Getting Out

Even though I kept the details of my struggle a secret until just recently, I actually had a lot of help breaking free of the addiction in my life.

Throughout the worst years of my addiction, I had been pretty deeply involved in church life, even serving in some minor leadership roles. Yet my private life stood in stark contrast to my church life. I felt helpless to change myself. My prayers seemed to be falling on deaf ears. No one else seemed to notice, but I knew that I was a hypocrite, and I hated myself even more for it.

I was desperate for something different, something that might really help.

I turned to a church that was very strict: there were definite expectations about how you would dress and act. It wasn’t just a Sunday morning thing either, it was every day. Among other things, you weren’t supposed to watch TV or go to movies. No sporting events. There were definite rules about what guys and girls were allowed to do socially.

This was a pretty radical step to take — but desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was desperate! I knew that for my own good, I needed to avoid some kinds of movies and some TV shows. Even stuff that wasn’t explicit in and of itself could still trigger my over-active imagination… so going “cold turkey” on everything at once seemed like my best hope.  

I also left my tech support job — not because the church told me I had to (I actually left it before I joined that church), but because I hoped that if I could cut myself off from the things that gave me the most opportunity to feed my addiction, I just might have a chance to beat it.

But most importantly… new converts at this church had an instant support system, a “family” atmosphere. You knew that a number of people would be checking up on you every week. There were lots of activities to get involved in. Ultimately, the discipline and structure of life within this group gave me the support I needed to get out from under the addiction.

I could tell my new friends at this church that I was struggling with “wanting to go back to my old life” — they didn’t know what I meant, and they didn’t push for more info. I could be honest, but in a euphemistic way that didn’t actually reveal anything. They were more concerned about the future than the past: they wanted to help me stay on track with the church.

Even though that church helped me, this was definitely not a case of divine intervention. That church was to me what nicotene gum was to a smoker. It helped me get through a difficult time by providing a substitute. There was always something to do, some activity to be involved in. Where porn made me feel good in a dirty way, church made me feel good in a cleaner way. It kept me occupied so I didn’t really have time to pursue anything else. The same desires and urges were there… but now, I’d repent of them. I’d spend time at the altar instead of at my computer. Instead of getting a porn fix I’d “pray through” and get an emotional fix.

Those first few months were incredibly difficult. I don’t know if anyone in my church “support system” had any clue what they were really helping me through, what they were really praying for me about… but I know that the discipline and accountability made a huge difference in my ability to get through it. Dressing differently and living differently were just outward things, but they reminded me constantly that I was trying to be different.

I don’t remember how long it was before I started to notice that the intensity of the addiction was fading… it certainly didn’t happen over night. But it definitely got better. Early on, I considered it a victory if I was just able to resist the urge to go searching for new material. I thought I’d never be able to stop my thoughts and feelings. Yet over time, even that became more manageable. When I’d start thinking about the wrong things, I’d read a book or work on a project or pray.

WAY, WAY back before I had gotten involved with my boyfriend, another church leader had told me “do not awaken love before its time” – which is a paraphrase of Song of Solomon 2:7 & 8:4. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand what he meant until it was too late, but I do now.

The temptation is still there, and I know that it will always be there. I have to be careful. But right now, it’s asleep again. It no longer dominates my thoughts or my dreams.

Comments Off