My first experience with pornography was at a corner store when I was nine years old. On a dare, I picked up a Playboy magazine and found that those glossy pictures aroused feelings of excitement that I had never felt before. They also triggered feelings of shame.
As a teen, I continued to explore the world of pornography. Although I felt ashamed, the insidious power of porn was greater than my ability to resist it. It became my big secret.
All this time I was an active member of a Mennonite church. There, I heard two messages: Pornography is a repulsive sin, and there is no mercy for people caught in it. This condemning culture actually drove my addiction deeper underground, where it thrived in a world of secrecy, shame and isolation.
A few years later, I attended seminary to prepare for pastoral ministry. During that time, my addiction progressed into more deviant and dangerous forms. I began going to peep shows, renting X-rated videos, consuming more and more porn, and masturbating compulsively. I kept pleading with God to release me from this dungeon. Instead, my feelings of despair and isolation only drove me deeper into the addictive cycle.
Grace finally came in an unexpected way. I befriended a young man who was an alcoholic and I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him. I found a spirit of hope and acceptance that I had never experienced before. Somehow this community of broken people had found a pathway to healing.
That introduction to the 12-step movement led me to Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). The relief I felt at my first SAA meeting overwhelmed me. Here was a group of men who weren’t put off by my story, who were being honest with one another, and who were dealing with their addiction.
I also began seeing a Christian therapist. It was another great relief to share my dark secret with him and to begin untangling the web of deceit and despair in my life. Above all, he helped me to see the roots of my addiction. Porn had become my drug of choice, something I used to dull my feelings of shame and insecurity.
In the decade since then, I have experienced significant healing. Especially with the easy access of the Internet, I still experience the draw of porn, but the compulsion is almost gone. Sex is now something I celebrate with my wife in a healthy and respectful relationship.
I yearn for the day when I can share my story in my congregation without fearing rejection. But the 12-step recovery movement gives me hope. It is a testimony to the power of God and of a caring community to transform broken people.
* A pseudonym.
Steps toward healing
If you are compulsively attracted to pornography, here are several important steps toward healing:
1. Acknowledge that you need help.
2. Tell your spouse or other trusted loved ones. Ask them to pray for you, remind you of your goals, and encourage you along the way.
3. Talk to your pastor or spiritual mentor. Ask him or her to put you in touch with a professional counsellor who will help you break the cycle of addiction.
4. See a counsellor as long as it takes to establish new patterns of thought and behaviour.
5. Give your pastor or Christian counsellor permission to explore how pornography has affected your relationship with God, discuss what forgiveness might look like in your life, pray with you for God’s strength to resist temptation, and study Scripture and other resources on healthy sexuality.
6. Beware of people who tell you that change is simply a matter of turning to God and deciding not to use pornography.
Excerpted from ‘Dealing with pornography,’ a pamphlet in the ‘Close to Home’ series published by Mennonite Publishing Network (mpn.net/closetohome).