Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. One of my biggest fears while I was acting out in my addiction was that someone would find out. Interaction with others increased the risk of someone finding out which contributed to my self-imposed isolation. Fear and isolation drove further secrecy which lead me deeper into my addiction. Since addiction is progressive, this meant increased acting out with increased frequency and escalated seriousness of my transgressions. This resulted in greater shame and embarrassment each time I went through the addictive cycle. I wanted to quit, promised myself that this time I would quit, went for periods of time in strained abstinence, acted out and then felt more guilt when I relapsed and acted out again.
I started reading the 12 step recovery program but I always lost hope when I read step 5 because I told myself I could never confess. I then came up with all sorts of rationalizations like: “I will do other good things to compensate (raising my kids in gospel, going on a mission when retire, family history work, etc) that will balance out the bad.” I rationalized that I was keeping this secret to protect my family because they would be devastated if they found out. Somehow I felt that by taking this to my grave, I was helping them – at least they would be saved. These are all lies that I told myself to numb my conscience and avoid confession.
Step 5 in the Addiction Recovery Program is Confession with the key principle to “Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.” Through my recovery journey I learned that confession was key to healing from my addiction and fully repenting. It is not a curse or a punishment, but a blessing from a loving Heavenly Father to allow me to get everything out of my soul so that my Savior can fully cleanse me.
Full confession required my spiritual growth and my choice. It didn’t seem like choice when Susan discovered my addiction and I felt forced into a partial confession. There were worse parts of my addiction and acting out that I had buried and could not bring myself to talk about with Susan or my Bishop. I needed the spiritual growth going through steps 1 through 4 before I could understand that confession was not intended to be forced, was not a punishment and was not going to bring me further shame. Confession is part of my choice to repent and to receive forgiveness and find peace. I did not believe this until I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me and decided to trust Him. When I started to inventory my sins in step 4, I had to choose whether I really wanted to recover from my addiction and go “all in” to the repentance process or not. I decided I only wanted to go through this pain 1 time and I was going to get everything out and allow the Lord to cleanse everything. If this meant confessing everything, then so be it.
My first full confession was to my Heavenly Father. This was easier because He had helped me remember everything in step 4. The next was with Susan as I worked through steps 4 and 5 in parallel. She asked me for details as I went through my initial inventory and I answered every question no matter how difficult. These were hard discussions and she expressed hurt, anger, frustration, confusion and sometimes faith, hope and encouragement. This lead to further prayer to complete my inventory and each time I talked with Susan. It was a wonderful day when I finally received confirmation that I had remembered and told Susan everything. Having gone through my full list in detail, makes it easier to tell Susan of my daily struggles with thoughts and temptations as I fight to clear my mind of 30 years of filth.
I made a full confession to my bishop, stake president and a church disciplinary council. I actually feared this more than confessing to Susan. My bishop explained what I needed to confess to him, but I didn’t really trust my judgement. I wanted to make sure I was clean at the end of this process so I read my entire list. I learned that the disciplinary counsel is for healing and repentance and not for punishment and shame. It became a journey I wanted to go through to receive full forgiveness and know that I was forgiven. My fear was replaced by a concern that I would forget to confess something that would hinder my healing and repentance process. After confessing to the counsel, I walked up to Susan, put my arms around her and said “I did it!” I felt relief and peace that I had confessed everything to myself, the Lord, my bishop, and to my wife – no more secrets. I continued to feel peace from the spirit as I learned of my church discipline and knew that I was solidly on the path for complete forgiveness.