Next Step Recovery
My name is Doug Oliver. I am a recovering addict. I am, at the time of this writing, 52 years old. I have been clean for six years. Over the last six years I have walked the road of loneliness, despair and regret. This road has been hard, frustrating, irritating and aggravating. There have been times when I wanted to run away; times I wanted to crawl under a rock. I prayed the mountains would fall and crush me. I’ve even prayed at times for God to take me out because I couldn’t bear the shame. It is hard work exposing the secrets and strongholds in our lives. However, with God and my family and lots of hard and difficult work, I have been able to do it. I can also say, looking back on the last few years, that they have been the best years of my life. I have truly been transforming the way I think and I have been transformed in the way I see and respond to things in my life.
This part of my life’s story begins when I was about 30 years old. The internet came into our home and I opened a door in my life I thought was forever closed. Let me be clear here. I am not blaming anyone or anything for my behavior. I take full responsibility for my decisions. For the next 15 years of my life I cycled in and out of the world of pornography. At times I had what we would call “victory.” Other times I was swallowed up by my sin. There were times I was in ministry at my local church – thinking that somehow this involvement would solve my addiction problems. It never did. It remained a dark and devastating secret in my life. I was never able to bring it to the light. Because of my shame, I never addressed my pain or my addiction.
For years I allowed strongholds in my heart and I allowed sin to dwell in my spirit. These behaviors and mindsets made me very sick. I prayed for God to take it away; I didn’t realize I was asking God to do something I was myself refusing to allow Him to do. God will not take away what you do not give to Him 100%. The important things in my life were my pride and my ego. I tried to convince myself that mine was a “problem” every man dealt with; it was just the way men are. After all, “boys will be boys.” I tried to convince myself it was okay – especially since I wasn’t hurting or affecting anyone else. Really, wasn’t this a private thing? How was it anyone else’s business?
Little did I know God had a bigger plan in mind for me and for my life. He was about to shake my world to its core. I do not know if I really realized the impact that one sincere prayer – one sincere cry for help – was about to be answered by God. I remember praying, “God, I am so tired of living this way. I truly want to be delivered from this.” In 2008, a guest minister at our church shared his personal testimony. It was my wake up call. As this man shared how God delivered him from alcohol and immorality, God began to deal with me.
Time and I again I tried to tell my wife I was struggling with pornography and lustful thinking. However, I just never could quite muster up enough courage to say the words. Since then, she has told me she had a sense I was trying to tell her something. Yet, whenever she asked me about it, I would blow her off, telling her she was reading into things, always assuring her everything was fine. Little did she realize her intuition was correct. Something was terribly wrong and I was terribly broken.
When you pray to God and you truly surrender to Him, God will accept your surrender and honor your prayer. After all, He knows the intent of our heart. He knows what we need before we ask. He was waiting for me to fully surrender to Him; He understood that it would be a process. Over the next year I heard message after message from my pastors. These great men of God poured their hearts out reaching for me, challenging me and encouraging me to surrender 100% to God.
Our church has an annual event in October of every year we call “Family Weekend.” Our church family gathers on a nearby campground – with tents and bonfires and special events like cake walks and cooking competitions, sporting events, and car shows. God chose Family Weekend 2010 to expose me as the fraud I had become. I thought I was covering my tracks. I would continually clear the “history” on the computer I used. That weekend, the Lord spoke to my wife and she felt impressed to look at the history on the internet in our home. She had never done that before – and wasn’t even sure why she was doing it this time. However, when she did – she saw where I had been and what I had been looking at - and she courageously confronted me. “Family Weekend” would forever have a different meaning in our home.
You have to understand that with some spirits other spirits come along. When pornography is in the house – you can expect lies and deceit and manipulation. I was a master manipulator who was desperate to keep my secret a secret. It had to be anybody except me. However, in her love for me and with wisdom from God Himself, she kept pressing me. Eventually the Lord seemed to say this to me: “I thought you wanted to be made whole. Now’s your chance.” I had to confess for the first time that I was not the man that she thought she had married.
From that time on, my world was shaken like never before. I was in “fight or flight” mode. This was going to be the trial of my life. God knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows just how much pressure to apply and just where to apply it. My wife asked me to see a therapist. I refused because every man deals with this and it was no big deal. So, here I was, even with my sin and addiction exposed to my closest friend and companion, I was still trying to justify my actions.
For two years we played this cat and mouse game of “you need help…” answered by “I can handle this.” My world came crashing down again two years later. I heard someone say one time that “When your fear is greater than your pain you will seek help.” Finally, I realized I had nothing to lose. In the “fight of flight” of my life, I had too much that meant too much, to me to run. I love my wife – I love my children – I love my church – I love my life. I wanted deliverance from this vicious sin. So, instead of flight – I opted to fight.
I believe God speaks to men and women today. It is not always an audible voice. It doesn’t come to all of us the same way, but the voice of God is heard in the hearts and lives of men and women who are sensitive to Him and His presence. It seemed on this particular day, at this particular time, I heard God say to me, “I told you I would be with you through all the heartache and pain. So, go ahead and surrender everything”. I decided to go for it.
I picked up the phone. I made the call. I had my first appointment with a counselor associated with our church, a Christian lady by the name of Sharon Turner, Licensed Professional Counselor. I realized at that point I was even more broken than I knew. This was the way God chose to heal my broken life. The God who knows all things began to cut away the dead limbs in my life.
For the next two years I poured out my heart and soul in session after session. I shared things with my therapist and my wife I had never shared with anyone. For the first time in my life, I was learning to get completely honest with my family. At times, this road I was walking was lonely and seemed very dark and frightening. I didn’t always know for sure I was going to get through it. Feelings of shame and failure were overwhelming. I was unworthy, unloved and unlovable. During the course of those first two years of therapy, I think I experienced every emotion possible. Through it all, though, I had the love and support of my family, my pastors, and of course, my God walked with me every step.
Thankfully, I have now been clean for over six years. I have established boundaries in my life. In certain areas there is a zero tolerance in place. For the first time in my life I have a sense of direction and clarity that is unhampered and unhindered by the shame and suffering of addiction. I have learned viable and workable techniques that when I’m faced with situations that could set me back, instead give me strength and courage to “soldier on.”
God has taken the mess of my life and given me a message. The message I want to share with every man who hears or reads this testimony is simple: You can be set free from immoral thinking and pornography. You can be set free from your pain and sorrow and regret. Commit to the process. Surrender all that you are and all that you hope to be to the God who loved you first and loves you most. Allow Him to completely transform your thinking and in so doing, transform your life.
I believe God has also given me a commission to help encourage other men who find themselves trapped in the sin of lust and pornography. My desire to do this was so strong that I have become a Certified Sexual Recovery Coach through the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy. My desire is to help men break the chains of sexual sin and become the men that God intended for them to be.
I know from experience that we do not have to live with this sin in our lives. It dose not have to be a part of our lives. I believe if we submit ourselves to God, learn to trusted our family members, and to trust another brother for accountability, our minds and hearts and lives can be transformed. It has worked for me and I know that you can work for you too!
Doug Oliver, SRC