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Published on February 15th, 2017 | by Haley Seba

How To (Realistically) Break Free From 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 previous article discussed 4 truths that those struggling with sexual addiction need to hear. As a follow-up, this article offers a starting place for an addict, including resources for further reading and recovery.

Eighteen months ago, I finally admitted that I had been a sex addict for 5 years.

That was desperately hard to do, but I knew that it wasn’t enough to free me. I wanted to change. That was why I told someone in the first place.

The problem was, I didn’t know where to start.

I wanted to heal, but I had no clue how to do it. There were no books, no websites, no experts.

Or so I thought.

Actually, there are quite a few resources out there. It turns out that there are books and websites and experts, a lot of them. Eighteen months later, I have resources to share for both guys and girls.

This is not a step-by-step journey to healing. It is simply a starting place for recovery.

The purpose of this article is to give a person struggling with addiction hope that there is a starting place.

There is a way to change — albeit painful, frightening, and at times downright humiliating. Don’t dismiss any of these things with the excuse of, “I don’t need this; I can figure it out by myself.”

That is what the enemy wants you to believe, and it’s a lie. As human beings, we are not strong enough to accomplish anything on our own. We need God and the community of believers that he created us to exist in.

Confess to another person.

Confessing and receiving grace is the only way to truly be free. It is easy to pretend that just confessing to God, asking for forgiveness, and promising yourself that you’ll change is enough, but it’s not.

To receive grace, you have to surrender yourself. That means laying your life bare before the Lord (and before others) and declaring that you can’t do this yourself. You are out of control in this struggle, and you cannot get out. As terrifying as it is, nothing will change if you don’t take this step.

You must come to the realization that you can’t do it alone, and ask for help.

The person you confess to might be a trusted friend, a parent, a mentor, or a youth minister. I recommend finding someone of the same gender, and I also recommend finding someone who is older. Find someone who you trust completely and tell them everything.

Don’t sugarcoat, and don’t gloss over the seriousness of your struggle with sin. Find someone who will follow up and help you.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Find a mentor.

One of the most important types of community, especially for teenagers, is guidance from those wiser than yourself. Mentors are older, wiser, and in the words of my pastor’s wife, “someone who is running faster towards Jesus than you are.”

Parents and respected adults who are willing to invest in you are an invaluable part of recovery.

I know that my own recovery journey would be nearly impossible without a few specific adults in my life that know my story; see me in my ugly places of addiction, grief, and pain; and yet are still choosing to invest time and wisdom into me. They love me even when I’m angry and questioning. They believe in God’s saving grace at times that I question it.

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

To the teen with a difficult parent relationship.

Here on The Rebelution, there is a definite emphasis on parent-teen relationships. I am all for strong parent-teen relationships, but I also want to recognize that not every struggling teen has parents that are equipped — or feel able to become equipped — to deal with the messiness of addiction.

This is not always the case, but for some, the reality is that open communication with their parents is not always readily available. If you are that teen, I want to encourage you.

Your parents’ disconnect from your situation doesn’t necessarily reflect your parents’ love — or lack of love — for you. They are people too, just like you, and while they care for your well-being, they may not always be clearly communicating that to you in a way you understand.

Your situation may also have triggered memories or fears that they struggle with personally, which makes it difficult for them to engage with you on the level that you need right away. While it can be confusing and painful, please fight the lie that your parents’ action or lack of action is because they don’t love or care about you.

That belief will only push you farther apart.

Get the help you need right now, but please don’t give up on your parents just because they may not be actively engaging with you right now. It is perfectly okay if you need to find and reach out to other adults who can counsel and guide you when your parents feel distant.

I have done this in my own journey, and there is no way I would be where I am today without these mentors who have stepped into my journey and loved me unconditionally.

Get accountability.

Accountability is simply another person who — at your request and specification — consistently checks in on your fight with a specific issue. If you struggle with pornograpy, it might be through internet software. If it is fantasy or masturbation, it might be simply asking how you’re doing every day via text.

It will take experimentation to determine what works effectively. Some people only need a text a few times a week, while others may need a face-to-face meeting. Don’t be afraid to keep trying when one way doesn’t seem to be working out.

The resources I am sharing at the end of these articles have plenty to say about accountability, so I will say only three things.

1) Accountability must be consistent, or it is useless.
2) Accountability requires complete honesty on your part, no matter what.
3) Accountability is not the solution to addiction; it is merely a tool to break habits.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Find a group or class.

Another type of community that not everyone has access to is recovery groups. There are various 12-step groups that are available in certain areas. Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-oriented recovery group that some churches host.

I would always caution teens in using wisdom and advice when choosing whether or not to attend these types of groups. My own church hosts a Freedom class that I attend weekly, and it teaches tools for dealing with addiction and living in the grace of God. It is encouraging and helpful, but not every group is.

There are also online support groups available, although they sometimes have a fee associated with them. These groups provide same-gender online accountability, discussion, and Bible study. (XXX Church has both male and female groups available, and God Over Porn provides online accountability for guys.

Get counseling.

In my family, there is somewhat of a stigma towards counseling. In fact, when my pastor suggested counseling after I told him my story, I was somewhat taken aback. I thought that only people who were really messed up needed counseling.

Ironic, isn’t it?

After attending counseling for about 3 months, I can tell you that it was the best choice I could have made. My counselor, who is a licensed Christian sex addiction counselor, is amazing. While she has been a great source for books and tools to use daily, she also focuses on healing the core issues that are driving me to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

After numbing everything out with sex for so many years, I was pretty confused about healthy relationships and emotions.

It turns out that I was angry. I was hurt. I was dealing (or not dealing) with abandonment problems, which is common for sex addicts. At the point that I went into counseling, I knew that I had pain that needed to be dealt with, but I didn’t know how to do that. My counselor did.

The reason to seek out a professional counselor in addition to mentors is because addiction doesn’t appear out of nowhere. There is most likely something that you are unaware of that is giving the enemy a place to stand and draw you into fake connection.

A professional is trained to teach tools for living life without sex and digging into past hurt that is affecting present behaviors.

If you or your family can’t afford counseling, ask your church if they would be willing to help pay for it. Most churches have funds that are dedicated to that very purpose: helping people who want help get it.

Read literature and plan.

I am a doer. When I have questions or problems, I go look for a solution or answer. Generally, it is less straightforward than I want it to be, and sex addiction is no different. I did a lot of trial and error as I searched for books and experts and tools. It is imperative that, as Christian teens dealing with sex addiction, we read the right books, articles, and websites.

Here are some resources that I have discovered in the last eighteen months.

Internet Protection and Accountability:

+XXX Church*
+Covenant Eyes*
+Self Control App
+Bumblebee Systems

*These cost a few dollars a month. I highly recommend investing in them if the internet is a struggle for you. I use XXXchurch software on all my devices, and I have my mentor as my accountability. Make sure to pick someone as an accountability partner that is going to actually keep you accountable in real-time (not call you a week or two later to ask you about it). Just remember that internet accountability can always be evaded. It is simply a tool, not a solution.

Resources for Both Guys and Girls:

+Breaking Free Indeed
+Fight the New Drug*

*This resource is secular, not Christian-based. I included it because FTND explains the science behind sex addiction really well. They also have a program that is free for teens to help break pornography habits. Again, it is a tool, not a solution. Healing is done by God and takes place in the heart, not the mind.

Resources for Guys:

+XXX Church
+God Over Porn provides online accountability for guys.
+ Love, Honor, and Virtue by Hal and Melanie Young

Resources for Girls:

+Beggar’s Daughter
+Phylicia Delta
+No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction by Marnie C. Ferree
+Beggar’s Daughter by Jessica Harris
+Dirty Girls Come Clean by Crystal Renaud

Be Aware of the Enemy.

You now have the truth. You now have tools. You have the ability to confess and take on the good fight.

The enemy’s hold is lessening, and he is angry about it. You are now in a war for freedom:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t take this fight lightly. The enemy will tempt you, lie to you, drown you in anger or hurt, distract you with school, illness, or a job. He will do anything to draw you back towards the darkness.

I don’t say this to scare you. I just want to you know that just because you don’t feel like it, or you are tired, or you are angry doesn’t mean freedom isn’t worth it.

Freedom is worth fighting the temptation in your life without rest or moderation.

I know freedom is worth it because I am living it.

And you can too.

There are quite a few suggested resources in this article, but I highly recommend checking out , 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.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

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Photo courtesy of Ramon Rosati via Flickr Creative Commons.


About the Author

is an 18-year-old farm girl in rural Missouri who is on fire for Christ. She is homeschooled and spends her summers working on her family’s farm. Theatre, fiber arts, and reading are her hobbies, but her passion is foster children. She loves spending time with family, and her perfect evening would include a family dinner with lots of laughter and card games.

  • Josiah J.

    Again, great job, Haley! Thanks again for your truthfulness that we need community of believers to help. We can’t just go Lone Ranger on the quest for help. We need community, even if we don’t like it. I am sure I’ll have more questions soon. Thanks again, Haley!

    • Michael

      At least Lone Ranger had Tonto… Right?

  • Janesse day

    Awesome thank you!!

    • Haley

      Let me know if you have any questions! I certainly did not intend to cut you off yesterday so much as I knew this article would communicate my thoughts a little more thoroughly. =) I also had a discussion with Josiah yesterday about some of the same topics, and I mentioned a few things that were not included in the article. The comments are a bit jumbled, but feel free to reference those as well! Praying for you, Janesse.

      • Janesse day

        You didn’t cut me off!! Once I read through it a couple times I might have questions. Thank you!!

        • Haley

          Oh good. 😛

  • Josiah J.

    Question 1: Does counseling need to be face to face?

    Question 2: What tips do you have for overcoming physical and phycological resistance and fatigue that comes with wanting to act toward progress? Especially, the resistance to approaching others about addiction, and more than that, approaching someone with the intention of receiving help?

    Thanks for the help, Haley!

    • Haley

      Wow, great questions. I’ll do my best to answer.

      1) Honestly, my opinion is that yes, counseling should be primarily face-to-face. The same goes for mentorship. Remember breaking free from s*xual addiction is all about building healthy ways of dealing with emotion and pain. One of the hardest things to do is to look someone straight in the eye once a week and answer questions, share your feelings, and try to dig into painful subjects when your addiction just wants to hide behind a screen.

      Not everyone believes in counseling (in fact, one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica Harris, is not a huge advocate for it), but I have seen the difference it makes in my own life. My question for you as you consider counseling as an option would be, what is holding you back? Is it money? The fear of opening up consistently? Doubt that psychology even works? Not knowing how to find a counselor? Uncertainty as to whether you really need a counselor?

      2) First, it is important to focus on WHO you are going to talk to. If you are serious about getting some mentorship, counseling, and community support, I recommend going to the church. Ask your pastor or an elder in the church that you respect for a meeting, or if you are in college, there may be a campus ministry that has people who are available. Indicate that it is about something you need help with. That will prepare them and give you some accountability so that you can’t just avoid the topic when the time comes.

      Second, consider how and what you are going to share. One thing that I have done that helps get my thoughts in order is to write a letter and then read it aloud. Decide what you are asking for and then go from there as far as what needs to be shared.

      I always encourage bluntness. Beating around the bush tends to create more shame and opportunity to hide, whereas just saying it how it is takes this huge weight off of your shoulders. For example, saying something like, “sometimes I struggle with inappropriate thoughts” is pretty vague. To be honest, it’s the churchy way to say it. Instead, go for raw and specific. Direct is better for both you and the listener.

      It may be important to communicate how long this has been a struggle, where it all began, where you are now, what steps you have taken, and where you want to go from here. Explain that you want to make a long-term change, and that you need help. Lord willing, whoever you are meeting with will be able to help you or direct you to someone who can (where you may have to start the process over).

      It is tricky. Vulnerable is never comfortable, so don’t be surprised if you have some physical reactions (personally, I was nauseous, sweaty, and shaking). I’m a pretty bold, straightforward person, so I pretty much blurt out what I’m thinking. I wish I could tell you there is a perfect way to ask for help, but honestly, it never feels like the “right” time. My mode of operandi always feels kinda…awkward.

      One last thing. When I typed my letter and printed it out, I wrote a verse at the top to give me courage. To be honesty, I have no idea what verse it was. But I do remember reading it the second before I started reading the letter, and it gave me the courage I needed. Scripture is powerful!

      Be bold and be free, Josiah!

      • Josiah J.

        What if you don’t have a local church to reach out to, and no counselors available to you? What if your only resource is your family and God, besides Internet communications? And on top of that, you are extremely emotionally reserved and private, more so when reaching out to a parent?

        • Haley

          I guess I’m a little confused as to what your situation is, Josiah. Do you mean that you are not involved in a church? Do you live in a remote area? Just some clarification. :)

          • Josiah J.

            Remote area, overseas…

          • Haley

            Ah, gotcha. That helps a little! :)

            I don’t know what your parent relationship looks like, so it’s kinda hard to advise on that point. My parents are not involved in my recovery, but I wish that they were. My own parents are aware to some extent (I did confess to them), but not able to emotionally support me.

            Confessing is crazy hard, but it is just one of the bullets that has to be bitten. Even so, I would encourage a conversation discussing some of the things that I mentioned in my earlier comment. If they are able to mentor you through recovery, all the better. If not, an awareness of it is still fair, and it is likely that some healing needs to take place in those relationships aside from your own recovery (that’s where I’m at).

            Ok, so for counseling/groups online, here is where I would start. I know that XXXchurch (recommended in the article) has online accountability groups for s*x addiction. I think they do weekly video meetings. This comes highly recommended!

            Also, I have a possible second resource. SAA (S*x Addicts Anonymous) is something else I looked into when I was first searching for a group. They have online meetings, phone meetings, and meetings in other countries. Here is a link to look into it:

            Hope that gives you some direction. It’s tough to be in this situation and so isolated. My heart goes out to you.

  • Haley! So proud of you! This is well-done. You are so brave.

    • Haley

      Thanks for the comment, Jessica! You have inspired me and so many others with your bold story. Beggar’s Daughter was the first blog I ever came across specifically for women facing sexual addiction, and it was a game-changer. Your writing style is fantastic! I can’t wait to see you speak in April. I pray that your ministry will only grow as the years pass. God bless!

  • Haley! This is great!

    I really appreciate that you talked about the core issues behind the whole thing. We won’t understand why we keep going back until we understand why we were interested in the first place.

    • Haley

      Thanks for the comment, Sam! That’s exactly right. There is so much hidden by addiction. It only makes sense that to gain freedom, first we must look deeper, beyond what is comfortable or instinctive.

  • Adam

    Could we form online groups of Rebelution readers who struggle with sexual addiction? It’s hard to find groups at all, especially for younger single guys or girls. And this is a huge need.

    • Haley

      Adam, I have a few thoughts on this, and I will tag @Jaquelle to see if she has any thoughts as well.

      1) I love the concept!!! You are on the right track, for sure! Accountability and space for discussion are absolutely vital to recovery from any addiction. You are right about the huge need, and it is hard for teenagers to find a safe place to really pursue truth and healthy community. I mean, it’s not like you go to youth group and people just tell you this kind of stuff, right?

      2) Online groups are a tough environment to find healing, to be quite honest. Think about this. Imagine a guy or girl who struggles with p*rn or s*x chatting. This guy or girl is accustomed to hiding behind a screen. To lying about his or her age, looks, and life. Now put that guy or girl in an online group where it is easy to lie when he or she keeps failing. The mask is easy to keep up when you’re behind a screen.

      3) Groups like that need lots of moderators, direction, and gender-seperation to be effective. Quite honestly, what is NOT effective, and yet what something like this can easily become, is a forum where people post when they “fail” or are “struggling” and everyone else empathizes with them. That’s not accountability. While it is important to be honest, it is also important to set attainable goals, communicate, be challenged, and spot patterns. It is hard to actually make progress in an online environment without those things.

      4) That being said, I think there ARE some online ministries that are effective. XXXchurch (see link in the article) is a highly recommended online resource that teenagers can absolutely pursue. They have online groups that are gender separated and meet once a week using video chat. The groups are led by trained and experienced leaders, and there are also a bunch more resources on that website. As @disqus_v7zgvL3EXD:disqus and I discussed, sometimes there are just not options beyond family and internet, and XXXchurch can bridge that gap.

      5) Although I love the idea of online forums, and I believe in the work that XXXchurch is doing, I still believe that we need in-person relationships to heal. That’s the goal, right? Online groups often feel easier because of the convienence and anonymity, but we NEED to look in another person’s eyes and tell them our story. As teenagers, we NEED older, more experienced, Godly adults to know us and help us. We NEED professional counseling to help us work through the pain that addiction has made us numb to. And those relationships are most effective in real-life community.

      Does that make sense, @disqus_O2Ab9moQtB:disqus? Please, PLEASE don’t think that I dislike your idea. I don’t! I think you are on the right track. But I have had some experience with online groups of struggling s*x addicts, and it is involved to start something like that. I would be happy to discuss this at greater length (maybe you don’t want any more length, lol, this has gotten kinda long…) or answer any more questions.

      One more thing: You mentioned the need for teen groups focusing on addiction. I totally agree. To be honest, I don’t have a complete answer for that one, because I think that there SHOULD be way more space in churches especially for groups like this, but they are not terribly common. Jesus didn’t run away from the messiness, and neither should we!

      Just recently I came across a program that Celebrate Recovery has specifically for teens called “The Landing.” Check it out here: . If possible, attend one of these! 12-step groups are fantastic, and this is one for teens. If there isn’t one in your church (there isn’t one in mine), then see if there is one in your area.

      • Josiah J.

        I agree with, Haley. The Internet just doesn’t provide real accountability. Face to face is where it’s at. I know parents can be scary to talk to, but they may be the best option for some of us.

      • Adam

        Thanks! It’s hard to find groups very close, but you’ve given a lot of good info and leads on where to look. There may be one about an hour from me that looks promising.

        • Haley

          Awesome! If you can drive or get a ride, I say go for it! One thing that my group leaders recommend is to not make an assessment the first week on whether or not to come back. It will be uncomfortable at first, so give it six weeks of consistent attendance, and then decide whether or not to move forward. God bless, Adam!

    • Hey Adam. I second Haley’s comment 100%. And just speaking from a logistical standard, that’s not something TheRebelution is at a place to do right now. I would prayerfully consider Haley’s suggestions instead. They are a really good place to start.

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