Anyone who has seen someone go through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol knows that it is not pleasant. It can be downright awful, actually. But many are surprised to learn that going through withdrawal is a normal part of recovery from addictive sexual sin as well.
Sexual addiction is slightly different from many addictions in that the “drug” is not a chemical that comes from outside the body, but chemicals that the body produces.
By way of illustration, we might consider a conversation between two people. If Jane is talking too loudly to Jim, Jim might let Jane know he is uncomfortable and ask Jane to speak more softly. By doing so, the conversation becomes more enjoyable, more balanced for both Jim and Jane. This would be a healthy system.
But introducing the chemicals released through sexual stimulation would be as if in the same scenario between Jane and Jim, instead of communicating accurately with Jane, Jim stuffs cotton in his ears to cope with Jane’s volume. This would likely have the opposite effect on Jane: she would notice the cotton in Jim’s ears and so speak even more loudly than before to make sure Jim is still able to hear her. In response, Jim would need to put even more cotton in his ears, and on and on it goes.
Likewise, if we have used sexual stimulation to help us feel better when depressed or stressed or sad, in response, our bodies have learned over time to produce less of the chemicals that counter those feelings. In addition, our bodies will also learn to produce more chemicals to counter-balance the stimulation produced by our sexual acting out. In other words, we may find ourselves being more depressed or sad.
And so as we seek to break free from sexual addiction, we must pay attention to our triggers, we must avoid temptation, we must connect with others, and on and on. But we also must go through a very real physical withdrawal.
Temptation will come.
The withdrawal symptoms themselves will scream to be medicated.
But you will not die. Or fall apart. Or explode. This is not a sign that things are getting worse, but a sign that you are heading in the right direction. It is a sign you are making progress!
The enemy and your flesh will respond with an onslaught of familiar justifications and rationalizations:
“I’ll just give in this one last time.”
“I’ll start pressing through withdrawal tomorrow.”
“I’ll wait until I’m in better shape emotionally, physically or mentally.”
“If God really cared about you, He’d give you some relief.”
But all of these not only delay the inevitable, they also reinforce the pattern. Giving in today again only means the pains of withdrawal tomorrow will be even more difficult.
Through all of this, we must have hope. Hope alone will lead us through withdrawal. Withdrawal is not the end, it is simply a part along the way. It may at times feel insurmountable, as though all the weapons of hell were turned on you and temptation never felt so fierce. But it will pass.
It will pass.
God is faithful to walk us through withdrawal. He does not stand aloof to our suffering. He does not scold us for the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. If we’ll let Him, He’ll enter in. He remains faithful to us, and will never leave us nor forsake us.
Bear through withdrawal, however strong it seems. It will not last. You have the tools. You have the allies. You have the Rescuer. Cling to the Cross and do not let go until the storm passes.