Monthly Archiv: January, 2016

Out of Darkness – Part 5

In Part 4, I shared about how my first experience of pornography on the internet began to shape me. Today, we’ll look at how the this exposure would begin to create a deeper hole in my heart.

Porn goes to college

I graduated from high school in 1997 with the vicious cycle of addiction beginning to take over. I went to Syracuse University in New York to major in acting where the Internet was newly available in every dorm room. While I was involved with the Newman Center and was growing in my Catholic Faith, with the exception of a roommate, there was nothing stopping me from getting my steady supply of this drug. I legitimized it because, hey, every guy in my hall was into it (one guy who I was teaching me guitar had a vast amount of his hard drive caked with porn images), and it was readily available elsewhere (the local movie theater on campus showed porn flicks all the time).

Emotionally, in college, I was pretty much an empty seat.

Emotionally, in college, I was pretty much an empty seat.

The situation grew worse. In my first two years in college, I experienced an emotional shutdown. I lived a “flat line” existence, feeling neither lows nor highs, except during fleeting moments when I indulged in porn. Pornography had neutered my spirit and my capacity to truly form bonds of intimacy with others. What was left was a dull ache in my heart, a hurt I thought could not be mended. I had a self-inflicted, gaping wound I did not know how to heal.

Even through the emotional emptiness, God was still trying to speak to me. Sometime during that year, because I still continued to pray (as well as confess nearly weekly my lustful habit), I received what I thought was a genuine call to the priesthood. The following year I moved back to Cleveland and transferred to Borromeo Seminary where I began undergraduate studies in philosophy. It was during this time that I truly met Jesus in the Eucharist, knowing He was alive and REAL, physically present for me in every Catholic Church (somehow, even with all of the years of religious education in my youth, I never really “got” this until then). Building off of what I learned at the Newman Association at Syracuse University, I continued to develop my relationship with Mary, our Mother, primarily through regular recitation of the Rosary. I felt that although I had lost my earthly mother, Mary was taking me under her mantle as her son. These two very Catholic elements would eventually help draw me forth from the darkness.

Throughout seminary, I struggled with my attachment to porn (like Syracuse, we had Internet in our room, as well as two large TVs where I could access scrambled porn). Through my brothers-in-arms, I came to realize that I was not the only one who was having problems. Because our formation did not really touch on this subject and my spiritual director would give me the typical advice most people are given who are trying to overcome pornography, there was no real victory, merely toleration. One guy named Joe, a man who was very open with his struggles, started a “Gold Star” program. For every day we did not masturbate, we got a gold star and whoever could go the longest would get some sort of a prize. Although it was good to realize we shared a similar problem, it did not move me closer to an answer, it only functioned as a coping mechanism. The fear of being found out was not enough to keep me from drinking the porn Kool-Aid.

Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

– Luke 6:39

Throughout my college years, I would often wear sunglasses during the day, even if it was cloudy. Part of it was practical, as I had a problem with brightness during the daytime even if the sun could not be seen. Mostly though, it was a reflection of my interior state; I did not want anyone to see me for me. I had a severe self-hatred and kept anyone from getting in. Although I got laser-eye surgery in the year 2000, which helped alleviate some of my problems with brightness, I knew I needed another type of “laser-eye surgery,” one for my heart.

On breaks throughout college seminary, I would return to my aunt and uncle’s house, where despite my best efforts, I kept giving in because the addiction was far too powerful. No one suspected a thing because, as a seminarian, I was presumably above suspicion. Yet my Mr. Hyde personality was killing me. All my best attempts to quit ended in failure. I told myself this was my cross and I would have to carry it for the rest of my life. I would never be free. Or so I thought.

To be continued…

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

Out of Darkness – Part 4

For Part 3, click here.

During ninth grade, when I was 14, my mom was being treated at the hospital for cancer that had come out of remission (she originally was treated for breast cancer when I was ten), so I had to stay with my grandmother. It was during this time that I started acting out on my lustful desires. I obtained a copy of Howard Stern’s Private Parts, a book with plenty of written porn, and because of the discussion in that book, over the course of my stay at my grandmother’s, I taught myself how to masturbate. I was not simply watching images that went in one eye and would dissipate; thanks to the masturbation-fueled chemical flood, the mental images were being burned into my brain. The fruit I had tasted was bitter and yet I could not get enough.

Because I was raised Catholic, I came to understand the guilt and shame I was feeling was because of my sinful choices, so I went to the Sacrament of Confession. I still remember the first time I confessed looking at porn – I told the priest I had fornicated, having no idea what I was actually saying. Because I did not have a correct understanding of my sexuality, a vicious cycle began. My typical week would go like this: I would be tempted, look at porn, masturbate, feel guilty, go to Confession (with different priests if possible, because, as I thought, “if the priest actually knew, he would think I was really sick”1), and feel freedom for a few days. Yet like Frank’s mosquito friend, I inevitably was sucked back into the devastating zapper of my soul.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

– Hotel California, The Eagles

A line in the classic ’70s Eagles song Hotel California hints at the trap I found myself in after viewing porn: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Whenever I tried to stop watching pornography, it was as though I was not in full possession of myself. Throughout my porn addiction, every time I stayed up late, I was drawn into the funnel where I watched for hours, unable to pull myself away. Instead of the peace of climax in a healthy marriage, after masturbating I was left with anxiety. My heart would race and, overcome by the guilt of what I had done, I would lay in bed for hours, tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. Eventually, sleep would come, but the shame would haunt me until I had the opportunity to go to Confession, where I was given the medicine of mercy. However, that lustful itch would begin again, and the vicious cycle would continue. Later on I would take NyQuil to knock myself out to overcome the noise of my conscience inside me. When I would awake, the shame would be pounding at the door of my heart.

The absence of a father was very apparent growing up. I did not have a strong male role model who addressed my coming-of-age issues and as a result, I was not taught how to view or treat women properly. Instead, porn taught me women are merely objects to be used, abused, and discarded, valued only for their sexual values. I became increasingly uncomfortable around women. Their physical beauty made me feel ashamed because I had automatically equated beauty with a lustful attraction, so I found myself disposed to blame women. Just as Adam blamed “the woman” immediately after the Fall, I looked upon attractive girls with disdain, blaming them for “doing this to me.” As much as I claimed to “love” women, because they were unreachable and untouchable to me, my emotional reaction toward women, which I kept hidden from public view, was a secret hatred of them. I began blaming women for my lust.

When I was sixteen, at the start of my junior year of high school, my mom passed away due to cancer. This major event in my life increased my feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Yet as a response to an undetected grace, I began to pray almost every day. I believe it was God’s way of keeping me grounded during a time when grief could have caused me to lose my mind.

While my aunt and uncle were kind enough to bring me under their roof, I also brought my growing addiction with me. While repainting my room, they discovered, hidden between my mattresses, a book of erotic stories I had ordered. Again, those in charge of my formation could have addressed this issue properly, but they themselves were not formed well in matters involving sexuality, nor were aware of how dangerous pornography use can be. They essentially laughed it off as something mostly harmless.

Although I was very uncomfortable around the girls in my classes and did not date much, inside I was crying out for the attention of any female. During my senior year in 1996, I became involved with a classmate who also did not have a healthy relationship with her father and we embarked on a lustful relationship that was not her first. We began, through a very early type of instant messaging system, to write an erotic story together. We eventually acted out these words by engaging in a couple of sexual escapades. Like all lustful relationships, because real love was not our foundation, as quickly as the flames had ignited, they were quickly dowsed by the cold reality that we did not really love each other.

During our relationship, my craving for pornographic images began to take hold. The perfect delivery system for porn, the Internet, was just beginning to become popular and I can remember doing my first search for nude images online. One time, my aunt burst in on me and asked what I was doing. Although nothing significant was on the screen, my heart was pounding and I was ashamed of what I was seeking. I lied and told her I was thinking about my mom. In a certain sense, in the images of all those women, I was looking for the comfort of intimacy with a woman, but could not find it.

Static, TV,

Like Poltergeist, I was being drawn into the haze.

My aunt and uncle also had cable television and I would spend nights watching scrambled Cinemax in order to try to satisfy my desire. While they slept, I would stay up late watching one show after another, trying to see some skin to try and quench my thirst. Although I was terrified that my aunt and uncle might catch me watching, this drug kept me coming back for more.

In a very real sense, I began to develop two faces. One was public, where I was very outgoing, involved in drama club and show choir and often known as the class clown (I was voted by the senior class “most likely to trip while going to get his diploma”). Yet in my private life, the darkness inside of me was growing. For example, after hanging out with friends, on my drive home at night, I would contemplate what would be showing on Cinemax. Although I may have been able to fool others into believing I was extremely confident and comfortable around people, I could not deceive myself, for I knew viewing lustful images was crippling my ability to form bonds of communion with those around me. I had become deathly afraid of anyone getting to know the real me, because I thought they would not like what they would see.

To be continued…

1In truth, all sinners are sick, yet a priest who knows his dignity does not think less of a person who continues to come to Confession; he thinks more of them, because priest too are sinners and know only Christ, ministering through the priest, can give the remedy to those entrenched in something as powerful as addiction. Working with the same Confessor on a sin can be very helpful, as he knows where you have been, and is able to walk with you on the journey to freedom.

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

 

Out of Darkness – Part 3

You can read part 2 of this series here.

During the summer before eighth grade, when I was twelve, I “hit the big time,” and my life would be forever altered. One day, a friend, “Sam” invited me to his house and we watched TV. Not just any television program, it was hard-core porn. We had a seemingly endless supply of pornography, thanks in part to his parents’ nearly countless videos stashed in their room. As we watched, I experienced mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was excited and wanted to keep watching, as there was definitely something very attractive about what the men and women were doing on the screen. On the other hand, I had intense feelings of guilt. The more I watched, the uglier I felt.

A scene from the movie A Bug’s Life captures how those pornographic images had begun affecting me. In the movie, two mosquitoes are hanging out near a bug zapper. The first mosquito says, “Frank, get away from the light!” Frank responds, “I can’t help it—the light is sooo beauuuuuutiful!” and then … ZAAAPP! Frank becomes bug juice. As “beautiful” as I thought the images were, this was a tractor beam I just could not break free from.

As all of those who get involved with porn can attest to, the initial images stop satisfying: a person has to escalate in order to get his high. My friend was no exception. He was not interested in merely watching porn with a buddy. During a later visit to his house, when we were in his parent’s room looking for another video to watch, Sam reached into his parent’s top dresser drawer and pulled out a “sex toy.” When I asked what it was, he said, “It will make you feel good.” I did not know exactly what he meant and was embarrassed by the whole situation. I made up some excuse and got out of there.

Our relationship came to a head when we were over at my house alone, watching a video Sam had brought over. A few minutes later, my mom’s boyfriend came through the front door unexpectedly. Instead of just turning off the VCR and continue watching TV, I got up quickly and tried to get the tape out of the machine. He sized up the situation rapidly and took the tape. I begged for him to give it back but to no avail: my mom was going to find out.

pornography, seeking help, mother-son conversation

Our mother-son conversations didn’t quite help.

I knew there was no way out of this situation, so when mom came home from the store, I immediately went up to her in tears and confessed my crime. There was no condemnation on the part of my mom. Instead, she wrapped me in her arms and showed me the love only a mother could give. She gave me the intimacy I was looking for from porn in the first place.

Soon thereafter she sat down and talked with me about what was on the video. She told me she watched it briefly, and that there was nothing beautiful or lovely in what she saw. She could not understand why I would want to watch it. To this day, I can still recall the scene my friend and I were watching when we were busted. It turns my stomach now, realizing porn really is all about power and domination, yet as a youth, I did not understand this. My mother was trying to teach me why this was wrong, but she did not have the language to explain it, and I had tasted something carnal that would expand my downward spiral.

To be continued…

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

Out of Darkness – Part 2

Last time I shared about how the lack of my father’s presence in my life impacted my growth and development. In this post, I’d like to share a little how my vision about human sexuality began to be distorted.

Growing up, I never discussed sex with my parents. In elementary school, I remember writing Mad Libs with one of my friends, filling in all the blanks with sexually explicit words. My mom caught us and sat me down for a little chat. “Do you know what sex is?” she asked. “Sure,” I answered. That was the extent of our conversation. It was obvious she was uncomfortable talking about the subject. How different my path might have been had she been able to articulate something of the glorious splendor and God-given purpose of human sexuality — how much pain and agony I could have been spared!

man woman romance

My education about human sexuality was anything but wholesome. (Photo from Morgan Sessions)

Since I lacked true sexual education, I had to learn on my own. It really is true that “what isn’t taught will be caught,” and I certainly was predisposed to be infected by the porn epidemic. My earliest exposure to pornographic material I had was in fifth grade (age ten) when one of my friends, “Adam,” and I discovered several copies of my brother’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Illustrated editions. When no one was home, we took those issues, ripped out the women we thought were the prettiest, and laid them in a circle. We put a used Coke bottle in the center and we played a unique version of “spin-the-bottle.” When it was my turn, I had to spin the bottle and wherever the head of the bottle landed, I would have to kiss that image. I was attracted to these images yet did not know why. My response to the apparent beauty flowed out of that misunderstanding. I did not really understand why we were doing this, but looking back now I know I was seeking real intimacy in a faulty way.

In sixth grade, as I was crossing from one block to another in my suburban neighborhood, in the middle of the street I saw a brown paper bag filled with paper (I like to think of this as Satan “accidentally” dropping one of the pieces of forbidden fruit – just for me). I picked up the bag and realized it was not just any type of paper, but ripped up images of naked body parts. Later, after assembling the pieces, I discovered it was hard-core pornography. I knew what I had discovered was contraband, so I took it home and hid it in the basement. I was ashamed of what I had seen but was really excited and, like a thief who had just stolen some poor chap’s lottery ticket, I could not keep the secret. I blabbed about my find to a classmate. Like me, he was from a home without a father and had been looking for love in all the wrong places. When I showed the images to him, he could not help himself. He offered me $20 for the bag on the spot. For an eleven- year-old, I had hit the jackpot, so I traded up.

Although this had been a small exposure, the hook had been set in my heart, and I was beginning to be led to a place of great darkness.

To be continued…

Steve Pokorny is the founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.