Homecoming Mentoring Program Requirements
Prayerfully consider the following requirements for the Homecoming mentoring program. We have found all six of these actions and attitudes to be crucial to a successful recovery.
We adhered to Homecoming's four-fold definition of sobriety:
- No sex outside of marriage (for marrieds, includes no emotional involvement with anyone other than the spouse.)
- No pornography
- No sex with self (masturbation)
- Progressive victory over lust
As the 12 Step slogan goes, "Ya gotta wanna." Those of us who have found sobriety through this program were desperate for help. We had tried to overcome our addiction numerous times, and nothing had worked. We were asked to do difficult work by our mentors. We were tempted to resist the guidance of our mentors, to view ourselves as exceptions, and to cut corners. Sometimes we tried to make our mentors the issue, complaining that they were too strict and inflexible, and that we didn't like their personalities. Ultimately, we came to see that the 12 Step program is based on principles, not personalities, and that whether we happened to like our mentors or not, is inconsequential to the work we needed to do to get sober and stay sober. Although it was written to church leaders, we found that Hebrews 13:17 contained an appropriate exhortation for us as mentees:
"Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?" The Message
When we first entered the program, we hoped we could find an "easier, softer way." But we couldn't. If the roof of our house leaks, and our flooring has dry rot, it doesn't do any good to put up new wallpaper or rearrange the furniture. Throughout our recovery process, we have been asked to carry out assignments that put us outside our comfort zones. But nothing changes if nothing changes. We found that God did, indeed, change us. But first we had to decide if we were willing to pay the price.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says there is only one kind of person who will be unable to recovery using the 12 Steps. "Those who do not recover," it says, "are...men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves...They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty." (page 55)
The "rigorous honesty" of the 12 Steps created both terror and hope within us when we first came into the program. Terror, because most of us had never before been completely honest with anyone. But as we sat in meetings and heard others share openly about both successes and failures, we also began to feel hope for the first time. Here was a group where it was safe to talk about our failures, our temptations, and our sin, without being shamed or ostracized.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor in Germany in World War II observed in his book, Life Together, that churches fit into one of two categories: they are either a fellowship of the pious, or a fellowship of sinners. In the fellowship of the pious, Bonhoeffer wrote, it is not safe to be a sinner. If you admit to failure, you will be put out of the church. The result is that the sin is driven underground, out of sight. In the fellowship of sinners, where it's safe to acknowledge failure, sin is brought out into the light and dealt with. The ironic results, Bonhoeffer observes, is that there is generally more sin in the fellowship of the pious, and less sin in the fellowship of sinners.
Jesus found the same dichotomy in the first century. In the fifth chapter of Luke, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for socializing with "tax gatherers and sinners." Jesus replied by saying, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:30-32)
Jesus was founding a fellowship of sinners. The Pharisees were leaders of a fellowship of the pious. People who were shamed and ostracized by the Pharisees for their sinful behavior felt safe around Jesus.
Homecoming seeks to be a fellowship of sinners, where it's safe to admit failure, without fear of judgment or condemnation. We're all here to get well, to overcome, by God's strength, the bonds that have enslaved us. It's safe to be honest here. In fact, it is essential that we each continue to be "rigorously honest" every time we meet, week after week. It's the only way we'll get better. Lying and deceiving have enabled our addiction to grow and flourish in the past. Now it's time for complete honesty. Your mentor won't be able to help you without it.
One popular circus act features a man who is able to balance spinning plates on the top of tall poles. The man adds new poles with plates, one at a time, until he finally has a dozen poles in a line, each with a plate spinning on top. As the first pole loses momentum and its plate beings to wobble, the man rushes back and gets it spinning again. The he does the same with the second pole and the third, until he reaches the final pole. At this point, the first plate is again wobbling and in danger of falling, so he runs back to begin the process all over again.
For many of us prior to recovery, our lives felt like that circus act. We had gradually added one activity after another to our lives until our lives were filled with rushing back and forth, trying to keep everything going, but always feeling like we were fighting a losing battle. And, of course, we somehow found time to add a pole labeled "secret life" to our lineup.
Then we entered the Homecoming 12 Step program and heard that our recovery work must be a priority. "Not a problem," we said to ourselves. "I know how to squeeze an extra pole or two into my lineup. I've been balancing plates all my life."
But as it turned out, there was a problem. We found out from those who had gone before us that the recovery process was not like some course in college that we could slide through with the help of Cliff's Notes and a little late night cramming.
If we wanted long-term sobriety and freedom from the pain that had driven us all our lives, we needed to let God thoroughly change us from the inside out. We needed to learn a whole new way of living. That process takes time. It simply wouldn't work to try to squeeze our recovery in on top of everything else and hope for the best. That would be a little like trying to build a house in the middle of a cyclone. We had tried that approach to life and all we had to show for it were years of chaos.
We were told that the mentoring commitment involved attending the weekly Homecoming meetings and the mentoring meeting, as well as daily phone calls to an accountability partner, and reading and writing assignments that averaged about an hour a day. We were also told that it would take nine to twelve months initially to work through the 12 Steps. That intensive phase would be followed by an active, though less demanding phase of mentoring others.
We were asked not to make any major changes in our life circumstances for the next 12 months in order to have maximum time and energy for our recovery work. And we were asked to make our recovery work our number one priority. If there was ever a conflict between our recovery work and our jobs or our family or church activities, that for the next year, our recovery would need to take priority. And though we didn't like hearing it, we knew that what was being asked of us made sense. For many of us, our marriages were at stake. Others of us had sunk so low into self-loathing that our very lives were at stake. And for all of us who were Christians, we desperately wanted the restoration of our severed relationship with God. We reflected on Jesus' words in Matthew about what it means to be his disciple:
"For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but who ever loses his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 16:25
We knew we could never be a true disciple of Jesus so long as our addiction had a death grip on our lives. So we chose to take that step and make the commitment to make our recovery work our number one priority.
For those of us who were married, we discussed all this with our spouses before making the commitment, for all this would affect them as well. In most cases, we found our wives supportive. They had been so deeply hurt by our acting out and our lies, they knew the restoration of the marriage was completely dependent on God making a new person out of us.
We all took that step, and though it was the most difficult thing we've ever done in our lives, we never regretted it. The sobriety we found became the doorway to a life of freedom and contentment that we'd never experienced before.
Having said that, we must hasten to add that the Homecoming 12 Step program is not for everyone. Our infinitely creative Heavenly Father has led many gifted Christian therapists and ministry leaders to develop effective programs for sexual addiction recovery.
Part of the "contract" we make when we ask someone to sacrificially minister to us, is to be willing to mentor someone else. Step 12 says, "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex and love addicts, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives." Carrying the message to others is an essential part of our ongoing recovery program. Not only is it a way of expressing gratitude to God for what He's done in our lives, but we have also found that we learn far more from the experience than our mentees do.
As you can tell, the requirements for the Homecoming mentorship program are demanding. But, for the kind of desperate addicts that we were, we found that a tough, rigorous program like this one was necessary to experience freedom from our addiction.
The Homecoming program is not for everyone. If you are unsure, we would encourage you to try other recovery paths that would be less intensive. Sex and love addiction is "cunning, baffling, and powerful," to borrow a phrase from the A.A. Big Book. For us, lowering the standards of the program would inevitably lead to relapse and the destruction of all we hold precious.
If you still feel led to join us in that jump through the plate glass window into paradise, prayerfully read through the mentorship agreement. If you are married, talk this over with your spouse, for the time demands of the program will affect her as well.