Addiction • 9 minutes to read
As a child, Robert’s family owned some furniture built by a man named William Brodie. Brodie was a cabinet maker and locksmith who also held prominent positions in the community as the Deacon of the local trades guild and City Councilor of Edinburgh.
Being a well-respected man, many of Brodie’s clients were from the wealthiest circles of Edinburgh. Brodie was often given keys to his clients homes so that he might perform his work while they were away. Without his clients knowledge, Brodie would take a wax impression of their key and make duplicates which he and accomplices used to rob their homes. As it turned out, against all appearances, Brodie was a man of vice, a gambler, and had two mistresses to support.
William Brodie led a double life. One, a respectable community patron, the other, a liar, a cheat, and a thief. Eventually, William Brodie was caught—and in October of 1788 was hanged before a crowd of 40,000 people at the age of 47.
Robert was born 62 years after the hanging of William Brodie, but the story of the man who made the family’s furniture must have had a lasting impact on Robert. During his teenage years, Robert developed a script for an unsuccessful play about “Deacon Brodie” and at the age of 25 penned a fantastically allegorical tale about the nature of good and evil within man. The tale of course is titled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
When I was younger, I had seen a movie or two based on the book but never actually read the book myself. Recently, I decided to find a copy and read this classic tale.
As I read, I could hardly put it down. I saw striking similarities to my own life and the addiction that had come to control my life and had been a major contributor in the failure of my first two marriages. I found myself profoundly relating to both characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
For most of my life, I had lived excusing and hiding my addictions, doing my best to look acceptable, and live up to others expectations. Of course this process began early in my life as it does for so many of us.
In explaining how his journey began, Henry Jekyll describes:
…from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream…Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life…Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
As Dr. Jekyll begins to experiment on how to separate the good from the bad within himself, he creates a potion that releases his evil nature in the form of Edward Hyde and frees Henry Jekyll from the restraints of his moral conscience.
He describes the moment of his first transformation into Edward Hyde…
There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. I stretched out my hands, exulting in the freshness of these sensations;…
Throughout my years in recovery groups, I have heard this over and over again. Although they instinctively knew what they were doing was shameful, it is very common for men to recall, with great clarity, the way their first exposure to pornography exhilarated them like nothing they had ever known. It felt exciting and safe AND they were in control. For many, they were hooked at first exposure.
Soon after Henry Jekyll transforms into Edward Hyde, he sees himself in the mirror for the first time. Edward Hyde is quite small, has a deformed ugliness about him, and looks nothing like Henry Jekyll. Another dose of the potion transforms him back into the respectable Dr. Jekyll. He suddenly realizes that he has found a way to indulge his every desire without consequence. No matter what act Edward Hyde commits, Henry Jekyll has the power to make him disappear by transforming back into the respectable Dr. Jekyll.
One of the effects of repeatedly engaging in behavior that violates our moral convictions is a state called cognitive dissonance. The Bible calls it being double minded. This state allows us to have inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, especially related to our behavioral decisions. As humans, this is an uncomfortable position to be in so our natural response is to create and embrace a lie that seemingly releases us from this state. For instance, the lie regarding pornography use might look something like this:
“My pornography use isn’t hurting anyone…it’s just me and a computer. The actors got paid to do the work so they aren’t being taken advantage of—it’s all consensual. Besides, this takes the pressure off my wife so she won’t feel harassed by me for sex. I go to church. I’m under New Testament grace. This works out better for everyone.“
The potential lies we tell ourselves are nearly endless; however, the longer we lie to ourselves, the greater the inevitable consequences.
Dr. Jekyll begins surrendering to the call of Edward Hyde more and more frequently. He withdraws from his friends and even the servants who work in his house. One morning he wakes up to find that Edward Hyde has brutally murdered one of the prominent citizens with Henry Jekyll’s walking stick. He is terrified and horrified at the acts committed by Edward Hyde. He writes…
This familiar that I called out of my own soul, and sent forth alone to do his good pleasure, was a being inherently malign and villainous; his every act and thought centered on self; drinking pleasure with bestial avidity from any degree of torture to another; relentless like a man of stone.
As is common with most pornography and sex addiction, I initially began masturbating to the bra ads in the Sunday newspaper and the occasional Victoria Secret catalog I would find. Over the years, I needed and wanted increasingly hardcore material. Near the end, I was watching video material that repulsed me, yet drew me in like a flying insect to a bug lamp. I had become powerless—my addiction was in control and began to manifest itself in so many other ways. I found no pleasure in family outings or time with others. I became progressively less social. I drank more and began to project all my unhappiness and selfishness on those around me.
Dr. Jekyll is terrified over the murder committed by Mr. Hyde and fearful that he will be discovered. He swears that Mr. Hyde is gone forever! He starts re-engaging in society, old friendships, and attending dinner parties. His life seems to return to normality for a few months.
As the case falls cold and the police can find no evidence, his fear diminishes and he succumbs to the pull and unchains Edward Hyde again.
I can’t tell you how many times I was horrified by what I had looked at, or was almost caught, and promised myself I was done looking at porn—but I could never resist for long. Over time, the disgust and fear faded in the shadow of the relentless longing to get alone and look at porn once again.
As Dr. Jekyll gives Edward Hyde increasing freedom, he notices that the creature begins to grow in stature. He unexpectedly begins transforming into Hyde without the use of the potion yet must continue to use the potion to return to Dr. Jekyll.
Dr. Jekyll is concerned and dominated by the fear that Edward Hyde will consume him and Henry Jekyll will cease to exist. What at first seemed to be controlled is now in control. Edward Hyde is wanted for murder and Henry Jekyll goes into complete hiding to avoid transforming into Mr. Hyde in public.
Friends come to his home, seeking him out, fearing that his mental health is declining but he refuses to see them. He won’t even allow his servants to see his face and begins to communicate with them through written notes left outside his door.
Eventually, as his ability to control Hyde slips through is fingers, Dr. Jekyll recognizes that Henry Jekyll will indeed cease to exist. As the consequences of his actions are circling tighter and tighter around him he writes out a confession. Here is the last paragraph…
Half an hour from now, when I shall again and forever reindue that hated personality, I know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue, with the most strained and fearstruck ecstasy of listening, to pace up and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every sound of menace. Will Hyde die upon the scaffold (hanging) or will he find courage to release himself at the last moment? God knows; I am careless; this is my true hour of death… Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.
Shortly after his final confession, Henry Jekyll in the form of Edward Hyde is found on the floor near the fireplace in his room, having ended his life.
For me, near the end, my addiction had grown to the point where I had accepted my “Hyde” and embraced the fact that he would be with me forever. My conscience was now seared. My best strategy was to keep hiding my “Hyde” as best I could.
However, around this time, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to begin praying a daily prayer that changed my life. I prayed: “God, help me to feel the pain You feel when I sin in this way. Will You break my heart with my sin?” Shortly after, my wife caught me and kicked me out of our home four weeks before Christmas 2011. I spent Christmas alone in a hotel, lying to friends and family to avoid them learning what was happening.
I ended up joining a group, started counseling, and found healing because God answered my prayer. My marriage never recovered. This is one of the consequences of my sin. Sin kills things.
I think any addict who has embraced his addiction to the end will recognize that this is the inevitable story of all addiction. In the end, our addiction will cause the death of our ability to enjoy life. It will kill our relationships, our families, and the side effects contribute to all kinds of disease and dysfunction, and so often to an early death.
Those of us who believe in God and come face to face with the reality of our addiction come to know a profound truth. I must die to myself, in surrender to Jesus, if I want to be free or this addiction will continue to consume me. There is no end and life is not found here. It is only found in surrender to Jesus.
What do I mean by surrender to Jesus in this context?
The first step, surrender your pride—healing starts with and requires humility.
The Pure Desire team can help you determine the next steps given your situation. Each situation is different. You may need counseling. You may need a group. You may need to connect with your local pastor. If you don’t know what to do, Pure Desire is here to help.
Freedom is possible.