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.
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.