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No Pain, No Gain

By Don Um


(scriptural citations from the NIV)

As discussed in my last blog, a moment of clarity is the beginning of the end of denial.  But it usually takes pain to shake a person out of denial enough to have a moment of clarity. 

The prodigal son, sometimes known as the lost son, was feeling the pain when he “came to his senses” in a pig pen (Luke 15:17).  Not only was he was starving, but he wanted to eat pig-food.  Note: Jews were forbidden to even touch a pig, so this was as low as a person could get. 

The son’s moment of clarity led him to change his mind about his father.  When he left home for the far country, the son thought of his dad as an old fogey.  Then he realized from the pig-pen that his father’s servants were much better off than he was.  He headed home with the idea of being a servant. 


Near-daily drunkenness led me to have a condition known as agoraphobia, defined as “an anxiety disorder that often develops after one or more panic attacks.  ("Agora" is the Greek word for market place, and, phobia is fear.) Symptoms include fear and avoidance of places and situations that might cause feelings of panic, entrapment, helplessness, or embarrassment”1 

It got to the point where my irrational fears prevented me from even stepping out the door of my apartment without prior fortification with booze.  The loneliness and despair associated with this lifestyle went on for nearly four years.  

Finally putting myself into a mental hospital on the verge of suicide, I realized that I faced a bleak future if something didn’t change. A fellow patient recommended that I attend an addiction-recovery group.  Upon leaving the hospital, I heeded his advice.  By attending such a group, I finally came out of denial and confirmed that alcohol consumption was at the root of my problems.

Staying sober over a period of time, the irrational fears no longer ruled my life.  

Heroin Addiction

Pain was evident in the life of a young woman, clean and sober for eight months from a heroin addiction, who recently shared her story with me. 

She hated what she was doing to herself but couldn’t live without her drug of choice.  She was finally arrested and went through the painful withdrawal by herself in a jail cell.  In the midst of this suffering, she recalled happier times in her life before starting to use drugs.  The pain associated with both the addiction and withdrawal now motivate her to lead a God-centered life.

Wife Catches Sex Addict

A man with a sex-addiction described the pain leading to his moment of clarity in this way: 

“It was the night when my wife discovered—for the second time in a month—another picture of a naked woman on our home computer!

“’Get out! Go away!  I don’t want you here!' she screamed. And I knew she meant it."  My life lay about me in ruins, and now this was the coup de grace.  So I walked out the door and left.

“Driving away from our home, I had a mental picture of my wife’s hurt and anger.

“I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to be free of my addiction to porn or do I just want to get out of a bad situation one more time, sustain my marriage, and still retain my drug of choice so that I can retrieve it again whenever I desire?’

“It was the question of a lifetime. The last-straw question.  The now-or-never question.  The moment-of-critical mass question.  It was time for me to decide.  Nobody else could do it for me.

“And so, I did. I decided I was tired.

“Tired of carrying the burden of my shameful past.

“Tired of hurting and disappointing my wife and children.

“Tired of my real life and my ‘projected’ life not being the same.

“I was tired of doing things that I knew deep down inside were transgressions that had driven a wedge between me and God whom I professed to love and honor.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back simply came down to the weight of it all.2  (The book containing his story and 11 other first-person stories of sex addiction may be found on this website.)

For many addicted people the “weight of it all” turns into something they can no longer carry.  It is that pain that motivates them toward a moment of clarity.  The sex-addicted man in this example started attending a Christian recovery group and received professional counseling.


2. Steve Steele, Editor, Sex Addiction in the Church: 12 Christian Men Share Their Stories of Recovery, Quarry Press Dallas, Texas, 133-145.


© 2022 by Don Umphrey

New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.


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