So, you have read each section carefully to this point. You understand the battle. You think you have a handle on it and are ready to go it alone. STOP! Do not do this alone! Do not think you have this under control! That is exactly where the enemy wants you. Make sure you have at least one accountability partner set up. Now it’s time to make plans for battle. Remember, you are at war! Treat it like one.
What are you going to do the next time you are tempted? What happens when you are in the middle of surfing the net, alone in the house, and think, “What’s one more time?”
When these circumstances come up, and they will, it will feel like a huge magnet pulling you to your old behavior, a rut that is so deep you feel like it’s impossible to climb out of. This is what I call “in the battle.” In war, do you think that when the enemy attacks, the soldiers simply lie down and allow themselves to be killed? (Allowing yourself “just one more time” is in fact allowing your soul to be killed—just like a defenseless soldier.)No, they fight. They have planned defense strategies. AND THEY NEVER FIGHT ALONE! What’s more, the best armies have an offense. Imagine that!
One of your offenses is developing your secondary boundaries. It’s like a soldier simply not walking into enemy territory, even the edge of it! But sometimes, you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with the enemy. What do you do? These are your battle plans—your exit strategies. Below I will discuss some ideas and strategies. You ultimately need to develop your own strategies. Use my suggestions to start, and go on from there.
Know this: Not one thing works for everyone and not one thing works all the time. You need to continually revise your battle plans and exit
Practice is needed to recognize the beginning triggers and events that suddenly lead to temptation. Don’t get discouraged,
“A fall is not failure, but an opportunity to look deeper and heal.”
Make one of these statements to yourself (out loud if possible):
Father I abandon myself to your hands—let your will be done.
Say the Surrender Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I desire the desire to surrender my heart and entire being to you but I cannot do it. I fear the abandonment of losing control of who I am. I ask that you take what little space I can open to you, use it, and invade my heart, take it captive, and protect it from all evil. I beg for your help in my complete surrender to you.
Say the Battle Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, I cannot fight this battle anymore. I’m done, I hand you the dragon to slay, I hand you the lizard of lust to slay, I hand you the battle and walk away; it’s yours. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. It’s not my battle anymore.
Statement of authority in Jesus' name:
Say, “Satan, this conversation is over!” or “In Jesus’ name, this conversation is over,”and then move on as the battle and temptation no longer exists. Say this statement as loud as appropriate in the environment you are in. Say it in a whisper if necessary. This statement is said with the understanding that Satan, the Devil, the enemy is aggressively challenging us to sin. Making an authoritative statement such as this is a way of denying his influence and authority. Making this statement will at least give you a few seconds of reprieve from the thoughts or desires at hand. You can then clearly take appropriate steps for acting on authentic intimacy choices.
Say: “I will not give my power to that woman”
When you begin to lust after a woman, she is in control. She has power over you.
Recite the Seven Cornerstones of Commitment.
Cornerstone 1: I pledge that I will stop looking at pornography, masturbating, flirting, having affairs, committing fornication, or communicating with any person in any way that can incite lust or potentially lead to ungodly relations.
Cornerstone 2: I pledge to pray or meditate for at least 10 minutes every day.
Cornerstone 3: I pledge to read at least one scripture verse every day.
Cornerstone 4: I pledge to say the following Surrender Prayer every day: “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I desire the desire to surrender my heart and my entire being to you but I cannot do it, I fear the abandonment of losing control of who I am. I ask that you take what little space I can open to you, use it and invade my heart, take it captive and protect it from all evil. I beg for your help in my complete surrender to you.”
Cornerstone 5: I pledge to honestly look within myself and take responsibility for my actions and not blame anyone else for my behaviors.
Cornerstone 6: I pledge to give of myself selflessly in some way to someone every day.
Cornerstone 7: I pledge that if I am struggling with temptation that I will call someone to help me through the battle.
Recite Battle scriptures:
Recite and memorize one or more of these scriptures; even make cards of these verses to carry with you.
Psalm51:10(NRSVCE) “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me”
Philippians2:4 (NRSVCE)“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
1 Corinthians 10:13(NRSVCE) “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
Job 31:1(NRSVCE) “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?”
Romans 6:21(NRSVCE) “So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.”
Ephesians 6:12-13 (NRSVCE)“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NRSVCE)“Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
There are over 100 more scriptures that you can use for the battle located in appendix "C" of the 40 Days to Freedom book.
Contact your accountability partner:
(Note: This is one of the true intimacy options.)
Have your accountability partner ask you about “what comes up” when a scenario happens. Any emotions? What are you really looking for? Intimacy? Affirmation? Self-value? … Then discuss with your accountability partner what in your past may be contributing to this need, why you are seeking it through false intimacy, and what true intimacy paths could you choose instead.
Remember, the battle of two against Satan is powerful:
Ecclesiastes 4:12(NRSVCE) “and though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Also, in general, share goals with your accountability partners or close friends. The more transparent you can be, the more success you will have in your recovery.
Praying for the Woman You Are Tempted to Lust After
When you catch yourself having sexual thoughts about someone, you are objectifying that person. Your brain is seeing that person as a “thing” that you can “take” and use for your own satisfaction. You may already know in your heart that this is wrong, but your past history of actions and the inaccurate training of sexuality by this world has formed you to allow yourself to indulge in these lustful thoughts and objectifications. Even now that you know different, it is hard to “just stop it.” Praying for the woman who triggered this reaction is one edifying way of responding to this temptation.
Here is a sample prayer in a situation where the woman is not dressed in a provocative manner, but just triggered you in some way (which you should also seek inside your heart to determine why).
“Lord, I ask you to change my thoughts I am having about this woman to thoughts that are respectful, loving, and complimentary. I ask your forgiveness for my lust and objectification over this woman. Please help me to see her as you see her, to see her mind and her heart as the beautiful daughter of your creation. Amen.”
Here is a sample prayer in a situation where the woman is dressed in provocative manner.
“Lord, I ask you to change the thoughts I am having about this woman to thoughts that are respectful, loving, and complimentary. I ask your forgiveness for my lust and objectification over this woman. I also ask that you would reveal to her in some way that you see her as a beautiful child and that the manner in which she dresses does not respect her authentic God-given beauty, but instead represents to men that she is an object and does not deserve to be treated as the beautiful child of God that she is. Please inspire her to dress in the future in a way the reflects her humanness and beauty that you created her with.”
Praying this way will interrupt your objectification thoughts and begin to put women in the perspective of a “whole” people and as beautiful creations of God.
Put Post-it Notes in Your Car or Around Your House
Write scripture verses, empowering statements, etc. on Post-it Notes and place them on bathroom mirrors, your computer screen, refrigerator, etc.
Note: If you fear that doing this may seem like a way of confessing to your wife that you have a problem, then you may want to bring to prayer the reality that keeping this battle secret, especially in a relationship that is supposed to be transparent for ultimate intimacy, may actually be hindering your recovery. After all, even if you can’t completely come clean to your wife, simply stating that you have been feeling tempted lately and want to be proactive and be a better man of God would be positive received by almost any wife.
Also, daily or even several times per day, create an automated reminder on your phone or computer. This is great to keep you focused. Maybe have three different verses/statements that come up at different times.
As you now know, objectification of women is practicing being a “Gift to Self.” If you are being a “Gift of Self,” it is nearly impossible to practice selfishness.
Mark 3:24(NRSVCE) “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
Matthew 12:26(NRSVCE) “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?”
To practice selflessness, do an act of kindness. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for the person you were objectifying. Just do something in general to change you focus to selflessness. Here are some examples:
Open the door for a stranger.
Anonymously pay for the coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.
Smile and be intentionally kind to a person serving you (cashier, teller, barista, coworker, waitress).
Do a task around the house for your spouse without being asked.
Shovel a neighbor’s driveway when it snows or mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn.
Volunteer at the local mission.
Use the Rubber Band Technique
This is one way of retraining your brain and changing how to look at women. Place a rubber band on your wrist, and when you start to have sexually inappropriate thoughts, immediately snap the rubber band on the inside of your wrist. This will train your brain that fantasy = pain rather than fantasy = pleasure. Our brains will instinctively avoid pain and, eventually, fantasy or lustful thoughts will be instinctively avoided. Combine this with a “true intimacy” choice to complete the positive choice rewiring of your neural pathways.
Always Look Women in the Eyes
When you look a woman in her eyes, you see a person, not an object.
Job 31:1(NRSVCE) “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?”
Genesis 39:12(NRSVCE) “she caught hold of his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.”
Listen to Christian Music
Much of today’s secular music has lyrics that include lust, abuse our humanness, and train our thoughts to be directed to selfish choices. Christian music will redirect those thoughts and more properly align our perceptions to God. This is the selfless versus selfish mindset.
Do a Quick Meditation
If you have developed a meditation, take three to five seconds and go right to the center. See the images; recall the peace you have when in your meditation. This will not only redirect your thoughts and attention, it will also develop another “on-ramp” to your alternate healthy neural pathway, which you are developing to compete with the porn neural pathway. (Note: Don’t do this while driving!)
Evaluate Your Secondary Boundaries
When you find yourself needing to execute your escape strategy, ask yourself if you were you doing something that could have been avoided. Did this activity cross an existing boundary or could it become a new boundary that you should add to your list? Evaluate this every time you find yourself tempted. Here are some examples:
· Should I not drive down this street with the adult bookstore?
· Should I pick a different cashier line?
· Should I not browse adult movie titles?
· What true intimacy choice could I have chosen instead? (details of true intimacy is in chapter 11 of the 40 Days to Freedom book)
Always be aware, so you can revise your recovery plans.
Each time you feel tempted, ask yourself, “What am I really looking for?” Know that sex isn’t the answer. Your brain and the beginning of the dopamine flow may desire a sexual release, but truthfully, inside, you are seeking something else. Are you needing something—emotional intimacy, perhaps? Are you trying to medicate an unpleasant event or emotion? Do the 3-I’s exercise!
Always strive to increase self-awareness.
You know the old saying “practice make perfect”? Well, it’s true. We have covered enough material by now for you to know that the ultimate goal is to see true intimacy instead of false intimacy and to rewire your brain by developing new neural pathways. You have spent years of time and performed hundreds or even thousands of tasks that have developed the neural pathways that feed the porn neural superhighway. Merely reading this material will not suddenly eliminate your cravings for porn and propel you to choose healthy true intimacy. This takes time! I have said it before and I will say it again: BE PATIENT! This will not go away overnight! Studies show that for a porn addict, it takes six months of 100 percent sobriety to reset the pleasure centers of the brain. This means resetting the dopamine receptors back to the way you were created by God. “A factory reset” in computer terms for those techies out there. Exercising your exit strategies, healing the reason you are medicating in the first place, and saying lots of prayer are all absolutely required to get through these six months to reset your brain. Depending on the level of your addiction and your emotional wounds, after reset, it can take up to two years to get your life completely back to normal. DO NOT expect to change tomorrow, but do expect to work and to fail from time to time. As I said earlier in this section:
“A fall is not failure, but an opportunity to look deeper and heal.”
When you fall, don’t despair; use the experience as an opportunity to learn. God allows us to fall and make our mistakes from free will. What was your faulty will that caused you to fall? The 40-day journal in the 40 Days to Freedom book will help you with this.
Practice Fire Drills
I just reminded you that practice makes perfect. NFL football players don’t just get on the field and learn by playing. If they did, they would definitely lose and probably get seriously injured in the process. Same here. Every time you see a provocatively dressed woman, you know you shouldn’t lust, but you do. You might even go home and act out. You just lost this game because you were not in shape (emotionally) and physically (no exit strategy).
Develop your exit strategy, ask your support person or accountability partner to drill you with scenarios where you play out what could happen during your addictive cycle. Practice these and refine your strategies. If something triggers you, you have your partner on the phone or with you to work thought it.
Pray! Pray! Pray!
Prayer is actually the most important strategy. The battle scriptures and some of the statements to say out loud are excellent ways to engage prayer. I encourage you to actually have a conversation with Jesus. Talk to Him like He’s sitting in front of you. If you are Catholic, go to an adoration chapel—He’s right there in front of you!
Even if you are frustrated or angry, yell at Him! Yes, I am serious—you can yell at God. He can take it. When you express your anger, you are showing Him your heart and your pain. He wants to see this so He can begin to heal it. No matter how mad you get at God, He will NEVER turn his back on you. (Please don’t do this in an adoration chapel, however. It’s disrespectful to the other people who are there.)
After you talk, yell, cry, whatever you are moved to do, be sure to end your time with several minutes of silence. Listen to your heart. He may speak to you or just bring peace over you. Some people hear Him through inspirations or thoughts, and some hear words in their heart. Most just experience a sense of peace after expressing their heart. After all, the word “peace” appears over 400 times in the Bible. It’s a pretty strong and common message.
No matter how far away you feel God is from you, know that in truth He is right by your side. Let me share an experience I had that made me realize this.
It was a few years ago, and I was having a conversation with my son (who was sixteen at the time) about spirituality. (At that time, my son already had an exceptional understanding and relationship with God.) I was telling him that, due to my digressions (he was aware of my addiction and the family damages), that I felt I was so far from God that I could not reach Him; I was just too far gone and there was no hope. I related to the parable of the shepherd and his flock, where he lost one sheep and would search high and low until he found that sheep. So how much more would the Father search for us if we were lost? I said to my son, “Sure, I understand the story, but this is if the lost person is in the next town here in Colorado a few miles away, but it’s like I’m in Australia! I’m just too far gone to be worth the search,” I said. My son replied, “Dad, you don’t get it. It’s like you’re playing baseball and you are in the outfield looking at the stands and saying to yourself that you are so lost that you can’t even see the game. Just turn around and the game is right there—you are already in it. Just turn around. Jesus is right behind you. He always has been. You can’t see Him because you have your back to Him.” My son’s words hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized the truth that Jesus is and always has been right behind me, just waiting for me to turn around so He can take me in His arms. I was never lost in the first place; I just couldn’t see Him because my eyes were shut due to the blindness of my shame. But Jesus wanted to take my shame from me so I could be free to receive His immense love for me. This conversation with my son blasted away the lie that I was living—the lie that said I was not worthy of being found and loved by Jesus. In a mere few seconds, my life was changed. I suddenly knew that I could not hide behind the lie any longer. I was now face-to-face with my woundedness and had no choice but to move through it and begin to heal. Know this as fact: Jesus is right with you, no matter what you have done or previously believed. He is right there for waiting for you to let Him shower you with His immense love.
Remind Yourself Why You Are Doing This—Why Sobriety Is Beneficial
By working to break free from your sex and porn addiction, you can reap the following benefits:
Save your soul
Save your marriage or relationships
Heal past emotional woundedness
Stop losing time in the activity—potentially increasing your income as a result
Reduce or eliminate anxiety
Avoid developing or stop existing erectile dysfunction
Become better able to deal with adversity of any type
Regain clarity of self and clarity of life’s purpose
Reduce or eliminate depression
Regain passion in life
Avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Regain natural sexual energy
Reset pleasure centers to properly enjoy life
Live without shame
Prevent social isolation
Be more productive at work, home, and in society
Reset your natural IQ—and increase your learning potential
Live a life of integrity and honesty
“The struggle is the sign of holiness. A Saint is a sinner that keeps trying”
—St. Josemaria Escrivá