Sexual Dysfunction and Other Addictions
Created for Coalition of Prison Evangelists, 1997
(a paper by Tom Lomas, healed addict, author)
Websters New World Dictionary defines the prefix dys as meaning bad, ill, or difficult. Function means the normal or characteristic action of anything. We shall include the thinking process in the meaning of action. Further we will limit our discussion to human dysfunction of a compulsive nature which could further be characterized as addiction. Lets start by simplifying our definition of an addiction as anything which controls us over which we have little or no control.
This problem which today infects a majority of those in our society is due to a lack of freedom in the individual. While the addict thinks the opposite is true, he or she is truly enslaved by the addiction. The addict often feels a sense of adventure or living on the edge which may lead to incarceration if the addiction progresses to the point of breaking civil law. Since the addiction is fostered by the force of evil (Satan), it will, early in onset, cause the violation of Gods (force of good) law leading to an increasing alienation (sin) of the addict from God even if he or she remains religious.
We want to recognize the existence also of good or healthy habits which add to the peace, joy, and general well-being of the subject. The method, were about to discuss for freeing us from addictions, can also be used to instill good habits.
The key ingredient used to enslave the subject in the addiction or dysfunction is deception. The subject will be led to feel he is escaping a meaningless life or is rebelling against the norm or is seeking the ultimate experience of pleasure. While the roots of dysfunction may be in heredity or environment, the lie that always fosters the addiction is self-gratification through greed. The hunger for sex or drugs or anger or hate or _____ can never be satisfied so we continue to fall deeper into enslavement.
Sexual dysfunction, from a secular point of view, can be triggered by many things often in ones childhood. According to the psychiatrist who treated this writer for a year, I saw a dominant mother robbing my passive fathers masculinity resulting in a sub-conscious hatred for all women. Therefore an adolescent fascination with pornography and masturbation did not end with growth into manhood and the development of a family. Instead, according to my psychiatrist, the problem deepened from a classic neurosis into a masterful instinct. Indeed, there were times when I would sacrifice eating and sleeping to indulge in lustful behavior.
Though I never physically harmed anyone and was never incarcerated, an incident of exhibitionism lead to the end of a promising career as a flying officer in the Air Force. Thrust into civilian life at age twenty-eight with a wife and three children, I was motivated to work hard and succeed in financial sales. At age thirty-two a spiritual awakening through the Cursillo Movement spurred a sincere commitment to follow Christ and bring others to Him.
However, the addiction to sexual lust persisted; and it seemed I was two people as in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand I was a dedicated family man active in church, my childrens school board, Y.M.C.A. board of directors, and Cursillo. The other person was this ravenous monster, who could never be satisfied, who would indulge in his lustful acts whenever hidden from view of those who knew him. Again, no matter the progress of the indulgence, the addiction (demon) is never satisfied. Truly, this is akin to Satans lust for souls which is never satisfied until we are thrust into his company for all eternity. Without knowing it, that is the exact choice we are making when we yield to his temptation. The individual must continue to pursue behavior more and more perverse to seek gratification which will never happen. In my situation, only intensifying feelings of guilt would follow my lustful acts.
However, my spiritual life was so strong that the good prevailed over the demon until the late 1970s when I moved my family to another part of town. This was the trigger of a break in some of those strong spiritual ties that flourished while our children were growing up. Although some attempt was made to reestablish the spiritual roots in the new location, it was half-hearted. The material world, a less obvious addiction than sex, was becoming more important to me. By the early eighties, I was back to being a Sunday Christian; and my demon was growing stronger.
In 1984, my marriage of twenty-three years fell apart. Here also was my first suicide attempt which was not well planned and obviously failed; praise God! Had it succeeded, I would today be burning in hell for eternity. The remainder of the eighties was a series of ups and downs, spiritually and emotionally.
By 1990, I was planning the second suicide attempt which would not have failed. But that early childhood foundation, as a Catholic Christian, which instilled a basic faith in an all-powerful God, caused me to cry out with one final, desperate prayer to be delivered from my plague. I knew God could heal me if He wanted to; and I pleaded with Him to want to. I told Him I could not continue living the way I was; and I meant it!
I have come to realize that God wants to heal all of us; but He requires a combination of faith and desire from us. My lack, prior to my desperate prayer, which is common with most addicts, was a sincere desire to be rid of the entire addiction. All addicts hate the enslavement; but, it seems, theres a part of the addiction were not willing to surrender so our prayer for release may be a tongue-in-cheek prayer until, perhaps, we finally become aware that our addiction is the root of most if not all of our problems. This is often referred to as hitting bottom which is exactly where I was in 1990. I was ready to be rid of the whole thing, the enslavement, the pleasure, the comfort (in misery), the excitement, the risk, the whole thing!
The morning after my desperate prayer, God provided the answer by planting a simple, but radical, thought in my mind. I was told that I needed to follow the example of Jesus forty days in the desert. With this simple message, I immediately knew everything I should do. I did not have to go into a physical desert; and I did not have to fast from food. As with Jesus, this was to be a solitary act; however, I did not have to isolate myself from other people. In fact, I did not have to change any of my daily routine except, of course, my lustful behavior.
Also, I was able to see clearly for the first time the futility in all of my efforts for almost forty years in trying to combat my addiction with my own strength and willpower. Suddenly, I was able to see that a Knight in shining armour had been at my side all that time, ready and willing to fight my battle for me. All I had to do was ask which I hadnt. With all of my religious upbringing, Cursillo involvement, and church activity I had missed that simple solution, turn it over to God. Now I had heard that many times; but somehow the message had never before traveled from my brain to my heart (soul, inner being). And I now understand why. Deceit.
I have come to know Satan as the great deceiver more than by any other name. While we are wallowing in habitual sin, there is no way we can clearly see the truth. Satans clouds of deceit will prevent it. He may allow us brief glimpses of the truth. Just enough that we think were okay or that we can justify calling ourselves Christians. But as he pulls us deeper and deeper into his pit, as he always will, we become more and more aware that something is wrong. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters. I finally realized I had to use Gods strength, not my own, to defeat Satan. As Jesus did.
Lets for just a moment examine Jesus forty days in the desert. He had just been baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin, John the Baptist. I believe, with that powerful anointing from the Holy Spirit, perhaps for the first time, the magnitude of the ministry He was about to begin, impacted Jesus as never before. So He felt the need for a special preparation before embarking on that ministry which would change the face of the earth for all time. I believe Jesus went into that desert to purge Himself from Satans temptations for all time.
Satan must have been very frustrated with Jesus by then. After all, hed been after Jesus for thirty years and experienced nothing but failure. And, even though Jesus had never yielded to sin, I believe He was bothered by temptation. Knowing now the importance of His mission, this was to be the final test before embarking on his three year journey to the cross. In Luke, Chapter Four, we are told Jesus was led by the Spirit in the desert. So perhaps this test was not only the idea of Jesus but had the blessing of His Father.
Does God ever allow His other children, you and me, to be tested? Do we ever look back on our test and say, You know, I hated going through that; but, today, Im better for it? Is it possible to feel that way even after a long addiction, after His healing?
We are told, He ate nothing during those days. Certainly, if Jesus would win this battle, in a weakened physical condition, His tempering would provide an even stronger resolve against the temptation He would again face after beating and scourging and crucifying with His life slowly, painfully leaving His precious body.
And after not eating for forty days, how did Satan tempt him? Writers speculation: Look at those stones, Jesus. Dont they remind you of freshly baked loaves of bread, Jesus? Cant you smell them now? Delicious! Well, Jesus, if you are the Son of God, its an easy task for you to change those stones into freshly baked loaves of delicious bread; and put an end to that pain in your empty stomach. Go ahead, Jesus. Itll be our secret.
Now did Jesus simply crank up His own will-power; and tell Satan to get lost? The Son of God drew on His Fathers strength by quoting Gods words from what we know today as the Old Testament. Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matt 4:4; Deut 8:3) And Jesus continued to defeat Satans temptaions by relying on His Fathers strength (Word), not his own human strength.
We believe the very existence of scripture referencing Jesus forty days in the desert is for use as a tool or weapon against Satans chains of habitual sin. Certainly this was not witnessed by the apostles as was the situation with most of what they recorded in their gospels. This occurred before they knew Him. The only way they could have known of this event was for Jesus to have told them about it. And He must have told them in a very profound way, I believe, so they would record it so it could be used as a God-given method for overcoming habitual sin.
Arent we, as Christians, supposed to emulate Jesus? Herein is the key to the conquest of all addictions. It is not in group strategies. It is not in surrendering to some higher power. It is not in admitting that we have a problem. It is not in asking for forgiveness. It is not in seeking a spiritual awakening. These are all wonderful steps to improving our path through life; but the only way to set one totally free from a powerful addiction which has become instinct is by letting God fight the battle!
When we go one-on-one against Satan, we dont have a chance to win. When we pit Gods strength, the greatest power in the universe, against Satan, Satan doesnt have a chance; and we are set free! So how do we take on Gods strength? Simply follow Jesus example. First we must believe that God can and wants to heal us. Without faith we are doomed. With faith we can move mountains (Mark 11:23).
An Episcopal bishop, I met on a Cursillo retreat weekend, once lost his faith in God. He was at his wits end when he confessed this to his wife. She suggested that he ask God to give it back to him. So he did; and He did. Thats right, we can ask God, pray to Him to give us faith in Him; and He will.
With faith will come strength; and then we build on that strength through increasing our knowledge of God through study of the Bible and other Christian literature, fellowshipping, prayer, meditation, loving, forgiving, etc. I think of it as bathing in the Holy Spirit. Too little will leave you vulnerable to the adversarys temptations. You cant receive too much of the Holy Spirit; there is no O.D. here.
In the book, 40 Days to Freedom, we have passages from Psalms plus meditations, and prayers which allow one to take on Gods strength for each of the forty days in the desert of his soul. This is done at the beginning of each day and can be repeated throughout the day or other methods of accessing Gods strength can be added.
In addition the subject is encouraged to practice unselfish love, agape love, the love of Christ at every opportunity. God is love (1 John 4:8); and, where love is, Satan cannot be. In fact, our book defines love as the greatest power.
When I made my first forty-day walk with this procedure, Holy Scripture and the works of Thomas Merton were my primary reading texts. The commitment consciously, daily to love everyone with whom I came in contact initially came from a psychologist who worked with me in the eighties and was certainly a part of emulating Jesus anytime He was with people.
I did not tell others what I was doing at the time of the walk. This retained the private nature of the walk Jesus made. Only three were involved in this battle for my soul, God, Satan, and me. By using Gods strength and none of my own to just say no, concentrating on one day at a time, my lustful compulsion was gone before the fortieth day. For the first time in my adult life, at age fifty, I was in full control of my own mind and actions. Praise God!
A second and greater miracle happened during that forty-day walk. In 40 Days to Freedom I refer to it as being given the eyes of Jesus. It seemed that, for the first time in my life, I could see the whole truth, the beauty and glory of all Gods creation especially when I looked into the eyes of another human being no matter what that human being looked like or had done. I could see that when Jesus told us that He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), he was telling us that love is the way and the truth and the life and that if we are to follow him, we must love all of Gods creation, especially all other people, regardless of race, color, religion or lack thereof, past acts, good or evil, without qualification, without potential for our own gain.
Soon, after my healing, God persuaded me to write 40 Days to Freedom; and the first place he directed I bring the message of my testimony and His healing procedure in the book was prison. At this writing we have distributed 4,500 copies and have witnessed miracle after miracle of freedom from all sorts of addictions, harmful obsessions, and habitual sin. Many have been shared through written testimonials and our quarterly Freedom Letter and our site on the Internet (http://40days2freedom.org).
As humans, we have a tendency to over-complicate our problems. Satan likes that. Satan also enjoys having people get up before their peers and testify, I am an alcaholic, or a sex addict, or a drug addict, etc. He loves it when people are told theyre incurable; but they can learn to control their actions. Then he still has a chance to win that soul because the thorn has not been removed.
He also thrives on an alternative addiction being used as a substitute. We are a society which treats symptoms instead of causes and Satan loves it! Today, it seems society would rather believe in the antics of Batman or Superman or Star Trek than in the existence of an all-powerful God who is ready and willing to fight all our battles for us. Certainly, He has shown this over and over again throughout Holy Scripture including Jesus forty days in the desert.
Satan has improved with time in his success in deceiving the entire world and blurring our vision and comprehension of the true meaning and use of Holy Scripture, especially in following the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus. We are saying here that every addict is curable, totally, irrevocably curable.
Jesus said, When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8:36) Jesus doesnt lie. And we include here not only what we commonly think of as addictions but all harmful obsessions and all habitual sin. This includes materialism, prejudice, judgmentalism, anger, fear, self-centeredness, and many more.
We know Jesus was preparing for His walk in the desert and His ministry from an early age. As a boy in the temple, everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. An athlete before competing in an important event must go through a period of conditioning. Likewise with 40 Days to Freedom, we believe, God puts us through a conditioning or preparation for our "forty days in the desert of our soul."
Also know, you are never too late in your conversion to God. He longs for you, no matter what your age, no matter what your circumstance, no matter how bad you feel you've been. It's never too late for your conversion, for your "forty day walk in the desert of your soul." Its never too late for you to tap the greatest power in the universe, the power of God's love.
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