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The first Christmas of my marriage’s road to recovery was extremely difficult. My husband was walking wounded from the realization of what his sexual addiction and adultery had destroyed in our home. Although we were still together, my heart was certainly re-learning forgiveness and trust on a daily basis. We were both in need of profound healing.
As the holidays approached, memories of the previous two Christmases would sneak unsuspectingly into my mind. Like drive-by accusations, I would catch myself thinking of the “other woman” who had been part of my family’s Christmas celebrations before all had been revealed.
Another unbearable aspect of the holiday season as my children’s sorrow over the Christmas tree with no presents underneath. How could I explain to them that we couldn’t even pay our rent? That when Daddy publicly confessed his sin and stepped down from pastoral ministry, we lost our family’s only source of income, and our savings went more quickly than we could have imagined. Being completely broke with Christmas around the corner was depressing and stressful for all of us.
I found myself wondering: what on earth is there to celebrate?
But then... some amazing friends from our small group at church stepped in. First came a grocery store gift card in an overwhelmingly generous amount--enough to buy “extras” we wouldn’t have dreamed of before like eggnog, pork tenderloin, and favorite chocolates for stockings.
Next came wrapped presents and gift cards to buy other presents. We wept as they were handed to us. Slowly the painful memories of loss and betrayal were being replaced with beautiful moments of mercy and grace. I will never forget the smiles and gasps of my children when they discovered bright packages with their names on them under the once-empty spot beneath the Christmas tree.
When Christmas morning came, I sat with my coffee and journal while the children played with new toys and realized my perspective was shifting. Celebrating Christ coming to the world to set things right is the whole reason behind Christmas. He came to give hope.
If that weren’t enough, I also realized the incredible treasure I had been given that year in particular. My husband, once bound in lies and shame, had now come clean. His humility and repentance had made it possible for our marriage to have a fighting chance.
What a gift.
I thought of two friends who had walked through similar marital situations and were now navigating this holiday with the unwelcome companions of custody arrangements and divorce lawyers. I found the smallest seed of thankfulness and decided to water it with words of love and appreciation to my husband and my God.
That Christmas changed me. It taught me powerful lessons of gratitude and generosity. I experienced God’s love in a new way as others poured out their resources to cover our emptiness. But mostly, I learned that no matter how difficult my present circumstances, no matter what would've happened, I am not forgotten by God.
During our recovery years, I have seen this truth at work many times -- “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
Do you still find yourself in the dead of night crying your eyes out? Although it may be difficult to see right now, God has not forgotten you. If you’re looking for something to celebrate, please look hard to find something--anything, even something as seemingly minor as your next breath, and the one after that--to be thankful for. May the hope Christ came to bring find its way into your heart and life this season.