GroupsHealing 9 minutes to read

Answering some of the most common questions about joining a recovery or support group at Pure Desire.

I can still remember when I began my healing journey with Pure Desire a decade ago. My wife and I had just completed our first appointment with the Pure Desire clinical team, and at the end of that session, my counselor “prescribed” a weekly recovery group for my healing. He was very adamant; this wasn’t an optional part of recovery. I did my best to protest, “I’m so busy right now—I have weekend services, Elders meetings, small groups I lead,” etc, etc, etc. He looked me in the eye and said, “Nick, if you don’t make this group a top-shelf priority, your recovery likely won’t work!” 

I decided to give a Pure Desire Seven Pillars of Freedom group a try because of his insistence. I wasn’t happy about it, but I went! That first group—and the dozens that have followed since, as I now lead—was a game-changing experience for me. 

While your story and mine may differ, I can guess, you have battled some internal struggles when someone suggested, or prescribed, that you join a group. Maybe you thought, “My struggle is not that bad—I can handle it on my own—so why do I need a group?” Or maybe you worry, “No one struggles with the kind of things I do. Will I be accepted?” Or even, “I am too embarrassed to share my story. Do I have to go?” 

No matter what thoughts or concerns you have battled, I want you to know you’re not alone! Engaging in this journey is deeply personal and, quite frankly, a whole lot of work. It is natural to have questions or pushback. In this blog, I want to address nine of the most common questions—or objections—I hear from those who are hesitant to join a Pure Desire group. I hope this will give you the courage to jump in and ignite your healing journey as well.

Let’s count down to #1!

#9 “I don’t have an addiction so why do I need a group?”

Typically, when I hear this question, a person has “self-diagnosed” their problem. We decide, for a variety of reasons, that we can handle this issue on our own because our struggle, “Isn’t that bad.” We are convinced that “last time” we stumbled was definitely the last time! But, as a friend of mine has quipped, “If the last time wasn’t the last time, this time probably won’t be either.” 

The clarifying question we may need to ask ourselves is this: Do I continue to engage in a behavior that I have promised myself or others I would never do again? If the answer to this question is yes, then it shouldn’t matter if we have an “addiction” or not. The label we use isn’t important. What is important is for us to get traction and experience real change on something we want dealt with and done. If we choose to battle this alone, we are choosing to stay stuck in a place of isolation. A pattern of more isolation will not remedy a behavior rooted in a pattern of isolation. Community—joining a group—is a must!

#8 “My spouse doesn’t know; can I still join?”

This is a tricky situation, to be sure, but the answer is “Yes!” For me, this is a question of, “When is it the right time to stop going in the wrong direction?” The answer is, of course, as soon as possible! When we begin to move toward healing, we will have to face obstacles along the way. If our spouse doesn’t know the level of our struggle, we can let this obstacle become a roadblock that keeps us from healing. So, do whatever it takes in this case to start moving in the right direction. 

I don’t want you to lie. But early on, it is okay if you’re not able or ready to reveal everything. Many group members have told a spouse, “There’s a men’s (or women’s) Bible study on Tuesdays at the church and I’ve been invited to join.” Or another, “A group is meeting to train people on purity and healthy sexuality. I’d like to go to be more equipped to help our kids or people in the church.” These honest statements can get you moving in the right direction until the timing is right to include your spouse in the full story (and yes, they do need to know it all eventually).

#7 “My reputation/job/role could be compromised—what can I do?”

That’s a fair question! If you hold a job or role that could be undermined (or ended) by your past actions coming to light, this is a legitimate concern. A Pure Desire group, though, is built on confidentiality. Every group member should be signing the Memo of Understanding at the beginning of a group, stating that they agree to keep the members and the stories they share completely confidential. 

Another step you could take is to consider attending a group outside of your immediate area for greater anonymity. My first group was 30 miles up the freeway—it was a bit more of a drive but I was able to be more open with men who lived in a different community. A final consideration could be to join an online group. Every day, Pure Desire has confidential online groups meeting with men or women from all over the world. This entirely online environment can help provide a higher level of confidentiality if needed. 

#6 “What if it’s just not the right time for me or I don’t have time for a group?”

There will never be an easy, or convenient, way to do a hard thing. At every season of life, you will have reasons not to do this. But refer back to the intro: “If you don’t make this a top-shelf priority, your recovery probably won’t work.” So how important is your healing? 

#5 “I already have accountability so why do I need a group?”

Accountability is only one small piece of the recovery process. Accountability typically includes having safe people in your life that you can tell anything. That’s great! But what I find is that all the accountability in the world doesn’t help us if we are still trapped in unhealthy patterns, listening to faulty thinking, or failing to recognize what drives our behavior. A Pure Desire group goes far beyond accountability into the root issues of your struggle. I had “accountability” for over 10 years and didn’t find freedom until I joined a group and did the hard work of recovery. 

#4 “Won’t it be really awkward or embarrassing?”

Probably. But it might help to know that everyone feels this way. Everyone has some aspect of their story that they believe makes them unique or bad in some way. I have truly come to believe that this is a big part of Satan’s plan against Christians; convince them that some part of their story is beyond repair so that they hide and thus, stay stuck. Remember, you are not alone! While we all have unique struggles, challenges, and histories, I have found over and over in a group that we are all more alike than we are different. I once had a 19-year-old and an 81-year-old in the same group. They would routinely look over at one another during group sharing and say some form of, “You, too?” 

The root issues we have, the lies we are susceptible to, and the thought patterns that trap us are incredibly consistent! Telling your story honestly, and wholly, in a safe place can help you work through and overcome the shame or embarrassment attached to it! 

#3 “If God forgave it, why should I dwell on it?”

As you have hopefully learned in relationships, forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. So is the case with healthy sexuality. God has forgiven us from the eternal, sin-bound consequences of our past. But that past can still be impacting us in many ways, including some natural consequences. In a group setting, we are not “dwelling” on the past in order to think about how bad we were or feel more shame. Instead, we are investigating and exploring our past to understand what happened, why did we make the choices we did, and what patterns can be discovered. Understanding what we did in the past and why can enable us to walk more fully in the forgiveness God has already given us!

#2 “Why does it take so long or so much work?”

Another fair question. We are all busy people with active lives. I get it. But what we are engaging in with a group is transformational work. The brain is literally getting renewed and reorganized through this process. Deep soul lies are being untangled and set right. Habitual patterns of thinking that we may have lived with for 20, 30, 40 years or longer are being changed. This won’t, and can’t, happen fast! Many have rightly said that healing is a marathon, not a sprint. 

The number of people who have found healing in a Pure Desire group are in the tens of thousands. These friends who are farther down the road would look back and say, “This is what it takes to be fully free!” We may wish it could happen faster, but this work takes time. Think of it this way: if the healing journey means taking one year of your life to be “all in” and one year from now you could look back and see that you were healthy, free, and transformed, would it be worth it? 

Which leads into the last and best question. If we are going to give an “all in” effort for anything, we want to know…

#1 “Will it work?”

If we are going to engage a high level of effort, this is a question we should be asking! Why would we do anything if we didn’t know it would work? While I cannot make a guarantee, what I do know is this: Pure Desire has grown over the last 25 years for one simple fact. The groups continue to change lives. And those changed lives continue to be people who talk to a friend or family member and say, “This changed my life. You should try a group!” It’s possible that one of those changed lives is the person encouraging you right now to jump in!

Earlier this year, we did a survey of some of our former group members. Of those who responded, 85.4% said the curriculum had an Excellent or Outstanding impact on their healing  journey. I found this number encouraging, as it aligned with my own observations as a leader over the past 10 years. I would say that 85% of men in groups experience significant healing and change. That’s a pretty high percentage, when you consider all the factors that can lead to someone not completing the group or falling away. I am convinced, this is a group where you will get out of it what you put into it. If you engage with a whole-hearted effort and are open to how God wants to work in your life, you will find yourself in the 85%! 

This journey is not for the faint of heart, but it is for all those who have come to a place where they are ready to change and find greater health. God will meet you on this journey—so trust Him and jump. I pray you will, and I pray that you will never be the same. 

Nick Stumbo

Nick is the Executive Director for Pure Desire. He has been in ministry leadership for 18 years. He was in pastoral ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor in Pastoral Studies from Crown College, an MDiv from Bethel Seminary, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.

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