Editor’s Note: Testimonies can play a huge part in encouraging one another in our walk with Christ, our ministry journeys, and in fostering unity within our community of believers. For this reason, I’ve included this story told by a ministry leader (below).
Hundreds of thousands of people are now in recovery from their deepest hurts, habits, and hang-ups thanks to Celebrate Recovery, which is now a ministry featured in over 25,000 churches. Founded by John Baker as a signature ministry of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered approach to finding healing and wholeness.
I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with insecurity, anxiety, and sexual addiction, and my name is Andy.
BY CELEBRATE RECOVERY – PASTORS.COM
I was raised in a wonderful home, the middle child of three brothers, and a son to a mom and a dad who loved their children dearly. My parents both grew up in homes with alcoholic fathers who would occasionally turn abusive. Due to this, my parents endured a great deal of dysfunction growing up but promised each other that their children would grow up in a stable home. Mom and Dad achieved this to the best of their ability. They gave my brothers and me a home where we were loved, and they raised us to work hard and always do our best.
Growing up I became quite competitive with my siblings, particularly my older brother. When I compared myself to him I always felt like I fell short somehow, and I began to deeply resent him and became jealous of him. I wanted to show him that I was better than him, that somehow I had worth and value. It would mean that I wasn’t as fat or slow or stupid as I always thought I was when I compared myself to him. Over time this desire to prove myself would bleed into other areas and relationships in my life.
Throughout school I learned that I could prove myself worthy of the love and affirmation I thirsted for through my behavior and good grades. When I succeeded in that, I felt fulfilled and content. When I failed to meet the standard I thought everyone had for me, my soul ached and longed to feel loved. I also developed a reputation as a “nerd,” which hindered me in finding relationships and affection from the girls I liked. My hunger for love and acceptance ultimately led me to cope using pornography, starting around seventh grade. I longed for love and acceptance, and porn never rejected me. So it became my drug of choice for the next 12 years. My heart would run to porn anytime my relationships, my performance, or my situations failed to leave me feeling worthy, accepted, or loved. This pain ultimately led me to start drinking and partying in order to fit in and feel accepted toward the end of high school. This had won me most of the “acceptance” I had always thought I wanted. Still I felt a profound sense of emptiness inside me.
In the fall of 2009 I started my college career at a private Christian school in Missouri. I went from partying and drinking with my friends from the high school football team to living in the dorms with a lot of very sheltered, highly judgmental Christian students. My gut told me the only way I would survive this place was to keep my mask on and hide any guilt or shame for my past mistakes. So I did. Over the next four years I hid my pornography addiction, my drinking, a two-year-long unhealthy relationship, a lifestyle of partying, an extremely low self-esteem, and multiple negative physical relationships with girls around the college. It seemed as though I was looking for love and affirmation anywhere but from God. I thought there was no way he could love me or use me. Thankfully, God had other plans.
During college, I started to serve at a campus ministry where I was asked to lead worship and eventually train others to do the same. God placed me in a leadership role that I had no business being in. I would lead worship on Monday nights and sing of the grace and love of God, all while secretly seeking to be satisfied by my sin. Even in spite of my brokenness, God used me and called me into full-time ministry.
By 2015 I had moved to Arkansas. I had been working as an intern at a church for six months and was about to step into a role with a ministry called The Landing. I was no longer struggling with alcohol and bad relationships. But I was still addicted to pornography, extremely co-dependent, and completely terrified. How could God call me to a recovery ministry and lead students when my life was a wreck and I couldn’t manage my own sin struggles? The answer to that question came as my friend and supervisor, Rodney, asked me to join a Step Study he was leading.
I thought opening up about my sin and shame would result in the end of my ministry career. But what I found was a deeper experience of God’s grace. Walking through the principles and steps of Celebrate Recovery®, I found I really was powerless to control my life and that I wasn’t alone in ministry, even as a young pastor. I learned in a deeper way that God really did care about me personally and that I had the freedom through Christ to live as God wanted me to. But more than anything, I learned that my struggles with porn, alcohol, and shame over past decisions were a result of thirsting for love, affirmation, and acceptance in things that could never satisfy. I have come to experience through Celebrate Recovery that God is the way, the truth, and the life, and all of my longings and desires are satisfied in him.
I am so thankful that God led me to Celebrate Recovery. It has completely changed my life, my marriage, my ministry, and my relationship with Jesus Christ. I have found freedom from porn, and God continues to peel back more layers of my heart in order to make me more like him. I’m not “out of the woods,” but with the help of my forever family and the tools God has given me through Celebrate Recovery, I know I can continue to grow closer to him each day. Thank you for letting me share.