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Men Living Up

My Story

This journey started for me at a very young age. To say my family was dysfunctional would be like saying dogs hate cats. We were obviously messed up.  It was obvious to my 3 sisters and me but no one else knew what was happening behind closed doors. My father was a hardcore, abusive, and mean alcoholic. There was both physical and mental abuse, mostly directed towards my mother.  I received my share of abuse and learned very early on how to protect my inner self. In the middle of one of my dad’s tirades, I remember saying to myself, “I’m not going to let you in.” This of course created many relationship problems as an adult.

With the daily and weekly stress, any escape was a welcome way to deal with my sadness, loneliness and despair. I don’t remember the exact age I was exposed to pornography. It was around ten or eleven. I discovered my dads porn stash.  Having no experience with anything sexual I was curious and intent on seeing as much of this as I could. I knew instinctively that this was something I would have to do secretly. This became my escape from the sad feelings and loneliness that I had endured for so long. Looking at the magazines made me somehow feel different... better. It was an escape. Like the secret that our family “had problems,” this was my secret... but instead of making me depressed and angry, it made me feel good.

Little did I know that my brain was being transformed by these images of naked women. The wiring of my brain was being “re-programmed.” I didn’t know that pornography has been compared to cocaine addiction because of similar neurochemical activity in the brain. I was in the early stages of preparing my body, mind and soul for a lifelong addiction to porn.

As time went by, I had periods of time where I really wasn’t very active in trying to find these images. It seemed every time I would make “headway” one of my friends or classmates would break out their stash of porn. Once, in high school, an assistant coach took several guys by his house on the way to a game. He proudly pointed out his porn magazines sitting boldly on his living room coffee table. That wiring in my brain that I had spent hours developing would, each time, strongly pull me back in. Porn does not become an addiction for every man, but the younger a male is exposed to pornography the more likely he is to become addicted.
My interest in girls, other than porn women, began in 6th grade. Because of the false portrayals I had seen in magazines I had no idea of what a true relationship with a girl should look like. I didn’t have a model of a good relationship at home, and of course sex was never talked about. Like most guys I learned “on the street.” As most guys will admit, this is not the best way to learn. I had a few girlfriends through high school but I was not able to develop any deeply connected relationships.

I was very good at hiding my inner conflicts and my addiction. On the outside I was a pretty normal kid, but on the inside I was in deep despair about why I couldn’t stop my consistent habit. This was a topic no other guys would dare to mention. It seemed all the guys wanted to do was brag about their sexual exploitations or attempts with girls. I had no idea that many of my male friends and classmates were struggling with the same issues.

I eventually met my sweetheart and future wife in high school. I thought that marriage would finally satisfy my constant urges and sexual desires. After all, we could have all of the sex we ever wanted. Things went well for a while and then it became obvious that we had different ideas about the frequency and kind of sex that was mutually satisfying. My expectations were those I had seen and observed while viewing pornography. Her expectations were of closeness, romance and tenderness. She was always wanting to talk and talk and talk. I wanted to “get right down to business.” I had it figured out in my mind, God made man and woman to be together, He gave us the matching parts to make it all work, so why not just jump in and enjoy each other! After a few months and years had gone by, it was glaringly obvious to me that she was “messed up.” She had no idea what a man wants and needs. It was easy, with my history, to turn to porn once again. Again, I was an expert at hiding it and trying my best to act normal. (As if I knew what normal was.) At home I simply tried to avoid conflict with my wife. I just desired “peace” with her, not intimacy.

At this point let me say that I became a Christian at the age of thirteen. Many times after becoming a Christian, I had prayed earnestly to God to forgive me and take these urges away. I would vow to never look at porn again only to fail time after time. It seemed that God would give me peace for a very short time, but then I would return to my old habits, often times acting out in even more intense and dangerous sexual activities. It was a cycle I could see and feel, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I enjoyed it and I thought it brought me happiness and pleasure.

After many, many years of secret sexual gratification I finally hit a point of complete and utter frustration with myself. I was completely depressed and angry with myself for not being able to overcome this problem. I finally began the process of trying to understanding what was wrong with me. I knew that this “inner conflict” was going to destroy me. I wanted answers, but I didn’t know where to turn. Just like the general society, sex and sexual addiction was never discussed in church. If it were, the most frequent comment would be, “Boy the preacher handled that pretty well.” Then it would not be discussed again for years, if at all. It was as if the preachers would say to themselves, “well we covered that subject, let’s move on.” Only after my recovery started did I learn that addiction to pornography is just as prevalent in churches as it is in society. I would have never thought that a preacher, a man of God, could be looking at porn. Surely the seminaries were screening and training preachers about the dangers of pornography.
My first day of recovery was at a marriage seminar that my wife and I attended. We had already been to a half dozen seminars over our long marriage. In the past I was simply trying to appease my wife. I attended this one with a different attitude in my heart. I had reached a point in my life where I was tired of “living a lie.” I was tired of the cycle of highs and lows. I was tired of not having a deep, intimate relationship with my wife. I wanted to change “me.”

For a few months before the seminar I had been pleading with God to give me the opportunity to share my struggles with my wife. I was ready to accept the consequences for my moral failures. I was willing to endure my family’s disappointment and rejection. I was willing to sacrifice everything to “end the shame.” During one break-out session they had each couple leave the seminar and go out and share something together. This is the point at which I “spilled my guts” to my wife. Let me stop right here and give a warning to any guys who might be reading this and are considering telling their wife they are addicted to pornography. It might be best to share with your clergy or a professional counselor first.

This was the most painful, hurtful, and disappointing moment in my wife’s life. I felt better “dumping” all of this garbage on her, but she was absolutely destroyed. We spent many, many weeks and months following this moment working through the pain I had caused her. I had betrayed her. I had replaced her with total strangers who were willing to take their clothes off and do “despicable” things in a fantasy world. The hurt will never completely go away. The trust she had in me before this was destroyed. I have to earn her trust back every day. She is a loving, caring and accepting partner with me now and I am so grateful that she has chosen to stand by my side in spite of my human condition.

Besides my unbelievable wife, the person who has stood by me the most has been my Pastor. When I said I was willing to change me, I was serious. The day after I shared with my wife, I went to see my Pastor. I hadn’t known him long, but I was serving beside him. (Can you believe someone “serving” a church in a leadership position could have this problem?) I was ready to resign my volunteer “church” position and leave the church. As soon as I finished my story and history and admitted my addiction, he had a few simple words to say to me. He said, “I love you and there is nothing that will ever stop me from loving you. There is nothing that will ever stop God from loving you. You can serve here as long as you feel God is asking you to.” I was in utter shock and total disbelief. No judgment, no condemnation, just love??? All of my life in church I had heard the message of unconditional love, but now for the first time in my life, here was a man demonstrating it towards me. I was blown away!

My journey continues in recovery. Every day there are challenges and obstacles. Magazine covers in convenience stores, scantily clad women on television, women who wear skimpy, low-cut outfits to name just a few. Women who think they are dressing attractively and fashionably, but unknowingly cause men to stumble. For those ladies reading this, I know what you’re thinking... “if men would just control themselves.” I’m not blaming women for dressing attractively. God created women to be beautiful and attractive to men. If you remember the story in Genesis, Adam & Eve were made to be the perfect pair. In their perfection they were naked and not ashamed. Only after “the fall” did they require modest clothing. I’m sure Adam thought Eve still looked pretty “hot” in her “garments of skin” provided by God. Somehow I don’t think it was the low-cut, revealing, leopard-spotted nightie that men fantasize their wives wearing.

I see men differently now. Like me, most men tend to be on an island by themselves. Men are not as open to deep personal dialogue as women. Most men don’t have someone to talk to about the issues that they struggle with. Most women have no clue about these issues. The most common response I get from women when they hear stories of men’s struggles is “I had no idea” or being in denial, “My husband is not like that.”

I catch myself watching men’s behavior more closely now too. I’m keenly aware of men’s eyes drinking in the hot babe who walks by in a miniskirt. I see them linger at the magazine rack and stop at the bikini clad beauty, open the pages and feast. For me it’s now an opportunity to remember how I used to be filled with uncontrolled passions and desires. I don’t walk down the magazine aisles anymore. I also now have an understanding, willing partner who knows to “check me” at the shopping mall, or to switch seats with me at a restaurant when a provocatively dressed woman sits in my line of sight.

It continues to be a day-by-day, hour-by-hour journey for me. My hope and prayer is that my story will help others find the courage and strength to “end the shame.” Finding out that I was not alone was both encouraging and helpful to me.

Let me encourage you. If you are fighting the battle, tell someone. This addiction loses all its power when it is brought out into the open.

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