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Help, I think my husband is a porn or sex addict!!!

help-me-I have heard that cry of despair too many times now. I wince every time I hear it. I hurt for all involved. When it is a pastor’s wife, I can literally feel my body cry out in visceral pain, for when a pastor is an addict they are also always spiritually abusive and/or neglectful as well; and their abuse is often not limited to the realm of the Spirit. Too many times it crosses over into verbal, emotional, financial, physical and sometimes sexual abuse (especially toward their families). And God still loves them, and so must I.

If the truth be known, it is not hard for me to love the abusive, sex addicted pastor. I know his story. His story is mine. I betrayed my wife, kids, supporters, staff team, and students. My kids grew up with out a full time Dad because of my betrayal of their mother. I didn’t get the help I needed or asked for until it was too late.

Having also been the betrayed spouse, I can relate to the wife who calls me  in tears because I’ve been there. When we  are betrayed we have so many questions about our own self-worth; so many old shame statements come up for us. There is an overwhelming sense of fear of either not being enough or being too much; and there is an unspoken need for some semblance of control. And control proves to be a false god. Hopelessness seems to win.

When someone finds and calls us they don’t know which way is up, much less how to navigate the crisis. If there are children involved it gets even stickier, and many times the wife who calls doesn’t even know how to confront her husband, and/or is scared of him. Every basic need they have is under siege.

There is so much weight in those paragraphs I’ve just written, and yet, there is incredible hope for those that are willing to fall into grace. That means letting go though, and that can be really, really hard – some would say impossible. Let me remind you that with God and some good friends surrounding you it is possible; and you don’t even have to know who those friends are when you reach out for help. God will provide them. I promise.

A few things need to be said from the get go (in no particular order):

  1. Some people are miraculously healed from their addictions just like some are miraculously healed from cancer. This is not normative, however.
  2. Nearly all addicts in the pastorate are also co-dependent and anyone that lives with an addict is also co-dependent. In many ways this disease is more sinister than the addiction itself, and must be addressed in the family system if there is to be healing.
  3. Many pastors are addicted to multiple things: pornography, sex, food, work, anger, screen time, adrenaline, sometimes gambling or substances. Pastors primary addiction is to self. In psychological terms, pastors lean toward some form of narcissism.
  4. 12 stepsThe road away from being controlled by one’s addiction is a long road and it is not a straight one. It is not an easy path; nor is it a quick fix most of the time (see #1).
  5. Your relationship will never go back the way it was. It may become stronger and more real; more beautiful and more hopeful, but you can’t go back. It is an impossibility. Please do not dream of regaining what you lost. Look toward something new.
  6. This may or may not need to be the end of being clergy or a ministry professional —  in most cases answering the question of staying or leaving ministry takes time.
  7. Taking the first step to get help is nearly always the hardest one.
  8. You can’t do this alone.
    Therapy without recovery won’t work. And often recovery without therapy won’t work. If yo must choose one; start with 12 step / 12 tradition groups and then add therapy. Though this rarely happens it is the sanest pathway to recovery.*
  9. You have to be completely honest; completely open; and completely willing if you are going to get through this whole.
  10. It often gets worse before it gets better.
  11. God hasn’t brought you this far to drop you.

Those things being said; it is up to you to decide which way to turn. Know that any way you go, God will go with you.

* I believe that “secular” 12 step / 12 traditions offer more health than most “Christian 12 step only programs. There are multiple reasons for this that I will answer in another blog post. For now let it suffice to say that the 12 traditions are as important as the 12 steps. Links to many 12 step groups are listed on our “resources page.”12 traditions

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