Pure Desire’s 7 Pillars To Freedom
Over the last few years, we have discovered a lot about the brain and addiction, specifically that the combination of events in our mind and body during use of pornography has a tremendous impact on behavior and change. Today on Man Talk, Vince Miller interviews former politician Paul Zunker, a regional group leader for Pure Desire Ministries. Listen as Paul shares about the seven pillars that lead us toward rebuilding our life and mind.
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Vince: This is Resolute, and Man Talk. I am Vince Miller, your founder and host. Today we’re in a series on sexual addiction, discussing the topic of the 7 Pillars To freedom.
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Well guys, today I’m excited to introduce to you, Paul Zunker. This is a guy that I’m proud to call friend. He comes from many different fields of ministry experience. Today he works with Pure Desire Ministries. And also with Grace Church in Eden Prairie.This is a guy who’s been helping guys to find freedom from sexual addiction. You can find more out about Paul Zunker at paulzunker.org. I hope you’ll visit his website today. Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul: Thanks for having me again, Vince. You’ve got great hair, by the way.
Vince: I know, yeah. I got to tell you – I’ve started cutting it short, ’cause it just keeps getting grayer. I don’t know why, but–
Paul: I’m with you. I’m still in denial.
Vince: Yeah, that’s right, yeah. If you cut it short, it just looks much better, right? So and plus, I don’t have to do anything with it either.
Vince: Which is great.
Paul: It’s the guys answer right there.
Vince: Yeah, it’s the guys answer to everything.
Paul: So roll out of bed in the morning–
Vince: Just cut it all off.
Paul: You’re good to go.
Vince: Anyhow man, I am so pumped to have you back again. Because I know that you’ve been helping guys out there walk toward freedom from sexual addiction. And I’ve got to tell you, I know Pure Desire, some of your work with Grace Church as well, and some of your – your calling now is to really share the gospel through your own life and some of your own pains of sexual addiction.
And I – I got to tell you, I think some of the best work has really been done in maybe the last 5 to 10 years on this subject. Specifically, as it relates to the addiction of our minds and our behaviors to these patterns. Wow. There’s been a lot of study on this whole neurochemistry thing that happens in the – in our brains, right below my haircut, right? So give the guys just a little bit of an awareness of what is happening when we get addicted to pornography or any sort of sexual addiction. What’s going on in our brains?
Paul: God made us in some pretty amazing ways, right? He tells us in his Word, we’re supposed to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
Vince: That’s right.
Paul: And that first and foremost is by being in His word and absorbing that every single day. That’s where that transformation comes from. But I believe that there is work that we have to do when we recover from an addiction, that we have to rewire our brain as well. We talked about it in an earlier episode where there’s different chemicals that are being released in your brain when you’re watching pornography.
But then especially when you include masturbation and things like that in with it, there’s significant amounts of chemicals that are released. And especially dopamine and different endorphins that are there. It physically changes the composition of your brain over years. And it doesn’t take time – a lot of time to do that. But it takes a lot of time to get it back. So if you look at brain scans, and if guys watch the Conquer series that Pure Desire puts out–
Vince: Yeah sure, yeah.
Paul: There’s a – disc 2 is just all about the neurochemistry of an addiction, and it’s just phenomenal stuff. And it’s one of the things that helped me in my recovery, ’cause I was able to see that, “Oh man, there is a legitimate physical reason why I can’t just stop when I want to.” And then on the flip side, when I was in recovery – if I was ever tempted to look at pornography or masturbate – I would think, “Man, if I do – it’s physically making me lose some ground that I have to work to get back. So if you look at some of those brain scans, where we’ll put a heroin addicts brain next to a pornography addicts brain – and they’re very, very similar.
Paul: In areas of, where there’s decreased oxygenation in the brain. Where there’s decreased levels of iron. It’s physically changing the composition of your brain. But the great part in how God made us, is it’s – to use a psychological, physiological term – neuroplasticity. Our brain changes one way, but it has the ability to go back. So we have the ability to work towards being free. And that physically changes our brain back to the way that God designed it to be. So that’s why I always tell guys there’s hope. But it’s – man, it’s a lot of work.
Paul: And it’s the hardest thing they’ll ever have to do. Because you’re just craving it. And I think pornography is one of the hardest addictions to break. Because unlike a chemical addiction, where you need to go out and get your vice – our vice is right here in our brain. Anytime we want to retreat into old memories or see old pictures or images, it’s right there in our brain. And we really have to fight to say pure there. But guys can do it. But it’s – again – it’s plugging into groups, it’s being accountable, and actually doing the work we need to do to move forward and not backward.
Vince: Yeah so I know at Pure Desire, you talk about some steps to freedom that lead to this, right?
Vince: Because if you’re saying that the elasticity of the brain can be kind of rewired or reshaped or let’s add to it a spiritual component. That – by the power of the spirit, we can defeat anything, right? Like if we can become less calloused in our life – in our behaviors, our mindset, our heart, our soul – and more sensitive to the spirit. Really the spirit empowers us to be able to do anything as a Christian man.
Paul: That’s right.
Vince: So lead us through some of these steps to freedom, as you guys call it.
Paul: And I was one of those guys that just thought that “Okay, if my heart’s in the right spot, and I ask God, ‘Give me freedom from this,’ he’s going to stretch his finger out and touch the top of my head, and I’ll be fine.
Vince: Boom, yeah, right.
Paul: But He – God also calls us to do the heavy lifting as well.
Vince: That’s right.
Paul: To do work.
Vince: Well we did the heavy lifting to get into it.
Paul: We sure did. The same thing – if we’re looking for a job, or we’re stressed financially. He calls us to make right decisions first, and then he blesses those, right? So the Pure Desire curriculum is what I went through to find my freedom. When I started going for my groups at Grace Church.
And I really love how Doctor Ted Roberts – who’s the founder of Pure Desire, put this together. He trained under Doctor Patrick 07:11 Kearns, who was kind of the father of – even coining the phrase, “sexual addiction.” Came at it from a secular angle. So Doctor Ted trained under him and said, “Can I take your material and put kind of a church bend to it? ‘Cause we realized, the church looks at sexual addiction, and they say, “You just need to pray more, read your Bible more, and you’re going to get free. So you’re not – you must not be doing that right.”
Paul: And then there’s–
Vince: And there’s some components to like filling your mind with the Bible on a daily basis, right?
Vince: But there’s some behaviors that need to take place too.
Paul: For sure. And the psychological world focuses just on that. And they do not incorporate God’s Word and the truth into it at all. So Doctor Ted really took those 2 and married them together. And we start by looking at the culture of grace, and how is God’s grace important when we’re looking at an addiction? Because it’s – I didn’t feel God’s grace at all. I felt I was just buried under 6 tons of rock, and there was no way that I could get out.
Vince: There’s a lot of shame, right?
Paul: Oh there’s a ton of it. And that’s what Satan uses to keep you down. But through the entire curriculum, it’s incorporating biblical principles into why we’re doing some of the psychological stuff that we’re doing. So if you look at – The 7 Pillars of Freedom is our series that the guys go through – that’s 40 weeks, give or take. So it’s pretty heavy. But there’s a lot of work to do. And we start by looking at you breaking denial. ‘Cause we become experts at lying to ourselves, in order to stay in this type of behavior. So we address that a lot.
And then we look at understanding the nature of a sexual addiction. And like I said earlier, that’s really what did it for me. By saying, “Man, there’s stuff that happened in my brain that I need to fix. That I have the opportunity to fix.” So we spend an entire pillar looking at secrecy and isolation, and like you just said – shame. And how all those play into keeping us in bondage, into that addiction.
And then we look – the next pillar after that, pillar 3 is surrendering to the process. ‘Cause we can understand what’s going on. But as guys, it takes a lot to actually throw our hands up and go, “Okay, I’m surrendering.” Your will God, not mine. And that takes a long time to do man, ’cause we got in this spot because it’s been my will, God – not yours.
Paul: And it’s – that takes a long time to do that. Learning how to love and accept and forgive ourselves is a key component to that. And then pillar 4 is limiting damage. And that’s when we really start digging into looking at things in our past. We have guys identify the 10 most painful experiences in their life. And it’s very difficult for them to do. But once they do, that’s what – is the root of what they’re trying to medicate over. And that’s the first time – a lot of these guys, they’re just in tears when they do this. Because they haven’t thought of these things for decades. And now they’re in the light again. And that’s really where the healing starts.
And then we move into – pillar 5 and 6 is establishing sobriety. Where we start figuring out what our triggers are, what our – things that start driving us down the road are, and learn how to avoid those things. Learning to put tools together and work with accountability partners. ‘Cause guys, we got to do it alone. We’ve got to go it alone. We’re not used to working with brothers side by side. So we learn that.
And then pillar 7 is – now that we’ve found freedom, how do we stay there. Because when tough stuff comes up in our life or our marriage or our jobs, we’re used to retreating into this junk over here, right? So what do we go to that’s healthy? And then that’s the pillar too, where if we haven’t had the disclosure with our wives and our families – that’s where we start to learn how do we do that in a healthy way? Because that’s true – our wives need to understand at some point what’s been going on. So there’s honesty there as well. So those are the 7 Pillars in a real quick nutshell. But man, that’s – it’s a lot of work in each one of those.
Vince: It sounds like it, and it sounds like it’s a good thing that it’s 40 weeks of curriculum. Because all of that is really heavy lifting. I mean I listen – I listen back to that, and I go, “Man, that forgiveness of self-pillar is probably a hard one.” And then the pain, telling painful stories of the past that we’re medicating all this stuff over. Like maybe we feel lonely or unloved or– Maybe there is a sexual crime–?
Vince: Committed against us as a kid. And we’re hiding behind some of those things. We don’t feel whole and healthy. Yeah, all those lessons, I can see them drawing out men in very powerful ways. In ways maybe we just don’t want to even deal with or feel like dealing with.
Vince: But like you have taught me, Paul – if we don’t address some of these things pretty soon, right? There’s all kinds of additional ramifications.
Paul: You’ll deal with it at one point or the other.
Vince: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: It’s just a matter of how is that going to happen.
Vince: How and when, right exactly.
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Vince: So I know that you’ve led many men through this curriculum. How have you seen lives changed from this? Have you seen guys break free from addiction, and what does that look like as guys are doing that?
Vince: Is it messy, is it easy, is it hard?
Paul: No it’s not. It’s not easy at all. It’s the hardest thing that they’ll ever have to do. And the guys that I see finding freedom are the ones that are coming into it committed to changing their lives, regardless of what the cost is. So if their marriage is imploding – if maybe they got busted at work on a computer, and they’re losing their job – obviously those things are big deals for them. But if they are looking through that, and saying, “I need to get free for me, first and foremost.” That’s when we see guys really be able to go through this and find true freedom.
Because they understand, “If I fix me first, that ultimately will make me a better husband and a better dad and a better employee. If I’m focused on saving my marriage, saving my marriage, saving my marriage – I’m not focused on me, right? And I’m not going to experience all the truths that God wants to work in my life, when I’m focused on someone else other than me.” So man, I see great freedom from these guys.
But another key to is when the wife plugs into a Betrayal and Beyond group. Which is designed specifically for the wives who are going through this – this trauma of figuring out the secret lives their husbands have been living. And there’s hope for these wives too, man. They think that they’re the only ones feeling this. But then they plug into a group where there’s other women going through it. But it’s led by women who have been through it, and have found freedom on the other side, and their marriages are intact. When the wife starts working at it too, man there are great things that God does in that marriage.
Vince: Yeah, I – I am so grateful for the calling that you’re filling on your life these days, Paul. Because we need men like you fighting for men that are out there, right? Like, guys – I don’t know where you’re at with any kind of sexual perversion, or compulsion or addiction. I don’t care what you call it. But if you have something that you’re challenged with currently in your life – stop hiding. That is the first step. You have to stop fighting.
Gentlemen, we make plans in all parts of our life. But I’ve got to tell you, the one place that we rarely make plans – that yet we call the most important part of our life, is our spiritual life. You cannot leave this sin undealt with. It will find you out, other people will find out about it – and then it will take you down. Stop it. Stop living under this addiction. If you’re living under it right now, stop playing around with it. If you’re playing around with it, or tinkering with it. Young men out there, stop it. Turn it off. Protect your devices. Share with another guy.
And for – by all means, maybe find your way to a Pure Desire group. I mean this organization has a great curriculum. Paul Zunker’s a great man of God. He’d love to connect with you by phone. Maybe lead you toward a group in your area. They meet all over the US. Guys, stop it. Don’t continue to make friends with pornography and sexual addiction. Because it will find you out. And yes, it’s going to be a hard path, like Paul said. But you know what? It’s worth it. Push through it. You have a story to tell, you have a better life ahead of you. God wants to forgive you and redeem you. And yes, I’m glad that first lesson Paul, is about grace. It’s about grace.
Vince: Because gentlemen, if you’re living with it right now – God has got enough grace to cover over all your resent and shame, and he wants you to live in freedom. So guys, we’re going to leave it there today. And we’re thankful that you could join us. And we pray – Paul, for your ministry and the work that you’re doing.
Vince: Well that’s the show. Thanks so much for listening. As we close, I want to remind you of 2 things. First is this. Paul Zunker is hosting a conference with Pure Desire Ministries in Prairie, Minnesota on November 10th and 11th. This is going to be a great conference that will explain to you the evils and the concerns of sexual addiction. And also provide you with resources that might help. Whether it be you or someone you love. If you want to find out more about that conference, go to beresolute.org/paulzunker. Go there today, or you can go directly to Paul Zunker’s website, at paulzunker.org. Either way, you’ll find your way to these resources, and this conference.
Also, if you’re looking for content for your men’s groups, we’ve got excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Check it all out at beresolute.org/free-trial. That’s free-trial. And yes, I will see to it that you get a free trial and a Resolute Men’s Study Guide to go with it.
So guys, I hope you enjoyed this podcast today of Man Talk. But please know, that the time that we spent together today is worthless, unless you choose to act on it by doing something today – and getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time for another edition of Man Talk.