Allister's Story

When addicts are aware of their relapse pattern, and remain free from porneia beyond the repeating cycle point, they start to stabilize. Stabilization is an early step in breaking his cycle of shame. It is crucial at this juncture to have a strong, clearly written relapse prevention plan in place.

Occasionally, a man walking in freedom from sexual sin may stumble and experience a small, although dangerous, moral failure (e.g., a second look or ‘double-take,’ a fleeting sexual memory, a single momentary bout with porn, etc.). If he is active in recovery, he will become instantly aware of his setback and the reasons for it. He will recognize his vulnerability and the threat of repeated failures leading to a major fall (e.g., sexual encounter with another person, indulging in porn for days, breaking the law with a prostitute, uncontrolled fantasies, etc.). If he chooses not to take the first infraction seriously, his lapse will soon escalate, and he will easily slip back into a full-fledged pattern of relapse. If, on the other hand, the addict takes full responsibility for his first sobriety breach and quickly implements his relapse prevention plan, he has a fair chance of avoiding a more serious transgression.

A relapse prevention plan is not an act of contrition born in the dark moments following relapse. Rather, it is a proactive blueprint for deliberate sobriety. The plan is developed with an awareness of a man’s historic patterns of addiction. The recovering addict recognizes the emotional triggers which traditionally have awakened his cravings for bad sex, and he executes his plan before the moment of sexual crisis; that is prior the point of no return. A relapse prevention plan is a written list of strategies uniquely designed to help the addict find success in his progressive realization of sexual sobriety. The plan is subject to change and will evolve as he matures in the recovery process. It’s a guide map offering hope to the man traveling on the path of purity. Equipped with a sturdy relapse prevention plan, the recovering addict feels assured of reaching the summit of self-discovery with Jesus and his brothers in recovery. With this assurance embedded in his soul, a man finds determination to continue the journey of sexual sobriety, one step and one day at a time.

An effective relapse prevention plan begins with a well written and often quoted sobriety line. If a man falls below his sobriety line, his prevention plan jumps to action and includes, at a minimum, honest confession to Jesus; his wife, if married (or fiancée if engaged); and the men in his recovery group. The man’s wife (or fiancée) is not his accountability partner, but she deserves to know. Confession can be embarrassing and usually difficult for all parties to hear, but if done with sincerity and humility, and without minimizing the severity, the honest admission of failure can act as a deterrent to future violations. It is a man of God’s job to protect his family from the entrance of the insidious and dangerous spirit of porneia into his marriage and home. Protection is not accomplished by hiding the truth of this sin from his wife, but by exposing his sin and by preventing its future access at the gateway of his own mind. Recovery renews the addict’s mental state so he is ultimately equipped to slam the emotional door and “flee porneia” when it presents itself at the threshold of his thought life.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”

— Romans 12.2 ESV

Your relapse prevention plan will contain a personalized list of new habits, disciplines, and endeavors designed to draw you away from situations which fuel your bad sex drive. Engaging in new activities may seem threatening, at first. They will force you outside your comfort zone, and that is exactly where you need to go. Taking the first step toward positive change is never easy, but often results in increased motivation for more of the same.

Below is a short sample list of endless possibilities. Instituting change will help to disrupt your pattern of relapse. Be creative. Have hope and have fun:  

  • Make friends with those who model healthy sexuality

  • Participate in a new hobby or sport

  • Develop better communication skills

  • Expand your social network

  • Start a daily Bible reading plan

  • Develop a stronger sense of self-awareness

  • Set apart time each day for prayer and meditation

  • Compile and verbalize a list of positive affirmations

  • Contribute your time and resources to a local church

  • Capitalize on successes for increased confidence

  • Write out and review your personal goals

  • Get a new job or career

  • Start hiking and connect with nature

  • Find a competent therapist

  • Keep a journal to record your feelings and insights

  • Learn how to dance

  • Plan a date night with your wife, kids, or friends

  • Involve family members in your relapse prevention plan

  • Attend lectures and book readings on recovery

  • Exercise! Move your body!

  • Identify and reduce stressors

  • Use the “Faster Scale” with a friend in recovery [1]

  • Eat breakfast weekly with a group of friends

  • Achieve balance in work, exercise, and sleep

  • Develop new healthy food habits

  • Avoid energy depletion and introduce ‘margin’

  • Make a list of emergency contacts for accountability

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter

The man who faithfully employs the use of his relapse prevention plan may get knocked down, but if he is determined, he will get back up and continue the fight for healthy sexuality. His gutsy comeback demonstrates great progress and a triumph of monumental proportions.

“… for the righteous falls seven times and rises again…”

— Proverbs 24:15 ESV


Photo by Nicholas Kampouris on Unsplash

[1] “The Faster Scale” is a proven self-diagnostic tool developed by Michael Dyer in his groundbreaking work, The Genesis Process for Change, 4th ed., 2006. It follows the acronym FASTER (Forgetting Priorities, Anxiety, Speeding Up, Ticked-off, Exhausted, Relapse) as an effective relapse predictor when used with Dyer’s weekly “Commitment for Change” worksheets.