8 Ways To Help Friends Who Deal with Sexual Addiction
Editor’s Note: This week we are running a 3-part series on sexual addiction and healing. We recognize this is an extremely sensitive subject, so even though Haley is not graphic or inappropriate, I would encourage any younger teens to check with their parents before reading this – or skip this series for now. We do hope Haley’s words bring hope and encouragement to the many teenagers who are battling with these specific sins.
The last two articles have been addressing a specific group of people: the addicts. In the third and final part of this series regarding sexual addiction, I am writing an open letter to the friend of the addict.
I directly addressed those who struggle with sexual addiction because I have been in your shoes. I am in your shoes.
I know that not every person who read those articles struggles with addiction, but they may know someone who does. I think that the friend of the addict is often left wondering what they should do, how they should love their friend, and what exactly their friend needs from them.
You are important. I know I can’t depend on you to heal me, but I need you to love me even in the dark places. You know something big and very, very scary about me. Please know that the fact that I trust you with this dark piece of me is evidence of how important you are to me. I know it can be scary and overwhelming to see me going through such a dark time, but I want to share these eight things with you in hopes that it will help you walk alongside me in my recovery.
1. I am not my addiction.
Honestly, I may not even know this at times, but it is true because God says that it is true. I am His, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). Please be the one to see that purpose in me and continue to acknowledge all the unique parts of me.
There will come periods where it might seem like I am obsessed with this fight. There are going to be moments where I will be exhausted by the struggle. There will be times where I just need a glimpse of normalcy like a shopping trip, a concert, a basketball game, a walk, or a laugh. I need to know that I am not my addiction, and you can remind me of that by doing normal things with me, talking about normal things with me, and just being my friend.
2. I need to be loved and encouraged in the high places and the low ones.
Here’s the truth: I am going to have really great days, and I am going to have really hard days. Some days, I am going to be on fire for God, excited about recovery, and exuberant about life in general. In those times, praise the Lord with me! I need someone to celebrate with me when I have victory!
Other days, I am not going to be motivated. I am going to be distant. I might even forget why recovery is so important to me, and run back to the addiction. ‘
I know it’s tempting to ignore or downplay those times because it is messy and ugly, but I’m begging you, please, please don’t ignore those times. Those are the times when I need you to remind me why I fight. I need you to encourage me. Remind me of God’s grace and His light. Point me back to God. Give me a hug, and don’t run away from the messiness, because that’s what I’m scared of. I’m scared that the ones who love me can’t love me when I’ve failed. When I’m in my ugly place, I may just want to pull away and hide. Don’t let me hide! Tell me that you love me no matter what, and remind me of how much bigger God’s love is for me.
Think of Jesus, who placed himself right in the center of people’s messiness. The adulterous woman, Peter the denier, Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus knew those people’s stories and he entered them by choice. Don’t fear my story; Jesus doesn’t.
3. Don’t try to have all the answers.
I’m going to have some tough questions. Addiction is this terrifying thing, and it has wormed its way into who I believe I am, however distorted by Satan. I might question God. I might be angry. I might be confused. I might wonder who I truly am.
Please know that you don’t have to have the answers. It’s not your job to know everything. In fact it is completely fine that you don’t have all the answers. A lot of the time, I just need to talk. I need someone to listen and cry with me. It’s ok if you don’t get it. It’s totally fine if you are just as confused as I am.
If I try to demand answers that you don’t have, don’t feel guilty about pointing me to my counselor, pastor, or parent. It’s their job to guide me through this road called recovery. It’s your job to walk hand in hand with me. This is not to say I don’t value your opinion, however. If God has placed something on your heart, don’t be afraid to share it.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
4. Pray, pray, pray.
I know this seems obvious, but I can’t emphasize this enough. There may be times where I will be so angry at God that I abandon prayer. There may be times that I am so ashamed of myself that I can’t even speak. There may be times that I am hurting so much that I can’t do anything but cry. There may be times where I am so lost in my addiction that I wall myself off from God.
I need you to pray because my recovery is under attack from the enemy.
Pray for my healing. Pray for my heart. Pray for my anger. Pray for my brokenness. Pray for my counselor, mentors, and accountability partners. Pray that I will want God more than any comfort on this earth.
5. Please don’t share with others without express permission.
As I’m sure you recognize, this is extremely personal information. There is often a lot of shame and fear surrounding sexual addiction, and the fact that I told you about it is a sign of trust. Even when sharing prayer requests, I ask you to be subtle and respect my privacy. It is my information to share or not to share, and that needs to be my own decision. You are my confidant, and I humbly ask that you steward that privilege wisely and sensitively.
6. Encourage me to live real life.
One of the things that addiction has done to me is made this fake world seem more attractive than the real one. It is often hard and uncomfortable to engage the real world, and I won’t always want to do the things I need to do in order to retrain my brain.
Encourage me! Help me find new hobbies or rediscover old ones. Encourage me to go to that class I’m feeling nervous about or to reach out to that friend I haven’t connected with in forever. Remind me that life in the real world is worth living because it is alive and exciting. Don’t get frustrated if I’m reluctant at first. I’ll get there eventually.
7. Be aware of the mood swings.
Just a heads up: recovery often comes with a lot of ups and downs. I may be on top of the world one day, furious the next day, and crying the day after that. Or maybe I will be all three in the same day! It’s not an excuse to treat you or anybody else poorly (and call me out on that), but I just want you to know that it won’t last forever. My emotions will even out eventually once the chemicals in my brain get all sorted out. Withdrawal takes anywhere from a month to three months of sobriety to really taper off.
8. You can’t fix me, but you can be a part of my journey.
This is important. It is NOT your job to fix me. It is not your job to answer my questions, know what to do, or save me from my addiction. If I demand that from you, or inadvertently expect you to do any of those things, don’t be afraid to point me to the people who are supposed to help me in those ways.
One of the most valuable things a friend can say to another friend is, “I don’t have the ability to help you the way you need, but I would love to help you find someone who can.” It’s easy for me to get dependent on the wrong things and the wrong people, and sometimes I need a gentle reminder of who I actually need to depend on: God.
You are part of my journey to healing. You are my friend, my encourager, and my challenger. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for always pointing me to God. Thank you for wanting me to recover. Thank you for praying.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
There are quite a few suggested resources in this article, but I highly recommend checking out www.breakingfreeindeed.org , a ministry run by two fellow rebelutionaries. They’ve written articles and testimonies addressing sexual sin on their blog, and they would be happy to talk with, pray for, and encourage you on your own journey towards freedom.
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