Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, I looked over the railing, down into the deep crevasse, and felt dizzy.
“So many years ago, I crawled out of that vast and perilous gaping valley after spending 11 years in the deep pit of unwanted sexual behavior,” I told God in a late-night prayer just after my 40-year-old husband died from cancer.
“Don’t go back,” He reminded me. “Stay on this side of the guard rail, and you’ll be safe.”
It’s one thing to crawl out of several years of promiscuity after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, using only hope to guide me towards what a Christian marriage might look like. But to live it out for almost 20 years was an answer to prayer!
Sexual integrity in a loving, godly marriage was a dream come true.
It wasn’t easy, however. My husband’s problems with pornography and strip clubs paled in comparison to what I saw my Dad struggling with. But I watched my husband, especially in our early dating relationship, crawl out of his own Grand Canyon towards the light of the Lord in his life – using xxxchurch to help him maintain his own sexual integrity.
For years, my late husband and I worked together through our own version of unwanted sexual behavior, which looked different for each of us. It became clear early on that we were compatible accountability partners.
Sometimes, our phone calls happened several times on the same day. Our recovery work meant something really important in our marriage:
My husband and I learned to give each other grace.
But when my husband died after a five-year cancer battle, being single and 40 created a whole new level of recovery for me without one of my main supporters in my corner, daily.
When no one is looking over your shoulder anymore, this is where the rubber meets the road.
I just passed the 22-year mark of sobriety. It hasn’t been without strain, struggle, or setbacks. Thankfully I’ve been able to keep my physical boundaries intact all that time, as though I had a railing that protected me from falling back into the Grand Canyon of pain from promiscuity and porn.
Over time, the only way this happened was after I built boundaries (like a guard rail) in order to gain long-term sobriety.
In those early days, I had to change every aspect of my life, brick by brick, like the Bible story where Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after they were burned and broken down.
The first boundary brick I needed was new friends. I found friends who would accept me, warts and all, who had different lifestyle choices than my former friends had, and were having fun doing activities through the church or with hobbies.
The next brick was the music I listened to. I made the choice to get rid of the old music that reinforced the life I used to live.
I did the same for TV and movies I watched. I shifted much of what I saw with my eyes to Christian-based music and film projects, especially in the early days, and used discernment as needed for the rest.
The third boundary I had to add was to read books and blogs on how to obtain and maintain my sexual sobriety in each area of struggle. Regularly. And brush up when I felt like I was heading down the wrong pathway.
The fourth boundary brick was that I had to redefine what I found fun. Going to church became enjoyable because I loved learning more and more about the God who set me free from my past and showed me a different way to live.
This was a radical change from my childhood ideas of church! Stepping into a new life with new priorities took time, but was so rewarding.
My last brick was the most crucial but most difficult one. I had to be accountable to God and people on a regular basis. This was especially true for the specific times where I struggled the most, a very humbling experience.
Of course, I had a bonus brick that came into my life, which I never expected: battle gear! When Nehemiah’s men were rebuilding the wall, they built with one hand and had their swords in the other. There was no way that I could build a new life of sexual integrity without the Word of God teaching me how to fight and win against unwanted sexual behavior of all kinds.
After my husband died five years ago, it was as though I had to re-learn those same boundaries, because I found myself in a much different place being single than when I was married. But at the end of the day, adding those bricks into my life a second time has been second nature because I have some great memories from decades of overcoming temptation, using solid boundaries to say no, and walking towards choices that lead to life, love, and health.
Is being married easier to thwart off temptation to unwanted sexual behavior? Or is the unmarried life easier? Honestly, now that I’ve been single for five years, but with my husband for 16 years, I’d say that there are challenges in both camps.
The unifying fact is that long-term recovery strategies work regardless of your age or marital status.
Have you struggled with unwanted sexual behavior, like porn, masturbation, affairs, hookups, or anything else? Please feel free to join one of our same-gender small groups and get connected to a community of awesome people who are on the recovery journey with you through Live Free Or Live Free Wives.
Make sure to check out our awesome resource When Shame Gets Real written by CEO Carl Thomas!
This book is raw and right on. Carl doesn’t pull any punches, and you’ll find healing when you recognize that shame doesn’t have the final say in this battle.
And if you have any questions about anything related to sexuality, feel free to ask us during Office Hours. Nothing is off-limits.
Don’t hold back!