If You Could only Do One Thing to Quit Porn

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“If he would only read his Bible or pray more” has been the encouragement of many a well-meaning addiction recovery group. Tey are not wrong, but the answer is incomplete. Treating a pornography addiction as wholly a spiritual problem, when there are serious emotional and physical aspects as well.

For example, many assume that the porn addict is hedonistically enjoying every moment. Reveling in the unholy pleasure. But when research has been done on addictive behavior, the experience of the addict is not so much one of pleasure. Rather, it is a feeling of craving. I can attest to this in my own experience. I would often come away from a session of looking at porn feeling very disappointed in it. Why I would expose myself to that kind of shame for such a small payoff. I wish someone had told me that I was experiencing not a hedonistic desire for pleasure but rather a craving they had dug itself into my mind. How helpful it would have been to look at it and see it for what it was, a craving that would not satisfy (for more information on this, I would recommend the excellent book Change Anything:The New Science of Personal Success).

It has been useful to me since learning this. When I am tempted. I can name the temptation for what it is: a craving from my past that won’t pay off. Of course this doesn’t fix everything, but it is one of several tools that, when all working together, make the addiction beatable. Knowledge of my adversary is key.

Recently I was introduced to a wonderful series of videos called the Conquer Series. These five DVDs were by far the most thorough treatment of all three aspects of pornography addiction. It takes into account the emotional, the physical, and the spiritual. If you do what Ted Roberts says, you will eventually overcome your porn addiction. Dr. Roberts says it take about 2-5 years. It took me more like 8 years, so I guess I’m kind of slow.

A warning, some of you will go to the website and watch the trailer.  The special effects will look a little corny to you and the interviews will sounds too Christiany. You will then decide that this series really isn’t worth a look. That is a mistake. Take it from me that this DVD series is gold and you are a fool to turn it down. If you would like to overcome your pornography addiction, find a conquer group and watch the series.

You will thank me one day.

-Chip

The Sideways One above is courtesy of Daniel X. Niel and is used with permission.

Victory Over Pornography

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It’s been a long time since this blog was first founded. I wrote the first posts in an attempt to get control of a difficult habit in my life. I suppose it was a way to have you help me get control of my own cravings. I thought I would give you an update of where things are at for me. My porn habit is now well controlled. I continue to attend my weekly group but have not had a slip-up in well over a year. In the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous, I will always be an addict, but I am no longer a slave.

A porn habit can be conquered

At first, I was doubtful that this was possible. After many failures and the crippling shame, I wondered if porn was a permanent feature of my life. In the decade since those dark days, my progress has been slow but steady. If I had known then what I know now, I’m sure it would have been a much shorter journey. But such as life. We don’t know what we don’t know.

One of the most important discoveries I’ve made is that pornography is driven by not just a spiritual problem but also physical and emotional problems as well. I didn’t know that I was using the easy pleasure of pornography to mask the loneliness and insecurity I had. Medicating my pain like any good addict. I also hadn’t realized how much my own brain conspired against me to compulsively return. That is not to say I am not guilty, I certainly am. But it is a more holistic explanation for why it was so hard to quit.

The Cycle of Shame

Failing to understand the complexity of the problem made me very harsh with myself. Increasing the shame I felt about my pornography problem. The shame would drive me to the only thing I knew that I could feel better: the porn. This terrible cycle, all too common with addictions, would have been easier to resist had I understood exactly what was going on. If I were to go back and speak to Chip from 10 years ago, I would spend a lot of time educating him on how his brain works.

Ironically, those of us who battle with addiction end up being twice blessed. By addressing the root causes of my own compulsive behavior, I was able two find my own loneliness and address that. I was able to build a more authentic relationship with my wife. I was able to come up with a more robust view of what the cross of Jesus means. I was not a nice guy who deserve to be forgiven. I was a compulsive rebel who was deeply loved anyway.

Help from the Other Side of Porn Addiction

So I want to speak to you, the man or woman who is currently struggling with pornography. The person who embraces those naked images and is crushed by shame. I have hope for you. I’ve learned that many if not most of those who try to stop do. If you have the drive to quit, it really is a matter of how long it takes for you to quit, and not a matter of whether you will succeed. You can and will if you don’t quit.

So be encouraged. You have been unable to stop because there is more for you to learn about yourself and the God who made you. There are joys unlooked-for and double blessings waiting for you to find them. You don’t know the good things that you will find on the other side of your porn addiction. So keep fighting! It is worth it. As someone who is now on the other side, I can tell you the view is great from here.

-Chip

The lovely image above is courtesy of Tom Newby and is used with permission

Jesus Is Not on the Ballot

Ballot, Election, VoteThe evangelical community is struggling with a crisis of conscience over Donald Trump. What do you do with a man who promises Supreme Court justices who could end the serious evil of abortion, yet likely sexually assaulted several women? He is a blowhard narcissistic jerk, but he has an (R) in front of his name.

I won’t rehash the debate. Those who know me know how I feel. I want to speak to evangelicals about an idol they have cherished for generations. The Christian church has lost its voting majority for the first time in US history. There may be more people who say they are Christians voting than people who say they aren’t, but I am convinced that most voters are not looking carefully at scripture as they make their decision.

My own memory only extends into the 80s, but I remember the Moral Majority and how aggressively they attacked Bill Clinton. To be sure, President Clinton deserved the attacks. Christians at the time were somewhat cavalier about how much a politician needed to cater to us. Anyone who got on the wrong side of a the Moral Majority stood a good chance of being on the wrong side of an election.

This led to a dangerous cancer in American Christians. It led us to have faith in elections. As long as 51% of voters picked our candidate, peace an justice would rule the day. We traded in our God for a ballot box.

Today, that has changed, and I feel the fear among Christian. On the heels of the Supreme Court mandating gay marriage, we saw the great institutions that we had deified turning from saviors into demons. With our electoral majority gone, we looked for a savior. Instead we got Donald Trump.

Brothers an sisters, the scriptures are clear. It is not 51% of Americans who pick our leaders. It is God. He sometimes appoints evil leaders and sometimes good ones. Do not have faith in America, elections, presidents, or Supreme Court Justices. Have faith in God. Jesus did not die to Make America Great, he died to bring his bride home with him.

So have hope. Whoever is president, God is still on his throne. If we spent half the time hand wringing about the presidency actually praying for our leaders and country, much more good would be done. God was on the throne guiding the world when Nero and Hitler were in power. He can handle today.

Jesus is not on the ballot in November. He was already appointed to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Don’t have faith in elections. Have faith in Jesus.

-Chip

 

Lessons from the Ebola Conference

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As many of you know, I recently went to the CDC’s Ebola Safety Training that was held at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Aniston, AL. I was expecting a good experience, but it surpassed my expectations. The practice we received was excellent.

Part of our days were spent in lectures to fills us in on the most up-to-date information about Ebola in this outbreak. Some of this was humorous (we can’t have a whole conference and never laugh), some was sobering, and most was quite enlightening.

I wanted to share with you some of the better quotes from the conference.

“If you find a chimpanzee dead in the jungle, don’t eat it

I can’t say I’ve ever been tempted to eat a chimpanzee even if it were already dead. But, if I were staring in the jungle and food was lying right there, I would be tempted. Unfortunately, Ebola kills chimpanzees just as well as it kills humans. Some of the outbreaks in the past have been started with a dead chimpanzee found in the jungle.

In fact, don’t even touch it.

“Your hands can kill you”

We touch our faces a lot. Ebola and most infectious illnesses need to come into your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes. The dirtiest part of your body, your hands, need to keep away from your face when working with Ebola.

This require a surprising amount of discipline. As I am typing this, I rubbed my right eye without thinking. It is such a constant part of our lives to touch our faces. When working with Ebola, this needs to stop.

This is most important in the Ebola Treatment Unit. With every surface as a possible place for Ebola to hide, we are not to adjust our goggles or fix our respirator. If we must fix something, we need to doff out of the unit to do it safely.

“Ebola is the Anti-Compassion Disease”

Everything we do that shows compassion or care for someone is forbidden by Ebola. We can’t hug them, care for them, feed them without taking a serious risk. All human contact is cut off by this ruthless menace.

Imagine for a moment that everyone who cared for you was wearing a giant orange suit. The only skin you can see if their eyes in the goggles. When I was practicing in the ETU, I couldn’t recognize my classmates. Ebola even denies you the compassionate looks of those caring for you.

The worst case of all for this was the very real case of when a pregnant woman comes into an ETU with Ebola. The outcome for her and her baby is not good. She will almost certainly spontaneously abort the baby and then she will almost certainly die.

So the question arose, how should we handle such a case? Compassion drives us to hold her hand through labor and help deliver the baby. Caution warns us that there are a LOT of body fluids involved in delivery and we would be under a tremendous risk of being exposed to Ebola. There are no easy answers.

Ebola is the anti-compassion disease.

“Your first responsibility is to keep yourself safe.”

As health care workers, we generally think of the patient first in priority. Not so with Ebola. Our safety take preeminence. If I should get Ebola, the first casualty will be the reputation of the Ebola unit in the community. Credibility is a precious thing in these settings. Many will wonder at us if we can’t keep ourselves safe.

The second casualty will be the negative press worldwide which will discourage others from going into these places to help. Additionally, the huge resources that will be needed to send us to our home country will further burden stretched resources.

The third casualty could be me. While no American health care staff have died of Ebola, it is a dangerous illness. I could die. I could spread it to others.

So, the most important thing is that I keep myself safe. My second priority is to keep my team safe. My third priority is to care for the patients.

“Ebola can be beaten”

While Ebola is a challenging disease, it is not the scariest disease humanity has faced. With several vaccines in the works and a number of possibly effective drug, this may be the first and last great Ebola outbreak. Those drug and vaccines are months to years away, but once we have them in our arsenal, we should have the upper hand.

Even without them, we can take on Ebola now. If the success of the ETUs in Liberia has taught us anything, it is that with a concerted effort, Ebola can be pushed back. We need to keep up those efforts.

-Chip

 

Life in Fort McClellan

1280px-CDP_7-28-07_Smaller[1]Today is the first day of my training for Ebola care in a tropical setting. I arrived last night at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL. I was surprised to learn that this is the site of the now close Fort McClellan. It closed in 1999 and changed into a training facility for various disasters. Among the cooler things that are kept here is active ricin and Anthrax. They actually work with the real stuff. Fortunately, the Ebola students don’t have to work with anything so deadly.

The accommodations here are very nice. Every meal is all you can eat and delicious. The old mess hall has been converted into a regular restaurant. As pleasant as the food is, the company is even better. I’ve spoken with the heads of disaster preparedness for hospitals, overseas doctors and nurses, and everyone in between.

We are staying in the equivalent of a private hotel room. I share a bathroom with the room next to mine, but otherwise you wouldn’t know it was different from a hotel, complete with an ice machine at the bottom of the stairs.

The only caveat to all this is that they do believe in a military schedule. Classes get going at 7:30 AM and the place really gets going at 5:30 AM. Classes run until 5:30 PM, so lots to learn in these next few days.

One of the funniest things for me has been watching the local news this morning. They are lamenting the ‘Cold Front’ and ‘Cold Conditions’ this morning. It was 39 degrees. I hesitate to mention that where I came from, 10 plus inches of snow are supposed to fall today.

Well, time to head off to my first classes. I expect to bake quite nicely in the full Ebola attire.

-Chip

Twenty-Seven Years Ago Today

birthdayI know that most of you think of July 21st as the day that Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Or maybe you think of it as the day Belgium won independence from the Netherlands. The Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21st. For the TV enthusiast, July 21st is the first day in 1931 where TV was broadcast seven days a week in New York City. NATO was founded in 1949 on this day. In Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first woman to be an elected head of state on July 21st. In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released.

I know that’s what all of you think of when I mention July, 21st, but that’s not what matters to me. On July 21, 1987 I was no doubt enjoying the summer. I had just turned four and had recently moved to East Tennessee. Maybe I picked blackberries that day. I was probably looking out at the “cow field” in our back yard.

Far across the country, a little girl was born. She was adorable, the second daughter of the family.

Of course, I had no idea that this birth mattered. I hadn’t heard of the city and probably didn’t even know of the state she was born in. It would be almost 13 years before that little girl made any difference to me at all.

We met shortly before both of our birthdays in late June of 2001. We met in a circus tent on a sweltering Florida day. She was a very thin little girl and I was an oaf. Maybe a friendly oaf, but I am under no illusions that my stunning looks and boyish charm had anything to do with our friendship.

A little over four years later, I married that little girl who was no longer a little girl.

This is her eighth birthday as my wife. Certainly this birthday is better for me than it is for her. If you consider how we have aged, I am getting my first gray hairs (a sparse few) and my earliest wrinkles. She, on the other hand, still has smooth skin, sweet eyes, and a…ahem…foxy body!

All of you can can remember Harry Potter today, but I have something much better. I have my delightful, beautiful, wise, and thoughtful friend. I love you Sam. I’m so happy to have you!

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

-Chip

The cake above is courtesy of Will Clayton and is used with permission

Sacrificing Game of Thrones

movie theaterAbout a year ago my wife and I thought we would try out the show Game of Thrones. The first episode of the first season was interesting enough. The plot was engaging and I could see it building into an interesting story, but the main thing I noticed was multiple nude scenes.

We watched another episode and promptly concluded that Game of Thrones was not OK for me to watch with my history of struggling with porn. The sacrifice wasn’t great on my part. I was certainly disappointed, but Jesus is worth it.

Several months ago, Cap Stewart published an article on his blog called Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture that turned my stomach. Young actresses have been manipulated into nude scenes through means that would be considered rape if it weren’t broadcast on movie screens across the country.

He followed that up with another article asking, What About Actors the Willingly Undress for the Camera? Surely there are actors and actresses who do this without being manipulated. He compellingly argues that we are participating in an abusive relationship by sending our money to the studios and directors who pressure young men and women strip in front of a camera crew (and an ogling world).

These were very powerful arguments to me. Nudity is not simply about the harm I do to myself by viewing it, but also by the support I lend an abusive relationship by watching it. I am encouraging men and women to be abused by sending my money.

With these new convictions, I didn’t have to test my conscience with the new Godzilla film (that would have been tough). Then X-Men: Days of Future Past came out and on reviewing the film, I found that Hugh Jackman has a scene where he was nude on set.

Now the test had come, would I support a film where a man was asked to be nude on set. I do not struggle with same-sex attraction, so my own temptation is not a problem. It is of concern that Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique who is a questionably nude character. Do I watch this film that very possibly pressured Hugh Jackman into nudity?

I decided that I could not, in good conscience, support this film.

Cue the parade, fireworks, and celebratory speeches. Everyone should now sing my praises as I have made this massive sacrifice for the Kingdom. God sure owes me now. I have sacrificed a whole movie to him. Yes, I took an entire motion picture and told God that he could decide whether I watched it or not. He is lucky to have a follower so dedicated.

I think this highlights one of the silliest parts of this debate about what films we should not watch for reasons of conscience. We as a people seem to think we are doing something extraordinary to give up an hour and a half of entertainment. If we can’t give up a movie for conscience sake, how will we ever take our cross and follow Jesus?!?

Part of the reason this is so difficult is our culture (and particularly our youth culture) places a premium on being relevant and  in touch with culture. We live in a day where failure to see a movie is perceived as being out of touch: irrelevant. No one wants to be irrelevant.

This argument is compelling only if we have idolized being relevant. Do you know what is relevant in all cultures at all times? Being delighted and delightful. How is this accomplished? Loving a delightful God. Certainly many who have not seen that God is sweet to be with will not understand why you would ever choose to give up a movie or money or comfort or you life. This will be mysterious to them. Why would you ever do that?

This is a very valuable question for them to ask.

The world does not need more cultured copies of itself wearing cross necklaces. No, the world needs a savior who loves it and died for it. Christian, we need to value holiness far more than relevance.

So my challenge to you is to say that you should not support any movie with any nudity. You are most likely supporting an abusive relationship. Yes, you will be odd and the conversation where you tell your friends that you can’t see that movie will be strained. It will have never occurred to them that this movie is harmful.

Not until you showed them.

We have a short life to live. If relevance and holiness are at odds, by all means leave relevance behind. Maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased to use your irrelevance to bring another sinner to Jesus.

As it turns out, a saved sinner is quite relevant in Heaven.

-Chip