The Gift Of: Recovery from Addiction

So this is a first for me: A Book Review!

If you’re a crazy (good kind of crazy) Catholic you have probably heard of Matt Fradd. And if you haven’t, well, now you have. He is a very popular Catholic speaker and apologist. As a fellow student of Christopher West, I found him while studying up on Theology of the Body. He educates and informs his audience on all things Catholic (kind of an important thing for an apologist to do) and he has a personal interest in discussing how people can overcome their addictions to pornography and masturbation.

Say wha???

Quite the curveball I just threw at you, sorry about that.

It makes us a little uncomfortable right? This isn’t exactly dinner table conversation. No one wants to talk about this issue, let alone admit that they might have an addiction to it.

As any good TOB student will tell you, we have to shed a light on these issues instead of keeping them in the dark. If we don’t talk about it, how will anyone know how damaging this can be? Most importantly, how will we ever begin to be healed?

This is where the book review comes in. Matt and his wife Cameron wrote a book that I offered to review for this blog as well as We Dare To Say.  So let’s dive in!


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Restored: True Stories of Love and Trust After Porn

by Matt and Cameron Fradd

In a civilization dominated by images, as ours is today, images have become the privileged vehicle of the ideology of a world saturated with sensuality, which has made human sexuality its favorite theme, detaching it completely from the original meaning given to it by God.  (Virginity, by Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM cap)

I hope it’s not bad form to begin a book review with a quote from a totally different book.  And if it is, well, so be it. But see here what Fr. Raniero describes? Look what has happened to our world when it comes to human sexuality! It’s twisted and distorted! This is where I think we need to begin the discussion.

The secular world loves to detach God from everything. Anything that you or I or any other Christian deems sacred, chances are the world will find a way to twist it and distort it into something vulgar.  For everything that we find to be beautiful, society tells us the opposite is what we really want. Just look at fertility and contraception, chastity and lust, procreation and abortion, marriage and the breakdown of the family, sex and pornography.

So while we can tackle all of the issues mentioned above for days on end, the focus of Restored is specifically pornography and the effect it has on the wives.

Why should you or I care about those who are addicted? Because, as a community, we have a duty to offer our assistance, even if we ourselves don’t have this problem. Also, it would be a good idea to read up on this to be aware of possible warning signs that you, or someone you love, could be developing an addiction.

Even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out with Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography Use in the fall of 2015 which stated:

While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality.

We all suffer the consequences. Every one of us.

How does Restored help? Because when the 10 women in this book tell their story, you enter into their world. You see things through their eyes. And many times, it’s painful to even read about it.

I admit, I found myself cringing at times when I would read what these men did to feed their addiction. I also found myself on the verge of tears as I saw the pain and the hurt as the women struggled to understand this betrayal. But mostly, I found their stories to be quite beautiful. You can see them start the healing process as they sought out our Lord and went to Him at Adoration and Confession and by praying to Him. Their spiritual journeys are amazing and I found myself cheering them on at the end. I don’t even know these couples but I found myself praying for them and their relationships. I began to relate to them, albeit in a small way.

For the women, I could understand how they may feel like a failure because their partner sought out satisfaction from some thing or someone else.

From the men’s point of view, I know how it feels to be addicted to something that you don’t think is a very big deal, or even particularly sinful. “Everyone else is doing it, is it really that bad?” “I’m not hurting anyone, what’s the big deal?”

Soon, you start to lose control. You are actually hurting yourself when you give in to these disorders desires. Lust can quickly dominate your heart and your mind as I will be the first to tell you. (another blog for another day). But it’s one surefire way to start down the road to addiction.

You can quickly find yourself going further and deeper into darkness, as many of the husbands did.

Here’s part of one testimonial from one of the courageous women named Christina:

Addiction is a progressive disease. What was a fun way to

spice up our sex life turned into a nightmare. My husband’s

need for sexual stimulation grew until pornographic pictures

could no longer satisfy his lust. He sought out real-life pornography

in the form of our extra partner and his affair. I have

known other sex addicts who started out with pornography

and, as their disease progressed, began having affairs, picking

up prostitutes, and even experimenting with homosexuality.

Without help, this disease only gets worse. – Christina 

It’s probably helpful to mention here that the book is not meant to condemn or shame anyone who has this addiction. And it’s not meant to make you believe that you have a problem if you have seen porn once or twice in your life.

It’s meant to shed light on pornography addiction, address how much damage it causes, and start the conversation to heal.

Restored gives women, in particular, hope. All of the women mention their OWN recovery and healing and how incredibly helpful and necessary it has been for them. All of the women mentioned fellowship with other wives as being their life-preserver, in a way. It seemed to be the most common theme throughout all of the testimonials.

Having fellows takes me out of my own head and my own

problems and reminds me that I’m not the center of the universe.

My fellows ground me, reminding me that there are

people who are hurting just like I am and that together we

can recover from the effects of sex addiction. I don’t have to

do this alone. – Christina

One again, this just proves that we need community so desperately these days, especially as we go through a difficult time. Who else to better understand the pain and heartache than other hurting wives?

Was I willing and able to forgive my husband? With God’s grace,

absolutely. Even as Ryan confessed to me, through my hurt

and anger, the thought never crossed my mind that this was

the end for us. In my storm of emotions that night as he told

me about his pornography addiction, I never stopped loving

him or caring about him or his soul. We made a promise to

God—a promise to work unceasingly on getting each other

to heaven. We had built a family together, and this entire

problem was something that, with God’s grace, we were going

to not only survive but come out of with a stronger and

healthier marriage. – Ana 

Did you catch the keyword there? God’s grace. If heaven is our ultimate destiny, and I would hope it is, how can we get there if we don’t address the sins that are holding us back?

My absolute favorite part of Restored was that all of the women said how they absolutely needed to Jesus in their lives in order to fix their marriages. They needed prayer. They needed Adoration. They needed to put on their armor for this spiritual battle.

I started learning more about prayer, and I had a new way

to intercede. I began daily to take my fear, anger, and woundedness

to the cross in prayer. I started praying for my husband

to have a changed heart. I stopped asking how he was doing

with his struggles and instead I asked how he was feeling and

what he was thinking. I listened with a God-given detachment

to his fears about work, our marriage, and the kids. I

was able to care for his wounds, because I had given mine to

Christ. –Elisa

These are real stories of hope and redemption. I believe it’s incredibly inspiring for these women to speak up and break the silence and put their stories into a book for the world to read. As I read story after story, I truly felt like I was experiencing their heartache, their embarrassment, their anger, their hurt.

These brave women speak to you, the reader, as if they are right next to you and they say, “Sit down and let me tell you my story of how the devil tried to destroy my husband and our marriage…and how God and I worked to save it.”


 

All married couples should give Restored a read. We all admit, at least I do, that pornography is not the easiest subject to casually slip into a conversation. How about mentioning the book to your spouse to get the conversation going? Especially consider this if it’s something that’s been weighing on your mind and you don’t quite know how to bring it up.

If you’re just dating someone, you should also read it. Why? Because if you’re a couple trying to be chaste before marriage, chances are you are struggling with it. This book can serve as almost like a “marriage prep” lesson for you to understand how our disordered desires won’t do us any good, especially trying to get our future spouse to heaven.

And to my fellow single friends – you should read it to. If you hope to be married someday, you will definitely want to do your part and research this topic.

But even if marriage is not your calling, I would consider reading Restored and then sending it to someone you know who could use a little help in this area. Perhaps a married couple close to you is struggling with this problem but is too embarrassed to admit it. Let them know that they don’t have to bear this cross alone!

This book can be the gift that they need right now!

Lastly, for those who are looking for hope and healing due to their own personal struggle with pornography, consider buying Matt’s other excellent book entitled Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity.

And please, always remember: There’s no sin too great for God’s mercy.

 

 

Be Made Clean

Mark 1: 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

This is the Gospel for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, just a few days before Lent begins.

Before you gloss over this story as just another time that Jesus cured someone who was sick, you might want to take another look at the language in this scripture passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Some things to note:

    • The leper approaches Jesus directly. At the time lepers were ostracized. They also announced their sickness by saying, “Unclean! Unclean!” This man does neither of these things. In fact, he does the opposite of this!
    • The leper also declares and knows that Jesus can heal him. He doesn’t really ask for healing, he says Jesus can do it. Very aggressive and confident of him!
    • Jesus touches the leper. Anyone who would touch a leper at this time would be considered unclean themselves. They were now at risk for getting leprosy themselves.

The leper goes out and tells everyone publicly what has happened to him. He evangelizes!

Father Robert Barron over at WordonFire.org for this gospel and I thought it worthy to share. Give it a listen when you have a few minutes. It will make you look at this gospel in a whole new way.

Fit In Your Faith Today:  Who are you in this story of Jesus and leper? Are you the one who feels like you need healing, looking in from the outside? Or are you someone who people come to for help? Do you answer that call for help or do you turn away? Do you treat them as if they were “unclean?” How can you be an example of the Christian community and show them respect and even help them if they need “healing?”

 

Wisdom, not Pride.

Proverbs 3:7-8

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Good News Translation:

Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.

The book of Proverbs always has interesting insights. Especially the direct nature of the wording.

This one basically says – Don’t be a know-it-all. You aren’t all that smart.

This isn’t meant to make us feel inferior or unintelligent. I believe it’s just meant to take the ego down a notch. Don’t let yourself become inflated with thinking you are superior to others.

On the contrary, obey the Lord and turn away from evil and wrongdoing. By doing so, it acts like medicine for our broken bodies. It eases the pain in our hearts. I appreciate that this passage compares obeying God as a way to stay healthy in mind, body and soul. You can think of sin or doing not-so-great things as causing a wound in our body to be opened. Or pain in our soul taking place. What’s the cure? Good works. Good words. Good actions. Obeying the Lord and treating others as equals.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Do you talk down or act differently around people who you think are inferior to you? Do you think yourself as being a know-it-all sometimes? Try to look at others as equals, no matter what their job or their education level or social status says about them. Treat them well, obey the Lord as He commands us, and our minds and bodies and souls will be healed from the pain of mistreatment, anger, and pride.

Preach On and Often

Matthew 28: 19-20

Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

Ever have some good news that you can’t wait to share with someone? You remember that anxious and exciting feeling of anticipation as you told them, “I have something awesome to tell you!!” Well that’s how a lot of Christians feel too. As we learn more and more about our God and our savior Jesus Christ, we want to be able to share this information with others. Why? Because it’s helped us when we needed it. Because it’s great to know God!

Maybe you found hope in going to mass every Sunday. Maybe you attended a support group at your church. Maybe you found a great website or blog that shares inspirational scripture and it helped you through a difficult time. 🙂 Sometimes we need to share this news with others. You might hesitate because you aren’t sure if they want to hear it. Or maybe you’re fearful that they will reject your message as “hogwash” or hurt your feelings by telling you that they don’t believe in God.

Jesus wants us all to be his apostles. This doesn’t even mean we have to become great evangelists or professional speakers. You can share the message by just showing kindness to someone. Or by inviting them to come to mass with you. Let the other parishioners and the priest do the evangelizing for you. It really is easy to “preach” without sounding preachy. It’s in our actions and in our words but it’s also in the little things. Just showing someone kindness, giving a little gift to someone who is less fortunate, or simply sharing part of the written word on social media, or sending something nice to someone’s inbox (or the real mail too) is evangelizing. It’s a small but powerful way to share the Good News with others.

Fit in your Faith Today: Let the good news spread. Share part of your faith today in some form with someone today, either through the written word, or social media, or speaking to them, or showing them an act of kindness. Remember, don’t be selfish with your faith; share it with others!