What makes an addict? The short answer is two-fold: pain and isolation. 423 Communities International, like any successful addiction recovery program, addresses both patterns of isolation and emotional pain in its treatment strategy.
These two vital truths emerge in the early years of an addict's journey toward sexual health:
1. The addict can stop bad sexual behavior, but he or she cannot do it alone.
The first concept deals with the addict's history of isolation and secrecy, and his or her desperate need for a trusted community. Our sin cannot be fixed privately. A man or woman ensnared in the web of sexual addiction must join a caring community of people on the path of restoration. Together they will find the healing Jesus offers.
2. The addict's bad sexual behavior is not all about sex.
This latter point prompts the 'all-important' question, "Why?" If sexual misbehavior is not about sex, then why do we do it? Could our pain (underlying negative emotions, stressors, childhood traumas, and conflicts with people) drive us to clamor for quick and easy solutions? We cry out for relief and bad sex does the trick, at least temporarily.
It’s impossible to avoid pain. If you are in distress, then welcome to the human race. If you are not now suffering in some way, enjoy the reprieve, but get ready because it’s coming. It’s a good life, but never perfect. Pain is real and will show up when you least want or expect it. The happy face I wear to appear professional or spare others can, at times, be nothing more than a mask to cover the agony of my aching soul.
Many adults cannot identify the source, or even the existence, of emotional pain. It may be chronic instead of acute, flying just below the radar and avoiding detection by self and others. They recall their early years as idyllic and uneventful, but I’m not always persuaded by those who claim, “I had a great childhood.” Every child’s needs are unique and no parent is perfectly suited to meet all of them. It is impossible to fully protect young people from the pitfalls and woundedness typical of the growing up years. Kids get lost in the social shuffle, shrink under the pressures of family dysfunction, and hide from contact with the outer world. Envision the teen boy draped in an oversized hoody, eyes covered by long hair, and ears plugged with music. His body language is easy to read. He wants nothing to do with you. A host of adolescent apprehensions are fueling these early patterns of isolation and secrecy. Self-protective habits evolve and rituals of comfort get reenacted many times over. Will he outgrow his withdrawn-ness and mistrust of the outside world? Maybe not. In due course, he may learn to portray an attractive persona and adopt a more sophisticated wall of protection, one that is harder to detect, but present nonetheless.
We all carry emotional pain. As noted, we hurt because we are human. Pain transcends time, space, gender, age, class, culture, and national origin. None of us escape the scathing effects of betrayal, loss, disappointment, and grief. It’s part of our humanness and this thing we call life. You will experience a gamut of emotional ups and downs throughout your years on earth: love, surprise, joy, fear, and sorrow. You will laugh, cry, hurt, suffer, and hope. You’ll often demonstrate a healthy and sturdy outer appearance, but may be broken and wounded within. I suspect every human, in moments of honesty, would admit, “Handle me with care. I am fragile.” Given the wrong set of circumstances, like the loss of a job, a car wreck, a messy divorce, or even a harsh word, and anyone can break, sometimes beyond emotional repair.
Emotional pain is the door by which addictions access our sore and tender souls.