We hear from our Fortifiers all the time and their stories inspire us. The struggles they go through, the steps they take to recovery.
But what does it take? What do you have to really do to make it porn-free?
The answer to that question might be a little different for everyone but our buddy Brent has been through the ringer and come out on top. He has some suggestions for those currently struggling and those who want to support their friends and family.
You may have noticed my Porn Kills Love t-shirt. It’s definitely a conversation starter. Let me tell you why I wear it. Not many people want to talk about it, but people everywhere and over 70% of men struggle with pornography. It’s the elephant in the room, yet we pretend it doesn’t exist. I am here to tell you that it does exist — and for years it controlled my life.
The first time I was exposed to pornography I was 12 or 13 years old. I was at a friends house surfing the internet and we accidentally came upon a porn site that we quickly shut off. When I went home that night I couldn’t get the image out of my head and I was curious enough to search the website again for a second glance. I only looked for a minute or two before realizing that it was a site that I most definitely shouldn’t be looking at online (I can still vividly recall the image more than 10 years later). After that night, I didn’t look again or think much of it— until my college years.
When I was 23 years old I was going through a difficult time in life and I found myself looking at porn as a way to distract myself from the pain and hurt that I was feeling. Many people believe that only perverse, highly sexualized, dirty minded people look at porn — and that simply isn’t true. I didn’t look at porn to be sexually stimulated, but to avoid the sadness, depression, and loneliness that I was feeling. As it developed into my method of escape, I needed more and more porn to feel, “Normal”. It became a vicious cycle — the more I looked at porn, the more isolated and depressed I felt, which ultimately led to more hours of porn.
I finally decided that enough was enough. I was tired and exhausted of swearing off porn, only to find myself on those same sites a couple of weeks later. I knew that I needed to find help outside of what I was currently doing; thankfully I was blessed to find a great therapist that specialized in men’s issues and pornography addiction.
When I first walked into John’s office I knew that I had a problem, but when he told me that I had an addiction I was a little taken back. He gave me some material and a book to read and in the following weeks, I learned about my addiction and how similar it was to other addictions. An alcoholic doesn’t drink for the fun of being drunk. He drinks to escape his out of control life, numb his pain, and to forget about his worries — and that’s exactly what I was doing.
I wish I could say that all it took was a couple of sessions with my therapist and several hours of reading, but overcoming my addiction to porn was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. For over a year, I frequently met with my therapist to work through my addiction. I got an accountability partner, joined an online recovery program, met with my ecclesiastical leaders, counseled with trusted friends, and I even tried hypnosis. It was a constant struggle of finding the strength to make good choices when everything else in my mind, body, and addiction told me to do otherwise.
In the deepest, lowest point in my recovery I remember laying in bed crying and contemplating taking my own life. I couldn’t live another day as a prisoner to this addiction. I wasn’t me anymore; I didn’t want to look at those images and videos anymore; I wanted to be me. I wanted happiness and to finally be free from this thing that was so shameful that I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about it.
At first I failed — a lot. There were setbacks, defeats, and a good amount of struggling that took place. Each time I acted out and viewed porn, I had to remind myself to be patient. This was an addiction that I had built over years and it was going to take a good amount of time to learn healthy new habits, put them into practice, and change my behavior.
Slowly, I started having small, but crucial moments of success — a day, a week, a month with no setbacks. I started to trust myself and believe that change was possible; that life could be different and step by step I started to regain my freedom. I started to be me again and prove that I could do hard things. I no longer felt the same intense urge to view porn, escape, or numb out. I started to find joy again in living and no longer felt quite as enslaved by my addiction. I started to fill my life with the things that I love to do.
Some time has passed since I’ve been caught in the addiction cycle, but honestly I still have moments of weakness. I still have setbacks, but they are far and few compared to the days that I am strong. I can’t say that I will never slip up again, but I can say that I will never again let porn control my life. I now have the tools, skills, and support to learn from my mistakes and setbacks. I know when I need to make life adjustments, find greater balance, and when I need to reach out for help.
I am sharing this story with you because I trust you and despite my weakness, I want to be seen and loved for who I am — a guy trying everyday to be a better man, brother, son, and friend. I am sharing this with you because there is too much shame and silence around this topic in our society. For years, I was terrified and too ashamed to confide in anyone that I had a problem. For too long, I faced this battle alone. There are too many good guys out there struggling in quiet desperation for help — lets help them.
As I have opened up about my porn addiction to friends and family, I have found that I am not alone and some of them have struggled or currently struggle with pornography. It has been extremely rewarding to be a support to others, whether its being an accountability partner, sharing my story, or directing them to external resources.
On my journey to recovery, I learned a thing or two about overcoming addiction that I think could be beneficial for others to know.
-No one can overcome a pornography (or any other) addiction on their own. I have met a lot of people who struggle with this issue and I’ve yet to meet someone who has recovered without help from others. In most cases, individual counseling, group support, trusted friends, and an accountability partner are needed.
-The biggest barrier to recovery is often shame — Shame is so destructive. When you feel so ashamed about your addiction and don’t talk about it, you isolate yourself from others and often find yourself more trapped in the addiction. If you have a loved one struggling with pornography, Do Not Shame Them. Create a safe, non-judgmental space for them to share their struggles and express their feelings. They need to know that they are loved and that you are there to help, not criticize or condemn.
-Addictions are established over a period of time. It often takes just as long to overcome an addiction. Don’t expect someone to get better in a matter of days, weeks, or even months. It took me more than a year before I started really getting a grip on things. There are going to be setbacks and failures in the process — patience and forgiveness is crucial with yourself and others.
-I have found that therapists (And programs) who specialize in addiction recovery are best suited to assist in the recovery process. Ecclesiastical leaders can be a good support and can help in the healing process, but are not a substitute for licensed professionals who have been trained in addiction recovery. Spirituality can be an important aspect of creating a healthy balanced life, but overcoming a porn addiction will take more than reading sacred texts, daily prayer, and attending religious meetings. It will require new habits, skills, and practices in all aspects of your life.
-Journaling and tracking daily progress is vital. I found writing about my journey to be very therapeutic and healing. It helped me understand my addiction, triggers, and emotions. Keeping a record helped me to recognize my accomplishments .
-It is also extremely important to have an accountability partner — a trusted individual who will hold you accountable for your progress and will walk with you along the journey to recovery.
-No real progress in recovery can take place until a person’s desire to get better is greater than the short term gratifications of porn. I think sometimes a person has to hit rock bottom before healing can start to take place. Humility and an acknowledgement that others are needed for success is a game changer. I definitely hit this point after months of trying to get better on my own.
-I believe that people look at porn because we often lack the necessary tools and life skills to deal with the hardship, stress, and demands of life. Teach people healthy skills and they will handle hard situations in a healthy way.
It is my hope that people will start talking more about the harmful effects of pornography and approach it in a way that eliminates shame and grows understanding. It is my hope that we will start educating ourselves and others on how to navigate this new drug that plagues our generation. Only by speaking up will those who silently struggle learn of the resources, skills, and tools necessary for recovery. For those who have lost hope, know that you are not alone – help and recovery are in sight.
Stand with me to Fight the New Drug!