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How does someone like Marsha get free and stay free? It's a process that involves several components. Not all sex addicts need to participate in each of these processes, though most women who are sexually addicted have to work through the list.
1. Honesty. She must be honest about herself, which means she can't have any secrets. Some women even go so far as to take polygraph exams so their husbands can know for sure that they are not engaging in sexual behaviors outside their marriages.
2. Accountability and support. Another component of this healing process is the need for accountability and support. Few churches have support groups for female sex addicts, though church would be a great place for this type of ministry. Some sexually addicted women attend a secular 12-step support group called Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Others locate a support and accountability structure with other Christian women in their church.
3. Spiritual growth. Another aspect of the healing process requires a daily regimen that fosters spiritual growth. Reading God's Word, praying and fasting are great disciplines for those with addictions. Reading literature about recovering from female sex addiction is a crucial element in understanding the addiction and the recovery process. The Secret Solutions Workbook has more than 100 practical exercises that female addicts can walk through along with a female accountability partner or therapist.
4. Christian counseling. Christian counseling can also be very helpful. Unfortunately there are few Christian counselors who deal with sexual addiction. In my office I am blessed to have a female counselor who is a recovering sex addict and who offers telephone counseling and three-day intensive workshops for female sex addicts.
Safe People, Safe Havens
Women such as Marsha can get free and stay free by following a lifestyle of honesty, accountability, support and spiritual growth. I have seen so many women, including former prostitutes, break free from their sexual addictions.
It's beautiful to see God restore a woman to her original grace and giftedness. As she gets free from her sexual behaviors, she often senses a spiritual calling.
In the research we conducted for the book She Has a Secret, we found that women who overcome sexual addiction are twice as likely to start regularly attending church and become active members. Without shame or fear they can lift up holy hands and worship God with sincere adoration. My experience is that those who are forgiven much, love much—just as Jesus said about the woman who washed His feet with her tears and hair.
I encourage churches to start Freedom Groups, which are accountability work groups for men and women to break free from sexual addiction. This is a vast plague facing the church today. If the church is deaf to these cries, sex addicts will have to seek secular help. Today's church can take the lead in healing the brokenhearted.
Regularly I am seeing women and men called into this healing ministry. What a great day it is when the sexually broken in the world can go to a church to get and stay free.
My prayer is that any woman struggling with a secret life of sexual addiction will take the next step and tell a safe person. She needs to ask God for direction and to send her someone who can help. Who knows—she may eventually become that safe haven for others who are enduring the torment of a secret life.
What happened to Marsha? She's doing great! Not only is she a strong, beautiful Christian woman, but she is happily married and sexually pure. She graduated from college and is now helping other women to overcome struggles similar to hers.
Isn't that just like Jesus, to take a person such as Marsha and raise her out of the rubble of abuse, neglect, pain and shame and move her into a life-giving ministry? I have seen the process of this miracle repeated so often in our office that we've come to expect miraculous outcomes when hurting souls walk through our door!
Douglas Weiss, L.P.C. is executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center. He is the author of books including She Has a Secret: Understanding Female Sexual Addiction and the Secret Solutions Workbook, both from Discovery Press.
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