There is a form of suffering as bad as, or even worse than, physical pain, and that is emotional pain. Loneliness, confusion, fear, depression, anxiety, stress, worry, panic, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, hopelessness, despair, boredom, unresolved conflicts, childhood traumas, and a host of other underlying negative emotions seem to define our human condition. None of us are immune from inner pain, even those who appear on the outside as ‘having it all together.’ Help is available but most of us are too proud or embarrassed to ask for it. Instead, we pretend all is well and choose to live with turmoil brewing just beneath the surface of a calm exterior. We are nothing more, and perhaps much less, than the image we try to portray.
Emotional pain is the door by which addictions sooth our broken hearts and tender, wounded souls.
Addictions are described in various translations of ancient biblical literature as “strongholds,” “powers,” “fortresses,” “the thief,” “principalities,” “cosmic powers,” “world forces of this darkness,” “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,” and “spiritual wickedness in high places” (see John 10.10; Romans 8.38; 2nd Corinthians 10.4; Ephesians 6.12). Addictions are destructive. They represent a supernatural power capable of squeezing every vestige of life from those who yield to their dark influence. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” (John 10.10 NIV). Addictions steal hope, kill life, and destroy destiny. Addictions are demonic in their source and intent.
The stakes are high. Unchecked, the addictive cycle will progress and destroy all that is good in the lives of hurting people.
As an addict I have often told myself, “What the heck. I’ve gone this far, I might as well go all the way.” This rationale takes a man or woman outside the reach of forgiveness, or so they think. Offenders surrender to the grip of toxic shame and generally consider themselves beyond redemption. This, of course, is not the way of God:
Shame is an internal, negative self-assessment convincing me that I am flawed, defective, and beyond help. Shame cripples me. I become, in my own mind, worthless. I loathe myself. If others really knew me, they would also despise and hate me. If they hate me, then it is for good reason because I, too, hate myself. I am intrinsically worthless and because I am not worthy of love or lovable, I must continue to hide and isolate my true identity from the world around me. I am all alone. No one understands. I am the walking dead. So goes the sad, internal process of the addict.
Men and women trapped in the cycle of shame have a choice, but they don’t know it. Undoubtedly, the shame adds to and compounds the emotional pain they hoped to deaden by use of their addiction. Now these lost souls feel even more pain. The answer? Go back to the addiction for relief from mental anguish. The pain again disappears, of course, but only for a short while. When the shame returns, it does so with an even greater paralyzing force than the time before.
Toxic shame is overpowering and cannot be ignored. It must be addressed and relieved. No one can remain standing under the crushing weight of shame’s power. Not one. The man or woman caught in the cycle of shame will always return to the fleeting comfort of their addiction. Addicts will repeat this vicious pattern over, and over, and over again until they self destruct. There is no way out. Alone, addicts will die in their sin.
The power of the cycle of shame can be broken, but not alone. I was caught in this cycle for more than thirty-five years, until I finally found help toward sexual sobriety in a loving community of recovery. If I can get better, anybody can. 423 Men, 423 Women, 423 Betrayal & Beyond, and 423 Young Men exist to help people heal from the devastation caused by bad sexual choices. There is a group available for you right now.
The road to healing is never easy, but if you take the first step, you will find others to help you along the way. You can overcome sexual sin, but you cannot do it alone. You need Jesus and your brothers and sisters in recovery. Join now!