our heart.

4) Role of the Victim / Child: Unable to deal with our pain, we become it's victim. Excuses, blaming, twisted logic and self-pity begin to arise with the hope of finding a reason for and an escape from the pain. Rather than being an responsible adult we begin to act like a child.

5) Sense of Need/Entitlement: Marinating in our pain, we believe that we deserve to feel good. Denying personal responsibility, we feel “entitled” to meet our “needs” to deaden the pain.

6) Fantasy: Escaping from pain leads to floating a fantasy that is outside the boundaries of normal or acceptable behavior. Chat rooms, pornography, sexual encounters, sexual release - the fantasy is usually about feeling better, medicating the pain and/or bringing some power and control into our lives.

7) Thinking Errors: False reasoning tears away at our inner restraints from acting out the fantasy. We might blame others, justify our actions, be in denial, or redefine our reality to fit our warped perspective.

8) Set Up: Once these thinking errors have short-circuit any healthy thinking, we look for opportunities to act out. Fantasy tries to become reality as we cross normal boundaries. A “cocktail” of drugs - dopamine, endorphins and adrenaline - are released in our brains. These drugs (described as being more powerful than cocaine) control us and mask the pain. It's only a matter of time and opportunity before we act out.

9) Acting Out: Sexual behaviors related to sexual addiction can come in a thousand different forms. However, here are the four primary stages of sexual behaviors. These stages reflect an increasing need for more sex in order to maintain the desired effect of the addiction.
  • Stage #1 sexual behaviors are those where the person has no actual contact with a living person, such as Obsessive /Compulsive lusting, masturbation, porn magazines, pictures, movies, and some Internet.
  • Stage #2 involves behaviors where there is actual contact/communication with a living person, such as: interactive Internet pornography, phone sex, chat rooms, strip clubs, prostitution, adulterous affairs, concurrent multiple sexual relationships etc.
  • Stage #3 sexual behaviors are more predator in nature, such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, frottage, nudist/naturalist camps, masturbation in a public place, targeting specific populations of people, stealing and/or wearing other people’s intimate clothing etc.
  • Stage #4 sexual behaviors tend to be anything that is unusual, bazaar, illegal or outside a heterosexual relationship, such as rape, dangerous sex with people with known STD’s, homosexual behaviors, hot johns, sex with children, animals, dead people, family members, occultic or religious rites, sadomasochism, BDSM etc.

The acting out of these sexual behaviors becomes the momentary “reality” where heart pain is temporarily medicated. However, all relief is short-lived, shame and pain is quickly inflicted and the medication value fails to heal the true pain in the heart.

10) Remorse: Almost immediately, the pain returns. Inevitable feelings of guilt and shame make us more miserable than before. Unable to measure up to our internal standards of perfection, conditional love leads to condemnation and shame, shrouding our under- standing of God’s grace. Unless we hit absolute bottom – losing everything – we neither surrender, tell the whole truth, nor begin to seek help from God and others.

11) Guarded Confession: In confessing our sins to God, ourselves and/or to a partner, we tend to only share that which is “safe” to reveal. This guarded confession allows us to protect the source of our addiction and pleasure, reinforcing the addiction instead of breaking it.

12) Fake Normal: For a period of time, everything appears normal. Things seem to be back under control – at least until the next time the issues of the heart tap into the stresses of the day. Sexual addiction can be expressed in a number of different ways. But the cycle is essentially always the same - repeating itself, getting progressively worse each time you act out. Since sexual addiction is a reflection of the heart (Mark 7:14-23), the level of addiction is often a reflection of the amount of damage that has been done - to your life, your heart and your core beliefs. The healthier your heart becomes, the more prone you are to slow down, dismantle and break the cycle of sexual addiction.

Breaking Free from Sexual Addiction
As you seek to break free from this addiction, it is important that you...
  • Turn to God and His Word for answers to resolve the hurt and pain in your heart. Start by being truthful with GOD about your sexual history, your rituals, cycles and your struggles. Confession is not only good for the soul but it is also good for your heart and your recovery. Tell GOD that you have been trying to break your addiction apart from Him, by your own strength ... and you have failed miserably! Ask Him for forgiveness and seek His help and strength on a moment by moment basis. GOD wants you to trust Him as you go through this recovery process (Prov. 3:5-6). Seek to clean and fill your heart with God's Word (Psalm 119:11). Learn what God says about how your heart issues influence your thoughts, feelings, choices, behaviors and relationships. Understand that the damage you have created with your sexual sins has had a global impact on your entire life and world. Recovery is impossible without GOD's help and strength.
  • Be aware of your thoughts, feelings, choices and behaviors. Compare them against what you know to be true and right from God's Word. Trust God's Word over what you think and feel. Beware of thinking errors. Make choices based upon God's Word. Be careful to not to read into the Scripture messages that the text does not support. Over spiritualizing, becoming legalistic and demanding perfection rather than growing through a process of sanctification and grace will only heap shame and guilt on yourself and will guarantee that you will constantly fail to break free from sexual addiction.
  • Do Not fight this battle alone! It is almost impossible to break the sexual addiction cycle by yourself. It is essential for you to work with others who have similar SA issues, who are also seeking to maintain their “sobriety.” Many churches, organizations and ministries are now seeking to help individuals break free from the bondage of sexual addiction, while turning their hearts and families towards God. It is important to join a Christian SA group that specifically addresses sexual addiction. Just as important is to meet with a Christian Counselor that specializes in sexual addiction to help you work through your heart issues.
  • Be completely honest with your spouse, your counselor and your SA group. The only way to get rid of the "darkness" is to turn on the light of truth. Their prayers and support (not codependency), can lead to a positive turning point in your life and marriage. Before sharing with your spouse sit down and develop a clear plan for sharing that will allow you to be truthful while doing damage control. When a marriage covenant is damaged it is like the death of a loved one. Expect that both you and your spouse will go through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). This many take months or years but it is essential to go through ALL the stages in order for healing to take place. Forgiveness should not be demanded or quick and easy. True forgiveness must consider the amount of the damage, the cost of repair, the size of the debt and must come from the heart (Matt. 18: 34-35).
  • Guard your heart and your computer. The scriptures warn us to "... guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Prov. 4:23). Clearly we need to be careful of what we allow to enter our hearts. The computer is a easy doorway that the enemy can use against you if you are not careful. You need to be wise and guard yourself by...
  1. Putting the computer in an area where the screen can be seen by everyone.
  2. Have your spouse/roommate put a password on the computer that locks you out. This will require you to let others know you are working on the computer.
  3. Set hours that the computer can be used responsibly.
  4. Install a computer filter that will block inappropriate sites. This will protect everyone, including your children, from sites that are seeking to destroy your heart, family and ministries.
The following sites review some of the best Internet filters ...
Top 10 Filters for 2012 : http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com
Best Control for multiple computers / business: http://www.contentwatch.com/products/contentprotect_pro.php
Best Control at home: https://www.netnanny.com/products/netnannyBest for Email: http://www.spectorsoft.com
Reporting Only: http://xxxchurch.com/

  • Be aware of “magical thinking.” Sexual addiction is not something that is going to be resolved overnight! The average recovery time for someone struggling with sexual addiction is five (5) years. Don't be foolish! Don't think that satan is going to release you from the bondage of SA without a fight! Recovery is a battle! Recovery is HARD work! It is a day by day, moment by moment battle where you get to choose who and what will control your life. If you surrender to GOD, deal with your “heart issues”, turn from your sin, commit yourself to a “band of Godly brothers” and are truthful … after five years of sobriety you will have earned your "stripes" fighting for your marriage and family. You will be the Warrior that GOD has always intended you to be! However, by that time you will have realized that satan will never give up - but you will have also have realized that you are no longer his slave and that Jesus Christ is now your LORD.> Lastly, It is important for you to understand that God is not against sex. He gave it as a beautiful wedding gift, intended for healthy married couples to enjoy (Genesis 2:25). But God does oppose those that misuse and pervert of His wonderful covenant gift. Those who are cocky and proud and who think that they can oppose the Living GOD by perverting His gift will find that freedom without responsibility will only produce sever consequences and long term pain.

GOD is looking for men and women who have broken free from the chains of SA. He is looking for these people to take a stand and help future generations break free from sexual addiction. With His help and with the help of a strong support ministry, you can break the sexual addiction cycle and begin to help others break free from sexual addiction.

Ross Gunn III has been a Pastor of Student Ministries for 25 years. He has a BA from Azusa Pacific University in Bible and Psychology. He has a Master's Degree from Talbot Seminary in Student Ministries and a second Master's Degree in Counseling from Western Seminary. Since 1998 Ross has been working as a professional counselor at Skyview Counseling in Vancouver, Washington. He has specialized in working with men and their wives who struggle with sexual addiction. Ross also counsels individuals, couples and students facing a variety of other issues.

To contact him, please visit …

Ross Gunn III
Skyview Counseling LLC
Office / Cell: (360) 991-7700
Email: Help@SkyviewCounseling.com
Website: http://SkyviewCounseling.com
Skyview Counseling LLC  c/o Ross Gunn III
PO Box 532605  Kihei HI 96753-9998


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