In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Akathist to the Mother of God known as the Inexhaustible Cup, kontakion 7:
Seeking to thank thee, O Sovereign Lady, a certain man healed from his passion for alcohol in gratitude adorned thy miraculous icon that is in Serpukhov, singing to God from the depths of his heart: Alleluia!
A new wonder do we see from thy holy icon, O Sovereign Lady, suffering from the disease of alcoholism, the servant of God Stephen implored thy maternal intercession and was freed from the bonds of his severe ailment. With a grateful heart he richly adorned thine icon, and falling down before it he called out to thee with tears:
Rejoice, life-giving spring of healing; rejoice, heavenly chalice of divine gifts!
Rejoice, ever-flowing river of healing; rejoice, sea in which our passions are laid to rest!
Rejoice, maternal hands raising up those fallen under the weight of drunkenness; rejoice, receiver of our gifts of gratitude!
Rejoice, bequeather of joy to those whose hearts are pure; rejoice, fulfiller of all good petitions!
Rejoice, O Sovereign Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup that quenches our spiritual thirst!
Today begins podcast 7, and I will be introducing the very important topic of the treatment of the sexual addiction. We will cover some ground in the next sequences of podcast, and as I did previously I will try to overview the treatment of sexual addiction fundamentally from three perspectives. The first will be the 12-Step traditional fellowship, SA, which is Sexaholics Anonymous. The second will be touching on clinical pastoral counseling work and evidence regarding this topic on how the sexual addiction is treated. And lastly but most importantly the Orthodox methods of treatment, the Orthodox perspective on the treatment of the sexual addiction.
My spiritual father, whom I have touched on in terms of including him, since he was so significant in the formation of both my wife and I to be even in the position to be ordained a priest, Fr. Gordon Walker, he was a Scripture scholar, and we met for Bible studies every week for quite a long time, where he taught on the book of Romans and other chapters of the Scripture. For those of you who may not have known him, he was responsible for producing the entire commentary for the wonderful book introduced in the new Orthodox [Study Bible], which is the Wisdom of Sirach. More than once, as he was teaching, at the right time he would say, “Now we are about to enter into the deeper waters of the study of the holy word of God.” And I am using that term today, because I feel like, in terms of the treatment of addictions, the deeper waters include this sensitive topic of the sexual addiction.
The importance of shedding light on this topic is essential, because we are living in a day and a time when there has never been more destruction of souls than in this area of sexual impurity, sexual immorality. I’m going to try to define this and, as I mentioned, offer experience, strength, and hope for those who may be afflicted and involved in an addiction that fundamentally uses sexuality, which was intended by God to be holy, and uses it for the destruction of one’s soul, mind, and body.
Now before I begin going into depth on this topic, I want to try to make it clear that in terms of sexuality from God’s perspective, there is a way of life that every man and woman is called to, and we know that on one hand one can be called to a life of celibacy, which is a calling by God, and one can be called to the sacrament, the holy mystery, of matrimony. These are a way of life, and the Lord offers everyone a choice, fundamentally. When it comes to the topic of sexual purity, I do believe that all Orthodox Christians and every human being should be invested in learning about sexual purity, what it includes. We are all called, as much as possible, whether we are celibate or married, to this virtue. We hope that all of sexuality will come under the care of the blessed Trinity, whether one is celibate or married.
The only way to talk about the illness or the addiction, sexual addiction as illness, the only way truly to discuss this is to include equally talking about the sacrament of holy matrimony, because it is there that we are able to look upon God’s perspective on sexuality, the word of God specifically and what it teaches, and we can include—and I will include at the right time—the entire Orthodox Church’s perspective on sexuality, and one of the most important discussions which will come will be on the work of the Fathers on this topic, especially the canons of the holy Orthodox Church, which are the holy boundaries, and they set a standard for the acquisition of healing and purification of human sexuality.
Before going to the word of God and the canons—again, this will unfold, I do believe, in future podcasts—I want to begin with the foundation of the perspective that 12-Step recovery traditionally has offered in this area. For those that are listening that may not know this, the oldest and in my opinion most valuable 12-Step fellowship in the world, which has been significantly able to help many, many men and women from all walks of life to heal in the area of sexual addiction, is called SA, which stands for Sexaholics Anonymous. Their headquarters is in Nashville, Tennessee, outside of where I lived with my wife, Matushka Cynthia, and spent my formation years preparing for the holy priesthood—23 years—with Fr. Gordon, our spiritual father. Anyone that’s further interested in this 12-Step fellowship, I encourage you to contact their official office in Nashville. You can Google SA and acquire their Big Book and begin to be included in this important fellowship if you are suffering from an affliction related to sexual addiction.
A little bit of background on the history of this fellowship. The founding father, who is not alive any more, Roy K, someone that I knew personally over the years, he and other individuals formed SA, but he was the first, and he actually went to Alcoholics Anonymous initially, desperate, and had come to terms—by divine inspiration, I believe, since he was a devout Christian man—with the problem that he felt he had, which was that he was addicted to lust, from the Church’s perspective, the passion of lust. So he went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and he was not an alcoholic, but he related to his brethren, and anytime anyone spoke about being powerless over alcohol and their life becoming unmanageable and listening and gaining insight and working the 12 Steps of recovery, he substituted the word “lust,” where the alcoholic admitted that they were powerless over alcohol. So the first Step of SA is that we admitted that we were powerless over lust and that our lives had become unmanageable.
He went on at the right time to meet the first sexaholic and then others, and eventually SA was formed and eventually, even though he was a principal writer, the group conscious of SA, early, which was actually borne out of AA—oh, I do believe somewhere around 45, 50 years ago—the group conscious fundamentally came to terms with what the problem was, what is the solution from a 12-Step perspective, and it included the very important definition of sexual sobriety. I do believe that this definition lines correctly right up with a Christian definition of sexual purity in terms of what sexual sobriety looks like. That definition is: “If one is a sexaholic and is powerless over lust, that one would have no sex with self, no sex with anyone outside of a heterosexual, legal marriage between a man and a woman.”
Now, from the Church’s perspective, we have to take a real good look at, along with sexual purity, the virtue of chastity. This virtue is defined as purity, virtue, innocence—so it has everything to do with the restoration of the soul, fundamentally, which is made childlike by God—modesty, virginity—which is not just physical; it is a function of the soul as well as physical. As I have mentioned, there are some individuals who are called to celibacy, others who are married, but chastity fundamentally must be practiced by both; especially for the married person, it must include the removal of sexual immorality and the activity of lust of any kind. So the opposite of this wonderful virtue of chastity is promiscuity, immorality, profligacy, licentiousness, lewdness, wantonness.
It is very, very important as we discuss this topic that we continually keep our eyes on the perspective which is God-given and that we will find and that we attempt to acquire from the holy Orthodox perspective, from the Church’s perspective, because sexuality and its purity and a life that includes chastity, which as I mentioned is purity and virtue and innocence and modesty, etc., this virtue is intimately connected to the high calling that we all have with Almighty God himself. We are called and we were created to be in relationship with the living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The importance of discussing holy matrimony and sexuality becoming holy and sacramental within that context is essential, because it fundamentally has everything to do with our relationship with Almighty God which has been dismembered by sin.
We are disconnected and we are separated and the Lord High God, by the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and his suffering on the cross and his resurrection, his entire purpose is to restore our relationship to him and for us to be re-adopted and for us to gain the very important restoration of the image and the likeness of God himself, which he created, which was disfigured by sin. This relationship includes fundamentally something extremely important, and that is that we would come—all of us—to ally ourselves more and more with the most important two commandments of the Lord: to love the Lord High God with one’s whole soul, mind, body, heart; and then to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Marriage is an essential ingredient to discuss because it is and it should be a reflection and a calling to restore this relationship with the Lord. One of the important requirements of holy matrimony is faithfulness, and it is before the Lord that a man and woman become married and take their vows, and they’re fundamentally committed to having that one and only relationship before the Lord and to love one another and to love God first and one another. It opposes in every way and it is a high calling to leave the places where we have created idols in our life.
Idolatry has been a way of life since the fall of Adam and Eve, and man and woman have been prone to turning to a false god of some kind or something created and ending up worshiping it and/or looking to it to satisfy and fulfill the needs of the soul which will never be satisfied, because they were created to be in communion with the Lord himself. But the idea of being faithful to one’s wife or husband within marriage is intimately connected to being faithful to a relationship with the Lord as we know him—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and having no other God, no other false god. So we will be discussing, as we go along, more and more about the aspects of holy matrimony that are related to the calling that we all have: to become pure, to acquire purity, and of course, in the area of sexuality, there’s no more important acquisition, fundamentally, than to acquire sexual purity.
Going back to the 12 Steps and the teachings of SA, beyond the sexual sobriety definition for the one afflicted in this area, let’s take a good look at the face of lust and how it works for the sexually addicted individual. There are two fundamental faces of lust which the SA fellowship has discussed and that people who are gaining sexual sobriety are involved in. We know that for the sexually addicted individual, sexuality is used by lust as a vehicle, and the acting out in all different forms is fundamentally lust at work, but it has two faces. The sexually addicted person lusts, and then there’s always individuals in relationship to them in one way or another who are seeking to be lusted after.
So there are two faces to lust, and the sexaholic begins and is involved in lust in a fundamental way which must be discussed. That beginning point is what they do with their eyes, because just like the alcoholic drinks the substance of alcohol or the addict uses drugs, for the sexaholic or sex addict, they drink first and foremost with their eyes. We know that the eyes are the window of the soul, and lust begins with lusting after someone and the world of fantasy and imagination. That very entrance, the drink with one’s eyes, begins the activity of lust, and then it escalates more and more. We know that sexual purity and sexual sobriety must be all-encompassing from God’s perspective, and it must include word, deed, and thought.
One of the wonderful things about SA is whether you are celibate or whether you are married, all individuals who are involved in the acquisition of their sexual sobriety in SA are committed to progressive victory over lust, this passion, and its destruction upon the soul and body. So we now introduce the fact that from God’s perspective and from SA’s perspective all sexual relations with others cannot include homosexuality, sex with self, sex with anything created, which can include the animal kingdom, and that all of sex outside fundamentally from marriage is fornication. Fornication is broad, and it involves the illness of sin of sexual impurity and immorality, but it has many different aspects, and the perspective of SA is that, for the sexaholic, one that is powerless over lust, who cannot be involved in it because to be powerless over lust means that the minute and second one begins to lust…
If they have no power, it will gain in strength, it will overcome them, their thinking will become more involved in lust, and since we know that lust is never satisfied, it enters into a realm which very soon one can lose control, and it will go from one’s thoughts, impure glances and lust activity and drinking with one’s eyes, it’ll enter into the soul, it will attempt to feed the soul, and at that point, since it’s never satisfied, it grows, and we know also that this entire phenomenon is not just emotional or an attempt to meet unmet needs—which all sin fundamentally comes down to: some attempt to meet unmet needs—but it absolutely involves the activity and the work of the enemy, the evil spirits of mankind: Satan and legions of evil spirits who are invested in the destruction of mankind. They are absolutely involved and want to lead people more and more into the activity of lust so that they could eventually destroy them. Spiritual death on every level comes when we participate in a passion to the point where we lose a choice and we are addicted fundamentally.
One of the reasons that lust is so destructive to the soul and body is that mankind—and all addicts suffer from this and the Big Book speaks about this—is imprisoned fundamentally and was separated from God at the fall, and we continue to suffer this separation, the consequences of sin in our lives, and one of the chief characteristics of all addictions that must be overcome by the grace of God and the acquisition of sobriety is the removal fundamentally of selfishness and self-centeredness. One of the reasons why lust is so addictive and destructive is because it feeds this problem of our selfishness and our self-centeredness, and the entire spiritual life is fundamentally involved in acquiring from God and what we know about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, this beautiful relationship which is full of selflessness and each Person is in a constant loving relationship and unified with the other—the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit with the Son, the Son with the Father, etc., etc.,—love is what we are called to. Loving God and one another.
And selfishness is the opposite of love. The consequences of a lifestyle of selfishness which can be imprisoned by passions and especially the passion of lust is destructive. There is no way that the soul and the body can heal from the effects of separation from God and one another while involved in sin and especially sin of this kind, because it easily becomes addictive. It almost always includes the activity of the enemy, and without the grace of God, without healing that runs deep in our need to forgive those who have trespassed against us, forgiving ourselves, being forgiven by Almighty God, which is the entire therapeutic way of the Orthodox Church, which involves holy confession and holy communion, without this we are left imprisoned and forsaken. Many individuals are suffering today from a form of sexual addiction of some kind, and they are not free. We are called to holy communion with the Lord, and the removal of this passion is essential. All of us need to—whether we admit that we have a sexual addiction or not—we must, and can learn from this valuable 12-Step fellowship and where men and women have been afflicted and have gained by grace progressive victory over lust.
We will further discuss this topic because, from both the 12-Step perspective and the Church’s, the illness that involve sexual immorality will need to be discussed because they are a manifestation fundamentally of lust activity. We will in the future specifically discuss masturbation, homosexuality, and other sexual sins, but we will take the perspective of the holy Orthodox Church that these sins are not a choice: they are an illness. And we are early on, beginning with this podcast, discussing what the problem is, and we will eventually, gradually, shed more and more light on the solution: how to be freed from the passion of lust. We have a lot to learn from both the 12-Step perspective, but we will and must include the science of spiritual medicine as taught by the holy Fathers and Mothers of the holy Orthodox Church.
We will bring forth the methods of treatment which the Lord has given to the Church and are in the body of Christ and that we avail ourselves [of] as we fundamentally re-establish a relationship with our Lord, which includes unceasing prayer, walking humbly, learning the value of obedience, primarily inside of the important therapeutic relationship: spiritual fatherhood. We will and must avail ourselves [of] the holy mysteries of the holy Orthodox Church, primarily as the method of healing of our soul and body—holy confession, holy communion—because, fundamentally, without receiving and properly preparing and receiving the life-creating mysteries, Christ himself, his precious body and blood, we will not be able to journey down into the depths of the heart and allow God to lead us through stages of forgiveness, the mourning and the loss, the grief stages that accompany sin and wherever sin has affected us, our souls and bodies, because without that deeper inner healing and deliverance we will constantly resort and find ourselves addicted or repeating patterns of sin that can only further separate us from our God and from one another.
I want to thank any who are listening who are members of the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup for their ongoing participation and support so that these podcasts can continue to be produced. As I mentioned early on, I would ask all those that are listening to consider that podcasts will be interconnected and that one ties in with the other, especially on this topic of the treatment of sexual addiction. I want to invite anyone who is suffering from the passion of lust and its effects and/or sexual addiction to contact our fellowship, to look at our website, the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup, and to consider joining us in participation and support.
We absolutely believe that under the care and the omophor of the Mother of God whose purity and chastity not only as an example but as one who can dispense grace for the purification of our souls and bodies especially in this area, is not only available but that we need her support, along with the angels and saints. We have discovered that by participating and praying for one another there is an enormous movement of grace going on for individuals and for the healing of marriages, and particularly in this area wherever the affliction of the sexual addiction or sexual impurity is at work. We believe that through her intercession and by her holy prayers, the forces of evil and darkness, who are at work in promoting internet pornography and illicit sex worldwide to the destruction of the soul and body of many, will be arrested. We are seeing visible evidence of the ongoing miracles, for she truly is a miraculous icon, the Inexhaustible Cup. We are experiencing these ongoing miracles, the members who are participating. I invite anyone who’s interested and who would consider participation to come, and I thank you. I thank all that are listening.
My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O God; glory to thee. Amen.