Stories of Addiction Recovery

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We can slip by not keeping boundaries.

by John D.


I have raised 4 children. One of the great passages of life for each of them was learning to ride a bicycle. I was there helping each one. With Nathan, our first, I thought – he is my son, I am a natural athlete, so he will be fine – get on the bike and go. Guess what resulted – skinned knees. He fell and I went and bought training wheels.
Two years later Micah comes of age, hops on his brother’s bike and rides off. The training wheels had been removed and I thought – his father’s son – natural athlete. Next came Caleb – 4 years later – skinned knees. Then, my daughter Erin’s turn came so I went out and bought her a bike with training wheels.
When kids are learning to ride a bike without training wheels there is a problem with balance. It is only by practice that they learn to keep their balance and not fall over. However, one thing I have learned – we should expect them to fall. Falling is never a good thing because they get hurt. What is crucial is that they learn from their fall, get back on the bike and try again. Eventually they get it and fall a lot less.
One of the crucial parts about your recovery from sexual brokenness is that you learn from falling. I do not know any man who has started the journey of recovery and has not fallen somewhere or somehow along the way. Sometimes a fall is when we go back and use pornography or fantasy and arouse our lusts and masturbate. However before that happens there are certain boundaries that we have violated. We have climbed over those boundaries and fallen on the other side before we take the bigger fall over the cliff and commit sexual sin.
What I want to teach you is that there is a difference between a fall and a failure. Here are my definitions of a fall and a failure.
-A Fall - is anytime I act out sexually in any way. My goal is that there would be not a hint of sexual immorality in my life. So anytime I have a sexual experience with myself In masturbation or any experience of any kind with another person I have fallen. Those are what I would call a major fall. A minor fall, or perhaps better termed a “slip” is when I violate any of the boundaries I have established for myself that in and of itself is not a sin but puts me in danger and a greater chance of falling.
So for example – if I am lying in bed and begin to have sexual fantasies, I have fallen because Jesus made it clear that if I think about a person and lust after them in my heart I have committed adultery. If I continue those thoughts and masturbate I have fallen as well. If I look at pornography I have fallen. If I have an affair online with someone – I have fallen.
A Slip - is when I violate one of my boundaries that is not necessarily a sin but could lead me to committing a sexual sin. So a boundary I have is not to open my junk email without first letting my wife know I am going to go through my junk email and letting her know when I have finished. Now checking your junk mail is not in and of itself a sin. However, there was a time when certain emails in there would catch my attention and curiosity and I would open them and see things I should not see. So I have established that boundary and it has eliminated that problem.
-A Failure – is when I fall and fail to learn from that fall. I may confess it and try to forget it – but I do not examine what happened and why it happened and do not ask the Spirit to teach me more about what I need to know about myself and sexual sin. I just try to forget it and move on instead of learn from it and set new boundaries to help me not fall in that area again.
My experience is that slips and falls can become the greatest learning opportunities in our journey to recovery. If every time I slip and or fall I take the time to learn from it, then I can get up and move forward again. In falling I will have lost some ground in my progress but that can be made up for fairly quickly if I will do the work I need to do and learn from my mistakes.
Men who do this continue to progress and find they are slipping and falling less often and having greater freedom from sexual sin. Men who do not do this fail to learn from their mistakes, do not set new boundaries, do not learn more about themselves, their sexual brokenness and the power of the Spirit to cleanse and restore. They will generally continue to fall more often and slide deeper into their sexual brokenness experiencing more and more shame, defeat and wounding themselves and their loved ones.
So here is a way you can keep a fall from becoming a failure. Indeed, you can actually learn a lot from a slip and or fall that will help you keep moving forward in your recovery. Eventually you will fall less and less, you will slip less and less and you will experience a deeper walk with the Spirit so that you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. (See Galatians 5:16)
So you have slipped by crossing over some boundaries and fallen again. You are angry, ashamed, afraid and feeling all kinds of negative emotions. The last thing you want to do is dig in and learn from the experience. You want to confess it to God and move on. It is hard to go against those feelings but the reality is that you fell for a reason. It did not just happen out of nowhere. Things happened, choices were made, stresses and emotions were in play and you followed what has probably been a very clear reaction to certain things in your life that trigger you into acting out.
Like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – when the very first sin was committed you react like they did. You realize that you have sinned and are ashamed. You cover yourself. You want to hide. You want to hide from God and from other people. You separate and isolate and become easy prey for your spiritual enemy to hunt you down and attack you again. You become more vulnerable and very well may sin again soon after thinking, “I have already fallen and blown it – so I might has well do a little more … what is a little more going to hurt.” Well – a little more is going to hurt you and may hurt you a lot more.
So first understand that learning from a fall is not what you are going to want to do. However, that is exactly what you need to do if you are going to break free from your sexual brokenness and bondage. Here are the steps I recommend you take after a slip or a fall.
1.Immediately go to prayer and confess your sinful choice to the Lord.
God knows you have sinned and He wants us to recognize that and confess it to Him. In confession you are agreeing with God that what you did was sinful and helps you more clearly identify the actions you need to stop. We are told in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
2.Pick up your phone and call your Sponsor and accountability partner and tell them what you have done.
This is essential. In reality the reason you sinned is that you failed to call your Sponsor and accountability partner when you were being tempted. In fact you should be in contact with them everyday to be encouraged so that you do not fall.
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
Contacting them as soon as possible will allow them to help and encourage you. They should be asking you questions that enable you to evaluate why you fell and talk with you about boundaries that you need to set. You need them and will probably not set these boundaries yourself.
3.Ask yourself or discuss with your Sponsor and accountability partner the following questions.
·Why do you think you fell?
·What feelings and negative emotions were you feeling before you fell?
·What was happening in relation to you and your spouse (if applicable) before you fell?
·Were there other factors that were impacting you like stresses at work of within your family relationships?
·Can you specifically identify any triggers that caused you to want to act out?
·Can you identify any “seeds” – thoughts or actions – that were planted in your life / thinking that produced this sinful choice?
·What boundaries do you climb over on your way to committing this sin?
·What new boundaries do you need to put in place and inform your Sponsor and accountability partner about so that you do not slip or fall in this way again?(This step has been the most helpful for me in building new boundaries and progressing in my recovery.)
4.If you are married tell your spouse the truth and confess to her what you did in your sin and the steps you have taken to help you not fall again.
This is the hard work of recovery. I like to think of this as electrifying your boundaries. If you will learn to do this each and every time you slip or fall you will move forward in your recovery. This is a way you can show your spouse that you really want to get better. This will help to restore trust in your relationship because she will see you working on creating proper boundaries and keeping them so that you do not fall but move forward to freedom from your sexual brokenness.
You will hate doing this last part. There will be pain and consequences. That is how it should be and we learn from that pain. It helps to motivate us to not do it again. Like teaching a child to not touch a hot stove, if they actually do touch it they will learn far more quickly than if they just hear you talk about it. This is doing the time for the crime and should be done in a timely manner with humility and honesty.