Addiction•Groups•Healing • 8 minutes to read
Porn is hurting you.
But it’s not your problem, trust me.
I thought it was my problem for a long time, but in group, I came to see it for what it truly was: a poor solution!
My problem was the deep pain and hurt I experienced in relationships, which led me to pursue isolation and porn to feel accepted and affirmed.
We are all hurt in relationships, and yet we only heal in the context of relationships.
It wasn’t until I met the other men in my group that I began to be freed from the cyclone of addiction and my duplicity as I came to trust others with all of me, not just the projected, public version.
This started my road to restoration and freedom.
Freedom? Is that even possible?
I once believed it wasn’t.
This is that story. The story of how I got enslaved and how God has set and is setting me free in three pivotal movements.
1. Seeing the Reality of My Brokenness
I began online counseling and group in 2020 in Texas while working for Josh McDowell Ministry. It was here that Josh would often say, “A problem well defined is a problem half solved.”
I was 22 years old then, but I had been struggling weekly since I was 13 years old. I knew it was a problem, but I was scared and didn’t know how to define the depths of it.
It was in Seven Pillars of Freedom, Pillar 3, Lesson 1, Learning to Face the Pain, that I began to define the roots of my problem with porn as I listed out my top 10 most painful events. I came to see just how deep these roots ran—all the way back to my childhood. I identified my exposure to porn at the age of 9 with my mother at the computer as one of those events.
Like any good mother, she quickly scrolled away and said, “You don’t need to see that.” What she said was true, but the enemy whispered otherwise:
But what was it? Was my mom really good, did she have my best interest in mind? What was she keeping from me?
Sound familiar? The enemy’s tactics of deception and doubt haven’t changed!
So thirty minutes later, I went back alone to find the photo. And as I did, my mother walked up the stairs to find me, and she reacted in rage and anger. She wasn’t equipped or prepared to respond. In all honesty, she responded poorly as she pulled me away, cornered me in the bathroom, and continued yelling at me.
It was here that I learned three things:
- Whatever that was, she hates it.
- If I go back, she will hate me.
- So if I go back, she can never know.
At the age of 9, this is where the life of duplicity began to set in as I believed the lie: I was bad and unlovable and if I wanted love, I better perform and hide any flaws.
So I did.
And throughout junior high and high school I hid my sexual behaviors of fantasy, masturbation, and porn use.
But what promised freedom, lead to slavery.
There were many moments before group and counseling where the reality of my brokenness was brought into the light:
- At 16, God answered my prayer and allowed my father to find out I watched porn.
- When I was 18, at camp my leader shared his story of porn, I shared mine and so did others as I realized I wasn’t alone.
- At 18, after camp, I told my mom my story, she installed Accountable2You on all Begeman devices and I began sharing it with other local guys.
- Throughout college, I participated in accountability groups, even leading one.
- At 21, in the JMM interview, Ben Bennett informed me that I was living in a binge-purge cycle.
God had moved in wondrous ways and yet I believed that lust, fantasy, masturbation, and the occasional pursuit of softcore porn would be the thorn in my flesh the rest of my life.
I didn’t believe freedom was possible. In fact, I was angry and questioned those who claimed it was. I was hopeful but skeptical as I waded into the waters of group and counseling.
When my counselor asked me, “Do you believe in objective truth?” I laughed and said, “Of course I do! I’ve staked my whole life upon the fact that the Word of God is absolute truth.”
He leaned in and said, “No, you don’t. Not in the moment of temptation you don’t. In the moment of temptation you bow down to your feelings and worship them as if they were God.”
Cue the Dr. Strange moment, where his spirit is knocked out of his physical body and he sees himself from a new perspective. I was seeing myself from a new perspective, thinking, That guy is a hypocrite… and then reality crashed as I realized it was me.
God was calling me out of hiding, out of performance, and into the light of being fully known, fully seen, and fully loved—brokenness and all.
You can’t get free until you realize you’re in slavery.
2. Freedom From Sin/Death
John 10:10 starts by saying:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…
Those verbs had defined what my life had felt like so far as the sin I was pursuing was ultimately leading to death.
But it was in group, as we checked in and answered the question of “What is the lowest level on the FASTER Scale you reached this week?” that I began to tell the truth. The full truth of my sexuality from the past week and began to move away from the sin and death I lived in.
As Jesus says in John 8:32 says,
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
This included sharing honestly about my FASTER Scale, exposing all lustful thoughts I could remember, any fantasy that I slipped into, actions I had taken to pursue isolation and apps/websites that were a part of my cycle of addiction.
For the first time in my life, it felt like I had the tools and relationships to pursue real freedom as I gained awareness of the battle I was facing and had men I could call and lean on throughout the week.
Those phone calls became lifelines for me as I shared the reality of temptations and was met with grace and reminded of truth when I couldn’t believe it myself.
Through this process of radical truth telling, God was setting me free FROM the insanity of returning to lust, fantasy, masturbation, and porn to medicate the pain of life in a momentary rush of dopamine.
I had never been more than one month without a relapse, but I came to believe Dr. Ted’s words when he said, “Abstinence is one day at a time by His grace.” Slowly I saw change as I went 30 days, then 60, then 90 and so on until I reached 10 months!
He was setting me free FROM sin and death!
But then I relapsed to masturbation, and was tempted to believe the lie that God couldn’t use me because I wasn’t perfect.
It was here that His grace met me again as my friend shared how God longs to use imperfect people for His glory and that my imperfection is actually what qualifies me. He said, “You know what it takes to walk in recovery, if you get back up there are so many others who need what you have been given.” As he said this, my imagination ran wild as I dreamed of helping others out of the same pit that God was lifting me from.
My friend invited me to lift my head to see that freedom has another component, not just freedom FROM, but freedom FOR!
3. Freedom For Life
At this point I had come to believe that freedom was possible, but FOR what?
John 10:10 ends by saying:
…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
As I began to taste that abundant life, I began to dream how I could help others taste the same thing. But I was scared and felt like a child: not ready, not capable, immature, lacking wisdom, with so much room to grow.
It had been my dream to “speak out against porn and change the way the world thought about it” since I was 18.
But “changing how the world thinks about porn” seemed lofty and I feared that I was chasing the wrong dream.
But through my friend’s encouragement and prompting I took a smaller step. What if I didn’t have to change the world, but just a handful of guys in a group?
So in 2021, we invited a bunch of young adults from different states to go through Seven Pillars of Freedom online together. It was here that I began to watch God do for them, what He had done for me!
I began to see that God had created me to share my story of brokenness and walk with other men so they might know the freedom Jesus offers rather than addiction.
In Pillar 6 Lesson 4, it asks the question: “Once you have finished the Seven Pillars and are walking in the purity you have sought for so long, what will be happening in your life?”
Two years ago as I was crawling through recovery, I answered:
“I will be leading/serving a part of a ministry, and ministering the freedom in Christ that I have received to others who are lost in porn addiction. I will be a soldier in God’s army combating the enemy, speaking truth and watching God save.”
Thanks to the kindness and mercy of Christ this future vision has become reality.
So as you venture through recovery, what is He calling you to do? What or whom will your freedom be for?
The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.
That’s a great word, John. Thank you for sharing!
Oh John, you just hit the ball out of the park!!! This is my story as well and the joy I am achieving as a group leader is immeasurable!!!! PD has touched me deeply, healed my brokenness and begun to allow the “real” me to show through. I’ve heard folks say to others they see Jesus when they look at them…. Well John, I see Jesus in you and see what a wonderful thing he is doing in me. You go my man !!!!!!!!! We can accomplish all things in Christ!!!