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I’m a “former” porn addict. Like many other men or women, I found a sort of comfort in viewing pornography. Looking back, I think I mostly did it out of curiosity in the beginning and because it felt good to me. Not much was going right in life, and this was one area I felt I could “control.” In fact, pornography addiction was all about “me,” like I’m the only one who mattered in life.
I remember being at a friend’s house when I was around 12, and the friend found pornographic magazines. I found the pictures appalling, turning my head away in disgust. I wouldn’t even think about looking at another dirty magazine or anything pornographic until later in my teenage years. One day at home, though, I was on the computer and came across my first pornographic site. I remember the emotions I felt as I was completely aroused by the image on the screen. I ended up defiling myself and felt extreme guilt over what I had done, vowing to God that I would not do this again. The next day I found myself breaking my vow to God and I would again ask for forgiveness, but as time went on I found myself getting more and more out of control. I didn’t recognize what was going on inside of me, figuring this was just a release for a hormonal 17-year-old. During the next several years a cycle would form where I would act out, seek forgiveness from God, then act out again. The addiction grew and grew to the point that I would not even feel guilty when I acted out. I became numb to the world around me and to God.
At about 21, I had my first girlfriend. Throughout our relationship I would continue to act out on the computer, but when we got engaged, I thought my addiction would be over, thinking that being married and having sex with my wife would cure me. That lasted about a week or so. I continued acting out, especially when my wife would say “no” to sex. For the next 10 years I was completely out of control. I would manipulate my wife to do things she didn’t want to do, getting extremely angry when she wouldn’t give into my desires. It got to where she didn’t feel safe around me.
After hiding my addiction from her for 10 years, I finally admitted I had this problem. I sat on the floor crying, wanting the addiction to be gone, but it was so difficult to let go. My wife was very understanding, offering to help me as best as she could, but she really didn’t understand my struggle. In November 2010 she caught me viewing pornography on the computer. I apologized, but I had no idea what this had done to her mentally or physically. The following five years would turn out to be a living hell. Even though I attended a support group for about two years, I still acted out. I could lie quite easily, saying I was clean when I knew I was still struggling. I came to Day Seven at a time of frustration and turmoil, as my wife had distanced herself from the relationship. I started one-on-one counseling and it helped somewhat, but communication at home was non-existent. We began doing joint counseling, but that was rough at times too. I was not able to find a way out of this dark season. My wife believed she had PTSD over what she saw when she caught me. It got to the point where I could not hug or touch her at all. We had no intimacy in our relationship for over two and a half years. Last May in joint counseling, things came to a halt, with my wife saying she couldn’t do this anymore. At that point I thought our marriage was over. I felt deep despair — what would happen to our daughter, and would I even see her again? The next month and a half was really rough, as we still lived in the same house, but my wife moved into the spare bedroom.
During that month and a half, though, a miracle occurred. We both started concentrating on our relationship with God, which was all we had left, but actually was everything we had left! One night we sat on the couch together and my wife told me she was praying and that God had begun to uproot her fear. As she spoke I felt the presence of God. As the fear began to lift from her life, we were able to start communicating and learn to love again.
Looking back almost a year later, it’s like I’m living with a completely different person. We have grown so close in our relationship with each other and we are keeping our relationship with God intact. There is no more fear, but instead there is love and intimacy I have never experienced in 16 years of marriage. God brought us through a difficult but important season, but He has made our relationship right with each other and Himself.
I think back on my 20 years of addiction and sometimes I wonder what really caused me to think my behavior was OK. Ultimately it comes down to a choice. For the porn addict this seems impossible, but when you step away from porn, the light seems to grow stronger. As you grow in your relationship with God and understand who He made you to be, eventually porn loses its pull.
Today I have become involved in helping those struggling with pornography addiction. We have a weekly “ReBoot” group, I’ve shared part of my story on the radio, and I’ve networked with other organizations trying to bring awareness to this issue.There are consequences to our destructive actions, but there is hope for conquering this addiction, though only through an ongoing relationship with God. It took me many years to finally come to terms with my desires, but there is so much freedom not being chained to this addiction. I pray that my story encourages and helps others in this struggle.
Alyssa has become all too acquainted with grief. If the death in infancy of two premature babies, followed by a miscarriage, wasn’t enough, then came the dark day nearly two years ago when her husband, Ryan, strangely came home in the middle of his workday, eyes hollow, evasive and pleading all at once. Alyssa tried to joke, “It’s not like you’re about to tell me you’ve slept with a bunch of other women,” but, tragically, that’s exactly what Ryan told her.
This stunning disclosure threw Alyssa into a pit of darkness and confusion. After all, she grew up in a Christian home, she had gone to Christian schools, she had met Ryan at Christian college, and they had done ministry together. “I’m a good person, but haven’t I already faced enough?”, she thought, the feelings of betrayal and dismissal overwhelming her.
That’s when Alyssa and Ryan’s pastor referred them to Day Seven Ministries. Through intense counseling both individually and as a couple, they’ve begun to peel back the layers of deception, finding freedom in the confession of sin.
Alyssa acknowledges that there’s a lot of work still to do in order to restore trust in their marriage, but she is forever grateful for Day Seven helping her reclaim her identity as a delighted daughter of the King. Her eyes have been opened to God’s deep and abiding love for her. For Alyssa and Ryan, there’s hope in a situation for which the world says there’s no hope.
When I was young (probably around 10), I had an older cousin I did not see very much, but when I did, he liked to do things that, shall we say politely, were inappropriate. Like most people this happens to, I felt ashamed and told no one. When I started puberty, I felt ashamed of the changes my body was going through. I wouldn’t wear shorts, was very shy and was scared to death of girls. Like many kids, I turned to porn and masturbation to fill in the blanks of what was happening to me. Of course, that just isolated me further. Unfortunately, all this would come back to haunt me. I eventually grew out of my awkwardness to some extent, but still had problems with self-esteem and rejection. I finally met the girl of my dreams, after numerous misfires, and we got married in 2000. We had two boys, now 7 and 11, and I started what would become a very successful business. We seemed to have what everyone wants: money, success and status. But deep down I still struggled with questions and feelings that were never dealt with. I turned to porn again and eventually to child porn to find answers that would never be provided. Of course, I kept everything a secret, despite the fact that I hated myself for looking at it and would pray for both myself and the children in the videos. I would get angry with the people who would do such a thing to kids, but I was still viewing it.
Things came to an abrupt head on January 2015, as the police came early in the morning. I told them everything and gave them the hard drive that contained it. I cried to my wife and the police for forgiveness. I told my wife that I would not blame her if she left. My wife said she believed in me and would give me a chance for redemption. I was charged a couple of days later.
Enter Jesus Christ. My wife was always involved in church, but me, not so much — frankly, if there was an excuse not to go to church, I found it. It wasn’t that I did not believe; I just thought Jesus would not accept me, as I could not break the addiction that bound me. But therein lies the truth that I could not break it myself. I had to face the consequences and hand my entire life to Jesus, and only then could I find grace. In our darkest moment is when Jesus comes to meet us — He wants to help us. This was shown to me in the most direct way possible a couple of days after the police visit. I was lying in bed trying to sleep. I was depressed, hopeless, shame-filled and scared. In between sleep and being awake, I was transported to another place, a vision so real I can feel it to this day. I was floating in a rough ocean, being taken out to sea with the currents. It was dark and foggy, with nothing around me but a rock wall and the ocean. I could not reach the rocks as the current dragged me away. Suddenly there was a bright light above the rocks. It was a vision of Jesus. He reached His hand to me and said, “Take My hand; I will help you.” I woke up crying, woke my wife and told her about it, and we both cried together. It was, to say the least, a life-changing moment.
Within a week, I started counseling with Day Seven, and it was eye-opening. Suddenly, there was no more shame in talking about my addiction. I was able to get to the heart of what was going on and why. We have since found a new church that we both love, and I was baptized a couple of months ago. I read my Bible daily, along with numerous books on fighting pornography. I feel Jesus is not only there when I pray, but He is there all of the time. He was with me in my darkest hour, in my struggles, and in my family’s life as well.
I have not struggled at all with pornography so far, for which I have been one of the fortunate few. Jesus has taken it out of my life up to this point, and He has given me a desire to use my story to help others. I would love to start a ministry to help people in this situation. Public opinion and the legal system would rather throw away people like me rather than try to help them, and no one discusses it. This has become a huge problem.
Today I do not know what the future holds. I may end up going to prison. Regardless of what happens, I want to use this for good. We owe it to people to help them, as too many are getting left out when they need guidance. Sexual addiction is one of the biggest problems facing our modern world — it is destroying lives, marriages, careers and families. It is time we ask Jesus our Savior to help us in our struggles as we come out of the darkness once and for all. I am tired of hiding behind the shame. My identity is now in Christ, and I am a better husband, father and friend because of it.
My battle for purity began around the age of 10. It would turn out to be a 15 year battle marked with frustration, anger, and self-hatred. It made no difference how hard I tried I could not stay pure. The enemy of “lust” always lurked behind the conflict of stress, low self-worth, and fear. As soon as I would make an agreement with these failures, lust would inevitably attack and overcome.
In my frustration I turned to different people for accountability. I was advised to memorize scripture, put blocks on my computer, and have more self-control. I fought hard and I fought well. But the enemy continued to overcome. After each season of fighting, and eventually failing, the stronghold would take a deeper root. Out of intense anger and frustration I would cry out to God. “Lord, take this lust out of my life! I hate it! You hate it! Lord, remove this sin from me!” My prayers seemed to go unheard because a few days later the temptation would overpower me once again. Out of anger toward myself and toward a perceived distant God, I would eventually accept this monster of lust as part of my identity. “If God will not free me from this demon than I should at least enjoy the pleasure.” “After all this is just for myself and I am not hurting my wife or children.” These were the lies that I created to allow myself to indulge in my world of selfishness and lust.
My anger only grew larger during this time. It grew into self-hatred where thoughts of suicide and lashing out verbally at my wife were common occurrences. One fight in particular will never be forgotten when hearing us fight my daughter cried out “Mommy, why is Daddy always so angry?” Deep inside I hated who I had become. I also hated that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hold the anger in.
I finally came to a place that I did not care what it took I knew I needed a life change. So I reached out to my pastor. With the help of my pastor and his wife I came clean to my wife about my secret battle. We eventually turned to Day Seven Ministries as an avenue for both of us to find healing and freedom. God worked in a powerful way through my counselor and also through the Day Seven Recovery Group that I was part of. Through Day Seven Ministries God restored my life and my marriage!
I realize now that my “fight for purity” was a battle that was not mine to fight. Purity is not a trophy that can be achieved through a string of right actions. I am simply called to receive the gift of the grace through the repentance of my sin. In the past I repented but rejected the grace and continued to walk in law. Part of my victory did include putting blocks on my computers, and having men walking with me in healthy accountable relationship. These things are effective now because the root issues of the heart have been forgiven by grace.
As I joyfully walk in the grace of God there is a continual purifying of the heart. My “fight for purity” is now a desire to “surrender (to God) for purity.”
This was written in 2013 during my second stay in Lancaster County Prison for another probation violation to be read by my pastor as part of a men’s session on “Purity Sunday”. By the grace of God, I was released the following Friday after a judicial hearing – only 50 days this time around.
In hindsight it started rather innocently. A middle-school aged boy in the 70’s obsessing over black and white pictures in the lingerie section of the Sears catalog. Finding a small novelty deck of playing cards with topless women pictured on every card in the pocket of a borrowed hunting coat.
But for me it did not stay innocent. I fed the beast at every opportunity. Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler. It seemed that images and stories that were initially exciting and enticing faded into boredom quickly. The “Law of diminishing returns” or as Paul says in Ephesians 4:19 “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
Magazines, to adult bookstores, to massage parlors, to prostitutes; It was an ever tightening downward spiral.
The line of addiction was crossed early on. It wasn’t a straight line down. I constantly struggled to overcome. I believed that getting married would satisfy the cravings. It did for a short time. I sought psychiatric help. Things improved again for awhile. Through all this I was leading a double life. Only I knew my secrets. Friends, co-workers, clients, people at church had no idea. Living the lies took a tremendous amount of energy.
It’s impossible to juggle all the lies forever. Life begins fraying at the edges. Those who are closest to you start to figure it out. I began to withdraw, isolating myself more and more. Fewer lies were easier to maintain. But the loneliness drove me deeper into the addiction. Eventually I began to reap what I had sown.
My marriage collapsed after seven years and two children. The one quote I still can’t put behind me even after more than twenty years: “I love you, but I just can’t live with you.”
Still I continued in my addiction.
Then the internet changed almost everything. It opened access to anything and everything and reduced the possibility of exposure. I felt free to chase anything I could think of; and I did. My addiction continued to deepen, cycle after cycle. Indulgence, shame, regret, repentance, hold it off for a few days, or weeks, maybe even a few months. Repeat.
Then the police showed up and took my computers. Possession of child pornography. Attorneys, judges, house arrest, probation, with incredibly tight restrictions.
Still struggling to maintain with my own strength I violated probation in May 2010. Five months in Lancaster County Prison.
On day 2, God, the Hound of Heaven, finally caught me. The only book available was “How People Change” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, two Christian psychologists. I was hit over the head with the proverbial 2×4.
Broken, I turned. And like the prodigal son’s father, He came running and met me right where I was.
(I still can’t write about this without tears welling up) God’s grace is truly amazing!
It’s still a daily struggle with an uncertain future. The process of healing takes time. 35 years to unravel is a lot.
God has brought me into relationship with a number of godly friends, counselors, and accountability partners who continue to walk with me.
The stories of who, and how, God has used to touch my life in the past 3 years would fill pages. Many of those who have been instrumental in my walk are completely unaware of their godly influence.
Which brings me to a point I want men to understand. People are watching with discerning eyes. In your social circles, at work, while you are driving behind that oblivious idiot, when you’re choosing what to watch after you think your kids are asleep. One seemingly unimportant decision can undo years of the teaching you do with words. Be ever vigilant!
Many things influenced the direction of my life. My choices are my responsibility and I’m striving to take it head on.
Do you remember that borrowed hunting coat from the first paragraph? It was my dad’s. He has no idea. I never brought it up.
Adding weekly sessions at Day 7 was an additional step to improve my chances of avoiding yet another violation of the conditions of my probation. The focus of my therapy has been on the relationships in my life and their influences, both positive and negative, on both my historical behavior, as well as, my current journey.
Note from Day Seven Ministries counselor: It was, and still is, a delight to support this client on his journey of discovery. Like his father, this man is brilliant, but he is also very talkative, insightful and clear in his growth and learning in his faith walk and his relationship with the Lord and those closest to him. Like King David after walking in his pride and arrogance, and his fall with sexual sin and murder, this client is on his way to earning the reputation of “a man after God’s own heart.”
My parents were Christians but did not talk to me about sex or create an environment in which I felt comfortable bringing up the subject. My mother, in particular, treated it as a taboo subject.
When puberty began, I discovered masturbation. Within a few years, I was exposed to soft-core pornography by my older brother. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty much viewing hardcore pornography every day. I know now I was trying to compensate for the lack of affirmation I was receiving at home.
In my twenties, I joined the military and was shipped out far away from home. I took full advantage of my newfound access to alcohol, strip clubs, and prostitutes. By the time I left the military I was completely broken.
Praise Jesus that through a pastor I was put in touch with a Day Seven counselor. My journey and struggle are not over, but I am no longer the same person I was. I realize now how loved I am by God, and my sins are truly forever forgiven and forgotten. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has given me a new identity that can never be taken away–a beloved son of God. I no longer beat myself up and agonize over past sins and mistakes. If God longer remembers them, why should I?
“Just do it.”
Who knew the famous slogan, simple and straightforward, that was birthed from worldwide brand Nike would successfully reign to present day 2017- almost thirty years after its inception in 1988?
While we couldn’t have imagined the millions of dollars involved, the countless athletic dreams born, or the stylish clothes we wore with pride that all hinged on the marketing explosion which Nike initiated with three simple words, you can bet the bigwigs behind the idea were hopeful. Their company egos and bank accounts were depending on it.
But what transcended even more then swoosh-adorned tear away pants and lucrative endorsement contracts professional athletes signed was how “just do it” would affect our emotions. Any good marketer worth their salt, after all, is trying to tap into a deeper place within us where we don’t simply want something but actually feel we need it.
Unfortunately, the three words Nike popularized determine much more then our attitude about which shoes we’ll choose to buy. For me at least, “Just Do it” echoed in the walls of my heart when it came to how I once approached relationship with God and the local church. I’d love to say it’s a temptation I’m immune from today, but that’s hardly the case.
So what does this look like? Well, churches encourage us to stop these behaviors and start these ones Just do it. Share the gospel with the lost and hurting. Just do it. There’s a need for this volunteer slot, and we need your help! Whether it was in silent whispers or deafening shouts, there was a consistent “Just do it” implied in these contexts during my early steps of walking with Christ.
To be fair, not of all this was intended and some was my personal perception. I should also note I think there can be authentic value and good coming from simply stepping up to the plate as a Christ follower. Yet, when it comes to sin, the flip side to “just do it” is often “just stop it.” And while for some transgressions “just stopping” may be uncomplicated, sexual addiction was hardly that for me. Perhaps if you’re reading this you can personally relate. Without pure motives of why I wanted to stop looking at porn and creating lustful fantasies, my desire to stop could actually be quite self-centered, fostering a sinful heart no less than the very sexual sin was in which I wanted to give up.
Let me explain further…
In my early recovery process I could give some solid Sunday School reasons for why I sought sexual integrity and health. They may have appeared sincere, but in reality they were lies. For a while, the real motive for my purity pursuit was to get freedom from the negative consequences which porn and lust created in my life. I disdained the shame from acting out and the rift I sensed in my relationship with God after watching porn. Logic reasoned, stop looking at pornography and being lustful, and those icky feelings and emotions will just go away, right?
Ironically, I seemed to have more bad feelings and emotions then I had when I was regularly acting out! Over time I learned this made sense, because porn was a cancerous coping mechanism I used to avoid, escape, and numb undesirable feelings, emotions, and situations rather than healthily addressing them. Without the steady diet of sexual sin, all these feelings and emotions rose to the surface. My brain and body were experiencing the physical effects of withdrawal too. As these negative feelings increased and the resulting emotions surfaced, I was forced to deal with them. I asked inwardly and outwardly to God, “Now what?”
My relationship with my girlfriend Ashley, who is now my wife, continued to move in a positive direction. I knew in my heart we were headed towards marriage. Surely enough, the next primary motive for purity was not hurting her and causing her pain, as I realized after a blow up conflict we had that my struggle stood starkly in the way of us healthily growing as a couple. The motive this time around seems relatively pure on the surface, right? It’s not just about my happiness or well-being any more, another person is involved. Looking back, it was a step in the right direction, but it still fell short. How so? Because I still had significant struggles with codependency, and my relationship with Ashley was the main context this issue reared its’ head. The mistaken assumption I had was that if my repetitive sexual immorality stopped, then our relationship would become more peaceful. So when it didn’t happen that way I grew frustrated and angry. Ashley needed to feel and express her emotions for her own healing. What at first appeared selfless became selfish– I wanted a peaceful relationship to affirm my self-worth.
All these layers I was progressing through got to where I realized a bigger vision, a bigger purpose needed to be my primary motivator in sexual recovery. With the passing of time, toiling in prayer with God and others, and through individual counseling and Day Seven’s recovery group, I came to a more secure motive- I was going to pursue sexual purity, realizing that the more free I was from sexual sin, the closer my relationship with God would be, the more free I’d be to pursue his calling on my life, and the healthier and godlier all my human relationships would be. It all boiled down to being moved by gratitude from his grace and forgiveness, and responding in sexual obedience. Chasing God’s ideal for sexuality from this platform freed me up and over time other things began falling into place.
God wasn’t mad at me for my sin, holding it over my head like a dark, ominous cloud. The times my feelings said otherwise, it was just that- my feelings, combined with Satan, the Father of lies, seducing me to get my identity from the sin and not my salvation Christ purchased for me on the cross. From this new motive I could allow Ashley to process, learn, and heal from how my destructive decisions affected her without letting her emotions dictate mine or determine my worth, and my perspective of pain and uncomfortable feelings changed too. I realized I wasn’t forced to dread them when they surfaced, but rather embrace them as opportunities to grow in faith in God’s provision and learn what was really going on under the surface- why I ran to porn in the first place. But it all started with a guiding north star, or motivation, to where I had security and clarity on why sexual purity and wholeness was worth fighting for.
So what’s my hope for you? I pray and desire you have a community where you’re real with your struggles, and continually ask God “why am I chasing this? Why am I really, deep down, pursuing sexual purity?” I encourage you to be discussing what He seems to be saying with trusted others in your life. Professionals can be crucial in this journey too. My guess is you’ll pay for a medical doctor if you have a broken arm or leg, and the tough reality is that habitual sexual lust and pornography creates a broken heart and spirit. Hopefully you can see, despite the likely difficult process, that opening up to a professional wanting to help will be worth every dollar you spend.
And maybe next time you see Lebron slam dunking in a Nike commercial or wash those tear away pants sporting the swoosh, “just do it” won’t cause the knee-jerk urge to “just stop it” when it comes to looking at pornography.
After all, motives matter…