Firstly, I want to thank Brett for giving me a podium and his trust. Secondly, I want to thank you for your courage to read anything about the struggles people face with porn and masturbation.
This is not a really short story, but perhaps it is a familiar one. I pray that it is as helpful to you to read it as it was for me to write it.
I was introduced to masturbation before I was introduced to porn. When I was in 7th grade, I played in the school band and one of the older kids- he sat next to me because we played the same odd instrument- brought it up. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but as we usually do in 7th grade, I acted like I did. That night, I went home and tried out what he was talking about. I was hooked. After awhile, I realized visual aids helped the experience along, and I descended into porn addiction.
This was back in the “pay per minutes used” AOL internet days, and I learned quickly where the best and fastest places were to look for porn. The family computer was in my dad’s study (he was a pastor), so I also had to be sly with my surfing- deleting my browsing history (that smile of yours is the smile of recognition, my friend), having multiple screens open, etc. I got really good at hiding my tracks. Too good.
Things continued along these lines for all of high school- I went to a couple of different Christian high schools, where the topic of porn and especially masturbation were never, never discussed in class. I don’t know why. So many of us were looking for direction, wondering what the Bible really had to say about it, who it was really hurting, whether the authority figures in our lives had ever had to deal with these urges in pre-internet times… we never got answers.
When I went to college, things changed. People accepted porn and masturbation as natural, good, normal, and all those other modifiers that made you feel like everything was okay. I went to a large public institution, and they had high-speed internet plugged into every dorm room. It was the worst possible situation for a guy who still didn’t understand the toll porn can take. I would watch tons of it, to the detriment of any social connections I could make. It led me to make the worst decision in my life- sleeping with my girlfriend- because of the enormous pressure and acceptance exerted in the setting I was in. I don’t exactly blame college; I blame my own weak walk with the Lord, my reliance on other structures instead of His will for me.
I left college after that first year, running from myself as much as running to God. I joined an international ministry where I thought I would be safe. I was wrong. While leaving a situation is a good idea in most cases, you can’t very well leave your body or mind behind somewhere. I brought my problems with me. I thought that maybe, if I just had a girlfriend, or if I just got married, this issue would go away. I was looking for the cure in every place I could except through confession, forgiveness, and repentance.
I’d like to say that I found the courage one day to confess my problem. Truth is, I ran from every opportunity to do so. Only slowly- through the working of God and His people present in my life- did I begin to let others know that I was in trouble. I couldn’t say it straight out, but I beat around the bush and dropped enough hints to find out something amazing: I was not alone. Some others in my same boat found the courage to open up to me about their problems, and that allowed me to feel safe enough to let mine out too. It turns out that it is like every other addiction- if you bring it to the light of day, get some outside help and support, and work actively against it, you CAN overcome it and find happiness without it. Porn addiction, sex addiction, these can only be overcome when you stop fighting them alone. God will help you; but He will use His own method to do so. We all want this sin burned out of our lives instantly, never to return. For a few- a small group of people- it happens that way. For the rest of us, the healing process is a journey fraught with fear, peril, vulnerability, and yes- consequences. Don’t tell me your porn addiction hasn’t cost you something. You know the price, mentally and spiritually, that you’ve been paying. You know the relationships you’ve affected, the lies you’ve had to tell others. You know the fear of exposure. I did, and I do.
Some of you know me and will be hearing about this for the first time. The journey is a part of me, of who I am, and it has given me a greater ability to love sinners and accept all kinds of people who I used to judge. I’m still afraid, of course; I’m afraid of what confessing this will do to my reputation. I’m afraid of saying something wrong and hurting someone’s walk and chances for freedom instead of helping them. I’m afraid you’ll not relate to this in some way, and that you’ll dismiss me as a freak. But more than my fear, I am hopeful. I hope that you hear my heart. I hope you know that I am not cured; I am rehabilitated, and it is a daily fight. I hope you see God’s love in my journey. And I hope, most of all, that you feel the courage to confess your sins and confront them with help from your peers and mentors in Christ. God bless you.