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.