It’s 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, and I’m logging on the Internet to check my email, read a newspaper article, and begin research for Sunday’s sermon.
Well, that’s what I’m trying to convince myself.
But I know exactly what I’m doing. When my secretary leaves at two, I will be alone in the building. I will check my email, and I may read an article or two. But as soon as the door closes behind her, I will do what I have done more times than I care to count: I’ll type “sex” or “porn” or something worse in the search engine and spend the next three or four hours in the pigpen.
I will enter a trance that leads me to neglect important projects, ignore phone calls, and lose track of time. Eventually I will look at the clock and panic because my wife was expecting me home 15 minutes ago, and I have just started trashing files, clearing the search history, and doing what I can to put myself back together. I’ll use every minute of my drive home to create an excuse for being late. I’ll try to put on a good face even though I know pornography makes real connection impossible. Usually, I fail miserably and end up in a fight with my wife in my first 30 minutes at home.
On Wednesday, I’ll go to the office committed to not answer the siren call of the porn sites. I’ll start the morning in prayer, confessing my sin and begging God to give me a fresh start. I’ll return the phone calls I ignored on Tuesday and work diligently on my midweek lesson. I’ll do fine all morning, but when the secretary leaves, the battle will rage again. Most Wednesdays I’ll win, though I’ll still feel the shame of Tuesday when I stand before my evening Bible class.
Thursday is usually a nightmare; Friday is repentance day. Time and again Friday begins with tearful prayers, begging for God’s mercy and promising next week will be different. I then scramble to write my sermon. Sunday mornings I arrive at the building early so I can beg God for a fresh start and finish my sermon. Standing in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, I constantly hear the inner condemnation: Who are you to proclaim God’s holy Word? and What would they think if they knew? One Sunday, Satan pounded me throughout the worship service so intensely that during the song before Communion, I seriously contemplated not partaking. Imagine what it would look like if the pastor on the second row refused the elements?
Life in Freedom
Thankfully, what I’ve described is now 12 years behind me. Its roots, however, go all the way back to my early childhood. I’ve heard alcoholics say they were addicted from the very first drink. I understand that feeling. When I was introduced to pornography at about 10 years of age, it was like throwing gasoline on a fire. The dysfunctions and neglect in my family left me hurting and looking for ways to numb the pain. I learned very quickly that sex is a powerful drug.
When I finally told my story to another man who shared this struggle, we covenanted to meet weekly, talk on the phone, and work through materials together. What followed was the most painful year of my life. Many nights I was still awake at 3 a.m., sitting on the bottom step to our basement sobbing and asking God when the pain would subside. Most of the time I didn’t have a clue what hurt; I just knew it was excruciating. My mind kept screaming to go online, turn on the TV, do something—anything—to numb it. But I learned that whenever I stood in the pain long enough, I always discovered God was enough. Meeting with him was worth the struggle.
I danced on the edge many times, yet somehow, by God’s grace, I refused to give in to the powerful pull. Even if it meant not sleeping all night, I refused to give in. God always found a way to see me through the battle. Day by day he taught me that he could get me through anything, that I was not defined by my sin but by my Savior. He revealed his delight in me even when I was a sobbing mess on my bottom step. He comforted me and showed me that what I really needed wasn’t pornography, a sexual release, or even my wife’s body, but him.
Because of God’s miraculous work in my life, I can humbly proclaim that I have walked in freedom (no pornography or masturbation) for almost 11 years now. I now know I don’t ever have to go back. My flesh is certainly capable of returning, but God has given me a redeemed heart that is stronger than my flesh. God continues to rebuild my marriage as well. My wife and I enjoy being together, and God is showing us real intimacy and the kind of joy he intends for marriage. Thankfully, I am a living testimony to God’s ability to transform, heal, and deliver.
The path of recovery and healing will not be easy. But I can honestly tell you there is no comparison between life in bondage and life in freedom.
This article was adapted from Leadership Journal’s “Breaking Point” by Darrell Brazell. © 2011 by Christianity Today and Darrell Brazell. Used by permission.
Darrell Brazell is pastor and director of recovery ministries for New Hope Fellowship in Lawrence, Kansas, and he’s the author of New Hope for Sexual Integrity.