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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Posey

From Doorway to Path: How Wisdom Empowers Sustainable Recovery from Porn

Updated: Feb 29




I was listening to a sermon series by the late Tim Keller recently on Wisdom. As he was describing the Biblically informed definition of wisdom and how to apply it, the thought came to me that this sounds a lot like what it takes to overcome compulsive porn use. Here is what I mean:


What Is Wisdom and Sobriety?

In my own recovery journey from compulsive porn use I had an underlying belief that sobriety was a sort of doorway, a finish line, an end goal that once I reached it I would be “cured”. I would have stints of being porn-free, sometimes even years. However, these sober times would inevitably lead to a relapse.


On the other side of these relapses I would feel confused, I would tell myself things like, “What happened?”, “I was doing so good…”, “I thought I was past this…”. Dr. Keller describes wisdom as a path as opposed to a doorway. When I heard him give this biblically-informed description of wisdom something in me clicked. He goes on to describe wisdom as a way of being, a one-step-at-a-time journey, a road that you choose to follow with each concurrent decision. This is consistent with how scripture talks about wisdom - all throughout the proverbs wisdom is described not as a static object which can be found in a single moment or if you look in the right places for it. Rather, scripture describes wisdom as something that is sought after, labored over, and trained. What a powerful tool in establishing sustainable recovery from compulsive porn use. When we can transition from seeing sobriety as a doorway which can be walked through in a single moment to seeing it as a path which we choose to stay on step by step everyday we in large part will be liberated from porn’s grasp on our lives and empowered to choose wisdom and sobriety.


The Path is not Easy, and That's OK

I’d like to point out one important part of why pursuing wisdom and sobriety as a path as opposed to a doorway is so powerful - this approach validates how difficult the sober path can feel at times which is really important for a sustainable recovery plan. In my own pursuit of sobriety from compulsive porn use, and in those of my clients, it is all too easy to conflate the struggle of sobriety with failure. In other words, when sobriety feels difficult, when I feel an urge, when I become triggered I interpret that as failure, something is still “wrong” with me, I haven’t quite made it out of the woods. If you experience thoughts like these it may be a good indication that you are approaching sobriety as a doorway as opposed to a path. Along the path of wisdom and sobriety there will be moments of struggle, of temptation, moments where it feels really difficult, disorienting and confusing, but seeing wisdom and sobriety as a path empowers you to take the next right step in the midst of difficulty, confusion, and disorientation. You won’t be emotionally and spiritually knocked down when temptations, urges, and triggers arise because you will know that sobriety is a path and all I have to do is take the next right step. Viewing sobriety and wisdom as a doorway doesn’t allow for this ever changing and growing experience of progress. If wisdom and sobriety were a doorway we could step through and be wise, be sober, be all that we long for which is why, when we approach these life principles as a doorway it can feel so devastating when temptations, urges, and triggers arise - it totally confounds and deflates our fantasy of having made it to the finish line - it knocks us over because we thought we were cured.


Where Does the Path Begin?

Here are a few tools to help you train in wisdom for the sake of sobriety:


  • Know God:

    • Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”. Knowing God empowers us to do some really meaningful self-reflection about our behaviors and give us a sort of template - “Does this decision fit in with what I know about God?”

    • The temptation here is to feel judged or condemned. After all - we are all sinners and of course we are incapable of living a perfect life. However, if we really know God we will know His grace, kindness, and compassion, and we will know that there is something really important about our decisions that He likely wants to talk to us about. God does not want us to suffer as we feel enslaved to sin - He wants to liberate us. Truly knowing God in this way will send us running for the comfort and shelter He provides in times of temptation, times of trouble, and times when we feel we need wisdom the most.


  • Know yourself:

    • John Calvin suggests that knowledge of self and knowledge of God rise and fall together. He suggests that the more we truly know ourselves, the more we will realize how much we need God and how much we truly depend on Him. Likewise, the more we know God and His characteristics the more we will know who He has created us to be and the purpose for which He created us (to be in relationship with Him). Moment by moment, day by day, week by week and so on - stay tuned in to how you are doing emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Staying in touch with how you are doing and more importantly - where your emotional, spiritual, and relational experiences are moving you - will give you the opportunity to ask yourself, “Am I being moved toward congruence and integration with who God created me to be and the purposes I know He has for me, or am I being moved in another direction?”


  • Commit to walking the path of wisdom and sobriety moment by moment, and day by day:

    • Knowing God more and knowing yourself more will serve as invaluable tools for the purpose of thriving in wisdom on your path of sobriety. Some days the path will feel really difficult, some days the path will feel really easy. Utilize your knowledge of God and knowledge of self as a sort of compass keeping you on your path of recovery.


If you are reading this and you have felt like a failure, if you have felt confused, disoriented, and ashamed, you are not alone. It is perfectly normal to feel what you are feeling - it is part of the path. Now you get to decide where those feelings will move you, what is your next right step? You got this.

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