When I first started attending recovery groups in 1991, I met a guy who told me he’d had 2 years of freedom from sexual sin, and then fallen. I wondered how someone who’d gone that long could blow it.
It wouldn’t be long before I would learn from experience.

I jumped into the recovery program, achieved 18 months of sobriety, and lost it.

I bounced back, gained another three years of sobriety, and lost it again. The bad news was that for the next three years I averaged a precarious 3 months of freedom with plenty of small compromises in between.

So what happened? Why do guys go so long and then lose it? Here are five reasons why:

1. Pride.
This is number one, by far. A guy gets a few years under his belt, then the others in his recovery circle start looking up to him as the “one with the answers.” He enters the danger is if he starts buying into this and thinking he’s arrived… “Yo church, lemme show you how it’s done.” A guy in pride-mode is living in his flesh-strength, and fighting the lust of the flesh with the flesh never works. It won’t be long before he falls flat on his face.

2. They’re not grounded in humility. All of us are stuck with the evil, wicked nature the Bible calls the flesh until the day we die. Then there is the battle with the god of this world, who smells our weaknesses from miles away. Past freedom from sin is never a guarantee for future victory; we’re always one or two bad decisions away from a nosedive off the cliff. Pride blinds a man to the truth and causes him to rely on himself and his past. When I’m grounded in humility, I realize that I need God every day for the rest of my life to stay free from sexual sin. There’s nothing good inside of me apart from the Lord and I can’t do it without Him. This isn’t going to change until death parts me from my flesh.

3. They start making small compromises. 
After a stretch of freedom, most men don’t fall instantly. What often happens is that they make little compromises that chip away at their resistance. They start allowing sexual fantasy to play in their mind, or they expose themselves to movies or other media they know is dangerous. “Hey, I can handle this; I’ve been sober for two years now.”  Over time these little compromises strip down his resistance, and the next thing he knows he’s flat on his face wondering what happened. Never give lust an inch. If you give it an inch, it will jam its foot in the door and try to gain more ground.

4. They isolate themselves.
It’s easy to get too busy and stop attending support groups or back off from an accountability partner “because we’ve got this licked.” Yeah right. Guys who haven’t walked on water don’t have anything on sin. We need other godly men around us until our time on this earth ends. If you make a small compromise with lust, the easiest and quickest way to douse the sparks of temptation and compromise is to expose it to a friend as soon as you are able. This keeps the door slammed tight on lust and stiffens your resolve to say “no.”

5. They don’t stay alert.  
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Last summer, a day before I was to leave for a three day business trip, the Lord gave me several verses about Him “walking with me through the shadow of death.” I have to confess to being dense and not getting it. The first night, the pull to turn on the TV was consistent but not more than I could deal with. The second night, at another hotel, the battle got a little hotter. Then the third night, it was if the enemy pulled off the gloves and went for it. There were banging noises in the hotel room above late at night, and the pull to turn on the TV went red-hot. I flipped the TV on. Once I crossed that line, the temptation to rent a porn movie increased to bonfire proportions. By God’s grace alone I shut the TV off before it went any further.

I didn’t get God’s warnings before the trip, and it could have cost me dearly. Who knows how far I might have fallen if I’d have rented a porn movie? What I should have done was spend more time on my knees in prayer every night to shore up my defenses and ask for spiritual reinforcements from above. Bible reading and praying Scripture out loud would have helped. I got hit by an onslaught of the enemy and was in a battle zone wearing pajamas. Not smart.

We need to stay prayed up, sober, and on the alert; we won’t see what’s coming at us around the corner until it’s in our face. 

Mike Genung struggled with sexual addiction for 20 years before God set him free in 1999. He is the founder of Blazing Grace, and the author of The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction, available at www.roadtograce.net