I found my dad’s stash of pornographic magazines in the basement of our home. I was only 7 years old.
Like any kid, I was curious. But that initial curiosity transformed quickly into fascination and then confusion. What started as stolen glances at nude images resulted in isolation and shame that continued into my teen and adult life.
When I looked at that first magazine, I took hold of a sin that had been passed down in my family from generation to generation. I just could not get enough of Dad’s hidden magazines, even after I had trusted Jesus Christ with my life at age 11.
I sincerely wanted to stop what I knew was an appalling habit, but I didn’t. My mind was so filled with shameful images that it stole my mental clarity and robbed me of my ability to learn in school.
When I was dating my wife, Lori, I felt compelled to tell her about my struggles with pornography. Neither of us realized it was actually an addiction. We both believed that marriage would end this struggle, even though our pastor had warned that it would not.
After we married, my guilt grew even more when I looked at pornography. I was often too ashamed to tell Lori about my continued struggles. It was as though the images had been seared into my conscience. My thoughts were not pure, even toward my own wife.
Learning how to communicate
I don’t know where we would be today if people at our church had not invited us to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Lori and I had only been married two or three years when we went.
The getaway opened up priceless doors of communication for us and put us on a path that would help hundreds of struggling couples. We were able to see how my lifelong struggle with pornography was choking our relationship. I realized that I couldn’t go forward in my marriage while I was stuck in the past. I had to stop feeding the pornographic images that I first saw as a young child.
The Weekend to Remember also gave us the communication skills that we needed to talk about my addiction. We understood that we were both committed to our marriage and that staying married was going to take hard work.
I told Lori that the sexual addiction was a deception of my mind. It didn’t have anything to do with her desirability—with who she is as a woman. And I made sure she knew that.
When we learned the principle, “My mate is not my enemy,” we finally stopped blaming each other for our marriage struggles. This simple phrase helped Lori see my heart. She understood that I really wanted to please God, but just didn’t know how to deal with my sexual sin. I didn’t want to ignore it. I just wanted help.
When the speaker compared isolation to building a wall, brick by brick, I grasped a visual picture of the problem Lori and I had. We were becoming isolated—there was an invisible wall between us—because of my shame. At times I had found myself in a cycle of pulling away from Lori, feeling guilt and anger, and then going back into addiction. Isolation is the place where, in essence, I was saying, “I can do what I want to do.”
Eventually even isolation isn’t enough for addicts, and they begin to really hurt other people. Addiction is a process. Had it not been for God’s intervention and the Weekend to Remember … had I continued in my sexual addiction … there’s no telling how deeply I would have hurt Lori.
After the getaway, Lori and I recognized that our commitment and love for one another weren’t enough. I started to apply specific Scriptures to the pain in my life, and I also got help through a Christian counselor and started attending Sexaholics Anonymous. S.A. was about the only thing out there at the time for people struggling with my problem.
I hated my ongoing sin of pornography.
At the Weekend to Remember Lori and I learned how to apply Scripture to our marriage. We expressed our total commitment to one another, but we also knew that we could not allow my sexual sin to continue.
Despite our commitment, soon after our first getaway I realized that Lori’s support was not enough: I was still struggling with pornography. The apostle Paul described me in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I hated my ongoing sin of pornography. I knew what I wanted to do [live a pure life] but I just didn’t do it.
I got help from a Christian counselor and began to apply specific Scriptures to the pain in my life. I also began attending Sexaholics Anonymous. (S.A. was about the only thing out there at the time for people struggling with my problem.)
I started reading books such as True Desire by Ted Roberts and Every Man’s Battle. And I came to understand the truth of Ephesians 5:3-4: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
About ten years ago I got involved with what was then a new ministry, Celebrate Recovery. Through it I have become honest with God and others, set up accountability with another mature Christian, and made amends. I now seek God’s will daily, do my best to live obediently, and also help others find their freedom and wholeness in Christ.
Sharing how sexual addiction hurt my marriage
Had I known that my addiction was wrong? Yes. But there was that breaking-free-from-sin piece that needed support. As I studied the Scriptures, begged God for help, and started prayer partnerships with other men and counseling, God gave me real hope. I knew that He could conquer my sin and use my own thorn in the flesh for His glory.
Lori and I were so grateful for the communication skills that we learned at the Weekend to Remember. We told our friends and family about the getaway and continued to go to it year after year. In 2006, we became FamilyLife volunteers for our community (city ministry directors).
When we look at all of the people who are changing through attending a Weekend to Remember, it’s just amazing. We’re so humbled by how God is using us to help others. One of our favorite points in the getaway is when the men and women break into separate groups. It’s affirming for me to be among men who are committed to living godly lives.
While in the men’s session, I often tell about my sexual addiction and how it hurt my marriage. Afterward, so many men come to me privately and say something like, “I need help. … I am coming to you because I can’t find other people who will address it.”
God has not only worked healing in our marriage, but He has also helped us to step into an area the Christian world has kind of tiptoed around because it’s too shameful. I’ve never tiptoed around my sin.
When men come to me, confessing their sexual sin, I know their mindset. I know what they are like—I’ve been there myself. Their sexual addiction may not be the same as mine, but I know they need counseling, partnership, and accountability. God can use the Weekend to Remember to greatly help their marriage, but they also need to get in some kind of recovery program.
For example, Lori and I recently had another couple come to us who had decided to stop their divorce proceedings after going to a Weekend to Remember. The husband has a sexual addiction and the wife was hurting from things that had happened as a result of that. Since the getaway they have been pursuing counseling, and they are also being mentored by my wife and me. They want to be committed in their marriage but realize that they cannot allow the sexual addiction to continue.
In our church we have a Celebrate Recovery group. It has helped us learn how to apply Scripture for healing in our lives, get honest with God and others, and set up accountability with mature Christians.
We’ve learned that out of a Celebrate Recovery group of 10 women, as many as eight have been sexually abused. And because of the hurt in their lives, many struggle with unhealthy relationships or fall into addictions. As they are pointed to Jesus Christ, they recognize Him as the giver of hope. He has a purpose for their lives. He wants them to be able to help others.
Nothing is impossible
When Jesus said in Scripture that nothing is impossible for him, He meant nothing—not even sexual addiction.
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He has not only healed our marriage, but also helped us step out into an area of ministry that is changing lives and legacies.
I no longer find my identity in my addiction. I find it in Christ.