"For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” --John 3:20-21
This article is me bringing what I've done into the light. This is my atttempt to change; this is my attempt to help others, if possible. This is me being done with the way things are, with the way I've lived. This has been a long time coming...
Stop reading if this all seems too heavy. Stop reading if you don't want to know what I'm about to confess. But maybe you can relate. Maybe just maybe you can benefit from what I'm about to admit to. Maybe we can go through this healing process together. Maybe you can fight through this with me, and I'll fight with you.
This is inevitable. People were going to find out one way or another. My best friends already know, and still love me. Some have abandoned me through this, and I don't blame them. Either way, this won't be left in the dark any longer.
"But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out." --Numbers 32:23
"Let him bury his face in the dust--there may yet be hope." --Lamentations 3:29
I have an ongoing addiction to pornography.
Last night, I couldn't sleep because of the urge to engage in my addiction. I coped by giving in. I couldn't sleep because of the ensuing guilt. I coped with the guilt by engaging again.
The absurdity of the previous statement reveals the depth of my addiction, and the endless cycle associated with it--that which keeps me hooked. I don't want to be engaged in this practice at all. It's the last thing I want. I believe pornography in any form is wrong, mostly because of its correlation to the worldwide sex slave industry. This modern-day form is slavery is unbelievably depraved; I would argue that its the worst form of slavery in human history. Directly or indirectly, porn supports this industry. It plays on the darkest side of us, it twists a natural urge we all have into something almost unspeakable. It satisfies our God-given need with God-forsaken evil.
And I have engaged in this evil, since age 12 when I was first introduced to porn. Yes, I was influenced at a young age; no, it is not anyone's fault but my own that I have remained engaged in this.
"Why did I decide to open up about my porn addiction? If I won't, who will?" --Jimmy Needham
"The seat on your shoulder’s the seemingly heavy weight. I haven't seen tears like this on my girl in a while, the trust that I once built’s been betrayed. But I’d rather live telling the truth than be judged for my mistakes, than falsely held up, given props, loved and praised. I guess I gotta get this on the page...We fell so hard. Now we gotta get back what we lost, lost. I felt you’d go, but you were with me all along, along...Now look at me, a couple days sober. I’m fighting demons...If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over." --Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Ben Bridwell, "Starting Over"
How do you get out of an addiction? If the answer were simple, nobody would be an addict. I view addiction to porn as being very similar to drug addiction, alcoholism, and the like. I have no first-hand experience with these other two addictions, but from what I do know: all can absorb a man's thoughts, be a recurring unthinking habit, and destroy lives.
The italicized line in the above quote was the inspiration for the title of this article. Macklemore's no-holds-barred song, about relapse into an addiction he thought he had overcome, resonates strongly with me. His honesty inspired me to write this article in its entirety--not holding anything back, not keeping anything out in some vain attempt to uphold false perceptions about me. Macklemore tells it exactly how it is in "Starting Over," I want to do the same in relating my struggle, here. There is much that I get from this portion of the song quoted, but maybe you can get your own interpretation from it, one that pertains to your particular situation.
In a couple words, I've always known that what I was doing was wrong. This hasn't made it any easier to quit. I've battled, gone through periods of recovery, then relapse, and back to recovery. I find solace in this addiction; it is my worst enemy, my greatest failure. I have no delusions about what it means, how it turns me into a hypocrite and a liar. If I could take it away in the blink of an eye, I would.
I think one of the devil's greatest tools is guilt. The endless cycle I mentioned earlier is fed with it. If we felt bad about our misdeeds once, just enough to turn us around (conviction), it'd probably be a lot easier to change for good. But guilt leads to depressions, depressions lead to relapse. This battle is complex, I know it well but am still figuring it out. I haven't won yet. I have hope that I will someday, for good, soon and with no baggage left to carry. But for today the battle wages on.
"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." --Psalm 51:2-4
"I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step?" --Job 31:1-4
I've tried this approach. It apparently worked for Job; I am a lesser man. I've made promises with my eyes, promises to God, promises to myself...promises, promises, promises. "This'll be the last time," and "That'll never happen again."
I've given myself ultimatums that I never keep. I come up with lots of very good reasons why I need to go cold turkey. Easier said than done. I've told myself what I stand to lose. In the heat of the moment, none of it matters. Carnal flesh has me doing whatever it takes, whenever I can, to satisfy the insatiable desire.
"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" --Romans 7: 21-24
WHAT I'VE LOST
"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." --Deuteronomy 30:19
I was in love with a girl. Or at least I thought I was. It was going great; I had confessed to her that which I was most ashamed of. I told her it was over, that I had overcome it. I honestly thought I had, but it turned out to be just another promise broken. She didn't take the next confession well; it was the sole reason I lost her. I've had to live with that since.
Right after that, I got my first tattoo. It's across my chest and reads, Choose this Day. The above verse from Deuteronomy was the main inspiration. I figured if I saw it in the mirror every day I'd be reminded that it was an ongoing battle, that each and every day I would have to choose between "life and death, blessings and curses." It worked for a while.
She gave me somewhat of a second chance, but when I fell again it all fell apart. She didn't know about that one, but in my mind there are always consequences for rebelling against God...
"I wear my issues like tattoos across my chest. When people notice I tell em you ain't seen nothing yet". --Onerepublic, "Lift Me Up"
WHAT I STAND TO LOSE
"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." --Hebrews 6:4-6
I don't take this verse lightly. And I continue to live in sin. I pray that there's still time for me, that God hasn't completely given up on me yet. But there may be no time to lose. Logically, I should fight like every day could be my last. I need, somehow-someway, to change this vile habit of mine.
There is a girl I'm very much interested in now. She was at the top of a list I created about a week ago, entitled, Things you stand to lose. The others were: genuine friendship, respect of your children, your sanity, purpose, your very life, relationship with God. I tried to remind myself how big this really is; clearly, these are all things I don't want to lose in any capacity.
I also got another tattoo to serve as a reminder. Kinda funny realizing now how both my tattoos relate to this struggle, and how both got inspiration from girls I cared about that I had the potential to lose. I hope this situation turns out differently; I hope I can turn this around before its too late.
The above verse was the main biblical inspiration for this tattoo, which I got across my left wrist - a place where I would see it every day. It reads I AM DEATH, with the T replaced by a cross. The cross signifies that cross which, if I continue in sin, I nail my savior to repeatedly. It is a grotesque image, one which I hoped would scare me straight or at least make me think twice. This it has done: I considered getting it removed or severely touched-up the first couple weeks after because I thought it irreverent (at least by people's perception); really the idea of it on my skin just creeped me out. But that was after all the desired effect. The quote comes from a Demon Hunter song, one which I interpreted to refer to addiction and repeated compromise. That compromise which the writer of Hebrews warns against:
"I'm not your gateway. I'm not your prodigal son. I am the vile lesser-than. Just who do you think I am? I'm not your standard. I'm not your vision divine. I am no sacrificial lamb. Just who do you think I am? I am death. I am death. I am death. I am death." --Demon Hunter, "Death"
HOPE: A NEW DAY
"Help me live for good tomorrows, Today's too late and full of sorrow." --Burlap to Cashmere, "Mansions"
Today can seem pretty bleak. Today I seem to be the same old lustful person that I've been. It can seem like there's no hope for today. But today doesn't last forever. The sun rises and the sun falls, and with each new day brings a new hope. Each new day is a little restart, a chance at a new beginning. Because it's hard to change the story line of today once its begun, but tomorrow with its new sun is always less than 24 hours away.
Potentially cheesy metaphors aside, the prospect of a new day has often filled me with hope in this great struggle of mine. I've screwed up a lot of todays. I've thrown a lot of them away for a momentary high that I know will lead to more-lasting guilt. But tomorrow always has a ring of potential to it. Tomorrow can be anything. Tomorrow won't be perfect, I always know that, but maybe tomorrow I can control my own actions...do everything on my part to make tomorrow better than today.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'” --Lamentations 3:22-24
HOPE: GOOD OUT OF EVIL
There's a scene from the movie Flight where Denzel Washington's character Whip walks away from a bottle of liquor he has just set on the counter. It is a big moment, because the man portrayed has been a consistent alcoholic the whole movie. Because of his bad habit, he is set for trial the next day on 6 counts of manslaugter because he may have caused a plane crash (he is an alcoholic commercial pilot). Here is his big turning point, right? He's finally walking away, he's finally understanding the consequences and saying no to his addiction.
The scene lingers on the bottle. After a few seconds, and suddenly, the bottle is snatched up by Whip's hand. He proceeds to drink everything in the hotel room fridge and trash the place in a night of solitary release. His attorney and friends come in the morning to find him blacked out from consumption. In a rush they do their best to get him ready for the court proceeding. They clean him up and he actually looks fairly presentable by the time he takes the stand.
When questioned, it all finally comes out: "I drank the vodka...I drank the vodka bottles on the plane...October 11th, October 12th, and 13th and 14th, I was intoxicated. I drank all of those days. I drank, in excess...[on the morning of the accident] I was drunk. I'm drunk now. I'm drunk right now...because I'm an alcoholic." This was the best and worst part of the movie. Everything he had been working for since the beginning, the attempts to hide his problem from the world, were all for naught in the most pivotal moment, the moment that could have got him off scott-free. But he wouldn't have been free.
Whip gets life in prison for his admittance to guilt of the manslaughters. His statement in that moment? "This is going to sound real stupid coming from a man in prison. But for the fist time in my life, I'm free."
Whip's going to prison for the rest of his life seemed very bad. Nobody wants to rot in jail. But it turned out to be the best thing for him, the only way to escape his inner prison of self-deception.
Maybe this is my courtroom moment. Last night, I again reached for the bottle, to my own demise. I fully admit my guilt, and now seek reform. I seek true repentance, a change more lasting than the memories of what I've destroyed along the way. I hope and pray for this change, and maybe God can use this story, the story of my greatest shame, to change someone for the better. Someone like me...He's pretty good at converting our evil to his greater good.
"But Joseph said to them, 'Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives...'" --Genesis 50:19-20
HOPE: THE BATTLE WAGES ON
"I don't know if you can relate, but I fight the devil most of the days...To hell with the devil, to hell with fake. Because I am tired of hiding, that I'm going insane." --Judah and the Lion, "Insane"
I know for a fact that the battle doesn't end here. It will be a continued struggle. And I'll have to choose daily which side I'll fight for, which side I'll give in to. This is not the end, but the beginning.
"Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness." --Micah 7:8-9
More than once, in some of my darkest moments, my greatest relapses into sin, I've decided to sleep. This has been my surrender; I can't bear the weight of what I've done immediately following. I've simply given up consciousness because it's easier than the mental pounding I'll receive from analyzing the situation at that point.
More than once, in these moments, I've had dreams that have given me hope. One in particular sticks out to me.
I was riding a bicycle down the middle of a road on my college campus. No one was around, but I had a deep sense of peace and comfort. I stretched my arms out into the air and practically floated down the street. There was a sunset to my left, and the sky was ablaze with a pink-orange hue, unfiltered because there was not a cloud in the sky. I could feel the breeze on my bare arms as I rode; it was a warm breeze for a warm spring evening. I could even smell the crisp air and the blossoming trees around me. It was by far the most vivid dream I've ever had, and I was filled with pure joy.
Then a thought popped into my head: "But wait, I'm a porn addict. None of this matters because I can't escape my own worst attachment. This will last for a moment...my torment will never end."
I heard a voice as if coming from the air around me: "No. You have yet to live. You have time to turn this around, plenty of time. Look around you. Tell me hope is dead; tell me there is not yet room for good. It is simply not true. Take hope in this, and change. It's not over."
I hold onto this, and I keep fighting. I keep finding reasons to hope.