Phil's Story - Part 1
One of the biggest surprises of my Christian life was when I started divulging the problems I was experiencing with homosexuality and drugs. At the time I was separated from my wife, (she had asked me to leave our house) and I had plunged headlong into the "gay" scene. It was anything but, of course.
I had been having anonymous sexual encounters for some time by then. There was a lot of heavy sexualization in my childhood, both long-term abuse and exposure to hardcore pornographic films and magazines. I'd dabbled with homosexuality as well as "straight" sex from my teenage years. But at this point, I fell off the edge: I started going to the bathhouses, bars, public parks, etc. My entire life revolved around sex, whether it was on the Internet or some local gay hangout.
I finally let my Pastor know what was going on - pretty much all of it. I hadn't been attending church all this time, but I realized I was going down and I needed help. He was wonderful about setting me up with an elder who had been through some of the same issues, albeit on the heterosexual end. Turns out we weren't really that different. (Freaked me out.)
I also let some of my close Christian friends know. Of course, my wife knows absolutely everything - and I mean everything. Without exception every one of these were compassionate, gracious and forgiving. I never once received any shallow or trite religious advice. On the contrary. That was also a shock to me. I expected rejection and horror.
I didn't dump my shame onto my wife in a selfish escape from guilt and remorse. She wanted to know the details (she kept saying she wanted to know what she was dealing with); she prayed that God would help her through it, and I really believe He did. Lord knows she needed heavenly grace to get through it. She was devastated. I mean devastated. I only shared the truth with her because of the extent of my problems. In a case like this, she deserved to know, of course. And she insisted on knowing. Her life was threatened every time we slept together.
For me, disclosing to safe, compassionate, spiritual men and women made all the difference. Just getting it off my chest and bringing it into the light took a huge load off my shoulders and seemed to make it easier from the beginning. It was also the beginning of my being able to get some real help.
Keeping our addictions in the dark only feeds them - especially this addiction, where the dangerous, secretive, taboo element is part of the excitement.
I know that our relationship is firstly with God, and the Lord Christ Jesus is the only mediator between ourselves and the Father, but there's something about confessing our faults to one another so that we may be healed, y'know? The guilt and shame associated with my situation only subsided after I confessed truthfully and fully my faults to another Christian. They were to me sort of like "Jesus with skin on". The more I brought things into the light, the better I got.
Let me reemphasize something in case this is misunderstood: disclosing to safe, compassionate, spiritual people is liberating, healthy, and biblical. Disclosing intimate sexual issues with physically present and prospective partners is somewhat risky at least if not plain foolish. Don't let the lure of "connecting" and creating intimacy draw you into making a mistake you'll regret later. Choose healthy, safe, spiritual people for your disclosure. They're the ones who'll really be able to help anyway.
Oh, one more thing: the shame of the confession and the yieldedness of the repentance helped begin a breaking process in me that was crucial. I had gotten so hard, so hard to the things of God - spiritually dull and insensitive, I mean - totally in darkness.
I should say that disclosing to my wife was HER choice. It resulted in our separation. Which, in turn, was the beginning of my coming to terms with some real consequences in my life. My wife is not my ongoing accountability partner. That is way too hard on her. But she does insist on knowing several things: am I in relationship with other men who are pursuing wholeness - pursuing God; am I practicing my devotions - am I in prayer, worship and study; I'm back in church now, and that is a must, of course; am I being honest with my counselor and men’s group; am I reaching out to other people. All of these things are fruits - evidences if you will, that I'm in relationship with my heavenly Father.
If I'm not doing these things, it's a red flag that something is really wrong. I've told my wife as much: "If I'm not doing these things, you know that something is wrong. I'm not doing well." We don't suddenly fall into sexual sin. We move away from our relationship with God first. We don't just go out and commit adultery or wallow in pornography one day when we where burning with the passion of the Holy Spirit a minute before.
We first have had to move away from God. That's usually a slow thing. My relationship with Him is an indicator that I'm doing well sexually...or not. So, I do disclose those things to her. And, of course, she can see if I'm there or not pretty easily. I tend to close off when I'm angry, depressed, lukewarm or otherwise not walking in the Spirit.
I got worse before I got better. I eventually got a live-in lover, and stayed with him for over a year...the last guy, for three months. All the while I was still frequenting the bathhouses and porno movie houses, bars, porno booths etc. I ended up being arrested for propositioning an undercover police officer at a local park.
My wife eventually served me divorce papers. I started struggling in my job - I couldn't concentrate, all I thought about was acting out, and I started having anxiety attacks. After spending a few weeks in the State Hospital for depression and thoughts of suicide, I finally realized that the "gay" lifestyle wasn't really what I wanted. The spell had somehow worn off.
I had hit bottom. I'd lost my relationship with God, my church, my friends, my family...I felt like my job was just around the corner. I agreed to sell some property we had acquired, and I went away to a resident program for Christian sex addicts for nine months. I got back over three years ago.
Since then, I'm reunited with my wife and two children. I'm in church again; I attended a Bible College after I got out, and a Living Waters program (a program for what the founder of the ministry calls "sexual and relational brokenness"). To date, I've spent years in counseling, other rehabs, and meeting with groups of men who are recovery sex addicts themselves - some of them former homosexuals, some former offenders.
I consider community and writing two of my pillars. I am immensely blessed to get these things out in black and white, and I can't do recovery without the community of other recovering addicts who are seeking healthy spirituality, healthy relationships and are able to be honest. I greatly appreciate my fellow ragamuffins. Your struggles and triumphs, your encouragements and your exhortations are all a vital part of my recovery.
Things aren't perfect. Of course I still struggle. Sometimes my mind is a sewage pipe, and I literally rage with lust. But it's not like it was. I haven't had a perfect record since returning. But I'm not enslaved to my lusts like I was before. I don't have near the intrusive thoughts I use to. (I couldn't read, think, write etc. without having a fantasy smack me like a two-by-four right in the middle of a totally unrelated activity.) I don't feel like a bull with a ring in my nose -- my lusts don't pull me around anymore, or hold on to my coat tails like some overgrown child demanding my attention.
This thing isn't pushing on me all the time anymore. Things really are different, and I can tell the difference. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel now. I no longer believe that I'm a homosexual who can only be happy in a relationship with another man. I have truly returned to my First Love - He was faithful when I was so unfaithful. I'm learning what it means to be His disciple. My life no longer revolves around sex. My mind is clear.
I'm happy with my family. My wife and I are committed to each other. And I am committed to faithfulness in my relationship with her. I really didn't think that was possible at one time. I'm tellin' ya - I really thought I was lost forever with no way back.
And I know if things can be this different in a few years time, they'll get better in another year. The following year will be even better.... Hang in there, brothers! There are a lot of men who relate to you. There are a lot of men who don't particularly relate, but truly love and accept you all the same. Heh. I know it's hard to believe when we feel like scum, but it's true. There are a host of men who've come out of situations like ours. It is being done; some of the men are here where I live. There are groups here for men struggling specifically with homosexuality (you wouldn't believe how many groups meet here in my state) and many of them are experiencing real victory. It's amazing.
When our marriage was falling apart, my wife and I reacted very differently. She ran to God. I ran to my old means of coping. And for reasons I don't quite understand yet, I ran away from God when I began to struggle. I believe she was able to hang in there with me for this reason - she always ran to God. Lord knows, after an admission like mine, she must have realized that He was the only hope for our marriage and for my redemption.
Sometimes I wish we could get just a glimpse of the Father's love for his children, and love each other the same way. Jesus prayed just for that. He sees us all. A sparrow doesn't fall from the sky that our heavenly Father doesn't know it. How much more does He take notice of you? Do you realize that every hair on your head is numbered?
And just like a father who sees his son fall down and stumble, He doesn't pull away from us - He longs to help us all the more in our failure. His father-heart is moved with compassion when He sees our brokenness. He runs to us with compassion, longing to bind up our woundedness and comfort us in His strong arms of mercy.
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Have you ever noticed the part that says, "when he was yet a long way off"? I know sometimes it seems as if we can't find the way back home. I didn't think I'd ever find it. I gave myself up for lost - forever lost. I didn't even know how to start on my way back. I couldn't read the bible; I couldn't pray; I couldn't worship.
My heart had hardened so. I hadn't been to church in years. I quit caring. All I wanted was my sin. And by the time I wanted out I had dug a hole so deep for myself that I couldn't make it out. I needed someone to reach down and lift me up, y'know? I really was a long way off.
If you'll just take that initial step toward the Father, even if you're so far away from him you don't know how to get back, maybe you don't believe you'll ever find your way back...He's going to find you. When you're way down the road, a long way off, desperately limping toward home in humility and repentance, He'll see you. He sees you now.
You think He is ashamed of you? Oh, no! He'll rejoice that his child has come to his senses - that he's come home again! Don't you realize that there is rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who turns from his ways back to God? He will receive you. He'll revive you. He'll save you from your poverty and despair. He'll stand you on your feet, place a robe around your shoulders, and crown you with loving kindness and tender mercy. And not only that, He’ll hug your neck and cry with you. He'll run to meet His son. He'll run to you with a strong embrace and tears. He'll lead you back step by step, His arm around you all the way.
Take that first step. You don't have to know the whole way. You don't have to have the answers. You just turn to Him, start back, and let Him come and get you. He's so faithful to His children. He's a wonderful Father. He's a good shepherd. He loves us.
"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20).