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A New Perspective!
It is no secret that parents are nervous about talking to their kids about sex. Be Broken Ministries surveyed a number of parents in 2019 to see why. The results can be categorized into four parental fears:
However, we didn’t stop there. We also surveyed Christian teenagers to find out what fears children have related to talking with their parents about sex. They had only two kinds of fears:
The reality is we do understand how our children feel. Our relationship will not get worse but much deeper if we talk honestly with our kids about sex. Knowing God’s design for sex does not ruin innocence at any age. We want to be the first, not the last, to speak into that conversation. Our kids will face sexual temptation and when we admit our past we prove we do know how they feel, which is a comfort to them.
One aspect of sexuality that we sometimes overlook as parents is the importance of teaching emotional resilience. These days parents do talk with their children about their feelings much more than in previous generations. However, asking, “how are you feeling today” is not the same thing as knowing what to do with feelings.
We need to teach our children from a very young age how to manage their feelings rather than allow their feelings to manage them. This is so important because the primary way that sexuality goes wrong for children is when they use it as a way to deal with their anxiety. Emotional resilience protects our children from using sex and pornography as a coping mechanism.
Adolescent children can be taught that their sexual feelings are another emotion to learn to manage. We don’t need to be frightened by our sexual feelings but can talk about them just like any other emotion we encounter. This isn’t really more work, as parents sometimes fear, but different work.
We already spend a lot of time with our kids, we just need to change the topic of conversation from time to time. This is less about learning the “right words” to tell our children but simply being honest. These conversations bond our children to us as they discover that we do understand their feelings and have had the same questions they have.
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As ongoing news about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse case emerges, I’m reminded of an article I wrote in 2011 about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sexual disclosure. The truths in this article are still very true for today.
I recently read an article that answered the question: “Why can’t powerful men stay clear of sexual exploits?” It isn’t about the sex. According to the author, the overwhelming reason is the validation. I agree, but there is also a deeper cause beneath validation.
Men who need validation need to be told they are valuable, worthwhile, special, impactful, and loved. A person needs external validation if they are not convinced of their worth. If a man is confident of his impact and worth— especially in the eyes of those around him— he will struggle less with shame and will accept validation in healthy ways (i.e. marriage, parenting, godly influence on friends).
Mr. Schwarzenegger thrives on the opinions of other people— from body building to a career in acting and most recently as the governor of California. He’s rich, famous, and a family man. He’s a loving dad and husband to a beautiful wife. He’s also a successful businessman and has everything this world says is needed for a happy life. But all of this is on the surface. What’s underneath?
Schwarzenegger resembles his trademark character– a cyborg “Terminator” from the future who is not who he appears to be. After his secret life was disclosed we now see him more clearly. He is a broken man likely given in to addiction. He clearly was living a lie and deceived his family, friends and yes, even his wife did not truly know him.
When the thin skin of success is cut away, the sad reality left behind is both frightening and emotionally painful. When the lives of famous people like Arnold, Tiger, or Anthony Weiner are revealed it is public, which unfortunately, our culture thrives on the drama. When a family member or friend’s true life is revealed it is much less public, but no less painful.
Pure Life Alliance works with these specific families— men and women, boys and girls we help them heal from the pain of their secret lives. Although they’re not famous, their pain is no less significant. If you partner with us, either financially or through prayer, you’re also making a different in their lives
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A good friend of mine, let’s call him Josh, frequently jokes. “How many ADHD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“How many?” I ask.
“Let’s go ride bikes!” he chortles with a wry smile on his face.
We’ve had this interchange at least a dozen times over the years. Perhaps a testimony to the light-hearted nature of our friendship, his small repertoire of good jokes, or …oh what was I writing about…? Oh, yes, his potentially undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.
Josh is also overcoming addictions to pornography and alcohol; with difficulty. That is not a joke. Approximately 1 out of 4 of my clients with addiction are like him.
ADHD or ADD (Attention Deficit without the Hyperactivity), here forth referred to in this article as ADHD, is a disorder we likely know of but may not understand. Josh deserves both compassion and the best chance at living a life free from the debilitating consequences and shame of addiction. Someone in your life deserves the same.
Let’s look at ADHD.
What is ADHD? What does ADHD have to do with addictive or compulsive behavior? What can we do about ADHD?
So, let’s say that Josh has ADHD. That means that he is likely distractible, has difficulty paying attention, has challenges with remembering things and following through; he may have a hard time sitting still due to a need to be in motion; he may also may often act without thinking and be drawn to “BSOs” as I call them – Bright Shiny Objects.
How did he get this way? His brain, a physical organ, is different. Allow me a metaphor to illustrate a point. Some people have small bladders, another physical organ, anyone part of the IBB “Itty Bitty Bladder” club? Though it may be difficult to travel with such folks – can we really give them a hard time for how God decided to form their bladder? No, just don’t give them a Big Gulp before a road trip! In the same manner, ADHD is a brain disorder and like those with IBB, those with ADHD are created differently.
What is the link between ADHD and Addiction? At a brain level; the ADHD brain and the addicted brain have several similarities. One, the dopamine reward system is not functioning as it does for the majority of people. It has what we can refer to as depressed dopamine activity. Accordingly, the ADHD brain and the addict brain can tend to feel moderately crappy. I know, “too much clinical jargon Dr. Hosley!” Sorry, I’ll try to keep things simple. Moderately crappy means feeling a little off, slightly depressed, bored. Because of this, both brains are actively looking to feel better. And thirdly, both the ADHD brain and the addict brain are prone to impulsivity – the ADHD brain for something new and the addict brain for another hit of their preferred substance or behavior. This neuropathway, the neuropathway between feeling crappy and feeling good, is a superhighway for both brains. Feeling better is a constant need and methods of achieving this are consistently accessed.
The correlations between ADHD brain and addict brain are important to Josh’s healing journey. Assessment and appropriate treatment may be critical to achieving health.
We are learning more about ADHD. Most importantly what we are learning is that treating ADHD is a good idea. That may sound like a simple suggestion but treating ADHD, like other mental health conditions, is often a challenge due to stigma and ignorance – people judge incorrectly and either lack or have bad information. Myth’s and judgment abound. Here are just a few.
Case in point: I have a client who recently started taking ADHD medication. He wept in my office as he related his ability to resist acting out behaviors that had previously seemed absolutely overwhelming and debilitating to him. He is experiencing a breakthrough on his journey. He has hope.
The best place to start if you think you or someone you know has ADHD is with accurate diagnosis. Tools to screen for ADHD abound. Be mindful, a screener does not equate to an accurate diagnosis. A trip to add.org or totallyadd.com may get you started towards accurate diagnosis by giving you access to information and resources. However, ADHD is difficult to diagnose accurately; see a professional. Add.org makes the following statement about assessment:
A full assessment and potential diagnosis of ADHD is not accomplished using an online test or during a quick doctor’s appointment. A thorough evaluation usually takes more than one visit and must be done by a professional who is trained in ADHD. Other conditions can sometimes resemble ADHD, so it is important to work with a professional who is able to rule out these other conditions and make the appropriate diagnosis. Many psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and some general practice physicians are trained to diagnose adult ADHD.
A thorough assessment requires a complete physical and psychiatric medical history as well as screening to rule out any possible physical disorders. All assessments should include an extensive interview with you and often with your significant other (other people are often more aware of your behaviors and struggles than you are), and the application of various symptom-rating scales. For accuracy, it is common to use more than one scale to confirm results. https://add.org/adhd-test/
Treatment often means stimulant medication – like Ritalin or Adderall. There are also other options. I worked for many years alongside Dr. Timothy Hyatt, a naturopath who created a product for his wife after she experienced severe Adrenal Fatigue after many years on ADHD stimulant medication. He calls is EQ, or equilibrate, and it is one of several natural options to support the ADHD brain. It is available online at biogenicnutrition.com. So, am I recommending everyone with ADHD be treated with medication?
No. I’m not. That is too simplistic.
Josh is a concert level Cellist. He put himself through school on scholarship and plays that difficult instrument with more passion than any I’ve seen. One evening; shortly after the passing of my mother 6 years ago, we were at a local McMennamins restaurant. He said, “You know, Ryan, I would like to play you a song in honor of your mother.” He went to his car, brought in his Cello, and in the midst of the restaurant played a song that had the entire restaurant enraptured and left me in tears.
Writing this article spurred me to call Josh. I spoke to him and learned more about his journey. I learned that as a child he had in fact been diagnosed with ADHD. He had been on meds – and off them. He struggled with depression, even suicidal thinking. He has not had an easy journey. But he is also amazing. Loyal, courageous, inspiring and faithful like few men I know. I put it to him, “Josh, could you have played the Cello that way while on meds?” He said, “No way.”
I was listening to a Dr. John C. Maxwell talk recently on leadership. His point was that leaders need to keep things simple for people they are leading while not being simplistic. The difference, he defined, was that simplistic answers often sound good but fail to embrace the hard work of complex thought. Situations often have many variables and complex thinking embraces these variables coming up with thoughtful answers that lead people well. Simple thinking, he said, has considered the complexities of a situation and can present a profound truth in a clear way that will empower people.
Addiction recovery is complex. We have unwanted behaviors creating pain in our lives and the lives of others. We have our stories that have often been difficult but that are known by God and part of our testimony – our unique word or imprint that we leave on the planet that will reverberate for generations in the lives of those who know us and that we touch. We also have our God given uniqueness that we have to believe are inspired and without mistake.
The song Josh played was a miracle to me. To miss a miracle for the sake of sobriety would be a shame. To lose the miraculous to the grip of an addictive process is equally saddening.
God, I so often wish it was easier. Yes, that was my voice inside my head, but I had to share.
My word to you – and I hope it is simple: Addiction recovery is complex. ADHD is an important variable. Treating ADHD can empower people dramatically and contribute to victory in an area of struggle. And some treatment may have side effects. Start with a good assessment. Be considerate. Be prayerful. Be informed. God be with you – and God be with Josh. May your miracle persist.
Authors Note: This article is intended to be a conversation and was not written with academic rigor. I give credit to Dr. Todd Love – a colleague and expert in ADHD and addiction who was generous with notes he has used in presentations and who has an awesome website. He was particularly helpful in identifying the correlations between ADHD and addiction as well as myths about treatment. https://www.doctoddlove.com Other sources used were add.org and totallyadd.com
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Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit,
you would stay out and your dog would go in.
I continue to find this quote amusing. The more I ponder it, the more theologically profound it becomes. It connects to my deepest longing and my deepest wound. The longing to be known and loved. Favor (grace) states it is finished. Shame asks for just a little more (or a lot) to merit it.
Far more paralyzing than guilt, there's shame. Guilt says you did something wrong. Shame declares you are wrong. Show them you're better. Show them you're a good Christian. Show them you can be pure. All the while shame continues it's malicious whisper: if they really knew you, they'd walk away. And, the kingdom of darkness is delighted to see that the wound inflicted in the beginning, in the garden, lives on.
Remember Adams response, immediately after the fall, when God shows up. It wasn't a surprise visit. They had a history of walking together, but this time
Adam (and Eve) hide. When God asks, "Adam where are you?" Which is, by the way, an interesting question. Had God lost track of them? Anyway,
back to the story.
Adam replies, "...I was afraid because I was naked."
They hid, not because of what they did but because they were
afraid to be seen. That is shame. Shame says hide. Don't let anyone see your nakedness, not even God.
Now partnering along with shame is the enemy’s half-truth promise, "...your eyes will be opened...You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil."
Which gives us the pathological state of fallen man. Don't let them see your nakedness but (and it is a BIG but) you know good. You know evil. Do enough good to outweigh the evil and eventually, eventually, just maybe, you can let people and God see you.
So how's that working out for you? For me, well not so good. Because along with this inherited (family of origin) wound are all the other paper cuts in life. Some by others, many seem to be self-inflicted. All saying I'm less than, not quite enough.
Oh, and because this is appearing in the PLA newsletter I suppose I should throw sexuality into the mix. Man, we're having some fun now.
You know John 3:16? This was my personal version for the longest time:
For God was so disappointed in me that he had to kill his Son to be able to tolerate me.
Let me iterate. I've been on this journey and inviting other men to join me for 25+ years and to a man each one of us experienced an event(s) that fused three things together:
shame – sex – secrecy
By this I mean that something took place sexually, but no one talked about it openly, so something must be wrong with me - shame - and thus,
the desire created or pain inflicted, must be kept a secret.
Sexuality, shame and secrecy have formed a traumatic bond. Keep in mind, some trauma can have a pleasurable side to it. So now we are set up to duplicate the event (in a myriad of ways) in pursuit of the original pleasure. Or, we can even pursue the original pain, as perpetrator or victim, in order to try make sense of it. All of this is being an attempt to answer or drown out shame's haunting question: What is wrong with me?!
Wow, this shame stuff is pretty powerful. If only I was a better Christian I wouldn't be dealing with it so much. Because I don't see those who followed God suffering from shame. Okay, well maybe, Peter after he denied Christ.
In Romans 7:24, Paul makes a deeply shame- based statement, "Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" And Paul has an immediate reply, "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord...So now there is no condemnation—shame—for those who belong to Christ Jesus..."
Which brings me to my closing thoughts. Have you ever felt, If I could just improve my prayer life, just stop doing this, read the Bible more, etc.? I wouldn't have to be so needy, so dependent on God. After all, a mature believer's behavior shows they aren't as weak as when they first came to Christ. And, right there, arguably, is the most sinister act of shame. To be ashamed of our need for a savior.
Remember Heaven goes by favor not merit.
Written by an FMO Group Leader
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Accountability. It is a difficult word to define, even for those of us who work with it daily. Without accountability, Pure Life Alliance could not be effective. Our efforts in all other areas of purity would suffer immensely. Truth be told, without accountability we would simply close our doors—that is how crucial it is for us.
Our groups are governed by a list of group guidelines. Members and leaders are to be familiar enough with them so as to have a working knowledge of them. That is just a fancy way of saying, “Be sure to use them regularly.” One of these guidelines explains the role of an accountability line:
“We agree to hold other group members to their accountability line as we are held accountable to ours. Without a mutually agreed upon, effective level of accountability there is little likelihood of change.”
Every member of any PLA group needs an accountability line. Until recently we emphasized just two components to the accountability line—behavior and needs. These two parts enable someone to observe their behaviors as an indication of their needs. Effectively, each of us has needs we must fulfill. Sleep is a need. Food is an obvious need. We can not live without water, so it too is a need. These are easy to understand, but what about the more intangible needs?
Is love a need?
What about the desire for impact?
A longing to be valued for what I am rather than what I do?
These intangible needs are often at the root of an addiction. Remember, addiction is unhealthy. That is to imply, we humans often find sinful behaviors that appear to meet these God-given needs. So understanding the connection between our behaviors—moral or immoral—and our needs is a sign of health and maturity. It also allows us to be rightly motivated for behavioral change.
I taught a PLA leader training on strengthening the accountability line, The Third Leg of the Stool.
Viewing behavior and needs as two of the legs of a stool allowed the visual of needing a third leg for stability and strength. I taught that our beliefs are the third leg of the accountability stool. Our beliefs about who we are, God’s character, our purpose and calling—these are the perspectives that undergird our view of personal needs. Our beliefs form a foundation on which everything else rests.
Furthermore, once we’ve uncovered unknown beliefs we must evaluate them against the Truth. So many of our beliefs are not informed by our Lord. They
are often lies perpetuated by the enemy, by our selfish hearts or even by the world around us. The challenge is to right-align our beliefs with the Word of God, so that we may accurately understand our true needs. At this point our behaviors align with truth as well. Our actions then will honor the Lord and be healthy for us and for those we love
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Disclosure can be a hurtful and/or healing in the sexual addict’s relationship. There are ways to go about disclosing to one’s partner the secrets, lies, deceit and betrayal. One way has potential to bring healing down the road and the other way can continue to traumatize the sex addicts’ spouse over and over.
spouse has been sexually acting out with pornography, prostitutes, co-workers, or other forms is such a blow to the marriage they thought they had, the marriage they wanted and hoped they would have with their spouse.
Many spouses feel trauma in the initial discovery of the sexual addiction, and then the trauma may be repeated as they learn the ways their partner has and will lie and cheat to continue the addiction. Disclosure needs to be done well and correctly to limit the depth of the trauma. When a disclosure happens outside a professionally trained counselor’s office, it usually ends up with more traumatic events for the spouse.
The initial discovery often comes outside of professional counseling, but a full disclosure should always be done with a professional counselor. Preferably the sex addict’s counselor and the spouse’s individual counselor in one room. This has been the best scenario for healing that I have been personally involve in and found that it can lend itself to be a healing cornerstone in the sex addict, and their marriage.