James Daman | Guest Writer
My name is James and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who has overcome sexual sin and anger.
The person I am today is not the same person that I was eight years ago when I walked through the doors of Celebrate Recovery. I was a broken man. I was living a lie, I had no idea what God’s path was for me, and I didn’t know the truth about who I was. I didn’t know what it meant to truly have a relationship with someone, especially Christ. This is the story about who I was and who I am now.
I grew up in the Midwest, the son of a pastor and for many years, I felt like I couldn’t be honest. Even as a child, I felt like my behavior was constantly monitored and that I had to mask who I truly was. Everyone in my church knew me as the Pastor’s kid, so if I misbehaved, it was immediately noted and reported back to my Dad, who was the pastor. This happened so often, that my Mom took over my Sunday school class. I guess she was tired of hearing about my behavior and needed to manage it constantly. I also had a severe speech impediment as a child; it was so bad that I couldn’t even say my name. When I would stutter at home, my little brother would hold my throat just so I could talk, which for some reason, always helped.
I was relentlessly bullied as a child due to my speech impediment and the fact that my family didn’t have a lot of money. This made school brutal, I couldn’t find much solace at home because my parents divorced when I was 9 and told me that I had to choose which parent I would live with. I chose my Dad, but he worked a lot and wasn’t home much, so when I brought home good grades, no one was there, except the TV and video games. The bullying and loneliness I felt as a child made me feel like I was lost in a black box, where I couldn’t find the exit. I knew I needed to get out, but couldn’t. The divorce made things very difficult at home.
My life at this point was tough, I had family members in my life that would constantly curse at me say things like “I wished you were never born.” However, God had his eye on me because he put someone else in my life.
I had weekly appointments with my speech therapist and counselor. God put her in my life to show me what unconditional love meant! I took solace in the time we spent together. She helped me gain confidence in myself and overcome my stutter. I got more involved in my church and went to a church camp for most of the summer. At summer camp, I made so many friends and I wasn’t bullied at all; I felt transformed in this environment and accepted Christ into my heart in middle school. I was heartbroken when I had to move on to my last year of middle school without the support of my speech therapist due to changes in the school district. Starting school again, meant summer camp was over and I soon lost touch with the Christian friends I met.
I had a few friends my last year of middle school but I was still bullied constantly. I spent most of time outside of school playing video games and most of my time in school planning how I was going to beat them. During my transition from middle school to high school, I was introduced to the “cool kids” and craved their attention and because I spent so much time with them, we became like a family. I felt accepted and not threatened by my peers for the first time besides church camp. I noticed that they paid the most attention to me when I emulated everything they did, including things I’m not happy about. I got even more attention from them when I took things to the extreme and went even further than they did. Looking back on this period of my life, I realized these “friends” really took advantage of me. I never got back what I gave them.
My senior year of high school was a year of drastic change in my life, my “cool kid” friends moved away and thanks to that and spending more time with positive, Christian friends. I replaced those negative relationships with positive ones. I felt an amazing connection to God and started learning what that relationship meant when I accepted Jesus into my heart and learned about the importance of having a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
Mid way through my senior year, I was introduced to pornography by an adult. Needless to say, I became interested in what he was showing me and it became an obsession that slowly took over my spiritual closeness with God. My Dad found out about my obsessive pornography use and I was not allowed to use a computer for the rest of my senior year of high school.
A family member even told my computer teacher about my problem with pornography and my teacher told the entire class. This betrayal of trust made me question authority because of this very public embarrassment, I never wanted to feel that way again, so my new addiction became performance; I took several college classes during my senior year of high school which put me ahead of the game for my first year of college. As I succeeded in work and college, I became more addicted to the feelings associated with a high level of achievement and developed an unhealthy level of pride in myself. I worked full time throughout college and moved out of Dad’s house into my own place. My first purchase was a computer. Because I never dealt with the issue, one of the first things I did was continue my pornography use. As with most addictions, I had to take things to the extreme. I soon purchased pornographic videos and began wasting a lot of time looking at pornography. I remember saying that things would get better when I had a long term girlfriend. If not, then it would stop when I get married.
If not then, it would stop when I have kids. Notice I never said anything about God.
I then met a friend who introduced me to a new lifestyle of partying in clubs, meeting women and of course I took things to the extreme. I would work 12 hour days, go party at the club, sleep for two hours and go back to work. In this lifestyle, I developed a new addiction to relationships with women; I became manipulative, selfish, and often lied and used women.
Things got worse when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease, which is an incurable genetic disease; it was really then that I felt like my life was unmanageable and this diagnosis reminded me that my time on earth was short.
I immediately recalled the time in my senior year of high school when I was closest to God. If my time on earth was going be cut short, I wanted to experience life like I did when I was close to God! He again had his eye on me. I realized how much of an impact my relationships had on my life and I began asking for God to put someone in my life that I could get closer to God together with. In 2004, he did and I met my future wife!
I was amazed at her honesty, her commitment to God and of course her beauty. She had a very close relationship to God and was the first woman I wasn’t able to manipulate. We got married in 2006. The first year was pretty tough because she worked overnight and I worked during the day, sometimes the only time we would see each other would be when we would pass each other on the highway.
Two years into our marriage, I was shamed and guilty that I had passed the line I said I would never cross, looking at pornography while married. I took advantage of the time my wife worked overnight to indulge myself. By day, I was working in the substance abuse field helping others in recovery and at night I was indulging in my own addiction to pornography. At this point a family member was reaching his rock bottom with drugs and alcohol and wanted recovery. Due to my work in the substance abuse field the family member came to me for help. My church had started something called Celebrate Recovery. I thought it was just what he needs.
My family member and I went together and that night a man gave his testimony about his addiction to pornography, how it led to infidelity, a failed marriage and ultimately to job loss. I went through a series of thoughts during his testimony, starting with “Who has seen me walk in?”, to “I can’t believe someone would be this honest” to “Wow, I can relate to his problems”, “Wow, could my addiction really lead to infidelity, a failed marriage and all that other stuff”, to “Are my current struggles giving me what I want out of my life?” I then heard about the transformation in the life of the man! I came home convinced that I was tired of the old me. I was ready to transform my life; however, this just lasted a few days. Soon, these feelings wore off and I was soon back into indulging in pornography. However, that Sunday was Easter Sunday and the Celebrate Recovery group performed testimonies throughout the service and after service, I felt compelled to confess my hidden lifestyle to my wife. When I did confess, she immediately thought there was something wrong with her. She took the blame and wanted to fix me. At first, I let her take some of the blame, but the more I recited the group guideline of “keep your sharing focused on yourself” and the more I heard from other men speak honestly about their responsibility, I began to do the same. I told her that it was my fault and began to take responsibility for my pornography use. It was something I had to work through.
I started attending Celebrate Recovery EVERY Tuesday, especially on the days I really didn’t feel like going. It seemed the days that I really didn’t want to go were the days I really needed to be there because God had a lesson for me. For example, I remember hearing a woman giving her testimony and describing her tendency to want to fix her husband. I immediately thought, “My wife needs to be here”, but I decided to focus on myself and let God work in my wife’s life on her issues in God’s timing. Soon my wife starting seeing changes in me and wanted to see what Celebrate Recovery was all about.
We started attending together and our marriage began to strengthen. We both went through a 12-step study and went through the difficult process of honestly completing our inventory. When we started doing the work, it stuck and it gave us a taste of what we wanted for the rest of our lives. I later asked her what would have happened if I continued my lying and pornography use; she said she would have left me. It was then that I realized turning over my hurts, habits and hang-ups to Christ’s care and control has a life-long and generational change, the changes aren’t just short-term!
I learned that God also wanted me to overcome the unhealthy level of pride I developed and the anger I long carried against people who have hurt me. I began doing a daily inventory of my progress, recognizing my strengths while asking for forgiveness when I failed and forgiving those who have harmed me, including my family. Our family also saw the change in our lives and started being honest about their defects of character. Our fellow Celebrate Recovery members became like family to us and we experienced many of life’s challenges and successes together.
In 2011, we needed to move to a city that offered my wife better opportunities for her career, the cities we were looking at were Denver and Boston. We also added Washington, DC, because in the past, we thought God was calling us to move there, but we didn’t know for sure. We visited all three cities and spent lots of time in prayer about where God wanted us. It seemed God was pointing us towards Washington, DC. I was able to keep my job even though it was based in Midwest. They allowed me to work from home, which had never happened in that place of employment. One concern we had was that I was paid salary based on a Midwest cost of living, but had to pay DC living expenses. My job did not offer any additional financial support, but God not only provided our basic financial needs but also provided all of our wants as well, the other concern we had was leaving our church home.
We only knew one couple in the area. We went to their church and it happened to be the same one we attended when we visited four years ago. We liked it, but didn’t feel like it was where God wanted us to be. We saw advertisements for a church by our house and we decided to check it out. We did and noticed our friends sitting right in front of us. It seemed they left the other church and had joined the church by our house!
We fell in love with the church, but still felt like we were still missing something. We knew we needed to find a group like Celebrate Recovery, but there weren’t any groups inside the beltway. This was disappointing, and I talked to my wife about approaching the church about starting a Celebrate Recovery at the church by our house. Because of my struggles with pride, she suggested I wait until someone approached me. Soon after, I was contacted by another guy who wanted to start a recovery group and was given my name as someone who might want to co-lead the group. I told him about Celebrate Recovery and soon we were joined by four other people interested in starting the group.
The month we wanted to start, it was evident that the enemy didn’t want us to be successful in starting this group. My car was totaled, my rental car was towed, and I got a call from a doctor who said I might have kidney cancer. I immediately looked at the survival rates for kidney cancer and believed the worst, being thousands of miles from my family made it even harder. I shared my struggles with the other leaders and they prayed for me and I prayed for them, it seemed they were also facing some difficult situations, we became a family.
The next month was June and we had our first CR meeting. I also got a second opinion on the diagnosis, the second opinion came back that it wasn’t cancer!
I was amazed at how God used someone as broken as me when I was asked to serve as the first state rep for Washington, DC.
That was June 2012, I served as ministry leader and state rep up until September of last year when my wife got an amazing job offer that brought us to Phoenix. Our biggest concern was that we would struggle with finding the family we had in DC and the midwest through our CR group and our church.
However, the good thing is, CR is alive and strong in Phoenix, we have been able to walk through the doors of any CR group here and immediately feel at home. I’ve also be able to continue to serve as state rep and support the 50 CR’s in the Phoenix area.
Celebrate Recovery allows me to open up to other men in my life and find people willing to listen to me, to not judge me, yet give me firm guidance each week through teachings and testimonies. Most importantly, I can travel across the country and find a new family through CR. Also through CR, I have overcome the cancer of pornography and I’ve learned not just sit back and wait for God to instantly cure me.
Today I am a different person from who I was eight years ago and I believe the change has generational impact. However, I still have not arrived, I'm still a work in progress. God is still teaching me lessons and sometimes those lessons are learned through the pain of life. Recently, my wife had a miscarriage, this came after a while of trying to have children and was very painful. This happened on a Thursday and we were scheduled to give our testimony on the next day. My first thought was to cancel, however that's what the old me would have done, pull into myself, however I needed to be with my forever family. We shared and it was amazing, we talked about how God never wastes a hurt and we read scripture that was comforting for us.
Jeremiah 29: 11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Psalm 27: 4 & 7 "Delight yourself also in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him and He shall bring it to pass. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him"
John 10:10 Jesus’ says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full.”
Through Celebrate Recovery I now have a life that is worth living.
As Philippians 3:12-14 says "I have not reached my goal, nor achieved perfection. But Christ has ahold of me, so I press on. Brethren, I repeat, I have not yet taken hold of my goal, So one thing I do; I forget everything behind me, and press forward to what is ahead. I press on that I may win the prize; the call of God heavenward to Christ Jesus."
I've shared that scripture for the last few years and I consider it my life scripture. As I mentioned, our biggest concern moving to Phoenix was finding a church that we would fit in. Last November we found a church named Focus314, the 314 is for Philippians 3:14, since they are focused on living out that scripture. God put a church in my life that matches my focus, God is good and his plan is always the best for us.
Thanks for letting me share.
James Daman is the pastor of recovery and discipleship at Focus314, which is a church in one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the United States. He is the Celebrate Recovery State Representative Team Leader for the state of Arizona and he has interviewed some of the world's most influential people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, General Tommy Franks and many others.
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