Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction

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Overview

“Mark has eloquently unraveled the mystery behind addictive behavior: when our relationships are not alive and growing, the temptation for various kinds of addictions is unleashed..”---Dr. Gary Smalley

With today’s rampant availability of Internet pornography, sexual addiction has become a national epidemic that affects up to 10 percent of Christians. As devastating as any drug habit, it brings heartbreak and despair to those it entangles. But there is help for men and women ...

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Overview

“Mark has eloquently unraveled the mystery behind addictive behavior: when our relationships are not alive and growing, the temptation for various kinds of addictions is unleashed..”---Dr. Gary Smalley

With today’s rampant availability of Internet pornography, sexual addiction has become a national epidemic that affects up to 10 percent of Christians. As devastating as any drug habit, it brings heartbreak and despair to those it entangles. But there is help for men and women caught in sexual addiction’s downward spiral.

This book offers a path that leads beyond compulsive thoughts and behaviors to healing and transformation. Sensitive to the shame of sexual addiction without minimizing its sinfulness, Dr. Mark Laaser traces the roots of the problem, discusses its patterns and impact, and maps out a biblical approach to self-control and sexual integrity.

Previously titled Faithful and True, this revision includes an all-new section that deals with sexual addiction in the church. Other important changes reflect cultural trends, incorporate current research, and place a greater emphasis on spiritual growth. This book also addresses the unique needs and issues of female sex addicts.

Whether you know someone with a sexual addiction or struggle yourself, Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction points the way to understanding, wholeness, and holiness.

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Editorial Reviews

Enrichment journal
'A must read for anyone who has a sexual addiction. Pastors, counselors, and lay leaders will also greatly benefit from it....Highly recommended.' -- 'A must read for anyone who has a sexual addiction. Pastors, counselors, and lay leaders will also greatly benefit from it....Highly recommended.'
Enrichment journal
'A must read for anyone who has a sexual addiction. Pastors, counselors, and lay leaders will also greatly benefit from it....Highly recommended.' -- Enrichment journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310256571
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 321,360
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark R. Laaser, Ph.D., fundador de Faithful y True Ministries habla nacionalmente y consulta en hospitales y centros de tratamientos alrededor del pais. Es el autor de The Pornography Trap, Hablando a su hijos sobre sexo, y otros libros tambien.

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Read an Excerpt

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction


By Mark R. Laaser

Zondervan

Copyright © 2004 Mark Laaser
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-25657-7


Chapter One

I recently talked with a pastor about the shame of being a sexually addicted Christian. By every indication this pastor is successful. He has developed a large church "full of many gifts of the Spirit." Well liked by his people, he preaches wonderful sermons. He is married, has children, and appears to be a normal family man.

Yet this pastor leads a double life. Many days he is drawn to a local park, where he meets men whose names he does not know and engages in sex with them. Most of these encounters last less than thirty minutes, and no words are spoken. He then returns to his office feeling emptier than before. Looking for intimacy, he finds instead only frustration and fear. When will someone from his church find out?

This pastor knows he is committing the sin of sodomy. He prays, fasts, reads Scripture, and yet he cannot stop. He is alone. Who can he tell? Disclosing this behavior would cost his job, family, career, and reputation.

Sexual addiction is a sickness involving any type of uncontrollable sexual activity. Because the addict can't control his or her sexual behavior, negative consequences eventually result.

Whenever I speak to Christians about sexual addiction, someone always asks, "When you call these sexual behaviors an addiction or a disease, aren't you forgetting that they are sinful? People should repent, change their ways, and get right with God." I always agree with these statements. The sexual behaviors that become addictive are sinful. People should repent, change their ways, and get right with God. Repentance, behavior change, and a deeper relationship with God are all goals of the healing journey for a sex addict. I usually respond to this question with another question: How long do you expect repentance and change to take?

Sin and addiction have some common characteristics. Like an addiction, sin is uncontrollable and unmanageable. In fact, God had to sacrifice his only Son because we could not manage our own lives. Sexual addiction is about trying to control behaviors-and failing. Just like alcoholics, sex addicts tell themselves they can quit tomorrow if they want to. They like to think they are in control, but they are not. Indeed, their inability to give up the illusion of control is precisely what prevents sex addicts from healing. It is the same with any sin. Our attempts to control our lives prevent us from trusting God to care for us.

Addiction provides an escape from feelings. Despite experiences of God's love and power, people of faith sometimes have fearful, distrustful natures that drive them to seek an escape from feelings. Consider the prophet Elijah. After he defeated the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, he was afraid for his life. Rather than face his fears, he ran away and hid in a cave. Jonah ran from his fears of God's preaching assignment and ended up in the belly of a whale. The disciples fled in fear from those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just like an addiction, this drive to escape painful emotions is unmanageable. It is our inherited sin nature. Addictions provide a way of escape; a false solution; a means to control loneliness, anger, anxiety, and fear.

Addictions, being unmanageable, also lead to destructive consequences. Addictions destroy lives, break up families, ruin careers. Sin too has its consequences. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death.

Most sex addicts experience devastating shame and believe they are totally worthless. In the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned they were naked and unashamed. After sinning, however, they felt shame. Because we are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we also feel shame when we sin.

Therefore, a clearer understanding of addiction provides a deeper understanding of sin. Sin is more than just a list of immoral behaviors. Sin is the lack of a relationship with God and the destructive behaviors committed as a result. Sin is unmanageable and causes people to distrust God, to control their own lives, and to commit behaviors destructive to themselves and others. Sin causes shame and leads to death. Unmanageability, escape, shame, and-for some-addiction, are interwoven into the very fabric of sin.

SEXUAL ADDICTION AS A DISEASE

Sexual addiction is also a disease-a situation in which something normally healthy becomes unhealthy. Both sexual addiction and disease have observable symptoms and a natural progression that, if left untreated, get worse and eventually lead to death.

Defining sexual addiction as a disease is also consistent with a definition of sin. Sinfulness has a cause. We inherit original sin when we are born. And sin has symptoms. We don't trust God. We make unhealthy choices. We try to control our own lives. Like disease, sinfulness is a degenerative process. The Bible continually warns us that we can sink deeper and deeper into sin. Sinfulness can eventually kill us.

The concepts of addiction and disease clarify and deepen our understanding of the consequences of sin. 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.

Sexual addiction is a disease and it involves sinful behavior. It is not my purpose to provide a theological definition of what is sexually sinful. Most immoral behaviors, such as infidelity or child abuse, are plainly sinful. However, there are sex addicts and sexual activities that, on the surface, appear moral.

Consider the example of the sex addict who never engages in sexual activity with anyone except his wife, yet uses sex with his spouse as an escape from intimacy, not as an expression of it. In this case, the sex addict treats his spouse simply as a body and not as a spirit. Here, sex, although it is with a spouse, is really no different than masturbating. In these situations, the same characteristics of addiction apply. Over time, the addict wants more and more and becomes bored and unfulfilled in the marital sexual relationship. On the surface, he is faithful. But God, looking at his heart, discerns his motives.

These sex addicts don't know how to be emotionally or spiritually intimate with a spouse and believe they will find intimacy in sexual contact. Using sex to mask their loneliness, they are unwittingly driven deeper into loneliness, never revealing their feelings. They might even say to themselves, "As long as I remain faithful to my spouse and as long as sex is good, I don't have a problem and our relationship is good." In fact, the relationship is not good, and the sexual activity becomes an addictive way to avoid the pain of the poor relationship.

Whether their sexual behavior is inside or outside of marriage, sex addicts are lonely and isolated. They use sex for all the wrong reasons. The question is not whether or not their sexual activity is considered moral. The question is whether or not sex is an expression of intimacy or an escape from it. One definition of sin suggests it is any activity that separates us from God and from others. By this definition, purely physical sexual activity in a marriage devoid of intimacy is perhaps addictive and could be considered sinful.

Sex addicts may have family and friends. They may be active leaders. However, no one really knows them. They haven't told anyone who they are, what they feel, and what they've done. Christian sex addicts think if they were really known by those around them, they would be hated, shunned, laughed at, or punished. A key question of this book, and one every believer needs to consider, is: Will Christians help to heal, or will they help to increase, this shame, loneliness, fear, and woundedness? Unfortunately, in too many cases we have "shot the wounded," rather than healed them.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark R. Laaser Copyright © 2004 by Mark Laaser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword to the Second Edition: Faithful and True 7
Foreword to the First Edition: The Secret Sin 9
Acknowledgments 11
There Is Hope 13

Part 1: What Is Sexual Addiction?

1. Sexual Addiction and Sin 23

2. Building-Block Behaviors of Sex Addicts 28

3. Types of Sexual Addiction 36

4. Understanding and Identifying the Characteristics of Sexual Addiction 45

Part 2: The Roots of Sexual Addiction

5. Unhealthy Family Dynamics 73

6. Family Abuse 92

7. How Sex Addicts Cope with Abuse 109

Part 3: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction

8. The Journey of Healing 121

9. Confronting the Sex Addict 140

10. Treatment Issues in Sexual Addiction 148

11. Healing for Couples 170

Part 4: Healing the Wounds of the Church

12. Sexually Addicted Pastors and Priests 193

13. Healing for Congregations 208

Conclusion 222

Notes 225

Resources 228

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First Chapter

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction Copyright 1992, 1996, 2004 by Mark Laaser Previously published as The Secret Sin and Faithful and True.Requests for information should be addressed to:Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Laaser, Mark. Healing the wounds of sexual addiction / Mark Laaser ; foreword by Gary Smalley, Patrick Carnes. p. cm. Rev. ed. of: Faithful and true. c1996. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-310-25657-7 1. Sex addicts---Religious life. 2. Sex addiction---Religious aspects--- Christianity. 3. Sex addicts---Rehabilitation. 4. Sex addiction---Treatment. I. Laaser, Mark R. Faithful and true. II. Title. BV4596.S42L32 2004 241'.66---dc22 2004007056All names and circumstances have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.A percentage of royalties from sales of this book is donated to aid victims of pastoral sexual abuse.All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois. All rights reserved.The website addresses recommended throughout this book are offered as a resource to you. These websites are not intended in any way to be or imply an endorsement on the part of Zondervan, nor do we vouch for their content for the life of this book.All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other---except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.Interior design by Beth ShagenePrinted in the United States of America04 05 06 07 08 09 10 /.DC/ 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1There Is HopeOnce there was a young pastor who became a full-time individual, marriage, and family counselor. He, his wife, and three children lived in a nice, suburban neighborhood. The family had many friends and liked where they lived.In addition to counseling, this pastor was an interim preacher at a local church, taught a course at the local Christian college, and served on the school board. A popular communicator, he spoke for various groups and was frequently interviewed on radio and television. He also enjoyed volunteering at a hospice. All in all, this pastor was well liked and respected by his community, and many turned to him for support, advice, and encouragement.However, this pastor was also a sex addict. He had masturbated excessively since college. In graduate school he began visiting X-rated bookstores and massage parlors---a habit that continued into his professional career. Although he was afraid he would be caught and publicly humiliated, he could not stop practicing his sexual addictions.Needless to say, his marriage, which on the surface appeared loving and stable, was very troubled. He and his wife were so busy with family and careers they had little time for each other. Lacking skills in intimacy and believing his wife didn't really love him, the pastor thought himself justified in finding a woman who would.When several hurting and vulnerable women in his counseling practice looked to him for help, he initiated sex with them. He confused sex with love and believed he really cared for the women, never realizing how much he was hurting them.The pastor was tormented by self-doubt. He didn't like himself very much, and he wondered how these women could be attracted to someone like him. Time and time again he vowed to end the affairs, and time and time again he fell into sin.Eventually, a colleague found out about one of the affairs, and the pastor was fired from his counseling practice. Hurt and disappointed, the colleague and several others confronted the pastor. One, a doctor and recovering alcoholic, said to the pastor, 'Your behaviors with sex seem like mine with alcohol. You're out of control. Why don't you let us find you some help?' The doctor hugged the pastor, for the doctor knew the pain of uncontrollable behaviors.Though shocked and afraid, the pastor was also tired of his double life---tired enough not to resist the efforts to find him help. Several days later he entered the sexual addiction unit at Golden Valley Health Center.In the months that followed, this pastor discovered the pain and joy of healing. It was a process filled with upsetting childhood memories, guilt for his behavior, and anguish over the abuse he perpetrated on others. His addiction had cost him a great deal. He would never counsel or preach from a pulpit again. Several of his clients sued him. Some looked at him and his behaviors with hatred and disdain. But the process was also filled with the joy of being honest, of a new life, and of restored relationships with his wife and friends. He began to discover the peace of healing and decided he wouldn't trade it for the world.Saved at the age of sixteen and ordained ten years before he found healing, this pastor always felt unworthy of God's forgiveness. Although he was admired by others, he felt they would hate him if they knew the truth. Only by embracing honesty and undertaking the transforming journey away from sexual addiction did he truly come to know God, redemption, and restoration.Sex addicts, like the pastor, commit a secret sin. It is so sinful that almost all are too ashamed to talk about it. Yet their sin, a profound violation of God's law, threatens our culture and the very core of the Christian church.The secret sin of sexual addiction grows from seeds planted in childhood and symptoms may go undetected for years. In adolescence, the indicators of this disease may be confused with normal sexual development. In adulthood, the disease grows progressively worse. Ultimately, if untreated, its victims will die.The secret sin is an addictive disease that has existed since the beginning of time, yet for centuries it has been misnamed, mistreated, ignored, or completely undiagnosed. Even though it has killed, humiliated, and wounded countless people, some still believe it doesn't exist. Those who suffer from sexual addiction have been laughed at, scorned, and persecuted. Too consumed by shame to ask for help, they have been confined to lives of loneliness and isolation. Only recently have we recognized the secret sin as a disease and offered treatment to its sufferers.Christians are not exempt from this disease. Experts speculate up to 10 percent of the total Christian population in the United States is sexually addicted. If true, this means that in a congregation of 500 members, 50 are sex addicts. And this percentage may be increasing. In one study, two-thirds of all Christian men admitted to 'struggling' with pornography. In another study, 40 percent of pastors surveyed confessed to looking at pornography. Although these findings do not indicate the respondents are fully addicted, it is tragic that the percentages of those interacting with pornography are far higher now than just a few years ago. This is due in large part to the availability of pornography on the Internet. Christians who struggle pray ceaselessly, read the Bible constantly, and consult countless pastors, but they still can't stop. Discouraged, many leave the church.Sexual sin is not new news to the church. Voices among us have consistently protested this immorality and called for repentance. Yet sexual sin remains a difficult topic to talk about. When 'one of us' commits a sexual sin, the rest of us are shocked and embarrassed by the apparent hypocrisy and massive failure of faith.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    For those who want real change

    Tough read, but well worth it. Laaser is bold and honest by confronting issues that addicts and codependents want to avoid. However, he gives practical advice on how to overcome the damage created and the despair that addicts and codependents feel. I especially like that the language is easy to comprehend. I have read other self help books that the language is so technical, coupled with a heavy subject, which makes it a difficult book to get through. That is not the case with this book.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An outstanding resource

    This continues to be the best book on the market for Christians struggling with sexual addiction. Some sources are left out, but this is by far the best work to date on this subject.

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