By Chris A.
In April of 2018 I had reconstructive shoulder surgery. My shoulder had been injured since I was 18 years old. I dislocated it playing sports and didn’t take the proper steps afterwards to insure complete healing. I was 18 when it happened and after years of annoying and finally severe pain I had reconstructive surgery. Full labrum repair and partial tear to my rotator cuff. I use this injury, surgery, and eventual physical therapy to describe what was taking place in my life after disclosure. Interestingly enough my struggle with pornography and fantasy had started about the same time as my shoulder injury. And since I didn’t take proper care, it escalated.
Months before surgery my shoulder would come out of socket very easily. Whether I was reaching for my seatbelt, swinging a tennis racket, or doing indoor rock climbing with my son (I did it once, so don’t be impressed). In the same way that I couldn’t control when my shoulder would dislocate, my life had become out of control…completely unmanageable. Just as I was powerless to repair my shoulder, I found myself powerless to change my behavior. And just as a change in behavior wouldn’t repair my shoulder, behavioral change wouldn’t repair who I’d become. I needed a Dr. for my shoulder and a power greater than myself for my life. I had reached an impasse with both.
When an orthopedic Dr. performs shoulder surgery their goal isn’t to bring your shoulder back to normal, at least not initially. I describe it this way and I hope you can follow. If center represents normal and left represents my proneness for shoulder dislocation, then I was far left. When the Dr. performed the reconstruction of my shoulder his goal was not to bring me back to normal/center. His goal was to take me far right of center. Taking me far right of center meant he would tighten down my shoulder and force me to remain in a sling with no movement of my shoulder for 8 weeks. This stability ensured that my shoulder would be fully repaired. He would then send me to physical therapy where I would, over time, work my shoulder back to normal.
In the same way, my life was no longer centered. My life was far left of center. I was, in a sense, dislocating with ease and with more and more frequency. I had lost control and was, in my mind, beyond repair. The day I disclosed I dropped a bomb on my family, yes, but I was about to go through major surgery myself. And the Good Dr., God himself, would be the one to perform the procedure. His goal would be to bring me back to center, but not immediately. He would do it over time. And it started by taking me far right of center. Here’s what I mean; I had to, as James would say, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 ESV)
This reconstructive surgery on my life would start with a new identity. Over the last 10-12 years I had begun to make more money, take on more responsibility, and was, in the world’s eye, successful. Custom shirts, custom suits, drinking bourbon, and smoking fine cigars. To my counterparts at work I was the best of both worlds. I could party with them, but I was still the “good Christian.” Years before I was considered by my colleagues as the de facto chaplain at work, the Boy Scout. But slowly I became more like “them.” I was no longer just in the world, I was “of” the world. I was no longer transformed but conformed. (Hebrews 12:1) Or as the Psalmist warned against in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or set foot on the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.” I went from walking with them, to standing with them, to sitting with them…I had become one of them. So, on October 2, 2018 I handed things over to God. For the first time in a long time I shut up. I listened. Here’s what taking things “far right” for me looked like. I did the following:
- I got off of all social media, all of it.
- I threw away every custom shirt, custom suit, and any article of clothing I ever used to bring attention to myself.
- I quit drinking and smoking cigars (I was not an alcoholic, but I used these things to escape reality.)
- I listened only to Christian worship music.
- I stopped watching television.
- I stopped watching sports.
- I removed certain friendships from my life.
- I took a job (that was two steps backwards in my career) that would keep me from traveling.
- I started going to a new therapist who was specific to my needs.
- I joined Castimonia. (More on this later)
- I found a Sponsor and a Circle of 5.
- I started meeting with my accountability partners every week.
- I continued reading Scripture and praying every day.
- I prayed through The Power of a Praying Husband and The Power of a Praying Parent every day.
- I journaled every day.
- I devoured books on identity in Christ, recovering from infidelity, etc.
Maybe the finest line to walk in the entire process of recovery is the line between fighting for my wife and kids while still freeing them from any obligation to forgive, reconcile, or anything else that somehow pressured them into a relationship with me. I had to be willing to let go despite my selfish desire to hold on to them for dear life. Holding on to them would only impede their own recovery and push them away from me as well as prevent me from standing up and getting well myself. I sort of envisioned it as if I were physically holding on to them and as they pulled away, I would continue to grasp for them until they were literally dragging me as they tried to retreat. Not only did this act prevent them from moving into recovery because of my added weight, it also prevented me from standing up and becoming the man God intended me to be. I learned through the process that the greatest way to recover my family was to first be recovered myself. And that took major surgery and the hard work of recovery.