Recovery & Stewardship: Is 'What's In Your Wallet?' Affecting Your Bottom-Line?
by Bob Parkins
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Many men in recovery find they need to set limits on their spending habits; often men will include financial accountability as part of their commitment to recovery in general. Although sexual addictions have dramatic effects on some men’s finances, for many more its influence is more subtle and may lie “under the radar.” For these men financial issues often surface when they begin to gain some control over their recovery by maintaining longer periods of sexual sobriety. While men begin to feel victorious over their addictions they will often increase their spending on gadgets, hobbies or other compulsive purchases. Not unlike their increased desire for sexual experiences outside biblical boundaries, they now find an increase in thirst for money or material goods that is unquenchable (Ecc 5:10). When men enter recovery their relationship with God must become a primary focus in his life. If men have been pursuing materialism “under the radar,” these financial idols will then come into conflict with their spiritual walk (Lk 16:13). As it did with lust or sexually acting out, these two passions cannot dwell together for long without consequences.
There are many emotional connections between sexual addictions and finances. Just as in the manner people handle finances reveals their true values, so does it reveal how they manages their lives. I frequently speak about money with others in recovery as a “secondary addiction.” Whether it is money, television, hobbies, alcohol, etc., there is almost always a secondary addiction underneath the more visible primary addiction. Sexually addicted men have not developed the same ability to tolerate frustration, other negative emotions, or delay gratification to the same degree as other adults. Sexually acting out is how men cope with the uncomfortable realities of life and resulting emotional pain. Unfortunately, simply removing the method of coping [acting out sexually] does not give a person the necessary skills to cope in a fallen world. Not only does this make sexual sobriety increasingly difficult, it leaves a men feeling even more powerless and ultimately sets them up for relapse. Sexually acting out is not the only coping behavior addicts employ, there is a whole dynamic that drives many behaviors and the way they relate to others. For instance, these patterns may include avoidance, procrastination or explosive anger. Men who systematically avoid pain may not only do so by acting out, but avoid conflict in general. Behind virtually every decision they make is the mantra of “avoid pain at all cost.” If a man’s primary defense has been sexually acting out and that is no longer an option he will continue to seek avenues of avoidance. It is this dynamic that is often referred to by the term “dry addict.” The “drug” may not be there but the life patterns remain. In the absence of sex, he may act out with money.
Recovery is not just about abstaining from sexually acting out; it is a complete healing of the heart. Not only do men need to learn sobriety, they also needs to learn to cope with old triggers in healthy ways. Knowing this makes facing recovery more manageable as it helps to refocus on the actual issues. It empowers by causing men to seek new ways of relating. These changes are best made through “baby steps.” In my own recovery I started practicing assertiveness with the phone company. It is too overwhelming to tackle some issues head-on without first preparing, practicing and gaining confidence in new skills. I gained new skills at confrontation by fighting to have bogus charges removed from my phone bill. When I began to curb my spending habits I began to closer assess my motivation for spending each time I made a compulsive purchase. Soon I began to feel uncomfortable with purchases I knew where compulsive. The first day I returned a compulsive purchase I began to feel a bit of power over it. Ultimately men must address the triggering needs or emotions. When they can refocus on the actual problem they regain power and may no longer feel the need to spend or engage in other unhealthy secondary coping behaviors. I encourage you to own your choices, choose to view pain as an opportunity for growth and enter into the uncomfortable realms that you have avoided for years. You will slowly feel your heart stretching as you begin to tolerate more and more of what once felt intolerable. In retrospect, you may someday be amazed at the men you have grown up to be.
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