In a previous post, I talked about “The 5 Stages of Sexual Addiction Recovery”.

1.  Crisis Stage
2.  Picking Up the Pieces Stage
3.  Repair Stage
4.  Strengthening and Conditioning Stage
5.  Maintenance Stage

I wanted to talk more about the Maintenance Stage.  This is part of the “big picture” of sexual addiction recovery.

The idea of the Maintenance Stage is to be at a place in your recovery where you are strong enough to do the fundamentals.  You have good systems in place, and you are actively maintain your support system.

You hit the maintenance stage somewhere in your recovery when:

  • Your crisis is over
  • You are having no relapses
  • There are minimal slips
  • A healthy sexuality is being established
  • You have a healthy network of relationships established (support structure)
  • You have developed a good offensive and defensive strategy

I wrote a blog a while back called “Lessons I Learned About Sexual Recovery From My Trumpet Teacher”.  The gist of the blog was that performers get to the point when they can self-diagnose.  They know when they are having trouble with a piece of music and can isolate the problem.  They know the importance of going back to the fundamentals to get through harder passages.  They also know when to call for help from another teacher.

If you are in the maintenance stage, you are still working to maintain health.  You can’t stay healthy if you are neglecting your recovery.  By this point in your recovery, you have learned to identify triggers and temptations, pause, and call a friend.  You have learned the things to avoid, and have set up roadblocks and boundaries to keep you away from danger zones.  You are proactive in your recovery instead of reactive.

Many jump into maintenance level way too quickly.  We think we are much stronger than we really are.  Take your time.  It is best to let others tell you that you are ready for this level.

Maintenance level is a level where we have to be diligent.

I suspect the answer for many reading this is “no”.

You have to have an active network setup before you go to maintenance level and stop attending support group.  You have to have a track record of doing well with your accountability.  You need to have developed a “pause” between trigger and acting out.  You need to know how important it is to call someone the instant you get edgy, or even before.  Your support group is still an important leg of your maintenance level.

If you have a network of intimate relationships relationships with other guys that can meet the same needs as your support group, then try it.

Having other guys in our life is the only way we’re going to know if we’re going off course.  We are not the best judges of our own course.  We can easily be deceived by our own sin nature.

[Blog & Podcast – “You Gotta Have Other Dudes in Your Life”]


Q:  Is there a maintenance level in recovery?

Q:  When does a person get to this level?

Q:  What else does a person need to do when he’s at the maintenance level?
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I want to offer some top tips for you who are new to recovery.  These are lessons I’ve had to struggle through in my own recovery, but I find them to be universal with most guys who want freedom from sexual sin.

1.  The quicker you go to counseling the better.
Sexual sin is MUCH bigger than you.  You need wise people around you to help you process your crisis and help you go underneath the surface.  We have been acting out sexually for many reasons.  Counselors know what questions to ask and have worked with may who struggle just like you.  Break the ice on going to a counselor.  Find a Christian counselor who has training in sexual struggles.  It is money well spent!

2.  The quicker you go to a support group the better.
Second only to a counselor, a support group is the best place to find healing and victory over sexual sin.  You need to know you’re not alone.  You need other guys to walk with you in the mud.  You need to learn to come out of isolation and into real relationships.  Support groups do all that and more.

3.  Sexual struggles open the door for God to work in many areas.
At first, we think recovery is only about stopping our sexual behaviors.   But God ends up using your sexual struggles as a springboard to work on many issues in your life.  We are out of wack sexually, but also relationally, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  Expect God to do His good surgery in many areas of your life.

4.  Sex is not your greatest need.
One of the biggest lies we believe is that we can’t live with out sex and that sex is the highest pleasure achievable.  Our greatest needs are in other areas.  We have a deep need to know God.  We have a deep need to know others and to be known by others.  The sooner you understand that it’s not about the orgasm, the further along in recovery you’ll be.  Trust me on this one!

5.  Recovery has little to do with your outward behavior.
This is probably the biggest shocker to me.  I focused on my behaviors for decades and was counseled to do the same.  Our outward sexual behaviors are the tip of the iceburg.  The bulk of our recovery is underneath the surface.  We need healing from wounds.  We need to learn to express our emotions in a healthy way.  We need deep intimate friendships.  We need to learn to be selfless and serve others.  Stopping behaviors is relatively easy.  Healing on the inside takes much more time and effort.

6.  It’s worse than you think.
We are not the best judges of our own sexual health.  We have been blinded to our true condition.  Every sexual struggler in recovery says at some point, “I can’t believe who I used to be and what I used to do.  I was such a different person back then.”  If you’re new to recovery, you can’t see how far off course you are.  You can’t see the erosion that has taken place in your relationships and in your personal life.  Let this soak in:  Jeff tells me I am worse than I think I am. I have more to work on than I realize.

7.  Replacing lies with truth is critical to recovery.
We also can’t see the lies that we have believed.  My counselor reminds me that with every wound there is a lie that I have believed.  It’s not until you start seeing the truth that you will uncover the lies you have believed.  God’s Word will help you with this.  So will counselors, your spouse, your support group, and close friends who know your story.

8.  Work toward full disclosure.
Ooooh.  We don’t like to think about this.  But the sooner you come clean, the better.  Get the help from a counselor on how to come clean and with whom.  Those closest to you need to know.  Your spouse needs to know.  The people you have been directly involved with need to know.  Not every person needs to know every detail, but you need to quit hiding and share the truth.  When you hold onto secrets and hide you walk in the darkness.  God calls us to “walk in the light”.

9.  Pain and suffering are necessary for deep recovery.
There are no shortcuts to recovery.  There are no quick fixes.  You cannot save yourself from pain and suffering.  Breaking free from sexual sin involves challenge, hurt, brokenness, withdrawal and grieving.  You will have to suffer consequences.  You will have to see that your actions have hurt others.  Go for a deep recovery.  The only way for our recovery to go deep is if we let God push his scalpel in and scrape out all of the junk.

10. God is close and wants to bear the burden with you.
As tough as these tips are, I want you to think about this one the most.  You are not alone.  God is here.  He will help you.  He wants your recovery even more than you and He knows how to get there.  You may go through a lot of hard times, but God will always be a strong shoulder you can lean on.  He helps carry us through the toughest of times.  Be encouraged by this.

Jeff Fisher lives in Raleigh, NC.  He and his wife Marsha run, a site designed to offer hope, encouragement and resources to those who are affected by sexual sin. Checkout Jeff’s podcasts on I-Tunes:  Top Tips For Sexual Purity, Top Verses For Sexual Purity, and For Ministers Who Struggle.

Quit Treating Your Wife Like a Whore

by Jeff Fisher on July 22, 2015


“The total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.” Bertrand Russell (British philosopher)

 “Undesired sex endured” = my wife doesn’t want it, but she puts up with it, or is forced to have it

Men, so much of this is about us and our desire for an orgasm.  We give little consideration to our wives, their souls, their needs and their desires.  We are focused on self.  Getting our desires filled.  Pursuing our lust.  We lust when we are in Consume Mode.  I want.  I must have.  I will go after it.

Q:   X-ray your motivations.  Is sex more about you and getting your desires met?  How often are you in Consume Mode, rather than Serve Mode?

Here are some words you need to start associating with sex:

Loving – You want to show affection for your wife.  Meet her needs.  Build her up.  Respect her the boundaries and “safety zone”.

Sacrificing – Sometimes I have to give up what I want in order to serve my wife.  There are times when I want sex, but will need to let go.  There are times when my wife will want sex, and I will want sleep, and I will need to focus on her.

Giving – I want to give more than I take.

Serving –I consider the needs of my wife more important than my own and seek to help her, give her pleasure, etc.

I didn’t believe it until my counselor asked me to abstain from sex with my wife for 4 weeks.  My wife had an emotional breakdown and needed a break from the pressures I was putting on her for sex.  I wasn’t sure I could make it, but I was willing to try for the sake of my wife and my marriage.  Here’s a couple of lessons learned from my sexual fast.

My balls didn’t explode – I could go weeks without having an orgasm.  It didn’t kill me.  Sure it hurt for a couple of days while I was going through withdrawals.  But my body quickly adjusted and I was fine.

Sex was not a need – It’s not in the same category as food, water, or shelter.  My body can function without a sexual release.  I’ve believed a lustful lie.

Love, touch, value, support, friendship are essential – God has not designed me to be alone and to do life in isolation.  I need Him and I need others.  But I need them on a much deeper heart level.

Hanging with my wife is awesome – If sex had a color it would be RED.  If touch time had a color it would be YELLOW.  Hang time is mostly GREEN.  We guys shortcut the green and the yellow and only go for the RED.  The depth of a loving, romantic, emotional, sexual relationship comes with large amounts of green and yellow.

Serving my wife brings deep satisfaction – When I get selfish lusts out of the way and put my wife’s needs above mine godly things happen.  When it works right [and we’re still working on it] I get a bigger kick out of my wife’s needs and desires being met.

Married guys … we need to scratch deeper.  Grow up.  Stop being a selfish child when it comes to sex.

Single guys… get a bigger vision for what a healthy sexual relationship looks like.  An orgasm is only a very small part of it.

Jeff Fisher podcasts regularly on his show Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast (I-Tunes).
@porntopurity on Twitter

Taking Off the Braces in Sexual Recovery

by Jeff Fisher on July 21, 2015


Last year at this time I was recovering from a knee injury.  I was playing volleyball at the gym and my knee gave out when I turned on it.  The diagnosis from the doctor was that I had some damage to my MCL (the inside joint around the knee) and possibly some damage to the meniscus (the inside joint connecting the leg bones).

Prescription:  A knee brace, and some physical therapy exercises. 

Yesterday, I went to the doctor to check the progress.  I had been doing my exercises aggressively and being very careful with my walking.  Everything is looking good.  I can’t go back to volleyball for a while, but I can take my brace off and walk, job or run.  I was so excited.

So today is my first day back at work without the brace!  I’m glad I’m healing, but I’m still very fearful of turning wrong and causing injury again.

I want to borrow from this illustration and make some recovery applications. 


1.  We have injured ourselves with our sexual acting out – Our sexuality has been damaged.  Our hearts have been darkened and turned to idolatry.  We have damaged our intimacy.  Our minds are poisoned with sexual images.  Our lust and desires are on overdrive.

2.  We have needed a brace to get well – Structure is so important in recovery.  [Blog:  The Importance of Structure]  We need internal structure and external structure.  We need to setup roadblocks and healthy relationships.  We need to do things to fortify our hearts.  A huge part of our recovery is getting out of isolation and learning to depend on other people.  Generally, the more structure we can setup, the better. 

3.  Healing takes time – We need that brace on a lot longer than we think.  We are really worse off than we think.  We have to deal with the pain, do our exercises, and repeat.  God knows the perfect amount of time it takes for us to heal thoroughly.  If we take the brace off too soon, we slip and relapse.

4.  We need skilled help – Counselors, pastors, sponsors, and other “broken world” people are important to our recovery.  We need to hear their wisdom and mind it.  We need to know how to walk through our mess and pick up the pieces.  We need guidance when we are feeling different types of pain and having trouble walking right.

5.  We need to take the brace off at the right time – We should not neglect our support structure.  That’s guaranteed relapse.  But at the right time, we can be trusted with certain things again:  phone calls, purchases, time alone, computer time (still with accountability software on it), relationships, etc.  If we have gained strength, proved trustworthy, and been consistent in our recovery, we can be allowed some new freedoms.  We still have to be fearful, and aware of our steps.  But if you are ready to take the brace off, you have already established a lot of healthy new habits.

One thing that’s extremely encouraging, is that there is a right time to take the brace off.  You and I can get there.  God wants us to grow healthy in our sexuality, then function within His boundaries.  It is an incredibly freeing thing!  If you are ready to walk without a brace, keeping one on can actually inhibit your recovery.

Good for you, first of all.  You have proven yourself trustworthy.

Check the Attitude – We can’t forget that we have crossed over lines in the past.  It’s easier for us to cross them again in a relapse.  We can’t loose focus.  We have to remember where we’ve come from, and know we could end up there again if we’re not careful.

Check the Support – We also have to make sure we are don’t fall into neglect.  Taking the brace off doesn’t mean you stop leaning on guys.  A healthy person in recovery has learned to recognize triggers and temptations, pause, and go to other guys for help.  You don’t need a babysitter anymore.  But maturing people in recovery know when to pick up the phone and check-in.

This happens to many; we get out on our own and lose focus.  We slip and fall and mess our knee up again.

Prescription:  Renew your focus.  Call the doctor.  Put the brace back on.  Ice the knee.  Go back and get stronger.


How to Deal With Your Loneliness

by Jeff Fisher on July 20, 2015

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Loneliness is a big issue for many who are struggling with sexual purity.  Sexual sin is usually done in private and isolation.  We withdraw from healthy relationships and embrace porn.  We long for emotional connectedness and intimacy, but we turn to masturbation and nothing satisfying to show for it.

Loneliness is part of what’s going on beneath the surface.  It could be one of our core issues.  Deep inside, we are lonely and we’re seeking for something meaningful to meet our need.

It makes sense that we can be isolated from people and feel lonely.  But isn’t it strange that we can still be around people and feel lonely.  Just because we have friends doesn’t mean we are having our needs met.

Some of our relationships might be very sexual.  We could be having a lot of sex, but still feel empty.  Why is that?

It’s because there are deeper needs that we have that we’re not addressing:

1.  Deep need for God – This is the first and primary need we have – to know our Maker.  We long for Him like nothing else.  What would it be like to know God deeply?  How satisfying would it be if you had a one-on-one friendship with God?

2.  Deep need for intimacy – Let me say right away, that intimacy is not about sex.  It’s about having a deep connection to people.  The best definition I’ve heard is that intimacy is “knowing somebody and being known by that person” How would it feel if someone really knew you?  Maybe scary?  How would it feel to deeply know someone and have a genuine relationship with them?

3.  Deep need for caring relationships – We have so many superficial relationships.  We can small talk to death at work, at the bar, at the party, at school.  It just doesn’t meet our deep need.  What would it be like it you had a person in your life who really cared about you?  A person who called you and came to visit just because they cared.  A person who went out of their way to show you attention and to show love.

4.  Deep need for importance, to be valued – Also at the heart of lonliness the desire for someone on to value you.  We long for someone to say that we’re important, that we’re a good person, that we’re doing a good job, that we’re a hard worker, that their life is better because we are alive.  What would it be like to hear those things from someone?

5.  Deep need to be comforted – Many of us have hurts from our past, or even now.  We are wounded, and we have a deep need for someone to say “I’m sorry.”  “I know what you’re going through.”  “I know you’re hurt.”  How would it feel to have someone say that to you and to really mean it?

As I think about these things, my own heart needs rise to the surface.  I feel lonely more than I would like to.  I have this deep unsettledness sometimes.  I can feel this hurt that comes with being lonely.  I’ve been in recovery for several years, and am still working though this one.

For a lot of guys, this stuff might sound pretty mushy and wimpy.  Too emotional for you?  Too touchy feeling?  I understand.  I was one of those guys.  But recovery is making me realize how immature I was emotionally and relationally.  I have a lot of friendships, but no body knew the real me.  I didn’t have people around me that I thought were save enough to share the real me.  I didn’t have people around that I thought could handle the real me.  So I stayed very private.

But now I have people who know me, accept me, love me, and walk through the mud with me.  I still feel this loneliness at times, but here are some things that have been helping me work on my lonliness and I think might help you:

1.   Be Intentional – Connections and friendships don’t happen automatically.  Sometimes we can get pretty angry wondering why others don’t seem to care or connect with us.  I’ve found that if I want to develop friendships, I usually have to take the first step.  Honestly, the other guy I reach out to is usually glad that I did.  Keep being intentional.

2.  Take risks – To build friendships you have to share things from yourself.  You take a risk when you share about your struggles, but I think it’s a necessary risk.  When you stick your neck out and break the ice on something deeper, many people will follow suit.  And if they do back off, at least you know where the current limits of that relationship are.  Keep taking risks.

3.  Take small, new steps – If you’re not the person who is used to healthy relationships, you have to do it one small step at a time.  Don’t try to manufacture a deep connection with someone in one sitting.  Do it one coffee cup at a time.

4.  Follow up – It’s good that you break the ice, but there has to be followup when it comes to relationships.  This is another place I think it’s important to take some initiative, at least at first.  Get their email address, give them a call, send them a text.  Keep the connection going.

5.  One less isolation step – This goes along with the small steps, but it might help for you to think along the lines of one step toward friendships and connectedness with a real person is one step away from your old isolated, private life.  That may seem scary, but we probably know that we can’t stay isolated and succeed in recovery.

6.  Be reminded of God’s presence – I think it’s important to encourage you that you are not alone.  God is there.  His is “near to the brokenhearted, and comes to the help of those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:7).   God’s presence is enough through His Holy Spirit to help us with our loneliness, but He does not leave us there.  God extends his care through others.

One last thing.  Connecting with others who have sexual struggles is made easier by finding a support group.   Support groups are safe environments where you can begin sharing common struggles.  In a support group you have a head start toward good connections.


** This blog comes from the script for Episode 091 of the Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast.  You can listen to the episode here

Click here to download or listen to the show

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