Four years ago, I began walking on a path that would change my life forever. It was marked by one single step – a step out of darkness and into the light. For the first time in my life I would begin to pursue purity in a way I never had before. The previous twelve years of my life had been plagued by an addiction to pornography, masturbation, fantasy, and sorts of other sexual sins since the age of 14. I was a broken and lonely young man who was searching and searching for something or someone to fill the void (one that I would later learn only God Himself could fill).
Fast forward to the age 26: Engaged to be married and starting a new chapter of life. While I had confessed my addiction to my fiance, the effects of it were beginning to spill over and hurt the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Something had to change. I had to change. And for the first time in my life, I began a healing journey that has continued to this day.
The End…Right? Wrong.
Truth be told, the real story of my recovery lies in the day to day decisions that I’ve learned and am learning to make. It’s been almost 4 years since beginning to walk into recovery from pornography and I think back at all the ways God has healed me and helped me to walk in purity.
When asking me to write this blog, Jeff pitched me the idea of thinking about my recovery in terms of year one verses year four. What are the differences that I see from the start of my journey to four years later? As I have reflected on these different places of growth, I can see God’s hand all the more in my life. He’s brought healing, restoration, and a new found freedom that I’ve never known.
Are the following characteristics synonymous with everyone’s journey? No, I don’t think they are, but I believe quite a few could be. What does year one look like for someone coming out of a sexual addiction compared to year four?
• Frequent Relapses – I slipped and stumbled ALOT. Much of this was due to the fact that I was learning to lean upon God’s strength and the support of others verses “white-knuckling” it.
• Minimizing – Making a situation where I sinned sexually – through pornography, masturbation, or lust – seem less than what it was. Not volunteering all the details and truth to what took place.
• Lies & Deception – Making promise after promise to quit, only to find myself going back to the same mess. All the while working in full-time ministry as a youth pastor, fooling myself in thinking I could help others when I myself was sick.
• Weaker Convictions – Especially in the area of my thoughts and what my eyes gravitated to. I allowed myself to cross certain boundaries that today seem unthinkable.
• Anger & Defensiveness – When asked by my wife how I was doing or how my thought life had been on a particular day or how my heart was doing, I would explode and try to justify my actions – even though I still struggled.
• Sustained Sobriety – As relapses lessened, perseverance and commitment increased. Today, by the grace of God and the help of others, I’ve enjoyed long lasting success and sobriety without fear of slipping or falling.
• Transparency – I’m no longer afraid to be honest – with anyone: my wife, accountability partners, even other men who are strangers to me. In some respects, I’m proud of my story and how God’s faithfulness has been with me through it ALL. No more shame!
• Honesty & Openness – In addition to being transparent, there’s no part of my life that is shut off to anyone. There’s no rooms that are off limits. I want my life to be an open book where no darkness can dwell and hide.
• Stronger Convictions – I’ve not only drawn a line in the sand when it comes to pornography, but also when it comes to capturing the thoughts, motivations, and intentions in my life that I feel might be impure.
• Peace & Humility – Because I’ve found freedom in recovery, I often remind myself that all the credit goes to God and the help of some really great guys that stepped into my life at just the right time to help me understand what this addiction was doing to myself and to those around me.
There are most likely several more distinctions between year one and year four. I find these to be the greatest ones for me. What I’ve continually found to be true is that recovery is a process. Whether in year one or year four. It’s important for me to always remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. I want to be a healthy husband, soon-to-be father, and a lover of God and people. For 12 years of my life, pornography twisted and perverted that goal. For man years, I walked in darkness. Today, I’m enjoying what it tastes like and what it feels like to walk in the light.