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
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.
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.
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.