Tag Archiv: freedom from pornography

Pamela Anderson: The New Mary Magdalene?

Pamela Anderson: The New Mary Magdalene?

A preface to this post: I remember as a teenager how both the Internet and my hormones were exploding. I spent many a nights using dial up modems lusting after the latest digital pin-up.

Front and center in my quest was the blond bombshell named Pamela Anderson. During the 90s, she was the crown jewel of all my pornographic pursuits. My first exposure to Ms. Anderson was during Baywatch, where her red one-piece swimsuit would continually turn my head. My attraction to her would grow as I would see her in Playboy, of which she would go on to grace the cover of the now non-nude magazine 15 times. 

Such fantasies kept me bound for 12 years from being able to truly perceive reality. I was bound in my lust, unable to see women for who they are. A woman (just like a man) is way more than any video or image can capture. She has thoughts, feeling, and gifts to offer to the world that go way beyond mere sex-appeal, even if she cannot see it herself. It is the job of every man to help every woman be aware of their God-given dignity. For a man not attempt such a mission is an abject failure of masculinity.

I write this post as a public apology to Ms. Anderson and repent of my years of using her with my mind. I would like to make amends, and I hope this writing is a small of token of this desire.

Recently, Ms. Anderson co-wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with Rabbi Scmuley Boteach. While prompted by the ongoing saga of Anthony Weiner and his compulsive behavior, their writing was a larger commentary on the inherent destructive nature of pornography and how it is affecting all segments of the population.

To see her name attached to this editorial was nothing less than shocking. Was this just another way to keep herself relevant as she continues to age? Or is she really experiencing a conversion from a lifestyle that many other pornographers have witnessed to its destructive nature?

Is this a turning point for Ms. Anderson? I believe so. Like all women who enter the pornography industry, she did not start out as a libido-obsessed maniac (as the false narrative of pornography describe) but instead as a young girl with hopes and dreams like any of us. The desire to be wanted for who we are can be intoxicating, and if a girl is not surrounded by men who want her best, if she fits the pornographic body-type, she may be coaxed into doing something contrary to her true desires. We can only be lied to for so long until we either despair into destructive behavior or instead make a radical U-turn.

For someone who has taken her clothes off in public for many decades, I believe Ms. Anderson is getting naked here – but in a very good way; she is unveiling her heart. She is letting us know what her deepest desires are, specifically in stating we need a “sensual revolution”:

The ubiquity of porn is an outgrowth of the sexual revolution that began a half-century ago and which, with gender rights and freedoms now having been established, has arguably run its course. Now is the time for an epochal shift in our private and public lives. Call it a “sensual revolution.”

The sensual revolution would replace pornography with eroticism – the alloying of sex with love, of physicality with personality, of the body’s mechanics with imagination, of orgasmic release with binding relationships.

Ms. Anderson added to this on her blog:

A healthy, loving sexual experience demands both intimacy and respect, both of which pornography addiction destroys, and I am committed to raising this fundamental awareness and protecting the vulnerable enslaved in the sex industry and abusive relationships.

Reading between these lines, we can see that in all of her pornographic displays and broken relationships with broken men has been a search for what most of us long for: someone who will love us for who we really are, to see us as the person God has created us to be, and to be united in a permanent and exclusive relationship open to what the sexual act most often leads to: children.

Pamela Anderson horizon light

Ms. Anderson finally seeing the light

To spell it out: Ms. Anderson is saying that she wants marriage and a family, one not based on the lies that pornography promotes – that one must have a “perfect” body, be sexually available at anytime, and not be tied down to anything that reduces our pleasure – but instead to give and receive everything from another where she knows the other person is with her through good times and bad. 

I do not know what Ms. Anderson’s relationship with Jesus Christ is, or if she even has a positive view of Christianity. However, with all of the above compelling evidence, I must ask: Is Pamela Anderson be the new Mary Magdalen?

If we recall, Mary Magdalen (who many Early Church Fathers believed to be the same woman caught in the act of adultery (John 7:53-8:11)) had lived a life of pleasure seeking, not because she was intentionally seeking evil for evil’s sake, but instead was looking for intimacy in a way that sexual acts outside of a loving marriage can never provide. In her darkest moment, the Person of Love appeared. Instead of condemning her, He called her to embrace her own greatness. She responded to that call, and the Catholic Church now honors her as a Saint.

In a similar manner, Ms. Anderson is revealing that the Playboy lifestyle is full of emptiness and pain. She knows what its like to be used, and it seems as though she is be waking up to reality: namely, that men and women are never meant to be used, but instead are the type of creatures that are to be loved for their own sake (Cf. Gaudium et Spes 24). To violate this inalienable law is to do violence to the human person.

I’m not saying she is completely converted to the Love Who alone can satisfy. She probably has a very skewed notion about what “gender rights” and “freedom” really mean. Like all of those who have failed to live their sexuality in accord with their worth, there is probably a lot of regret and shame, and she needs to experience the healing that only God can provide.

That being said, Ms. Anderson is to be applauded for ability to see the septic tank of the pornography industry for what it is and her courageous action of using her public profile to alert others of its destructiveness. Our response must not be  not condemn her for past actions, but instead help her see that her desires for marriage and family are not mere fantasy, but can be fulfilled, ultimately on the other side of eternity. Let us pray for her, that she may come to know deeply the Intimacy of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, the One who alone can satisfy her longings to be seen as beautiful, lovely, and cherished.

Steve Pokorny is the Founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring system designed to break the power of pornified images. His book, Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from the Pornified Culture is coming soon. 

Out of Darkness – Part 9

In part 8, I shared about how although I had received a taste of freedom, I still had some chains that God had to break. In this concluding part, discover how my desires were transformed to seek out only what is true, good, and beautiful.

Getting to the root of my desire

Over the course of the next year, while doing some pro-life work in St. Augustine, Florida, I got in touch with an Evangelical couple who were trained in Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). They began to work on healing my shame and anger and I experienced a little bit of emotional reprieve. I returned to Steubenville in February of 2008 where I met with my former Spiritual Director once again. He mentioned he knew of something more effective than TPM for me. Something better? Sign me up!

He gave me the number of a traumatologist who used a unique form of intensive trauma therapy (ITT). She explained what happens to the brain in a traumatic event, how the right and left are affected by such events, and that I needed to have my brain rewired so I could form new neural pathways. This would not be done by anything as drastic as shock therapy, but rather the whole process involved drawing and writing. She further explained that ITT is designed to bring light to darkness, truth to lies, and wholeness to disintegration.

I was skeptical that something so simple could bring me healing, but I was in such emotional pain that I was willing to do whatever was required to break free. Over the course of one week, working eight hours a day, I drew pictures and wrote, going through all of the traumatic events I had experienced, not the least of these which was the sexual abuse of pornography. After day one, upon walking out of the office, everything seemed brighter, as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. During day two, as I was processing one of my traumas, I literally felt a weight lift off of me. Something oppressive left my body and I could breathe easier. On the third day, a Wednesday in April 2008, I experienced my own resurrection: the pain in my face significantly lifted and the shame that had kept me locked in fear of entering into intimacy with others was eviscerated. I had been infused with joy and felt as though I could fly! The love I had experienced from coming to know my Heavenly Father began surging through me and I had a deep sense of peace, finally being comfortable in my own skin.

I finished my time in ITT and, as the weeks passed, I realized the what I had experienced was not temporary. I had received a substantial healing and my shame had really been absorbed by genuine love. I finally felt as though I was in possession of myself, able to freely live my life as a gift.

Later in 2008 I was invited to speak at a men’s retreat in Chicago, where I shared my testimony and this new-found healing from shame. At that retreat, I learned that one key antidote to pornography is sacred art, particularly with images of the body being unveiled appropriately. In meditating on these images, I discovered the full truth about the male and female body. My blindness was finally removed and I was able to put final nail in the coffin of my attraction to pornography.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. – St. Augustine

For Freedom's Sake Christ has set you free. – Gal 5:1

For freedom’s sake Christ has set you free. – Gal 5:1

Transformed

By the grace of God, I can boldly proclaim: I HAVE NO DESIRE TO LOOK AT PORNOGRAPHY. This false desire has been crucified in me and I am a man resurrected with the fire of love in my heart. The lustful images our world so highly idolizes are a weak, whimpering thing compared with the glorious grandeur of seeing the human body displayed as God has intended. I would rather die than lust. Because of this redeemed vision, I am able to do even more effective work for which God has created me, as long as I continue to humbly say yes to Him.

One of the benefits of receiving this redeemed vision led me to one of my heart’s greatest desires: my wife, Valerie. We were blessed to be married in June of 2009 and, as a testament to the Truth that God’s great love is so much greater than any of the false “loves” pornography can tempt me with, He revealed to me what true sexual pleasure is supposed to be.

On the night of our wedding, soon after we had consummated our marriage, something unexpected happened: I laughed. This big, bellyaching laugh rose out of me. My wife knew everything about me, but there was neither shame nor disgrace. Precisely because of the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, we experienced a profound union in becoming one flesh, something I had been seeking in all of those images but had never attained. Finally, the joy of the marital act was gifted to us and there was peace, a peace that lust just cannot give.

That was not the best part. About fifteen months later, a little person came forth from my wife who changed me forever. Although conceived nine months prior, on September 15, 2010, I held in my arms one of the deepest meanings of my masculinity: my daughter, Isabella Rose, was living proof of the father God had destined me to become. The fruitlessness of pornography was transformed into a fruitfulness that has changed the planet, for every birth recreates the world anew. I am eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for the privilege to participate in this great and noble calling (He has since blessed us with another daughter, Francesca Grace, and perhaps more little Pokornys in the future).

In response to my restored masculinity and redeemed freedom, I began Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring system designed to break the bondage of those ensnared by pornography. So many good men are blind to the authentic beauty of women — and Satan desires to keep them in darkness. Because Satan neutralizes these men, women and children become easy targets. My work is a life-long penance for all the times I said “no” to His love. In reality, I know I can never repay what Christ has done for me, as everything is a gift, even my falls that led me to the heart of the Father. It is my hope that if men can reclaim the meaning of their masculinity and pledge their sacred honor to the dignity of all women and children in their lives, we will see the culture of love and life blossom in the world.

The genuine freedom from pornography I have experienced and the renewal I received are not exceptions to the rule; they can and should be the norm for all men and women. This is not some pipe-dream, but a genuine possibility — and the destiny to which we are called.

In order for this happen, we have to believe this liberation is possible, allowing our Father to come into even the darkest corners of our hearts. We have to recover genuine purity and sexual integration. This is only possible by learning how to see – not as the world does, but with a redeemed, divine vision. Then we will be able to see and experience the full truth of love, something the false “beauty” of pornography can never capture.

[Picture of John Paul]

At World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, Saint John Paul the Great said, “We are not a sum total of our mistakes and failures. We are the sum total of our Father’s love for us.” I am a witness to this hope, proclaiming to a world in darkness that the Father does not see us as mistakes but as sons and daughters who are loved beyond measure. I pray my testimony may plant seeds of this hope and give birth to a redeemed sexuality, and thus effect a great healing in countless men and women on their journeys to true freedom.

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

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 8

In part 7, I shared about how God had broken the chain of lust. Here we see that there was still more work to be done to be done with the snare of pornography forever.

Not out yet

Like Peter, I was out of the boat and drowning in my false desires; from Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888.

Like Peter, I was out of the boat and drowning in my false desires; from Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888.

I wish I could say that from that moment on I had no problems with pornography. For about four months, it was true; I had total access to the Internet in my room but I had absolutely no desire to look at porn. I was stupefied by what had happened and wanted to tell the world. Moved by the gift of love poured out on me and by the freedom I had experienced, I wanted to share this message of true sexual freedom with the world. I gave my testimony at a graduate student retreat and thought I had truly said good-bye to my past. But like Peter who took His eyes off of Christ and tripped on the waves, I took my eyes off Christ and sank really hard into the septic tank. I felt the “pull of the flesh” again and could not resist the grip of lust around my heart. I became discouraged, questioning whether the healing I had experienced was genuine. I cynically wondered if anything good could really last.

Although my falls became less and less frequent, there were times when I felt the impulse to lust and masturbate and I just could not say no. After a few falls, I threw up my hands and said it was not worth fighting anymore. Although my housemates and I no longer had the Internet because we wanted to save money, that external constraint was not enough. When the urge hit, I did not let anything in my way – not the grace of daily Mass, nor the fact that I would not be able to fall asleep because my conscience was bothering me so badly, nor the reality that I would have to wait multiple days before I could go to confession to receive the peace I needed to quiet my soul. All I wanted was to look more and more and I slumped back into my cycle once again.

One time, I had to scratch the itch of lust so badly that I sat on the covered back porch of my neighbor’s house with cold, pouring rain all around me to use his wireless connection while he was out of town. It did not mater that I was probably going to get sick from the cold rain. It did not matter that it was nearly 5:30 am and I still had not found that one image to quench my desire. It did not matter that this action could destroy my reputation as “Mr. Theology of the Body.”1 It did not matter that I had a girlfriend I really wanted to love. I did not care. The beast needed to feed. Like all the other times, the burn was bad and the shame was back worse than ever. My anxiety level was sky high, from both the fear of getting caught and that I had turned my back on God.

Still programmed

Looking back on that incident, I realized what happened. Although a great deal of my heart had tasted real love and I was seeking out pornography less and less, my brain was still enslaved to the images. My neural pathways were still programmed to respond in a lustful way to these images and had incredible power over me. Although my heart was open to the light, I was still blind and in need of having my brain rewired.

Through my discussions with my spiritual director on the campus of Franciscan University, I revealed I had a deep sadness that I could physically feel on the left side of my face. I had this for years and had no explanation for it. He recommended Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). In TPM, a person enters into intensive prayer, recognizing his emotions are like smoke leading to the fire of what is occurring in his heart. Because I was so disconnected from my emotions, I found this process very difficult. However, I did receive some relief and light shone in my darkness. What was revealed was that the pain I was experiencing was directly connected to misusing my sexuality for so many years. Layers of shame had been bottled up inside of me and I had been prevented from experiencing my emotions in the way that God had intended.

Neurologically, this makes sense, for all misuse of our sexuality is traumatic. Because trauma especially affects our emotional processing, if someone continually abuses his sexuality, eventually he will essentially stop processing his emotions. All that remains is emotional numbness.

Yep. This is about how I felt.

Yep. This is about how I felt.

I came to discover that underneath all my shame was a raging volcano of anger that was beginning to boil over. My suppressed emotions had been covered over by my shame for so long that in 2007, when at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Washington, D.C., something happened that deeply frightened me. One classmate said something I did not like and I vividly felt as though I was going to transform into a Hulk-like creature, toss desks out of the way, and strangle him. I did not know how long I would be able to keep a lid on this molten lava. I knew I needed assistance, but because nothing had really worked to heal my shame and anger in the past, I felt helpless.

To be concluded…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

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.

1 A pet name I was gaining around campus because of the many Theology of the Body talks I gave on campus.

Out of Darkness – Part 7

In part 6, I shared about how I was being called to a different vocation than priesthood. In this post, come see how every wound in my past was baptized in the redemption of Jesus Christ.


Discovering God’s plan for humanity

During the summer of 2002, my friend Ellen gave me an audiotape. Thinking it was just another apologetics tape, she told me, “Just listen to it.” When I popped it in, it changed my life forever. It was a presentation by Catholic theologian and author Christopher West who was explaining the Truth about the human person and the gift of sexuality. My jaw hit the floor. I realized this vision of life — this understanding of what it means to be male and female — was everything for which I had been searching!

Light breaking through darkness

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. — Jeremiah 29:11

Saint John Paul the Great’s unveiling of God’s glorious plan for our lives brought about a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I experienced great hope, realizing I was not abandoned in my struggle for sexual purity. On the other, I felt a deep pain because I was so far from where I needed to be and had no plan in place to break free from the chains binding me. It sounded almost surreal: “Could this message be true? Could I really be set free from my lusts?” I could relate intimately to the words of St. Paul, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). My body and soul were crying out, “How long, O Lord?” I had known for a long time that the pixilated images of women would never satisfy the deep ache within me, but merely knowing such information was only one part of the answer. I needed to have a radical heart transplant to be set free to love.

After finishing a very painful experiment of teaching high school theology for a year, I was accepted for the masters program in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Little did I know, God had much more in store for me than a degree in theology and catechetics. Among many things, one of the attractions of Franciscan is its world-renowned charismatic prayer events, known as Festivals of Praise. Picture 2,000 people united, praising God in song. At my first service, it became apparent God was beginning His work in me. One of the Scripture verses proclaimed several times that night was Isaiah 43:19: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through a crack in my stony heart, living waters were beginning to bubble up.

Like many students on campus, I attended daily Mass, where things began getting a little weird — in the best sense of the word. It seemed that the message of virtually every hymn and praise song was directed toward me. God was trying to break through my darkness with His glorious, blinding light to allow me to see the Truth of His deep love for me. He was wooing me as a Bridegroom woos His Bride.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Jesus met me powerfully in the Eucharist. Through the reception of this most Holy Sacrament, I was infused with the love of God in a way I had never previously experienced. Although I had grown in my relationship with God throughout high school and college, He was introducing me to His most personal and intimate love. I was especially moved to thanksgiving and a bit of the dark fog in my soul began to lift.


Coming to know the Father

After one of the daily Masses, on a particular Wednesday, during prayer I felt an intense moment of gratitude for what Jesus was doing with my life. And then it hit me. It was not only Jesus who was moving me to gratitude. It was my Father – not just any father, but God the Father. This was the Father I had longed for. This union with God — my origin and my destiny — was what I had been yearning for in all of those empty pornographic images. The One who I thought had abandoned me had not rejected me; instead, He wanted to hold me close and tell me He loved me. He had always wanted to hold me and tell me I was His own.

Waterfall

I waited, I waited for the Lord.
And He stooped down to me;
He heard my cry.
He drew me from the deadly pit,
From the miry clay
He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
– Psalm 40: 2-4.

At that moment, I knew I had a Father, a Father who wanted me more than anything. My Abba1 was calling me to climb into His lap and be held. And it was enough. All the fears I had held inside – all the hurt, all the shame, all the forgiveness I could not bring myself to accept – was washed away by a love that penetrated the deepest core of my being. The floodgates opened and I sobbed like the prodigal son in the arms of his father.


Freedom

Just when I thought my cup was overflowing with too much love, it happened. Boom, boom, boom, boom – my chains hit the floor! I experienced my first tangible, potent sense of freedom. For the first time in my life, I had a genuine experience of freedom from sexual compulsion. Just as St. Augustine was liberated from his bonds of slavery to sin when he read the words of St. Paul, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh,” (see Rom 13:14). I no longer desired to look at sexually explicit images. I had been set free. He had brought me to such beauty pornography failed to contain, namely, Himself. The desire to use women gave way to a desire to serve and love them humbly as my sisters in Christ.

How did this transformation happen? How did it come to be I would be telling this story of my compulsion to pornography? For years, I lived with fear, “Do not ever let anyone find out about this compulsion or you will be ruined.” But I did not have to fear anymore. The destructive vision of myself that had dominated much of my youth gave way to the “new thing” He was doing in my life. The clouds of darkness in my life dissipated and I heard in my heart the voice I had longed to hear, “This is my well-beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (see Matt 3:17). The Father? Pleased with me? After everything I had done? After all the times I had turned my back on Him – He still wanted me back? Yes, the Father was very pleased with me. At that moment I knew I had a Father and I was His son. After all the years of drinking the slop from the pigs, this prodigal was being called home. He knew where I had been, but that was not important to Him. He wanted all of me, not the masks I presented to others in public.


Satan wants us to think we are not good enough and we can never be worthy of our Father’s love. He wants us to believe if we come from broken homes, if we have run away too many times, then we are through. The Evil One wants to immobilize us and keep us locked in our woundedness. But he is wrong — dead wrong. It is not that we are too bad – we are too good to be left alone. God never tires of us; He cannot get enough of us. That is why the Father sent His Son and that is the only reason why Jesus’ death makes any sense, because God loves us so much that He would rather die than be without us.  

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14  From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14 
From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

There are many approaches to fighting attachments to sin, but not all of them will solve the problem. Many strategies are often “sin management”. Unless we attack the root of the issue by allowing the Father to infuse us with His radical grace, we will either continue to struggle or give up because the pain is too much. True, it is good to take precautions and seek assistance, especially in Confession, but the key to being healed from any compulsion lies not in “doing” things, but in coming to know the Father’s love. That is the secret. This is not to detract from the power of the Sacraments; God definitely was preparing my heart to receive His gift of love through these supernatural gifts and does, in fact, give us His love through the Sacraments. However, if we are merely doing things and not opening our hearts to receive His love, we will never be set free from our brokenness. We will never fly with the power of love, but simply limp along in our blindness and shame.

Most of us have sold out to a big, fat lie. We are told to be hard and to avoid our emotions, but the love of our Father is totally different. God’s love is not a sentimental, fluffy, Lifetime-television kind of love. This love goes beyond the hardness of this world and gives us the strength to go on when life seems unbearable. We have to receive this love and know in our hearts that we are loved by our Father. If we are going to complete the work of Christ, we must remember that we can give only what we have first received. Christ was able to walk on water, perform miracles, give us the Eucharist, and stay on the cross because he knew His Father loved Him and He had opened Himself to fully receive that love. There was no question in His mind that His Abba was guiding Him with His Love.

I wish I could say that from that moment on I had no problems with pornography. For about four months, it was true until…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

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.

1  The Greek word used for such an intimate description of God is “Abba,” which can be translated as “Daddy.”

Out of Darkness – Part 6

In Part 5, I shared how throughout my college career my compulsion to pornography began to fester. Today, we begin looking at how God had other plans for my life.

Changing winds

The summer after graduation from college, I was confused about where God was calling me. I seriously questioned whether I was being called to priesthood, for I was radically struggling with celibacy.1 For my three years at minor college seminary, I told God, “I’m going to be a priest.” As the old phrase goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans,” and He was cracking up. Instead, I should have been asking: “Lord, do You want me to be a priest?” In order to really discern well, I came to understand that I needed to continue onto the Major Seminary at St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland.

During that year, I became more serious about questioning my vocation. Through this, I was granted some relief from my addiction (although it would come out to play every so often). I began to pray a Holy Hour most days in front of the Tabernacle where Jesus in the Eucharist resided, rising at 6 am to pray. Although I struggled with my theological studies, I remained committed. I was involved in the community and was striving to grow in masculine intimacy with my brothers. I was faithful to my apostolate of serving at a local parish. I also began working out on a regular basis, which helped to direct my energy from pent up frustrations and stress.

Even though I was striving for balance, I still was not satisfied. I was still yearning for someone – some woman – to love me. While celibacy is a genuine gift and my respect for priests was growing immensely, a pain in my heart and a question in my head would not go away: What if there is someone out there for me? What if, in all those lonely days through junior high, high school, and college, of wanting female companionship, God had one woman prepared for me?

Madonna of the Streets

It was the beauty of our Lady that was leading me forth to another vocation.

This all came to a head one Saturday morning. The night before, I went to bed early because I felt deathly ill. Waking up at about 9:30 am, I did something I rarely ever do: I just laid there. Looking around, I noticed the copy of Madonna of the Streets one of my brothers in seminary had given me (who would become the priest to witness my marriage). At that moment, a scene from the first Matrix movie popped in my head (you know, when you think of Mary, you think of Keanu Reeves…it is only natural). I replayed before my eyes the scene toward the end where Trinity says to Neo, “I’m not afraid.” At that moment, I was not afraid anymore. I knew, deep within the recesses of my heart, while celibacy is a gift, God had not granted it to me. I needed to jump. I did not know where I was going, but I realized that if He had led me into seminary, He was going to light my path. He had other plans for me, but a turning point — in my life and in my heart — would be needed if I were to fulfill what He had destined for me before the world began.

I had experienced a tremendous gift, and I knew there was a very different vocation ahead of me. But first, I needed to receive a full healing from my compulsion to pornography.

To be continued…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

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.

1 The Catholic Church teaches clearly: Those with non-integrated sexual desires are not to be ordained to the priesthood. They are to be fully in possession of themselves to freely give themselves away to the whole Bride of Christ as a celibate in Holy Orders.

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.

Out of Darkness – Part 1

As with any blog, there has to be a motivating factor as to why a person would commit such time to sharing with the world their message. I am convinced that our pornographic culture is anything but good, and it is stealing the beauty that we need in our lives. This doesn’t come from a place of judgment from on high but from my lived reality of how porn kept me in bondage for years. The Good News is I have discovered freedom, and I believe I have been called to help lead countless others to freedom.

Thus onto my story…

I was born into a stable, two-parent home, the youngest of two boys. In 1985, at five years of age, my life changed. My father, a Vietnam veteran with a get-rich-quick mentality, wagered our house on the stock market without my mother’s permission — and lost.

Acting upon the faulty notion that our family needed financial support more than his physical presence, my father believed it would be better to kill himself than to lose the house. He went into the garage, closed the door, and turned on the car in an attempt to end his life. When my mother found him thirty minutes later and dragged him out of the garage, he was alive, but his short-term memory would be gone forever due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Our family was taken care of financially because my father was a veteran. Thus, in a sad twist of irony, my father’s fears for a bleak future never came to pass.

Darkness, clouds
A shroud of darkness was beginning to form around my life.

My father’s condition prevented me from really knowing him. After the accident, he was placed in a nursing home and I would occasionally visit him. I always felt uncomfortable around him, for his speech had been slowed and he was unable to retain anything I told him. I could not share my experiences of growing older and I felt as though we could not build a relationship together. He was not the father who had played baseball with me in the front yard. Here was a man who had sold out to his fears and compromised the future of his family. I felt his selfishness had destroyed the possibility of having a stable home and being raised by both a father and a mother.

Because of this abandonment, I grew up insecure and questioned the point of everything. I often felt depressed and even felt at times that it would be better if I had never been born. I remember writing more than a few times in my journal that I should kill myself – like father, like son. Despite the counseling I went through during childhood, I could not shake the deep-seated feeling of isolation and worthlessness in my soul.

Around Christmas 1996, when I was 17, my father, at age 51, began to lose a lot of weight. Doctors discovered he had developed brain and lung cancer and he did not have much time left. Within two months, he was moved to The Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. I knew I had to say something to him before it was too late.

During one of my few visits to hospice, I sat down and was honest with him. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Dad, you abandoned me. You walked out on Mom. You left Brian. You were not there when we needed you most.” For a brief moment, he looked back into my eyes and said, “I know.” That was his way of saying, “I’m sorry.” From that moment, I was able to begin forgiving him. Three weeks later, I lost my father for the second time.

To be continued…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, check out the forthcoming Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from the Darkness of Pornography, available in paperback or on Kindle in 2016.

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.