Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I want to start over, but I can't give up sex. What should I do to get back on track?

ANSWER from Catholic Answers:

I'd recommend six steps to get back on track:

1. Recognize your mistakes and admit your faults, but don't let yourself get preoccupied with them.
Like everyone else, you are not perfect, so give yourself the freedom to forgive yourself and then decide to overcome your weakness. You have to want healing for yourself.

Recognizing your faults is one side of the coin, but recognizing that you deserve respect is the other.
Many people who have fallen into sexual sins have lost all self-respect.
They feel that there's no point in turning back, but even if they wanted to turn back it would be impossible, and even if it were possible, no one would love them after all they've done.
You do deserve respect, but you have to respect yourself first. When we commit sexual sin, we lose respect for our bodies and for the bodies of others.
When this happens, it becomes easier and easier to fall into unhealthy physical relationships. Only you can choose to break out of this.
It is important that you know from the get-go that the healing process will demand work and sacrifice on your part.

2. Repent. You've realized that you do have a problem, so come to God as his child, asking for his grace.
Ask him to forgive you and heal you, not only of this area of weakness, but also of any other wounds or vulnerabilities, however deep or old they might be, that might have contributed to your problem in this area.
As Jesus said, "apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5).
You are wholly dependant upon God to get out of this, and he is wholly capable of finishing the good work that he has begun in you.
The Holy Spirit is already alive in you, moving you to recognize your problem and seek a new beginning. God is at work in you; he has not abandoned you.

Come to him in the great sacrament of reconciliation, and experience his mercies. He forgives, heals, restores, and encourages us, but we must come to him with sincere hearts. "A broken, contrite heart, you never scorn" (Ps. 51:19 NJB).

3. Resist the temptation to give in to destructive thinking: "I'm a bad person, I don't deserve real love, and I need sex.
I'm addicted-I can't help myself." None of those things is true!
People tell themselves that they are addicted to things like sex in order to make themselves feel like they don't have any control over their behavior so that they can keep indulging in it.
But it isn't true. You do have control, and you do have dignity.
You are a son or daughter of God. That's your identity-your identity is not as a "bad person." Sure, you've made mistakes.
But don't identify yourself by them.

You are worthy of love, because that is what God has created you for.
When you make mistakes, you do not forfeit your worthiness to receive love.
Also, you do not "need" sex.
Perhaps you have formed an attachment to the pleasure of sex or its emotional intimacy.
Perhaps sex has become for you a way to avoid genuine relationships.
Instead of using sex to express intimacy, you may be using it to escape intimacy. God's grace is stronger than those chains, and he will give you a greater love if you cling to him.
Your desires will not disappear when you come to him, but he will give you his love so that you will be able to overcome the temptations.

4. Refrain from bad relationships, and make a clean break from any unhealthy relationships that you're in now.
These drive you deeper into loneliness.
Sometimes breaking them off is easy.
The hard part is keeping from running back to them.
This is when you must run to God instead.

When we use sex to feel secure, we end up feeling more insecure than ever, and we may be tempted to jump into sexual acts to deal with our fear of not being lovable.
It becomes a vicious cycle.
It is then that you must come back to God with all your heart.
Don't let fear stand in the way, and don't run elsewhere to find the fulfillment and wholeness that only he can give.

5. Resolve to live in purity.
Part of the process is moving away from bad situations, but the other half is moving into good ones.
Make that decision that no one else can make for you.
ou have to want it for yourself, so set your guidelines, write them down before you enter a relationship, and stick by them.

One man said, "After interviewing thousands of young people, I am convinced that many teens and young singles are sexually active not because they really want to be, but because they don't have any deep personal reasons for waiting until they are married.
"I You need a vision of real love, a hope that will make it easier for you to forego the passing traps of lust in favor of a better and more beautiful kind of life and love.
It does exist.
So go for purity, and make a conscious effort to do things differently in the future.

Change the way you approach relationships.
It is a real sign of maturity to seek the advice of older and wiser people, particularly our parents.
Sometimes parents aren't always available, so go to a good priest, youth minister, relative, or other mentor to get their input on your relationships.

Also, look at your selection of friends, music, magazines, movies, and other things that influence you.
See if you can get involved in a local youth group, Bible study, or prayer group at school or church.
This may be stepping out of your usual social circles, but you need that support and fellowship.
As a reminder to yourself and a sign to others of your commitment, go to the mall and buy a ring to wear to symbolize your commitment to chastity.

Also, check out the resources in the back of this book for good reading and web sites.
It's good to read on your own but it is far better to find a good priest or counselor with whom you can speak openly and regularly about your struggles.
A wise counselor will be able to discern the extent of your problem and lead you on the path to purity.

6. Renew yourself through prayer.
It's essential to know that you are deeply loved by God, so set a prayer time for each day.
He will work wonders in you, and he has so much that he is waiting to tell you and so much that he wants to give you.
The best is yet to come (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
If you are serious about wanting true love, a new path awaits, but only you can make that decision to be generous with God.

1 comment:

Fr John Speekman said...

What a great article from Catholic Answers. I has it all. And thanks for posting this, RD, I am sure it will be most helpful to those who read it.