I received the follow question from or Sons of Helaman web site yesterday. I thought I should pause on the current discussion to address it.
“I’ve overcome problems with (unwanted, disruptive, addictive levels of) pornography and masturbation previously. Sometimes for up to 8 months. Since returning from my mission, I’ve again remitted (relapsed). Will twelve weeks really be a fair gauge of my progress?”
The question refers to the graduation standard set in the Sons of Helaman program. In order to graduate from the Sons of Helaman sexual addiction recovery program, the warrior needs to go 12 consecutive weeks without any unwanted behaviors (see The Complete Resource page 16). We expect to see several things in place by this time.
As you might expect, we rarely expect an individual to go straight to twelve weeks without a problem once they start the program. This would be rare, and usually I am skeptical. I do not spend any time worrying about whether or not the client is telling the truth in their reports of their progress. They are paying for their visits both in time and in money. It would be unfortunate because it would defeat the purpose of their own treatment and goals to misrepresent the truth. Besides, the room is full of young men who are professional liars…they can usually catch the lies of another young man.
We expect that each participant will have at least one “lost battle” once they join Sons of Helaman. There is as much to learn from a lost battle as there is to learn from success. The young man needs to learn how to respond to lost battles; how to bounce back quickly, instead of crashing and burning. Like every other aspect of psychological development, this takes practice. In our weekly meetings, we do drills, drills and more drills, intended to empower the warrior to have a quick reaction to difficult situations not unlike the drilling done in military boot camp and athletic training.
At 12 weeks, we expect to see the warrior having a complete and effective “border patrol system”. Most young warriors who enroll with us underestimate how much daily “exercise” must be done in order to beat an addiction of this nature. Unfortunately, one must respond with the same degree of intensity as if he were drafted into the military. Many new enrollees hope that the training will not disrupt their normal life routines. As with boot camp, as with the MTC, if the young man does not notice a significant change, then there probably has not been a significant change. These daily exercises, which we call “border patrol” are designed to keep the young man sharp and well protected.
One of the primary distinguishing factors I look for at the time of graduation in order to predict relapse is, “What is his border patrol system like? Does he follow through without reminder? Does the system he has set up sufficiently re-sharpen his mind every day? Does he recognize and love the value he gains from it?” If you have gotten to 12 weeks and beyond before without having set up and sustained your border patrol system, then I am not surprised that you could not maintain your success. It is extremely rare that addictive tendencies will just go away, like hoping Lamanites will stop attacking if you are a Nephite. We expect that they will always attack, some time and somewhere. But if we are alert and well trained, we can win for the rest of our lives.
Scientifically speaking, it takes about 12 weeks for both the neurological structures of the brain and the basic chemical patterns to settle into a new “normal”. While it may take about 3 weeks to break or create a habit, breaking addictive behaviors take longer because the chemical element is so much more unignorable. Also, it takes careful training to accurately change the neurological structures of the brain and chemical patterns. If not done correctly, there is no guarantee that the addictive behaviors will be eliminated.
Spiritually, it cannot be forgotten that there is an intelligent entity behind all this. Satan knows about your neurological structures. Satan knows about your body chemistry. Satan knows about your potential on this planet. He knows that with momentum, you could discover before you are 19 years old that you actually are very amazing and are fully capable of spending the next 60 years doing miracles on this planet! He is very strategic in his efforts to de-rail us. In my experience, it takes a minimum of 12 weeks to become familiar with and prepared for all his devious strategies. He is good at what he does, but with proper training, which includes learning how to involve God in the war, we can get to the point where we never have a lost battle again.
For those of you who have gotten to 12 weeks before but feel yourself slipping, for those of you who are out of reach geographically to participate fully in Sons of Helaman group training sessions, I would take a close look at or Text Coaching system. It continues to be more powerful than I had expected.
I hope this answers the original question. Let me know if you want any clarification on anything.