Becoming sober from an addiction to pornography has cost me a lot. It’s come with a serious price tag attached to it. Years of my life wasted on websites and women who neither knew me nor cared about me. Relationships that were compromised sexually and crumbled to the ground. Living as a shallow human being for close to 13 years of my life.

And yet… today I can say truthfully that I wouldn’t change a thing. Because while gaining sobriety came at a serious cost, it meant that I could finally live an authentic life. It felt like coming up out of a thousand feet of water breathing real air for the first time. I was free.

While I’ve been celebrating the gift of sobriety in my life for the last four years, it’s a gift that was not given freely.

First, it needed to be earned. I needed to first become broken in my life, aware of the pain I was causing myself and others. There was work that needed to be done in my heart, my mind, and even in the area of my emotions. At first this was painful, but I began to get counseling for the addiction I had hidden for so long. The process of sobriety had begun.

Next, sobriety needed to be learned. In many ways, the initial days of sobriety made me feel like a little kid who tries tying his shoes for the first time: either he gets frustrated and ends up tripping on his own feet or he ties the most horrendous knot you’ve ever seen in your life. For me, I had to learn to become credible again. I had to learn how to tell the truth–even when it hurt. I had to learn how to get accountable and share my feelings to a group of men who struggled like I did.

Last, sobriety in my life has been continually cultivated over time. Quite honestly, sobriety takes practice. It doesn’t come all at once. It takes time to build integrity and be given trust again from other people. Sobriety takes work and thankfully it’s roots grow deeper every day.

Ultimately, sobriety comes at the decision of the one who is sick. It’s the greatest “gift” that must be pursued and tended to on a daily basis. And it’s also the greatest gift I could ever have on my Christmas list–but it’s a gift I have to keep giving to myself. Because when I give it to myself, I’m also giving it to all those around me whom I love.