In his book Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction written by Dr. Mark Laaser he gives us a glimpse into the life of those addicted to sex. Mark Laaser set out to increase understanding of sexual addiction as a disease. He leads us to discover how sexual addiction takes over the life of the sexually addicted person and causes devastation from a Christian world view. In his book Dr. Laaser examines what he calls the building blocks behaviors that begin the cycle that leads to sexual addiction, and the family dynamics that contribute to sexual addiction. The sexual addiction in the church is addressed along with how the church can recover.
Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction written by Dr. Mark Laaser (2004) analyses sexual addiction from a Christian world view. Dr. Laaser (2004) is a recovering sex addict with personal experience of the pain and shame of sexual addiction. Sexual addiction is described as a sickness involving any type of uncontrollable sexual activity (Laaser, 2004). Unlike other diseases, Christian sex addicts have the added complication of not seeking help because they feel they will be hated, shunned, laughed at, or punished if anyone knew their sin (Laaser, 2004): however, as Laaser (2004, p. 224) stated in his book “while sexual sin is devastating, there is hope for healing”.
In his book Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction Dr. Mark Laaser (2004) identifies sexual addiction, the cycle that causes it, and hope for those who are sexually addicted. His theory of sexual addiction is that it is a disease and immoral. As with all sin, it escalates into a downward spiral that if left untreated can cause death to the sinner. Laaser (2004) believes although sexual addiction is a sin it is also a disease. This leaves little doubt for Dr. Laaser, that “we are engaged in warfare when we attempt to heal sexual addiction (Laaser, 2004, p. 25).” He believes the onset of sexual addiction consist of building block behaviors, these are sexual activities that cause the cycle of other sexual behaviors.
Laaser (2004, p. 29) explains “these building block behaviors are fantasy, pornography, and masturbation.” These behaviors cause a cycle where the addict can never find satisfaction. In this cycle of sexual addiction, the addict tries to be in control but cannot gain control without healing. As with most sins once caught in the cycle of sexual addiction it is impossible to get out without help. I believe that the church is responsible for helping to heal people who are sick. Just as a person with diabetes or any other chronic disease the sexually addicted person needs a healer.
Dr. Laaser (2004, p. 76) discusses the roots to sexual addiction, which he says “begins in families that possess unhealthy dynamics and characteristics.” One way families’ express unhealthy dynamics are through boundaries. Boundaries can be too loose or too rigid. Some families may have both loose and rigid boundaries, which causes confusion in children.
Rules are another force at work contributing to unhealthy families. Dr. Laaser (2004) states some families have rules of conduct that prevent tension from getting out of control. These rules are probably never spoken or written down but the whole family knows them. Some of these rules are not talking about feelings, problems or embarrassing situations, this could be hiding one’s feelings or denying problems (Laaser, 2004). The third category that contributes to unhealthy family dynamics are the roles people play in the family unit. These roles can be unhealthy when a person is forced into playing a role he was not created to play (Laaser, 2004). The final category is addictions, addictions can be substance or behavioral things that have become repetitive in an unmanageable way and lead to destructive consequences.
As a child I grew up in a family that had both loose and rigid boundaries concerning sex. I was told sex was something you do not do, besides that it was something you do not speak of. I grew up not knowing what healthy boundaries were. This helps me to understand how a person could become sexually addicted. I know I could empathize with a person who is sexually addicted. As a Christian I have learned what healthy boundaries are and what my role is as a person in Christ. I believe that sexual addiction is immoral, but it is also a disease. I also believe that an addict cannot get out of the cycle of sexual addiction without help. Therefore as the church we are to be the hands of Christ reaching out to help those who need healing from sexual addiction.
Treatment of Sexual Addiction
When seeing new patients Dr. Laaser (2004) asks three spiritual questions. The first question is “do you want to get well (pg.122)?” He relates this question to the story of the man at the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus asked the man “do you want to get well”. The correlation is that to get well the person must want to get well. They must give up their past pain and suffering to God, and find alternative ways to find love and nurturing they need. This requires a lifetime of discovery, but it all starts with willingness (Laaser, 2004). The last two questions are “what are you thirsty for (Laaser, 2004, p. 123)” and “are you willing to die to yourself (Laaser, 2004, p. 124).” The addict must be ready to be healed, be thirsty for God, and be willing to die to themselves in order to begin the healing process.
Dr. Laaser’s treatment also involves ten components of accountability. Accountability is necessary in order for the addict to maintain sexual purity (Laaser, 2004). He relates the accountability to the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the city that has been destroyed. As in Nehemiah the addict must have someone to be accountable to.
When the addict has agreed to treatment Dr. Laaser recommends there be a professional in place to care for them. According to Laaser (2004) there are a growing number of Christian Counselors trained to give a formal diagnosis. The addict should be taken to this professional immediately to begin treatment.
Dr. Laaser then gives five components of treatment of sexual addiction. These include stopping sexual behavior, stopping rituals, stopping fantasy, healing despair and healing shame. Elements of all five of these are required for an effective treatment plan (Laaser, 2004). I believe that learning never ends especially in regards to human behavior. I believe I have the empathy and positive regard for a person that has a sexual addiction to treat them. After working with addicts for a year I learned that this disease is habitual and that it is a cycle that is not easily broken. It takes patience and perseverance to work with an addict. Most of all I believe it take compassion for that person. Knowing that recovery is a lifelong process and takes a life time of work.
Sexual Addiction and the Church
A leadership Journal survey revealed that 23 percent of 300 pastors had done something sexually inappropriate with someone other than their spouse (Laaser, 2004,p.194). There are a variety of things that contribute to pastors’ sexual vulnerability. However it is still the responsibility of the pastor to get help and not act on these vulnerabilities. In order for the church to heal Laaser (2004) believes we must bring healing to two groups: primary victims and secondary victims. Primary victims are those who have been sexually abused by leaders. Secondary victims are those in the congregation who were betrayed because of faith in the pastor. In caring for primary victims Dr. Laaser recommends that the church provide advocates who can guide these victims in the process of healing.
The church should provide fellowship to the victims, and counseling. Care for secondary victims involves breaking the silence, the grieving process, reconciling the victims to the church, and prevention. Prevention involves developing healthy boundaries in the congregation in order to prevent wounds. Dr. Laaser has several opinions in which I agree. One of the most important parts of healing the church as a whole is to develop healthy boundaries in the church. This would prevent people from being wounded and wounding others.
The church as a whole must heal the pastors and the congregation. Offering pastors help so that they do not become burdened by their job, and making them be accountable to someone. I also agree that we must speak out and not hide any indiscretion in the church and when there is an incidence it should be brought out in the open. This would stop perpetrators from continuing to harm others.
The addict is never completely cured from sexual addiction. It takes a lifetime of work and perseverance to break the patterns that cause a person to be sexually addicted. To recover from the trap of addiction a person has to come to the end of themselves and admit they need help. The shame and fear from their habits make it hard for the addict to trust enough to seek help. Dr. Laaser stated accepting their powerlessness over their disease leaves them with a great humility and need for God, which is a deep aspect of their spiritual healing (p. 223).
Laaser, M.R. (2004). Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.