I was introduced to pornography when I was around eleven years old. I loved it and I hated it from the beginning. I think I soon became an addict. I grew up in what I call a “religid” family and culture. My mom cried when she found out I drank Dr. Pepper. There was no way I could tell my parents that I was viewing pornography, though I desperately wanted help. I felt there was no one I could trust with this shameful secret.
When I got into my twenties, it was still there and even more of a struggle. I confessed to and worked with at least nine different bishops. Nothing worked. The longer this addiction went, the worse it got. The pornography was more graphic. I started acting out with girls; some of them I was dating, some of them I was not. I stayed away from a few girls through the years that I really liked, thinking once I got this under control then I could date them. It didn’t happen. I saw no hope. I couldn’t stop. Even if I could stop, what I heard in the culture I grew up in is that no girl would or should ever want to marry me because I had been involved in pornography at some point in my life. I was full of toxic shame. I was getting more and more depressed. I was having thoughts that if there was really no hope of marrying someone in my faith, then why try and fight this anymore. Why not just go with it and live like many other people do.
About this point in my life, a miracle happened. A friend introduced me to my first 12-Step group. It was great. I found my first glimmer of hope. By chance (or maybe not), within a month I met the woman I am married to today. We lived in different states and started dating long distance. We were falling in love pretty quickly with our only regular contact being hours of phone calls. I knew I had to tell her so she could run away and not have to deal with me. I did. It was very difficult, for both of us.
She didn’t run away though. She did talk to her bishop who I am very grateful to. He didn’t tell her to run away either. He said he had a friend and neighbor who was a top therapist in treating sex addiction. When she told me about this I couldn’t wait to get started. If there was something out there that would really help me get this out of my life I wanted to do it. Whatever it took, I wanted to do.
I had tried so many times to stop by myself. I should have been able to stop if I was just strong enough or had enough faith or worked hard enough or read my scriptures enough, right? Even with the help of a bishop, it had never worked.
I soon moved to Utah, started therapy, and found a number of 12-Step groups. It was hard. Recovery was great though. I couldn’t believe what I was learning. I like to put my recovery process into two categories, though they are completely intertwined: (1) my spiritual recovery and (2) my functional recovery.
My spiritual recovery meant learning a new gospel of Jesus Christ. I had been taught and internalized the God of the Old Testament. A God of justice, vengeance, war, punishment, and fear. There is no hope in that and no recovery in that. In recovery, I learned the gospel of the New Testament. Jesus has come. He loves me. He has paid for my sins. He is a God of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness. He does not speak to me with fear. He speaks to me with love.
I could speak for hours on the details of this wonderful, amazing journey. I have been learning this new gospel for over five years now, and I plan on learning it the rest of my life. My functional recovery has been through therapy: learning about family systems and roles, shame, the drama triangle, the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex, codependence, fear, objectifying, and boundaries. I have learned to recognize, analyze, and share my feelings. I have a set of tools to deal with triggers, whether sexual, mental, or emotional.
I remember thinking in my first month of therapy while learning some of these functional recovery
items, “Wow, people can actually do things differently? People can communicate differently than my family did and does? People can communicate differently than my community and culture did and does?” I never thought there was any other way.
Like my spiritual recovery, I am still very engaged in anything that I can learn therapeutically: books,
therapists, recovery groups, and men’s groups. I think there is enough that I will have plenty to do for the rest
of my life. I love it and I am so grateful that I can continue this journey with God.
I am not where I was five years ago. I don’t deal with the same triggers I did five years ago. Most of my triggers are not sexual in nature. Don’t get me wrong; I am powerless over sex and lust. I just know I can surrender that to God and he has the power to handle it, and I just need to be humble enough to let him handle it. I am in an amazing place. There is mercy,
grace, and forgiveness. There is love and kindness and patience. These things are not based on tasks or time
or acts. God loves you. Jesus Christ loves you. Today. Right now. No matter where you are in your life. They
Love You! You are okay. You are a good person.
To start on this journey, all you have to do is be like Alma the younger and countless other individuals and groups of people in the scriptures. He merely thought of Jesus Christ, of whom his father had taught him, and then he prayed “Oh, Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy upon me.” After repentance and healing, God and His Son Jesus Christ gave Alma the strength that enabled him to go forward and become a great man.
Believe God can heal you. Believe He will heal you. Let the Atonement work in your life. Find someone who will help you let the Atonement work in your life, and you let the Atonement work in theirs.