Saturday, June 10, 2017

Testimony

This was never really something I planned to write about for anyone to see. But then a thought struck me: if I could say something that would help a young person that's currently going through what I went through, and I don't say it, then I should, and would, be disgusted with myself. That would be more sickening to me than any thought I ever had or thing I ever did.

I was addicted to pornography for about four years. I lied about it to my parents and everyone else. Not because I thought they wouldn't love me or try to help, but because of the status I wanted. I wanted to be the best, morally, academically, etc. And admitting my addiction would have dampened that.

It started in the summer after eighth grade, if I'm not mistaken. I didn't really know what I was doing at first. I knew that it was wrong, but I wasn't exactly sure why or what it was.

It escalated throughout ninth grade, when I was struggling with other tough life issues, such as my grandparents dying, frequent sickness, and the transition to high school, where I knew hardly anyone. I remained steadily addicted through most high school, until near the end of my senior year.

I hated it. I begged God to free me from it every single time I gave in, sometimes several times in a day. I tried everything that I could do on my own. I tried blocking sites, reading my bible whenever I felt tempted, I tried journalling, praying, getting out of the house, exercise, filling my schedule, and especially playing video games to distract myself.

The things I saw were disgusting. So many perversions of God's gift of sex. If you think you've seen something so disgusting that no one would understand, trust me. I know. I know where those terrible paths can lead. I've been there. You are not alone.

The horrible things I saw made me angry at myself for giving in so easily to the temptation every time, angry at God for not freeing me, angry at Satan for putting this stumbling block in front of me. I felt guilty, I felt ashamed, I felt disgusted. I escaped these feelings by playing massive amounts of video games (which is why I think my video game 'addiction' was really just a defense mechanism).

I couldn't ever get away from it. I think the longest I ever went without watching porn/masturbating was two weeks, in the fall of junior year. I was able to get the occasional week. Maybe a few days. But it was usually daily, or worse.

Finally, I was able to tell someone. I think I first confided in someone near the end of my junior year, or possibly at the beginning of my senior year. And that helped a little, but I was still in the grip of my addiction. I was finally trying to get help from friends, and I thought that talking to someone would be the magic key that released me from my chains.

But it wasn't. I told one person, then another, then one or two more. I started to open up, bit by bit. But it stuck around. It got to the point where I barely tried to fight it anymore.

Finally, after years of throwing my willpower at it, God decided to lift my addiction from me. And that's really the only logical way I can describe it. I will give some more detail, to hopefully help anyone who reads this, but it was all God.

Around the end of February of my senior year, I gained a new motivation for ending my addiction. I had sworn to myself that I would never date someone if I was still addicted to porn. And at that time, I was fairly close to being in a relationship. So I tried more and more to resist the temptations, with very little success.

But then, one day, it worked. And then another day. I wasn't doing anything drastically different; I had already tried throwing all my willpower at it, so it wasn't that I was suddenly trying harder. I wasn't praying harder. God just decided to give me a day. Then the day turned into a week, before I knew it. Then it was two weeks.

The first two weeks of freedom from those chains were not that difficult. But then the temptations returned in force, and it became nearly impossible. In fact, without God, certainly impossible. I remember waking up in the morning on Saturdays, moving to the couch, and literally freezing every muscle in my body so that I couldn't possibly move, because I knew any movement would be sin. I would lie there for an hour, frozen, begging God to keep me still. Finally, I would be able to get my mind off of it long enough to get upstairs and eat breakfast.

Don't get me wrong, I was not (and still am not) lust free. During those frozen morning hours I had gross, perverse thoughts. I still couldn't control my own head (which is one of the worst feelings I've ever known). All that I really could control at that point was the muscles in my arms.

But after a month, it got a little bit easier. Without visiting porn sites, I wasn't feeding on the perverse food. My mind was no longer lingering on sexual thoughts.

After a couple months, it got slightly easier.

At this point, I was well into a relationship. One of my biggest fears was that if the relationship ended, would I fall back into my addictions?

Thankfully, God is not an idiot, unlike me. He didn't leave me in charge of defeating the bondage of sin; that was Jesus. So when the relationship ended, God reminded me of that. I didn't fall back into it, through no power of my own. And praise God that I'm now about fifteen months masturbation free.

I still struggle with the temptations. I still struggle with how I view women. But, if you're stuck like I was, know that there is hope. It does get better with time. Maybe not the time you would like, but it does get better.

The best I can say is reach out for help. Talk to people. Be open about it. Break the silence on this issue that destroys the young men and women who fall into it, as well as the people who create the images we love and hate so much.

That is why I am writing. I know what it is like. I know what a dangerous place the Internet can be. I know how the temptations feel. I know how it feels to be lost, ashamed, alone, sickened, guilty, begging for freedom. If that's where you are, speak out. Know that you are loved. Know that Christ has died so that you may live.

I'll describe some of the negative effects porn had. This might get graphic; I'm not sure what I'm going to say. This is to help show that it was a compulsion/addiction that I hated, and would have stopped instantly if I could have.

Sometimes, I would masturbate so much that I would see blood in my urine. Sometimes I would get crippling headaches while watching porn (completely unrelated to my migraines). I already described the hours spent on the couch while my thoughts rebelled against me. When I was around women, I was able to see them as people, but as soon I as I was alone I was objectifying them, despite how sickened I was by the idea. Social media was a major pitfall --- if you're struggling, delete Instagram right now. I lost hours of time to have fun or be productive just thinking about porn.

I think the worst part was that my introversion, my own mind, was stolen from me. When I was younger, I liked being alone. I could be happy reading for a long time, playing video games, whatever. But when porn started, being alone was the greatest trap. After the years, being alone was inextricably linked to porn. I lost my attention span for reading because it wasn't nearly as stimulating as porn. Being alone was a constant battle against myself. Being with people was draining (as I was/am still introverted). Neither option seemed great.

I'm finally rebuilding my ability to be content when I'm alone. College helped me tremendously in that area. I'm also thankful that my addiction did sometimes force to be out among people. There's always a silver lining.

Thank you to my parents, who I know always loved me, even though I've never felt able to talk to them about it (and to be honest, still don't). Thank you to my close friends who I finally managed to talk to about these things. Thank you to my teachers who constantly pointed me towards God. Thanks be to God for lifting this curse fifteen months ago. I pray that it will stay that way.

I write this as an encouragement to all my friends, men and women, who are still in the midst of the battle. It can get better. It's not easy, it's not fun, but it can get better. Tell someone. The first person is always the most difficult.

I write this to open up the dialogue. I am convinced that if more people in the church were open about this, we could change lives. If we talked about this like a human struggle, another facet of sin, instead of some great malady/disease that requires 3 hour sermons, bowing our heads to hide our shame, and revealing our struggle in secret, we could help more people.

If this could just be 'a talk', instead of "The Talk", maybe we would stop scaring people into secrecy. Open up these conversations with your friends. It will be difficult, at first. Know that none of us is alone. Sin is part of the human condition, and we all have a struggle to share.

Also, to parents everywhere, know that it is not your fault. It is the devil, it is sin, it is human nature. You are not the ones to blame. Being open will help, and sex education will help, but especially with technology being what it is, kids will see porn. That is inescapable. Pray for them, not just to stop sinning, but to pursue the things of God. To pursue love, to pursue deep friendships, to pursue a meaningful life.