Sin and disease: Author's experience about recovery from sexual addiction is revealing

Monday, December 27, 2004

It is believed that 10 percent of the Christian population in the United States is sexually addicted. Studies show that two-thirds of Christian men struggle with pornography, and that 40 percent of pastors have confessed to looking at pornography. It is estimated that 25 to 33 percent of all women and 10 to 15 percent of men have been sexually abused. This apparent epidemic is exacerbated by the availability of Internet pornography.

Experts say the problem of sexual addiction is as devastating as any drug habit, bringing heartbreak and despair ---- even financial ruin ---- to those it entangles.

Making it more perplexing is the fact that, unlike drug or alcohol use, people do not have much choice about being sexual ---- it is a basic instinct, regardless of one's sex.

Speaking from personal experience, in Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction Dr. Mark R. Laaser is sensitive to the shame of sexual addiction, tracing the roots of the problem, which often go back to childhood experiences that the addict had little or no control over ---- and probably even less understanding about.

The book is a revision of Faithful and True, the first edition of which was The Secret Sin. It includes a new section that deals with sexual addiction in the church, and goes into more depth about the unique needs and issues of female sex addicts, cultural trends, current research, and the need for and means of developing spiritual growth.

It also addresses some of the unique problems of the Internet, which has come into much wider use since the first edition was printed back in 1992.

Dr. Laaser pulls no punches. Sexual addiction is sinful, he says, but it is also a disease, with observable symptoms and a natural progression which, if left untreated, leads to death.

He writes, "In accepting that sexual addiction is a disease and a sin, we must also accept that the devil, the personification of evil, is at work in sexual addiction. He uses many devices to create sexual addiction, including unhealthy family dynamics, abuse and feelings of shame. The devil convinces us we are evil and irredeemable. He sows hopelessness by convincing us we won't get well. There is no question in my mind that we are engaged in spiritual warfare when we attempt to heal sexual addiction."

Dr. Laaser borrows liberally from the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous while cautioning that a strictly religious approach is usually not productive. Rather, the process seems to be developing a pattern of spiritual growth in overcoming issues such as fear of intimacy, negative messages about sex, cross addiction to things like television and other behaviors to minimize sexual acting out.

Information for enablers of sex addicts ---- which may be family members, girlfriends, co-workers and others ---- is also provided. Often these enablers have their own set of issues, tolerating inappropriate behavior and doing nothing to confront it. These enablers may be the ones in church that are considered to be "such saints" for putting up with it.

Whether the reader struggles with sex addiction, or knows some one who does, this book contributes greatly to understanding, and, in turn, wholeness and holiness.

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction; by Dr. Mark R. Laaser; paperback; 240 pages with resources and notes; Zondervan; $12.99.

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