Recovery and the Return to Intimacy


Whether a person is hooked on romance, relationships or sex, the person must come to grips with the issue of intimacy if he or she is to recover from these and any other addictions that have been picked up along the way. If recovery does not include coming to a point where genuine intimacy is possible, that recovery will be incomplete and short-lived. When genuine intimacy is achieved and maintained, the engine that drives all of the people addictions of romance, relationships or sex runs out of gas.

One of the main obstacles to achieving intimacy is the array of false concepts of intimacy presented by our culture. In the eyes of the world, intimacy equals closeness, which almost always includes being sexually close. The more “intimate” two people are, the more sexual they will be; conversely, the more sexual two people are, the more “intimate” they are assumed to be. “Closeness” also involves such concepts as transparency, the ability to share with another your deepest longings and vulnerabilities.

According to biblical standards genuine intimacy may involve being sexual when the two people are married, and will certainly entail a high degree of transparency and vulnerability. But these are by-products of intimacy, not the thing itself. Much sexuality is oriented to self-gratification. And even “openness” and “vulnerability” can be forms of emotional exhibitionism that serve selfish needs rather than contribute to true intimacy.

But authentic, biblical intimacy has nothing to do with self and everything to do with the other person. The focus is taken off my desires, my needs, my hurts and placed on the other person’s desires, needs and hurts. The joy of intimacy is not receiving but giving, not being served but serving. It is utterly different from codependency, in which I serve another to gratify my selfish motives. It is serving another purely for that person’s sake.

Obviously, authentic intimacy involves giving of self in a way, and to a degree, that weakness can be shared without concern for the consequences. You become open about who you really are, rather than try to present an “image” of openness. You also accept the other person for who he really is, not on the basis of an idealized image or for the sake of meeting your own needs. Ironically, this disinterested focus on others ends up yielding great reward. We are able to experience appreciation, acceptance and love on the basis of reality rather than on the basis of pretense.


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If a sex addict is every going to achieve this level of intimacy, he must begin the recovery process. No one can do this for him. He cannot do it alone. A combination of resources is required to overcome this problem. The church must be supportive. The addict must find a place where healing the soul is more important than shaming people. This addiction does some very severe spiritual damage. Without sound biblical teaching and counsel, the entire recovery process will be off balance.

Any sex addict I have known has also had to do something that in the beginning he finds quite repulsive. He must commit to a long-term, as in lifetime, involvement with other addicts in a recovery group. In this group he will find confrontation as well as encouragement. He will learn how to be authentic with fellow strugglers and that authenticity will then be transferable to other relationships.

Probably the most important factor in long-term recovery is accountability. It is the lack of accountability that allows the problem to develop and the lack of accountability that will lead the addict back into the problem. Not only should the recovering sex addict be accountable to the group, but he should find one person in particular, a sponsor, that will hold him individually accountable. This means that on a regular basis the addict will be asked about where he has been going and how he has been spending his time.

After accountability, the word “protection” is next in importance. Every addict must have a protection plan that keeps him out of bookstores, away from the magazine racks and out of the arms of prostitutes and affairs. The plan must address all areas of the person, including physical, mental, social and spiritual. A protection plan includes helpful reading material, listening to tapes, Bible study and prayer, and even when and how a person will have fun. The lure of lust is powerful and to avoid its snare, the addict must be wise in protecting every area possible.

Finally, every sex addict needs to be aware that there are treatment centers, Christ-centered treatment centers, throughout North America than can assist with this problem. This essay along with the best intentions will not fix the problem. These problems are formed on a foundation of some deep psychological and spiritual wounds. Professional help is needed in resolving these deep hurts.

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Adapted from Addicted to Love by Stephen Arterburn, M.Ed. Published by Servant Publications. Copyright (c) 1991 by Servant Publications. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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