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Recovery Secrets

Uncategorized Mar 01, 2024

Note: This is a 3 part email sequence, all the 3 parts have been compiled in this blog post. Each email is separately labeled.

(1/3) Recovery Secrets – Sobriety Is For Suckers

My brother,

Hope things are going well for you.

We're digging into another email series this month, and this time we're going to focus on the nuts and bolts of recovery (including a story about how I ran around my ministry school building totally naked).

Let's go in with an assumption... everything you think you know about recovery is wrong.

Let me give you some background on my story so you see where I'm coming from...

-Born in a pastor's home
-Sunday school super star
-Went to Christian School
-Active on worship teams at church and school
-Skipped Grade 2
-Had a honors degree by the time I was 20

One time, I was eating dinner at my friend's house with his family. 

In the middle of dinner, his younger sister dropped her knife and fork, put her hands on her face, look straight at me and exclaimed, "You're perfect! You do everything exactly right."

If you ask me, I think my friend's sister wanted a scoop of brown sugar if-you-know-what-I-mean...

I digress.

The point is — by all accounts, I had a put together life. Not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of others too, as evidenced by my friend's sister's outburst.

Yet, a full blown porn addiction was lurking in the shadows.

I was seen as a mature, high-integrity, spiritually mature young man, but behind closed doors, porn was running my life.

I told myself I'd quit one day.

That day came in September 2010. I had committed my life to Christ (for real this time) and was ready to clean up my life. 

Part of that clean up meant quitting p-o-r-n.

"Easy", I told myself.

Hah. I was so naive.

I could barely go a day without the stuff.

I am a fairly self-disciplined guy, so eventually I was able to go stretches as long as a few days, even a week.

But one way or another, somehow, porn clawed its way back every single time.

For three years, I pursued sobriety.

Sobriety as in – no longer affected by or indulging in pornography.

I white knuckled the hard moments.
Bounced the eyes.
Installed internet filters.
Even joined an accountability group.

And all of it... to no avail.

I learned something in these first 3 years...

Sobriety is for suckers.

Even in the weeks, and eventually months, where I didn't watch porn...I still felt miserable. 

I lived in fear of a relapse, had no confidence in myself, and more or less played defence every single day I was sober.

Surely the rewards of righteousness were greater than this!

The problem with sobriety is that its emphasis is solely on behavior. Sobriety is binary – either you indulged or you did not.

Little in the Kingdom of God is binary

In fact, many things occur along a spectrum.

For example, Christ-likeness.

The minute we give our lives to Jesus (ok that part is more or less binary, I'll give you that), we do not instantly become Christ-like. 

I was hanging out with a friend who recently committed his life to the Lord. This guy is on FIRE for Jesus, and it is super refreshing to be around him.

He was telling me this story about how during one of his devotional times, God revealed something to him in scripture. He was so excited that as he got the revelation, he said out loud, "Holy sh!t, that's amazing!" šŸ˜‚

We were both laughing as he told the story. The irony of him cussing while reading scripture was hilarious.

But it also demonstrates a point – we're all works in progress, whether saved this year or saved in the 19th century
(PS. If you were saved in the 19th century please reply back to this email with your secrets for living 100+ years).

Sanctification is one of thousands of Kingdom concepts that occur across a spectrum.

FREEDOM is the same. And in case you didn't notice, the word sobriety is not in scripture (as far as I know). But FREEDOM is.

Whom the son sets free is free indeed. (John 8:36)
The truth shall set you free. (John 8:32)
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:17)
You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh (Gal 5:13)

... you get the idea.

Freedom gives you permission to "fail forward". 
Freedom goes one day at a time.
Freedom cares more about the transformation of the heart than the modification of behavior.
Freedom touches every part of your heart and life.

The reality is – if you focus on freedom, instead of sobriety, you will not only make more progress, you will BECOME a better person. One who is more like Christ.

I wasted years of my life chasing sobriety, only to find out that it was a dead end alley littered with dumpster fires called misery, fear, and shame.

The last 2 years of recovery were spent focusing on freedom, and that is when things began to change.

February 2016 was my last relapse – I just celebrated 8 years of no porn!!

And don't you dare think that my situation is special or an exception, because we have helped 100s of other guys experience the same freedom I'm talking about.

This might be time for you to sit down, evaluate your recovery efforts, and ask yourself, "Which of these are contributing to my FREEDOM?"

You may find that there's only one or two things left. That's fantastic.

Now you have clarity, and just a few things to focus all of your precious resources on.

I'm going to give you some gold in the next 2 emails. 

I was tempted to lead with some of my better secrets, but I wanted you to catch this first. Because if you don't switch your efforts from sobriety to freedom, no amount of effort is going to get you the results you want.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about why streak counting is as amateur as Ben Affleck's acting in Batman.

(Hey, what did Ben ever do to you?)

(He ruined Batman for me, that's what he did to me!!!)

 

(2/3) Recovery Secrets – Let's (Not) Go Streaking!

It's November 2014. I'm getting ready to wrap up ministry school and become a pastor.

Myself and two classmates are naked, the lights are off in the room, and I'm on hallway patrol to see if we're clear.

I peek my head out the door and look to the left. No one.

Look right, no one. 

"We're clear! Let's go!" And off we went.

Allow me to give some context...

For starters, I told you we were going to talk about the 'nuts' and bolts of recovery, remember?! Bet you didn't see this coming.

Secondly, and more relevantly, legend had it that the male interns in this ministry school traditionally would do what's called a "naked run" around the school.

I heard this legend when I was a student and thought it was weird.
My first stint as an intern I heard the legend again and warmed up to it.
My second stint as an intern, a small group of us were determined to make it happen.

After months of talking about it, on one particular night, with just the right amount of testosterone, adrenaline and stupidity coursing through our veins, the moons aligned.

The naked run is actually rather simple. You circle both floors of the ministry school building, butt-naked, without being caught.

That last part is the KEY. You CANNOT get caught because, well... it's ministry school. And these things are "allegedly" "frowned upon" in these "environments".

Why's everyone gotta be so uptight these days amIright?

Nah, I'm wrong. Definitely wrong lol. This was stupid on steroids, but stupid is as stupid does. And boy did we ever do stupid.

On my podcast, Unleash The Man Within, we're launching a new segment where we answer listener questions (you can submit yours here btw if you want some specialized coaching on your issue).

MANY of the questions that have come in so far revolve around a common misnomer we see in men who are earnestly pursuing freedom...

Can't get a long enough streak together.

The general thought is, "If my streak gets long enough, I'll have enough momentum that I'll never turn back. So give me the sauce, Sathiya. How do I extend my streak past 30/90/120 days?"

It just doesn't work that way.

Some guys read stories like mine and hear me say, "I've been clean for 8 years" and think, "Wow, I need to get a streak like that too. I'm only at 90 days but it's a start!"

These guys are earnest. Sincere. Genuine. And horribly misled.

When you are starting out in recovery, or even when you are well advanced but not quite at the point of freedom, streak counting is a waste of time.

In fact, not only is it a waste of time, it's counterproductive to your success.

As we learned in yesterday's email, our greatest interest is in matters of the heart, not modification of behavior. 

So when we start paying attention to metrics or data, we want to make sure it is not simply tracking behavior metrics, but rather it is giving us an indicator of whether or not transformation is taking place.

Of course, you cannot quantify heart transformation... or can you?

Call me crazy – and you'd be right to do so after hearing the first half of my naked ministry school run story – but I think it's actually possible to quantify heart transformation.

Leave it to Sathiya to turn a totally heart-based concept into something logical and math-based lol but hear me out...

Imagine you're cheering for your favorite basketball team, and let's say they are a top 5 team in the league.

It's game number 31 of the season, so not quite half way but still far enough in that the games begin to matter.

And on this special night, your well-above average team is playing a well-below average team.

For whatever reason, it's "one of those games" where everything goes WRONG for your team.

The players aren't communicating on defence. The offence can't get in rhythm. And the play calls by the coach are being read by the other team with ease.

Your top 5 team goes on to lose the game badly, disappointing fans and commentators. Even Shaq tweeted his dismay.

Let me ask you a few questions....

How would you feel about your team after a night like that?
Would you be proud to be a fan of this team?
Would be super confident they're going to win the championship come playoff time?

My guess is – probably not. As someone who has cheered for underperforming teams most of his life, I can assure you I am very familiar with these scenarios, and losses like these hurt real good.

But what if I told you that this was your team's FIRST loss of the season?!

That's right. With this loss, your team is 30-1. 

They literally won 30 straight games, and only now have they had their first regulation loss of the season.

How would you answer those questions now that you have a little more context?

See, when you zoom out and observe the trend...this one loss is merely a bump in the road. All the other signs indicate that this is a ridiculously good, record-breaking team that simply had an off night.

They're likely going to regroup and get back on track in the next game. 

So how do we quantifiably track heart transformation?

Rather than counting streaks, we track trends.

The question is not, "How long have you gone without porn?" That causes us to zoom in too closely on individual days. 

Rather, we want to ask "What is the average relapse frequency this month compared to last month? 3 months ago? Etc."

We had a client whose progress through our program went something like this...

Month 0 (pre-program) – 30 slips
Month 1 – 23 slips
Month 2 – 18 slips
Month 3 – 8 slips
Month 4 – 5 slips
Month 5 – 4 slips
Month 6 – 0 Slips

After month 1, it would've been easy to call it quits, throw in the towel, and assume that freedom wasn't possible.

But before he joined the program (Month 0), he was watching porn every day.

So we told him, to go from 30 slips/month to 23 slips/month is an AWESOME improvement. He cumulatively had a whole week porn-free. Keep focusing on the root-level stuff.

No one is bragging to their buddy about only 18 slips in Month 2. But if he went from 30 -> 23 -> 18, we can zoom out and observe that things are in fact headed in the right direction.

And as you can see, by the 6 month mark – he was not just sober. He was FREE.

At that point, even if he did have a relapse (which is highly unlikely when you are focused on heart transformation and have insurmountable momentum), it would be a very minor setback.

There's no meltdown because the streak has collapsed.

Rather, we celebrate the fantastic trend that is developing, knowing that as long as the heart continues to transform, eventually the # of slips will stay at 0 permanently.

The streak is totally irrelevant.

So as you monitor your progress, here's what you do:

1) Start tracking whether or not you relapsed each day. Just a simple spreadsheet saying "Yes" or "No"
2) At the end of the month, count how many of each.
3) Repeat for the next month and see if you observe a change. If nothing changes, make some tweaks.
4) Keep tweaking and adjusting until the trend starts moving in the right direction.

And I cannot stress this enough but make sure you are focusing on solutions that tackle the ROOTS within the HEART. Otherwise this system will totally flop.

Speaking of floppy things...

Our stupid-on-steroids-round-the-ministry-school-naked-run was relatively uneventful on the first floor. Virtually no one in sight.

As we climbed up the stairs to return to the second floor, we heard some footsteps. Someone was on the move, and we were about to quite literally be caught with our tail between our legs.

Then the footsteps stopped and we heard a door slam. We breathed a sigh of relief, ensured the coast was clear, and literally SPRINTED back to our rooms. Caught or not, we were not turning back.

Fortunately, we made it back safe and sound. The legend lives on.

After the run, we realized that those footsteps belonged to someone sneaking into another person's room late at night past curfew.

Technically, we were supposed to reprimand them for such behavior but... well... he who's without sin cast the first stone.

A few years later, long after we had graduated, we told the directors of the school about our not-so-clothed excursion. They were unimpressed. But it felt good to come clean (somewhere in there is a lesson about confession, but I'll save that for another day).

Whether it's naked runs or recovery attempts – streaks aren't going to serve you. 

Instead, track trends. 

PS. Here's the link one more time in case you have a question you want me to answer on my podcast.

 

(3/3) Recovery Secrets – Be Selfish

My brother,

If you're reading this email then it means you magically have some respect left for me despite my running around the ministry school building butt-naked (if you didn't read yesterday's email – you missed out!).

I thank you for your continued support.

With the small shreds of dignity I have left, let's wrap up this series on recovery with a rather counterintuitive concept: Be Selfish.

You see, a lot of people in recovery groups and systems are told that they are selfish.

When you are addicted, you become very concerned with yourself. Your needs, your desire and your wants.

So we conclude, addicts are selfish. Therefore if you're addicted, you're selfish.

I'm yet to see someone construct a positive self-image in recovery by calling themselves selfish. 

There is truth to the statement, don't get me wrong. But often those in recovery over-correct and become TOO selfless.

This looks like:
-Chronic people-pleasing
-Low self-esteem
-No back bone/can't say no
-Dysfunctional relationships
-Sobriety, not freedom

...to name a few classic symptoms.

Today, I want to tell you that if you're going to be successful in recovery, then you will need to be selfish.

In fact, not only do you need to be selfish, but if you AREN'T selfish, your recovery efforts will fall short.

Guess what? If becoming addicted to something is selfish because you only focus on yourself, what do you think you'll be focused on in recovery?

The other people who you watched porn with?
The people who contributed to the trauma that kept you addicted?
The enemy for tempting you and luring you into sin over and over again?

These people may all be at play in one way or another... but guess who is the center of all recovery efforts?

Jesus?

No, this isn't Sunday school.

It's Y-O-U!

You are the one who learns.
You are the one who heals.
You are the one who grows.

There is no recovery without you, and there's a reason for this.

You Matter.

Your life actually matters. That's why being an addict is a problem in the first place.

Because your life has purpose, your life has meaning and value, and your life has been designed by Someone who decided today's world was incomplete without you.

Y-O-U.

I'm not saying you shouldn't build the skill of empathy (which will definitely make you less selfish).
I'm not saying that you are the center of the universe and God's gift to humanity.

What I am saying is... in your recovery efforts...you must prioritize Y-O-U.

This means if you have a hurt wife who feels betrayed, you actually need to deprioritize her healing. She is to prioritize that. 

You must prioritize YOUR recovery.

It's the classic oxygen mask metaphor. Take care of yourself first so you can then take care of others. If you go in reverse order you end up being ineffective on both fronts.

So what does it look like to be selfish in a health way during recovery?

1) Do Something For Yourself Every Day

This doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to cost money.

I've been free 8 years and still do this almost every day. I carve out about 5 minutes of "me" time.

I literally lie down on the bed, stare into the abyss and let my mind wander. It is gloooorious.

It's something small, but it reminds me that I matter. I can't just say I matter or think that I matter – my actions have to reflect it.

2) Say No To Lesser Priorities

We had a client one time who was super excited to join our Signature program...

Then he realized the only group call he could attend was Thursday evenings (we had fewer options back in the day). But there was a problem: Thursday was worship night practice.

Earlier in the call, this dude noted he was in writhing hypocrisy when he served on the worship team because he had this porn addiction for 20+ years.

To me, it seemed obvious that he could step back from the worship team for a bit to do the program.

"I've served on the worship team for years. I can't give it up now," he said.

"What if you gave up the worship team for a few months so you could heal, recover, and then return without the hypocrisy and shame?" I replied.

His eyes opened wide. Everything clicked. The priorities simply needed to be reshuffled for a season.

He thought he was doing the right thing by selflessly serving his local church and keeping it a priority.

In reality, he needed to make himself a priority instead so he could serve more effectively as a worship leader.

3) Invest In Yourself

The men I look up to the most in my life these days aren't afraid to spend on themselves.

Whether it's money, time, or energy – when an opportunity comes along for them to improve, they jump on it.

I used to think this was arrogant and self-centered.

But the results speak for themselves. These guys have successful careers, healthy marriages, and rich spiritual lives, and none of them happened by chance.

They regularly invested in themselves so they could improve and get better.

Investing in yourself is selfish in all the right ways. If you get better, so do the people around you.

There are tons of ways to do this...

It may be a therapist, or a retreat, or a getaway or a program.

There's no right or wrong. But whether you have $100 or $10,000 available – make sure you're investing in yourself.

I just made an investment myself to hire a personal trainer and a naturopathic doctor.

Both are on the expensive side, but as a father, I'm realizing that I want my health to be optimal not only in this season but in the seasons to come.

I've invested in my health so that I can be a better husband, father, and leader, and so that I can be around for a long time to make a difference in this world.

It's rarely convenient. It still sometimes feels uncomfortable to to do it. But when I prioritize myself, everyone around me wins.

If you're ready to make an investment in your recovery, click here to get a free training that explains more about our system that has helped 100s of men experience lasting freedom (not just sobriety).

Maybe it's time for you to be a little more selfish in your recovery.

Let's quickly summarize everything we covered in this email series:

-Freedom > Sobriety. Freedom focuses on the heart, sobriety focuses on behavior. Sobriety is misery, freedom is bliss.
-Track Trends, not streaks. This is the only way to get momentum that lasts.
-Be Selfish. You must prioritize yourself to be successful in recovery.

I can tell you that when I was in recovery, NO ONE was talking about these things.
If they were, it probably would've taken me a few months to recover (instead of a few years).

I pray these accelerate your healing and launch you into full freedom in record time. And like I said, if you want some help, please make sure you reach out to our team.

PS. If you can't find any slots to speak with my team, try this link instead.

 

 

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