I remember my excitement as a young boy when I saw pictures of women’s breasts in a magazine for the first time. I also remember a feeling of shame—that I was doing something wrong.
In the fifth grade, a friend told me about masturbation. When I got home later that afternoon, I tried it out. And I liked it—a lot. I thought about my friend masturbating, and I liked that, too.
Gradually, masturbation became a daily ritual. To intensify the experience, I would imagine the bodies of women and men that I had seen in magazines. I learned how to use my mind to create sexual fantasy. It was during this time that I realized I am sexually attracted to men as well as women.
By the time I was in high school, I was living with an overwhelming sense that sex was an immediate, core need. Excitement and shame had gradually become woven into one thread. Being spiritually minded, I frequently prayed to God for Him to cure me from sexual fantasy and compulsive sexual behavior. But God didn’t cure me of any of this. So I figured I had to take care of my situation on my own.
And I kept all of this secret.
After I left my childhood home for college, I began having anonymous sexual encounters with other men.
As I got to know the woman who would become my wife, our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual connections became very special and deep, and unique from all those I had experienced with other girlfriends. But I didn’t tell her about what had become a sexual addiction because I was afraid she would leave me if she knew. I hoped my unwanted sex addiction and same sex attraction would melt away after we were married. But instead, they continued to grow and progress. My pursuit of lust took me to porn shops, peep shows, gay bathhouses, internet porn sites, chat rooms, and other places where I tried to satisfy my sexual appetite.
Although prayer and self-control could sometimes provide brief periods of relative sexual sanity, the compulsions of sex addiction and same sex attraction would always return with overwhelming power, reinforcing my sense of powerless, shame and despair. This, in turn, fueled my drive for more sex, as well as for alcohol, drugs, television, work, and anything else I could use to try to numb my torment and pain.
The energy required to keep all this going in secret while maintaining the life I wanted with my wife and children was staggering. Emotional and spiritual connections were broken as I sank deeper into my addiction. Anger, resentments, and dishonesty became a part of daily life.
A core problem for me was that I believed sex was my most important need. And sex—as I knew it—was not something I was willing to give away to Jesus.
Ultimately, my wife stumbled upon my hidden stash of porn DVDs. My truth became known, and it devastated us both. However, that devastation became my turning point. It was then—in hopeless desperation—when I was finally willing to completely relinquish my sexual situation to Jesus. It was then that I began to practice living out, in a new way, a life of surrender to Jesus—to give him what I thought I needed most.
With both sex addiction and same sex attraction, I am on a journey. I have not arrived, and I am not “cured”, but I have found something even better than a “cure”—I have found a pathway to freedom from these unwanted compulsions. For me, the foundation of that pathway is complete and unconditional surrender to Jesus and is reinforced by the 12 steps of addiction recovery. This foundation also includes genuine, intimate, non-sexual connections with other men on my same journey who can affirm and care for me, and who help me remain accountable to a life of ongoing surrender to Jesus.
Some days are better than others. But this one thing I know regardless of the day: In Jesus, I am at peace and free. And every time a sexual temptation comes my way, I am reminded of His power and His grace.
I am not sure when lust became a hurricane force in my life. Was it the drive to kiss a girl in my kindergarten class? Was it a premature introduction to sexual matters at summer camp? Was it the intoxication of masturbation and pornography during the teen and young adult years? No doubt all these things contributed to my addiction to lust. But I may have also possessed a natural bent. Like many others, the origins of my addiction are murky. The reality of its presence is not.
Despite all these things, I did not consider myself abnormal growing up. I thought most young men thought the things I thought and did the things I did. Their words spoke of my inner condition, or so it seemed. But it wasn’t until my addiction metastacized in my mid to late twenties that some light began to dawn. I began to admit to myself, “Normal people do not think the things I am thinking and do the things I am doing.”
I admitted my addiction to porn to my family of origin but that did not seem to stop it. Again and again, I would get beyond a certain point with resentment and lust and the urge to act out would be entirely irresistible. I could put it off for a few hours or days, but I would always give in. My ritual was firmly in place. Sooner or later I was going to act out. This was the cage in which I lived my life. Out of control, I tried everything; new theologies and belief systems, counseling, inner healing, willpower, honest confession, repentance…nothing seemed to work. I changed my addiction’s outward manifestation. But the inner driving force did not change. I was playing whack-a-mole with lust and lust was winning.
A big problem was that I was unwilling or unable to be honest with myself. One of the lies I told myself after I got married was that my addiction would never eventuate in adultery. I could not have been more wrong. When sex was offered, I succumbed. The lies multipled and led to other lies. I began to resent the world and those who “stood in my way.” I turned against God and others inwardly. When I was deprived some outward preferment in ministry, I felt an inner entitlement to lust. The addiction grew worse.
When I finally admitted my secret life all in an evening, for the purely selfish reason of dumping it on my wife, our world fell apart. My family was devastated. Marital separation followed. I got treatment and help and entered a 12 Step program. Was this the turning point? Not yet. For years, I simply went to meetings for the purpose of limiting my behavior. I did not get a sponsor, work the steps or help others. The desire to control the uncontrollable ran my life. So I finally dropped out. Sobriety had eluded me.
Soon the addiction reappeared and became worse than before. When internet porn became prevalent and easily accessible, I binged and sank more deeply into the mire. But like many an alcoholic, the binge was the prelude to freedom. For the first time, deep inside I began to want out.
One day at work, I had inadvertently copied a piece of pornography and then ran to the computer to grab it. I stuffed it in my pants pocket and thought I would throw it away at home later. That evening in the laundry room at home, my wife pulled it out and asked about it. Despite the tension, a surprising still small voice inside said quietly, “It’s over.” What did the voice mean? It meant my long struggle for freedom was over. I surrendered that day and have been sober ever since. It was July 11, 2010.
Looking back I could see two additional events other than my months-long binge and discovery which contributed to my wanting sobriety. In 2009, my 90 year old father had died. After his death, God spoke to me and said in effect, “Well, looky here. There is now no one above you on the male family tree. You are next. Stop kidding yourself about surrendering.” What did this mean? It meant that all my hollow promises to surrender lust I had made in my twenties, thirties, forties and fifties were totally worthless. I could actually die a practicing lust addict. In fact, if nothing happened, this was my likely end. What a thought! I recoiled at the prospect.
I had also watched a video by a wise therapist who spoke of the “sin unto death.” She left me with the idea that although God would take me back, there might come a point where I no longer believed he would take me back. That particular despair might lead to a surrender; not to God but to the permanent practice of my addiction. I had seen enough white haired addicts to know sexual addiction is not something people outgrow. This was my moment. It was as if God was giving me the choice between a tin cup and a cot in a jail cell or the fresh air of freedom. I ran to freedom.
I went back to meetings, got a sponsor, started working the 12 Steps, sponsoring others, and surrendering morning and evening. Then I began surrendering all through the day whenever I could not handle resentment, control, lust, ego or self-centeredness. Jesus met me in the surrender and took what I gave him. It worked. I was beginning to live in freedom for the first time. This freedom has only grown over time as I live out sobriety in community.
I am deeply thankful for my marriage, which is growing in intimacy, and my brothers in recovery who sustain me regularly. I do not wish to return to my former life. I want to help others achieve sexual sobriety and the church to understand how to reach people like me. One more thing. I am deeply grateful to be a recovering sexaholic for two primary reasons. First, I now know what is wrong with me and secondly because in my distress I have found a deeper life I could otherwise have never known.
The best way for me to describe my childhood is to say that I was alone much of the time. When I wasn’t alone, I was often playing with my older sisters and was labeled a “sissy” at an early age. Even though I hated this identity, I assumed it as my own and it suffocated me like a heavy blanket. I was ashamed of myself. I didn’t feel “normal.” Although, I was brought up in a nominally Christian home and was taken to church, I believed in an impersonal Jesus and had a very fear based relationship with Him.
This early childhood experience was the backdrop upon which my lust addiction took root. I had begun innocently masturbating at a young age. I felt no shame about it until I found porn at age 10 or 11 and began masturbating to the porn and realized that what I had been doing was sexual behavior. I promised myself I would never masturbate again—that lasted about two weeks. Once I broke that promise and started masturbating again, I became quickly hooked and started a regular pattern of almost daily masturbation, often with the use of porn. I had no idea that what I was doing was solidifying in my brain a pattern of behavior and sexual response that would become ingrained in me—it would become a way of life for me. I also found myself identifying with the men in the porn I was viewing—I wanted to be them. This led to some significant confusion about my identity and my sexual orientation.
Not surprisingly, I had trouble dating girls in high school and always felt really insecure and inadequate around them. I finally did start dating in my late teens and early 20’s and eventually became sexually active. One of these relationships resulted in a pregnancy that ended in an abortion, which I agreed to and supported. After the abortion, I cut all ties with God. I felt that I had committed the worst possible sin. I bought my first VCR and started renting porn videos to watch in the privacy of my own home.
I met the woman who would become my wife in my late 20’s and we married a couple of years later. I told my wife nothing about my problem. I thought my secret life of porn and masturbation would end with marriage, but things only got worse. When I gained access to Internet porn in the late 90’s, my addictive behaviors became much worse. This led to a downward spiral over several years, which ultimately, brought me to the end of myself for the first time. I sought help from a Christian counselor and found some relief from the addictive behaviors. I was then able to share my struggle with my wife who was obviously deeply hurt by my disclosure.
Things initially got better, but I slowly began looking at porn again and masturbating. I became more and more discouraged and desperate. I finally started attending meetings in a recovery program. I also began opening up to some friends at church about my addictive behaviors and began to experience a lot of freedom in the community I found there. I also began receiving healing prayer. These things were all helping me but I wasn’t really working the recovery program as designed, and my freedom was short lived. Once again I started slipping back into old patterns of behavior. I switched to a different recovery program and got more serious about working that program. I began experiencing longer and longer periods of freedom, but I was still slipping and experiencing more discouragement. So, I decided to get out of the recovery program altogether (not a good idea) and rely on my church community and accountability with men there. I remained active in my church and was accountable to the men there. It didn’t take long until I was back into the same old patterns of looking at porn and masturbating. I stayed out of recovery for three years. The frustration, discouragement, feelings of failure, and despair were indescribable. I finally went crawling back to the same recovery program from which I had left—I was defeated. God met me in that place of utter defeat. I started over working this program of recovery and haven’t looked back since.
I finally learned that lust was my problem. I am learning more and more each day how to surrender my lust and my life to Christ. In doing this, He is becoming very real and personal to me—I am beginning to experience what it means to walk in His freedom and peace. I am participating in ministries and programs at my church and I am able to give back and serve God in ways that I never thought would be possible. Praise Him for that!
It seems many men confront their sex addiction when it blows up spectacularly in their faces: They are finally caught red-handed. This is not my story. I confronted my addiction ten years into a second marriage when I realized how much time and mental energy it was consuming. I confronted it because I felt I was cheating my wife out of the husband that she deserved. Extramarital affairs, prostitutes, strippers, massage parlors, masturbation marathons: None of these was ever part of my story, even as a single man. In fact, I consider it nothing short of miraculous that I have had sex with only one woman in over a decade. Compared to the previous decade with dozens of lovers, marriage surely had cured me. I thought that the exclusivity of the marriage bed only applied once married. Yet, still, I had a problem. The compulsion to flirt and fantasize had not vanished. I know that even today, if sex is offered up and in my face, with very few exceptions per my history, I’m gonna take it.
I prayed for God to take the lust and fantasy away, and he did not. I asked others to pray it away with me, and God still did not relieve me of this problem. God is a gentleman: He will not take something from you unless you are willing to give up all rights to it, to give it to him completely. I had walled off this secret part of my life from my outward observant Christian life with all the shame and guilt that went along with it. Who could help? I was moved to act when one day I was looking at some twisted internet porn and felt myself being pulled into the moving images, body and soul. At the precipice and looking down into the abyss, I immediately began to search the web to see if there was any help to be had. This was a turning point: Me finally reaching back, and God plucking me off the mountain.
Attending my first Twelve Step meeting, I met other crazy people like me: Control freaks, privacy whores, judgmental folks, angry and raging men, all wanting to be lusted after. I met other men who really did think about sex every seven seconds, and who realized that this was not normal. I initially sought a Christian-based group, but after reviewing the literature and listening to other men share their experience, strength and hope, I saw God writ large over the Twelve Steps. I also knew that I did not have the time to commit to multiple programs of recovery, and that this one was scalable in that I could visit meetings in my town every day of the week.
With the attendant shame and feelings of unworthiness, I did not disclose any of my struggles to my wife until after I had been attending meetings for over a year. After we both viewed the 2014 movie, Thanks for Sharing, I made my disclosure. Bringing this into the light helped break its power over me. No longer am I the minion of lust, having it affect nearly every decision in my life. There is a better, freer way to live, one day at a time.
I began to fantasize sexually at a young age. My acting out behaviors began with masturbation as a teenager as pornography was not readily available for me until later. In high school I lost my virginity and was consistently sexually active after that. I remember being given alcohol, for the first time, by my high school music teacher. I also remember being in his home and watching a gay porn film. During a weekend concert trip, I shared a hotel room with the music teacher and remember him chasing me around the hotel room in a clearly sexual manner.
In college, I was able to buy pornographic magazines at convenience stores but felt that actually going to an adult bookstore would be too risky for me in terms of discovery. I started a pattern of purchasing porn and hiding it to use later, but I would often resolve to quit and throw it away, only to buy more. I also found the opportunity to view soft core porn movies with my college friends at some local adult theaters. All this occurred despite being brought up in a Christian home and spending time in ministry.
Finally, I got married and remember thinking this would finally fix me. I would finally stop. In fact, at every stage in the progression of my addiction, I remember thinking that the next one would satisfy me and make me stop. But changing relationships simply led to more fantasy and masturbation. It was during my first marriage that I began fantasizing about an extra-marital affair. What would that be like? I wanted what I thought was the best of both worlds. This fantasy continued for about a decade.
My fantasies took on new dimensions and obsessions. The internet was ramping up and I proceeded to engage in anonymous conversations with people online. Watching porn online became a daily compulsion. Then I engaged in the fantasy of anonymous sex with someone for the first time. I remember the overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame, but it didn’t make me stop. From there I moved to using escorts because I wanted to control the fantasy by picking who the person was and what they did. I researched massage parlors and found I could purchase any type of sex I wanted. But after these encounters, I felt a lot of guilt and shame. My thought from high school that I would “grow out of it” was proving the biggest fantasy of all. My marriage failed and I got divorced.
Soon marriage number two was in trouble in the same way. I got caught again but my second wife suggested that I get help. This is how I found my way into recovery. It was either recovery or I knew the pattern would repeat itself. I came into the rooms thinking I had a problem with porn, masturbation and unfaithfulness but what I discovered was I have an addiction to lust prompted by other character defects of fear, anxiety, insecurity, perfectionism, and low self-esteem. These are the things that drive me toward lust as a coping mechanism. I discovered I had never really dealt with life on life’s terms.
Recovery brought me the tools to deal with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Now lust is still present but it does not control me as before. I can be open, honest and real with my wife. I am closer to God with the mask off and the coping mechanisms acknowledged and worked on. My spiritual experience has taught me that it took my addiction to lust to bring me to my knees and rely upon Him, instead of my own resources.
How will my future life be? It will be one day at a time. When addiction shows up, I don’t need to fight it but rather rely on God’s presence and a community of fellowship that struggles as I do. I find my strength and hope here, one that gives me the power to surrender my lustful desires and walk in freedom.
Why Did I Stop Looking at Porn? Because I had a dis-eased soul.
For me, giving up porn came down to an issue of my diseased soul.
Dis-ease. Not at ease. That was me.
After masturbating and fantasizing from my early teen years through my late-thirties, it all boiled down to a typical pattern that looked like this.
My Saturday recipe for freedom (addiction) looked like this:
Saturday evening is always date night with my wife.
I can forget about the work week, and I have no responsibilities on Sunday.
It’s time to live a little and let my soul be free.
- I’d start pre-drinking at 5 pm with two double whiskeys on an empty stomach. The liquor buzz would quickly lift me up and put me in an optimistic and cheerful mood.
- I’d go out with my wife and continue drinking a few beers or mixed drinks, and my buzz would be in full swing.
- If we were out with friends on the bikes, I’d pack a quadruple strength sports bottle full of liquor that I’d sip during the 20-minute bike ride to our little town center.
- By the time we’d arrive at the restaurant, I will have downed six to eight shots in less than two hours on an empty stomach. I was drunk again and feeling good. “On top of the world,” I’d tell myself, “on top of the world.” as I’d smile, lift my drink, and congratulate myself. “You’re a king, your crushing life. It’s time to live and be free”.
- As we sit down for dinner, my wife and I would get a nice meal, and I’d “treat” myself with some greasy, fatty food. If I weren’t careful, this would entirely kill my buzz.
- Depending on the night, I’d continue drinking if we were out with friends and regularly become ravenously drunk.
- Coming home near 10 pm or 11 pm my wife would be tired and go straight to bed.
- With the alcohol leaving my system, I’d get ravenously hungry and thirsty from dehydration and the massive blood sugar drop.
- I’d be a little lonely and depressed as the buzz of the night wore off, so it was time for some self-comfort and release.
- I’d raid the pantry and eat our kid’s school snacks, grabbing for some chips, a greasy hot dog or a few spoonfuls of peanut butter.
- Next, I’d double check the wife was asleep and pull out the iPad and launch a browser in “private” mode. I was always careful to cover my tracks.
- I’d quickly open my favorite porn site and time my masturbation to a particular moment of the video, then I’d release, and within a few minutes, it was all over.
- Saturday night was done and dusted, and it was time to fall asleep in a semi-drunken slumber, covered in shame from my over indulgence.
With my waist expanding, my soul rotting, and this dependency secretly cloaked over and hidden from my family and friends, I’d crawl into bed next to my wife.
I faithfully followed this wicked prescription every Saturday for nearly three years, and it almost wrecked my life and marriage.
It took a good while to get to this depth of sickness and self-medication. I’ve since learned that all compulsive behavior of this nature is progressively destructive, inwardly focused, and is often hidden from others right in plain sight.
These choices covered me in guilt and shame and left me feeling like a hypocrite to the outside world. It’s no wonder I shut off my heart and indulged more and more.
What was driving this destructive, downward spiral?
Before I completely numbed my soul and deadened the part of my heart that wanted to do the right thing and give a damn, a thick blanket of shame would come over me.
Before acting out with porn, sometimes I’d think about my two young daughters and wife sleeping upstairs a mere twenty feet away. My heart would move deep inside of me “What the am I about to do here?”, I’d ask myself. “This is sick. Truly sick”. (reference Glennon part on porn)
I was using porn to cope with life, and it wasn’t working out
I felt like a shipwrecked sailor, adrift at sea in a rubber dingy, with the storms of life roaring in and leaving me helpless, with no control over their timing, duration, or destructive strength.
I was ill equipped to handle my adult life, and I believed absolutely no one could relate or care regardless. I’m a man, and this is a battle I must fight alone.
It was me against life, and life was an impersonal, raging storm that was kicking my ass.
And this is why I self-medicated. I thought there was no other option. “This is the only way I can be free; this is the only way I can ground myself and feel alive,” I’d tell myself.
Too many times, I pushed away that gentle nudge in my soul and opened the floodgates to my compulsive porn addiction, progressively becoming more dependent and ill. While I could white knuckle my way through times of clean living, the vices always came back and strengthened their hold on me during the next go around.
Porn addiction took me on an isolating, downward spiral that I couldn’t overcome alone.
But on Saturday nights, all this soul searching and logic didn’t add up to any positive choices on my part.
Filled with alcohol’s false courage, I’d push aside this vacuum inside my soul and rationalize with myself saying, “this is your break, it’s your Saturday night, and you can go hard. Time to live a little and feel good about life.”
And feeling good for me on Saturday night meant drinking, followed by food, followed by more drinking, and more food, all washed down with a disgusting serving of porn before I fell asleep.
I lived like this for nearly 52 Saturdays over a three year period. When accounting for the holidays, random drinking nights, and other special occasions, I estimate this pattern went down a solid three to five times per month for more than three years. That’s roughly 144 laps around the same destructive path. And that doesn’t account for all the quick little runs in between that didn’t involve alcohol or marijuana.
Looking back now at my excessive drinking and eating, washed down with a serving of depraved porn to take the edge off, I can truly see what a low level of life I truly led. Letting my primal desires for food, sex, and pleasure rule me, I was no different than a baboon in the forest or a cave man gorging himself after a big kill.
It’s impossible to live like this and not suffer the consequences. I paid for all my bad choices which culminated in my full blown addiction during the last three years. I saw work as a loathful chore. I verbally abused, attacked, and cajoled my wife, using her as the scapegoat for my self-disgust and shame. I missed many opportunities to be a better friend to others, as my behavior was isolating and only focused on satisfying me.
Fortunately, my story doesn’t end here. I found the strength to overcome.
While this season of life nearly destroyed my marriage, I did reach out for help. By the grace of God, I found the strength to overcome.
The things are most helpful to me are:
- Seeing a professional counselor regularly
- Practicing a 12-step program
- Daily accountability calls
- Rigorous honesty
- Seeking God’s will, doing the “next right thing”
- Giving back to others
I now encourage you to do the right thing. We all have destructive patterns and struggles in life. If you are honest before Him and walk through open doors as he provides them, you will find the strength to overcome.