The Broken Road to Happily Ever After

12/18/2017 .
Matt Lacoff-Roberts  .  Storyteller

When Pam and John got married back in 1990, they never could have imagined the emotional roller coaster they had climbed on, a ride that wouldn’t slow down for several decades. 

It all started when the couple met through their small group community at Vineyard Church of Anaheim in 1989. It would be an understatement to say that at first, Pam wasn’t interested in dating John.

“I wanted nothing to do with him,” admitted Pam. “Picture him with a big ole beard and wild hair; he was barefoot with cutoff jeans and a little fanny pack. He looked like John the Baptist.”

John was in fact a little rough around the edges back then. He didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and after serving in the Navy for a number of years, he’d developed several addictions: sex, drugs, smoking, and alcohol.

“I was doing crystal meth, smoking cigarettes, drinking, and having any sex I could, with anyone. When I became a Christian, I came in as a sailor,” said John.

Nevertheless, it was clear that John and Pam had chemistry. After only 3 months of dating, they were engaged; 6 months later, they were married.

It didn’t take long for them to find out that marriage doesn’t solve all your problems. While John had received healing from his drug and alcohol addiction, he continued to struggle with intense sexual thoughts, an obsession that had plagued him since childhood.

“We did all the right things. We went to marriage counseling, but they didn’t really know how to help him,” remembered Pam. “At that time, they didn’t know what sexual addiction was, or how to refer him. This went on for 16 years of our marriage.”

“Even though I was a Christian, I continued to daydream and have sexual fantasies,” said John. “What people don’t realize about sex addiction is that even if I was married to the most intelligent supermodel in the world, I would still act out. And people don’t get that; women don’t get that. I thought about sex 95 percent of the time — literally.”

Pam felt like she wasn’t enough for her husband. Struggling to understand his addiction, she began to lose hope for a solution. There didn’t seem to be anywhere they could turn for help.

Even pastors and Christian counselors didn’t know what to do. One pastor even told John that if he memorized the Book of James from the Bible, then he would be healed from his addiction.

“They just didn’t get it; they didn’t understand,” said Pam. “They all meant well, but they didn’t know what to do.”

John’s problem only worsened over time. Not only did he continue to use pornography, but he would go out of his way to get the house to himself so he wouldn’t get caught.

“I would instigate fights with my wife so I could justify staying home and not going out with the family,” said John. “Then the house would be empty. That’s how deep I was.”

After years of struggling in their marriage, the couple moved their family to Lake Forest, California in 2005. After making friends in the neighborhood, they began to notice a pattern: most of their friends attended Saddleback Church, only 10 minutes from their home.

“Everyone was talking about this church just down the street,” remembered Pam. “All of our neighbors were there, so we decided to go check it out. They had a great program for the kids.”

After a year just attending the weekend services, John and Pam decided to get more involved. They knew they needed to work on their marriage, so they signed up for counseling through Saddleback’s Counseling Ministry and enrolled in Celebrate Recovery, a biblical 12-step program designed to help people overcome their compulsions and addictive behaviors.

“Back then, we were playing the divorce game a lot,” said John. “I told her, ‘The next time you say that, we’re going to do it.’ And I actually went and got the papers.”

Even though Pam wanted to “rage and throw things” during many of their counseling sessions, she felt God leading her to forgive John for wanting to leave.

“I remember the Lord clearly telling me, ‘If you don’t forgive him now, you will never see him again,’” said Pam.  

“It was her forgiveness that broke the pattern we had been in. That’s when God started to shine in,” said John.

After finally coming to a place of forgiveness, Pam and John both decided it was time to stop trying to control the other person and start working on themselves. They both joined their own step study groups through Celebrate Recovery: Pam for anger and codependency, and John for sexual addiction.

“I didn’t realize how huge my anger problem was,” said Pam. “But it was very comforting to know there were other women out there going through the same things I was. It’s just that nobody likes talking about these things.”

John remembers what it was like to finally let go of his addiction in Celebrate Recovery.

“The step study helped me dig out my past and made me realize a lot of things,” said John. “When I finally let go of this addiction to the best of my ability, it felt like I was losing a family member or relationship; it was in that deep. It had been my comfort — my girlfriend — since I was a little kid.”

Now, John and Pam have been part of Celebrate Recovery together for over 10 years. Not only have they experienced a tremendous amount of healing themselves, but they are using their pain to help bring healing to others.

“We usually minister to couples together,” says Pam. “Back then, nobody sat down with us and talked about what to expect when you’re going through this, and that has been our mission — to help other couples going down this path understand why the husband is acting out that way.”

John highlights that one of the most important aspects of Celebrate Recovery is the confidentiality. “It’s the safest place to talk about anything — the leaders make sure of that,” John said.

He also knows how difficult it can be to talk about your issues, especially in church.

“Most of the men in our congregation are struggling with some kind of sexual addiction, but they’re afraid to talk about it. They’re afraid of what the church might do, or what their wives might do,” John continued. “But I want to encourage anyone to come to Celebrate Recovery and find those people who are struggling the same way you are.”

If you’re struggling in your marriage, Celebrate Recovery can help you find the healing, support, and accountability you need in a safe, comfortable environment — no matter what you’re going through.

Click HERE to learn more about Celebrate Recovery.

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