A common thread I find in the men’s recovery groups I’ve joined and led throughout the years is a reluctance to embrace full disclosure. It typically takes one brave soul, who has reached their bottom, to understand that the fear of shame isn’t worth holding onto if it means there is a chance of redemption. The man who shares deeply the first time starts a domino effect that allows other men to be vulnerable to stand-up and say: “me too.” When the pain of my addiction was greater than my fear of shame, I was able to embrace my full disclosure. I want to share my story with you today in the hopes it will allow you to say “me too.” It’s my hope that you will come to understand your fear of shame is no match for God’s grace. I pray today will be the day you embrace your full disclosure and release Satan’s hold over your life, your marriage, your children and your future.
Hello, my name is Shaun. I am a sinner saved by grace and this is my full disclosure.
One of my earliest childhood memories is a good one, a memory full of hope and sealed with promise. I can close my eyes and become 2-years-old all over again. Walking down a sunny summer sidewalk I can hear the mourning doves coo, smell the jasmine in bloom, feel the sun peeking through the Spanish moss-covered oaks that line the path. I’m with my mother as we travel the neighborhood streets on an essential quest, “How to get to Sesame Street.” This was our Sunday ritual, we woke at dawn, prayed before breakfast, prepared for the walk to church while singing hymns and searching for Sesame Street. I can hear my mom’s stunningly off-key version of “This is the day that the Lord has made.” At two years old I expected a lot out of what life would be like…
I expected everyday should be this perfect; that my mother would always read to me before bed; we would always sing hymns together and pray in the morning before breakfast. These were my first and best memories. This is how I learned what the world would be like. Life was good. My expectations were nothing more than resentments under construction.
Those memories colored an incomplete picture, just a single frame of a much larger story. At 6 months old my father took me on our first father-son fishing trip. I was too young to be nervous, excited, or aware. I was a blank canvas. On our special father-son day on the dock by the lake it began to rain. The type of rain that falls in sheets, not drops and fills all the empty spaces. My father was unconscious, he’d passed out in pool of bile, an unfortunate side effect of abusive alcoholism. I was left to drown in my carrier until I was found by a passerby. A few months later a fire engulfed our home. My mother, my sister and I stood watching our small Georgia trailer consumed, waiting for a savior. The savior we expected was a father that never came back from his trip to the store. My Father wounds were like Lego bricks constructing a compartmentalized heart in my chest.
My mother, one of 4 children, was a Navy brat whose childhood consisted of one move after another. My grandparents neglected to realize that my mother had never learned simple math or map skills. She was molested by the neighbor, and this too was overlooked. At the age of 16, my mother left home to fend for herself. She was not allowed to return home, not until the great trailer fire of 1981.
It was living at my grandparent’s house that we searched for Sesame Street, took long walks, played in the big back yard and prayed before meals. It was there I was happy, I was safe, and I was loved. It was 30 years before I felt happy, safe and loved again.
Eventually, we moved out of my grandparent’s house and into an apartment in the Westside of Jacksonville. The first time I walked in the door, I couldn’t understand why the walls were black. After a few moments, I realized that the walls were not black, they were alive and crawling with roaches.
There are moments in our lives where limbic lies are born. They are defining moments, dramatic signposts that we mark our lives by, moments when everything changes causing us to become transformed versions of who we once were. This was when the first limbic lie of my life was implanted because I no longer felt safe or protected. In my mind, I was no longer worth protecting.
The Moving Man
Around 6-years old things began to change again. We were finally winning the war on roaches. Electricity and food were constant enough and Oprah had launched her hit talk show. Oprah’s first episode was titled “How to Marry the Man or Woman of Your Choice.” And so, empowered by the gospel of Oprah, my mother did. My mom married the moving man.
The moving man brought with him so many firsts that they came fast and often.
He brought my first new bed, he was my first real male influence, he taught me my first curse word, left me my first porn magazine hidden under the bathroom sink, showed me my first acts of nudity and violence, gave me my first beating, and encouraged me to lie for the first time to my mother. But he was my father… the man who loved me. I learned how to live life on his terms, building my compartmentalized heart of father wounds brick by brick.
My mother soon became pregnant with twin girls. This was something the moving man decided he wasn’t able to handle. Just like that, he was gone. I cried myself to sleep every night for a year wondering what I had done wrong, my tears the cement holding the compartmentalized bricks of my heart together. The (limbic lie), “It was my fault my step-father left. All men leave. Love doesn’t last.”
As a child I couldn’t see the bigger picture, it was me my father and my stepfather had left. He left and he took the mother I had known my entire life with him. He left me with someone that looked like my mother, but was a stranger living in my mother’s skin. We no longer sang, we no longer prayed, there were no more stories or walks. We no longer looked for Sesame Street. This was the moment I was no longer happy. The (limbic lie), “My joy is determined by the joy of others.”
My mother withdrew, became dark and abusive. I was routinely beaten with wooden spoons, hangers, broom handles, or anything within reach. Unbeknownst to my mother, she dated a string of pedophiles. She routinely encouraged me to spend my weekends with these men. This wasn’t the way life was supposed to be. This was not living up to my expectations. The (limbic lie), “Denial gives me control.” This is when I no longer felt loved.
I began feeling cold, alone and desperate. I prayed, I prayed hard, I prayed every day. On the school bus in the morning with my head against the glass I prayed God would save me, that he would take me far away. I prayed that if I died I wouldn’t go to hell. At 8-years old I thought a lot about dying. I felt broken. I knew this wasn’t how people should feel. My prayers for salvation were to fix me, to make me happy again or to take me home to heaven where the pain would end and I could feel safe, happy and loved. But after each bus ride of prayer, I never felt saved. The (limbic lie), “There is no escape, there is no salvation, No one hears my prayers.”
When I turned 12, the moving man reappeared and my mother was pregnant again. I had such resentment for this man who left me, who destroyed my mother and could show back up like he’d never left. Over the next year I was exposed to more violent aggression and abuse. After one particularly severe beating I ran away. I took my bike and headed out, a 10-mile trek on I-95 until I arrived at my Grandmother’s house. She agreed to let me stay after hearing what I had been through. I thought my prayers had finally been answered-I was back at the only safe place I had ever known. Hours later police officers arrived and drug me back home. I was locked in my room for the next three months… not for running away but for telling my family members what had been happening to me. The (limbic Lie), “Telling the truth isn’t worth the consequence. There is no escape.”
At 16 I found proof that the moving man had been cheating on my mother. I called her from a payphone to tell her what I had found and that everything would be ok. We could finally get rid of him and I would take care of her. We could finally change things, life would be better now. My mother immediately called my stepfather to tell him. He let me know if I returned the disk with the pictures we would forget it ever happened and if I didn’t he would kill me.
I ran home to pack my few possessions to leave for good. While in the house my stepfather came home with evil intent. I escaped through a window and ran on foot. He attempted to run me over with our family van and forced me off the road into the woods. I ran into the woods to hide all night and never looked back. The (limbic lie), “I was all I would ever need.”
I was 16 and I was on my own. I went to work full time for a minor league baseball team. I was accepted to a prep school and spent my high school years preparing to make a life of my own. I lettered in Wrestling, Track and Cross Country. I was accepted to Annapolis, awarded three full scholarships and established an inner-city summer children’s church in Brooklyn. I had successfully left all of the darkness behind me locked up tightly in a compartmentalized closet of a heart full of father wounds. I was so certain and proud of all I had accomplished, all on my own. I didn’t need authority figures, I didn’t need accountability and I certainly didn’t need God interfering with my successes.. The (limbic lie), “I had overcome, I had made myself free. I was responsible for the good things in my life.”
I’ll tell you what, Proverbs 16:18 says Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. I was so convinced that the God I prayed to on the school bus when I was 8 had abandoned me and that I had achieved these things only by striking out on my own. I had battled and defeated my past and I’d never need to look back again.
My high school sweetheart came home from college one weekend and we were together intimately. The (limbic lie), “The physical affections of this girl make me feel valuable and strong. I am a man.” A few weeks later I received a phone call, she was pregnant. Throughout my entire life, my goal had been to be a better man than my father and my stepfather. I wanted to be smarter, kinder and more successful. I didn’t know how to accept this news.
For the first time since I was 3 years old things were good, they were right and I was succeeding. I didn’t know how this child fit into my plan. My high school sweetheart dropped out and moved back home. We were ostracized by the church. The (limbic lie), “Only healthy people without problems belong in my church. I can’t admit my sins in church.” Dreams of Annapolis evaporated. I was committed to being the best father I could in the midst of chaos but I wouldn’t get married as her parents insisted. I was too confused and too selfish to make it work. We had a baby girl, I have a daughter named Morgan.
Morgan was born with a small hole in her heart and needed fairly regular medical attention. Morgan’s mother asked if I wouldn’t mind allowing her boyfriend to extend his military medical coverage to cover any additional costs and told me I would only have to sign a few papers. I agreed assuming pure intent. I met her at her lawyer’s office and signed the papers she asked for. I learned days later the lawyer was her soon to be father in law, she would be getting married shortly, and I had been conned into signing away my parental rights. From that day forward, I was never allowed to see Morgan again. The (limbic lie) “I would never be a good father. I had no purpose. I would be no better than the men in my life I despised.”
I died inside that day. That closet full of hurt, betrayal and darkness opened up and swallowed me whole. I had lost everything. My family, my future, my daughter, my chance to be the father I never had. No one could possibly understand the pain; I was angry, I was empty, I was lost and hollow. I had grown a callous over my soul and was incapable of feeling good things anymore. I stopped attending classes regularly, going only often enough to not be kicked out college. I habitually became careless with my own life. I fantasized about what it would be like to run my car off of the road ending the pain. I hurt so deeply inside that no matter what terrible situation I was in, it couldn’t be as bad as I felt on the inside so I constantly pushed the limits. The (limbic lie), “My purpose was over. I would never live up to my potential. I had lived a life beyond repair.”
After a childhood of physical, sexual and emotional abuse coupled with rejection and isolation I was left cold, confused and wounded. I was terrified of people seeing who I truly was or what shame I was hiding. The (limbic lie), “I would need to wear a mask everywhere I went to hide who I truly was. I wasn’t acceptable or deserving of love.” I was always afraid of life catching up with me, I never allowed myself to be alone but… I was always lonely. I hated myself for my failures with no room for forgiveness.
Over the years I developed a very specific cycle for numbing the wounds born from my limbic lies. When I felt particularly worthless, I would make impulse purchases granting me temporary happiness. The joy of my new toys would quickly fade and be replaced by the guilt of poor money management. In my guilt I sought out ways to numb myself. I found marijuana or painkiller use most effective. These new habits required seeking out destructive relationships that would facilitate and encourage my new habits. My circle of friends slowly degraded into a circle of degenerates. These new relationships often helped keep my mind and body occupied long enough to distract me. The busyness helped me mask my loneliness.
When the busyness faded, I found myself alone. My worthlessness and loneliness would eat me from the inside out. I had learned to wear my masks so well and so thoroughly that when I was alone I had no inherent self worth. Most times I didn’t even know who I really was. I had no discernible identity. I would fill my lonely hours seeking out the company of internet porn. Internet pornography helped me waste my lonely time, causing me to miss deadlines and procrasturbate away my real life. It wasn’t long before pornography lost it’s appeal and I graduated to seeking out chat groups, individuals and interactive live streams to keep my interest.
The Future Mrs Right
In the midst of my insanity this incredibly cute girl next door to me wouldn’t leave me alone. She would ask me to help her with her homework, ask me to go out with her and her friends on a regular basis and I blew her off time and time again. My hole was too dark and my wounds were too raw to let anyone in. But the girl next door persisted, the girl next door prevailed.
The girl next door is now my wife. Honestly if I hadn’t been so good at wearing masks to cover what was really inside she probably would never have talked to me again. Meeting Nathalie was the best thing that had happened to me up to that point and the worst thing that had ever happened to her, she just didn’t know it yet. I carried all of my garbage unchecked into our relationship but hid anything that might come across as negative or unworthy. I lied about and justified compromising circumstances she would find me in like playing strip poker with our co-ed neighbors or cultivating online and text relationships with various women. I had no idea what love was or how to give it but demanded it from her. When Nathalie’s affection wasn’t enough to combat my demons, I found myself reverting to my cycle of self medication. The (limbic lie) “Affection, love and sex could fill the holes in my heart. My partner should meet my needs as a man.”
I had an amazing ability to control my life for any 6-month period at a time. I could stay clean, sober, or faithful. The (limbic lie), “If I tried harder, I could be good for longer.” When confronted by my wife about having a potential problem I’d insist I had it all under control. I’d shove it all back in the closet and things will be just fine. I’d just keep stuffing. I was killing myself and destroying my family. Most days I had no idea what was really wrong with me, all I had really known was I was broken and powerless to fix myself. I was addicted to sin-soaked Band-Aids I used to cover a painful, aching, cold loneliness in my heart one on top of another until I was numb… until I was dead inside.
One afternoon after my wife’s final confrontation, I found myself on my knees begging for one last chance. In my heart I knew I couldn’t do it alone, I had never been capable of doing it on my own. I couldn’t try any harder. Nathalie agreed to meet with our Pastor and help me search for a smarter way. My pastor told me something that has changed my life forever, he told me “Shaun I have no doubt you asked God to save you a thousand times, but I also guarantee you’ve never given him control of your life.” I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior that afternoon and I gave up control. My pastor introduced me to the idea of full disclosure and enabled me with the battle plan you will find in the Conquer Series.
Once I began the super humanly painful process of ripping these shame born, sin drenched Band-Aids off one by one, my miracle slowly began to happen. When I became honest with myself and others I no longer needed to run from my woundedness. I was able to allow God to minister to me in my brokenness. I found a new freedom in sharing my story, my pain and my rebirth through Christ. I stopped trying so hard to overcome my sin, my temptation and pain. I started to try smarter, safeguarding my actions, creating accountability measures and finding true humility in complete honesty.
The work is hard. The journey is long. The reconciliation process with my wife was not easy. The wounds I inflicted were like the scars of an open-heart surgery. The day after my full-disclosure was like the day after a patient having their heart removed from her chest. The first day it hurt her to breathe. After a week she could breathe but the pain was still debilitating. After a month, there would be brief moments when she would almost feel normal. After a year when looking into the mirror the scar still reminded her, and the pain would return for a few agonizing moments. It’s been 6 years since my full disclosure and Nathalie’s scar still exists, but today the scar is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how strong our intimacy is when rooted in Christ and watered with honesty truly is.
I no longer recognize my old self, those around me no longer recognize the new me either. God’s promise is real. I am in Christ, I have become a new creature; the old things have passed away; and all things are becoming new.
My marriage is restored. I am able to recognize all of those things I was never afforded as a child and I am thankful for that pain. I use that pain to guarantee my daughters never hurt in the same way I had to hurt. God never wastes a hurt if you put it to work. My hurts enable me to fully understand the importance of breaking generational curses. In my brokenness I can accept all of the truly great things God has in store for me. I am secure in the knowledge that his blessings aren’t just for me, but my trials and tribulations have made it possible for my children, my children’s children and for generations to come to live in freedom from the types of bondage I have conquered.
You know, today I cry on a daily basis. Not because I’m sad or because I hurt, but because with my new eyes and my new heart I can see God’s grace is overwhelmingly beautiful. God’s hand is at work daily in my life. Today I cry tears of joy and freedom from bondage, today I cry because that hole in my heart for the last 30 years hasn’t only been filled but it overflows. What I saw before as monumental unforgivable failures in my past, I now see as building blocks leading up to today. I am living progress, not perfection. I still make mistakes, but my mistakes today aren’t as devastating as the mistakes I made yesterday and the mistakes I will make tomorrow won’t be as bad as the ones I made today.
My faith and family are stronger today in the midst of healing and recovery than ever before. When I put away my pride and abandoned my selfishness I finally allowed the Holy Spirit to flow like water… downhill upon my brokenness. In your most difficult trials you are blessed, during the worst of your tribulations you are blessed… through all of your life circumstances God is molding you into the husband, the father, the friend and the man he knows you can become.
We have lived with a lifetime of father wounds, acting out on our “limbic lies” and wearing masks to hide our shame. It often takes almost losing everything and facing brokenness to embrace full disclosure. Full disclosure means honesty. Honesty means saying yes to your humanness. Honesty means accepting the anguish of your life. Honesty means humility in surrender; surrender of all control, all security, all esteem and all approval with the expectation that your heavenly father’s faithfulness to grace will offer the only peace that could surpass your brokenness.
It took the greatest courage of my life for me to recount my story for the first time. It took humility to admit and accept my limitations. It was clear I had to know my own story before God would allow me to take part in authoring my family’s. Only in taking an honest inventory could I gain the insight necessary to conquer my addictions and embrace a new future.
God has created you for something amazing. You are more valuable to him than a flock of sparrows. We isolate In our pride, our stubbornness, and our denial. We want to cover the hurts, shames and sins of our past. The Bible spells it out clearly — we are called to stand having fastened on the belt of truth to put on the breastplate of righteousness. When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.
I encourage you to take your full disclosure step seriously and thoughtfully, knowing and owning your story as the one God created for you to live out in honesty. Be courageous, surrender control, surrender your need for approval from others and allow God to minister to you in your brokenness. Be a conqueror. It may be the single most important thing you do for the rest of your life. Thank you for letting me share.
You can find out more about Full Disclosure through the Conquer Series, a powerful DVD Series that is helping thousands of men conquer porn and walk in freedom. Order the Conquer Series Today.
The Conquer Series is a powerful cinematic series which is helping over 1 million men conquer porn and walk in freedom.
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