Breaking Free: One Day At A Time
**Explicit Material Ahead**
“I don’t understand,” My wife said to me with tears welling up in her eyes.
“I’ve been lying to you,” I said, my voice starting to tremble. “For the last two years I have been lying to you…”
This was an all too familiar conversation my wife and I were having and somewhere I never planned nor wanted to return to but, alas, there we were. You see, two years prior I had told my wife, after being caught red-handed in my addictive porn habits once again, that I was done with porn. I had installed accountability software on my computer and phone and made her and my best friend accountability partners. It wasn’t long before I found ways around the software and I was caught in the snare of pornography addiction once again. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
It started when I was ten years old. Like any ten-year-old since the dawn of time, I was curious. I got my hands on a few of the neighbor’s Playboy’s in my time but it was far from addiction. No, it wasn’t until I became friends with another boy in my neighborhood that everything changed. He was six years older than me and was nearly done with his pubescent stage of life. I thought he was pretty cool and the fact that he wanted to spend time with me only made me more intrigued as to what he had to say.
In flashes buried deep within my suppressed memory, I remember the first time he abused me sexually. He said that we needed to do this so we would be ready for our girlfriends. It casts a shadow in my life that in some ways I am still running from. I hurt for the ten-year-old me, and the damage done to his innocence.
Events in both of our lives eventually tore us apart but the damage had been done. What I now know as my arousal template has forever been changed, skewed—damaged. For a long time I felt confused about what had happened in that season of my life. I had never felt attracted to men and I wasn’t attracted to that boy and yet I felt bad because I did get some pleasure out of the experience. I thought it was my fault. I thought that since I didn’t fight back that part of me wanted it to happen. I thought that there was something wrong with me.
I hated myself.
I couldn’t stand to even think about it so I buried it. I wanted to drown out the satisfaction I felt in those sexual encounters. I needed to prove to myself and others that this wasn’t me; that this dark season, this blemish on my life wasn’t who I really was. In all of my desires to escape the fears of my past I ran right into the waiting and loving arms of pornography (read: Satan).
I learned that this is what they call the “Overcompensation Reaction.”
In my mind I needed to go as far in the other direction as possible so in my pre-teen years I wanted to have many girlfriends. I idolized the men in movies that would sleep around with many women. I tried to kiss as many girls as I could in my grade school, and if it weren’t for my little weight problem this would have persisted into High School. Around this time in the mid-90s there was this great new invention that was just getting popular around the country that made my need to prove myself that much easier: The Internet!
I was attracted to the internet like a moth to the flame and it didn’t take me long to find out how to get porn for free, anytime I wanted. Porn that no one had to know about.
I was hooked.
I obsessed over these images. I poured hours of time into finding more and more images. I also got good at hiding them on our family computer. At fifteen, I was an expert at finding, collecting, and then hiding my secret internet porn supply.
About this time my family also got satellite T.V. and this was a new concept for us. I’m sure my mom didn’t quite know what channels she was actually paying for, because I now had access to hardcore porn movies whenever I wanted. As I progressed in my addiction I started introducing some of my friends to the wonders of hardcore porn. I felt amazing. I felt masculine. I would talk openly to my buddies about watching porn and masturbating because “that’s what men do.”
Ironically enough it was actually this same lust for women and this attitude to be a “real man” that lead me into my next circle of interesting people. At the age of sixteen after hanging around the Christian scene at church camp and youth rallys for a year, I decided to become a Christian. I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and hoped that “filling my heart with Jesus” would then force the porn out. This is the first of many failed escapes that I reached for since being convinced that what I was doing was in fact a sin.
Seconds after being pulled up out of the watery grave of my baptism, I swore off porn. No more porn for this guy. I had good intentions, but did not take any actions to actually stop my addiction. The computer was still there. Channel 495 was still there. The half naked swimsuit models in my room were still there. I don’t even have to tell you; I was still addicted and still acting out to porn.
So this was the cycle in my life:
Youth Rally – no more porn (wait 2 weeks)
Crawl back to porn
Church camp – NO MORE PORN (wait 3 weeks)
Rationalize my looking at porn
Convicted by a sermon on Sunday – No. More. Porn! (wait 2 days)
Addicted to porn
This cycle lasted until my freshmen year of college when my high school sweetheart and I had decided to get married. I was very excited about my life with her but I was almost equally excited because this was the out that I had been waiting for. Marriage would solve my porn problem because I would be having sex all the time and subconsciously it would also prove that the dark time in my life was not who I am. I found out quickly that the addiction was more than just a physical ailment and that real sex could not cure it. If anything it only made the addiction worse because not only could I fantasize about the women I saw on the internet, now I also knew what real sex actually felt like.
During these early years of my marriage Satan would whisper his sweet lies to me:
“You’ve been stressed. It will be okay just this one time.”
“Remember that one video?”
“It’s not hurting anyone.”
I was still addicted.
She caught me of course and after spending some time in the “dog house” I swore that I would never do it again. But once more, no plans were put in place, I definitely didn’t confess my sin to the church or my friends, and I never even hinted at that fact that this was an addiction of mine. Even though I knew deep down inside that this really was an addiction. There was no way, as much as I wanted to, that I could end it on my own—addiction.
So like a dog returning to his vomit, I crawled back to my porn time and time again.
Looking back, I wanted to get caught. Just so that I could let my wife know that I was a man and that I liked girls (Of course she had no idea of what events in my past I was trying to bury so she probably just thought I was really dumb).
This cycle lasted years and in this time I told countless lies. I stole money from my mom to pay for my addiction. I lied to a credit card company about a “stolen” credit card because I used it to buy a dirty movie from the porn shop down the street. I even pretended to be this porn expert and tried being an accountability partner for one of my friends.
The addiction had me in its clutches and it was squeezing the life out of me.
In another failed attempt at ending the addiction and to show my wife that I was moving in the right direction I found some accountability software. It would log any questionable sites I went to and then email them to my accountability partners every other week. I made my wife and my best friend my partners. I thought this would be the cure. I thought my fight was finally over.
It wasn’t long before I found ways around the software on my phone and even if I did get on a porn site I would make sure to hack into my wife’s email and delete the report before she could see it and by that time I knew that my friend wasn’t checking the reports (or if he was, had no idea as to how to confront me about it).
I was beaten.
I was living a lie.
I hated myself.
At this point in my life I felt the calling to become a preacher. I knew I had the talents needed to be good at it and I always loved studying the Bible. Looking back now I can see my decision for what it really was: I was reaching for a cure to my porn addiction. Two years of intensive Bible study seemed like it would surely knock this addiction out cold. I thought the mixture of spending eight hours a day in the Bible and spending my down time writing papers would be just what I needed to kick this habit. I would take care of my wanting it and the time I needed to act out to it in one fell swoop.
Boy how wrong I was.
Preaching school is an extremely high stress environment. I only needed my escape more. I craved my fix like a junkie looking for his next high. If there was any doubt before, I now knew that stress is one of my triggers that it makes me seek out porn. I would get stressed and I would look for an escape into the fantasy world of porn.
Compared to my life before preaching school the only thing that changed was now I REALLY knew what I was doing was wrong (and the consequences of my actions) and hated myself even more because I was supposed to be the one with the answers. I was training to help people get out of their sin, yet I was neck deep in my own personal hell. I thought there had to be a special place in hell for hypocrites like me.
So I did what unfortunately, many preachers do; I lived a lie. I became an expert on the dangers and statistics of porn. I thought I had everybody fooled.
So there I was. A preacher in training. Trying to save the world, and yet I was lost myself.
By some chance or fate or divine intervention (leaning towards the latter) I found this little book called “Open” by Craig Gross. In this book, all my fears were realized because the one thing that I hadn’t tried was intimately detailed, explained, and demonstrated. If I was going to get out of this thing, if I was going to cure my broken past, I needed to get open and honest about my sin. I had to confess.
As afraid as I was about it, I admitted to my wife that I was out of control and that I had been lying to her. I felt wretched after seeing the hurt my lies had caused her. I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did that day. I believe this is what is meant in the Bible when they say someone “wept bitterly.” I wish I could tell you that thoughts of ending my life didn’t come to my mind that day, but I cannot. After sweeping those thoughts away I reconciled with my beautiful bride.
I started my group and I finally spilled the guts of my past to some of my closest friends and wouldn’t you know it, they were struggling or had struggled in almost exactly the same ways. Beautiful things happen when we shatter the false selves we build up over years of lies and deceit and allow those we love to see the true us. We started meeting every week over Skype to confess our sins, work on new strategies, and pray for each other. The more I opened up to those around me other people did too, and another group of healing was formed in my local ministry.
I have been in recovery for three years. Now I’m not saying that I have been completely lust free and I have had my rough patches along the way, but the difference is extremely diverse from what my life used to be.
And now we’ve come full circle.
As a man, I am ashamed of so much that I’ve done to perpetuate this sin in other people’s lives.
As a husband, lying to the woman that loves me so much has been unbearable. I have hurt her terribly. I don’t deserve the quality of love she gives me and I still beg for her forgiveness daily.
As a Christian, I am embarrassed that it took me this long to take the Biblical example and countless sermon invitations for what they are—confession, honesty, the cure. How much time have I spent wasting away in the pit of addiction when the cure was waiting for me on the front pew of a church building every Sunday?
This confession is not a plea for pity over my messed up life. I am not looking for special treatment. I’m not even mad about that boy who forever changed my life. He was only acting out of his own abuse (hurt people, hurt people, is what they say).
I am confessing these things because I believe in the power of confession and community.
I am confessing because I know the more people I tell about the things that happened to me the less of a grip the shame of my past has on me.
I am confessing this because I also know that I am not alone in my story.
People are hurt and addicted and trapped just like I was. People are feeling hopeless in their fight for purity.
I want you all to know that hope is real.
Help is out there.
My goal is to end this plague that has brought our churches to their knees. The cure might not be what you expect. It takes hard work and there will be a lot of pain at first.
But it is worth it!
Please! Share or Tweet this article to your friends. Print it out and hand it to someone you love. You never know who might be in the fight of their lives right now with this sin. Maybe my story can help them see the need for accountability and honesty in their lives.
It is only in our collective love and fellowship that we will overcome this sin.
One Day at a Time Christian