Dear struggling friend,
I know you have loads of questions (I still have questions) and feel I have very few answers. You asked me about freedom and how I’ve been able to live free from pornography and masturbation. Well, there’s so much to share that I would likely leave something out if I attempted to say it all in one letter (hopefully, I can one day pack everything into one book) but i’ll do my best to share what has helped me most.
I’d like you to know first of all that God truly loves you more than you can imagine and accepts you in this very moment that your eyes are scanning the words I’ve written. Yes, He accepts you right here right now, flaws and all, and is over the top thrilled to call you His son. Contrary to what you may have believed and felt for years, He is not disappointed in you. He’s proud of you for having a passion to learn to win your personal battles. He is proud of you for having the courage to shine light on your weaknesses when shame tells you to lock them up and shut people out. He is overjoyed that you want to follow His ways and live as He intended you to, and when you fall He is not waiting to beat you further into the ground; He is ready to firmly yet graciously pick you up and guide you to a better path.
Confession sounds so simple but is no small feat. So I applaud you for trusting me with such a vulnerable area of your life. I know it’s downright embarrassing to talk openly about battles with sexual addiction. I can vividly recall the moment I confessed my sexual sin for the first time. It felt good to be honest but yes, also embarrassing. Confession is a key element you’ll find necessary to live in freedom. It is to this day a crucial part of my battle plan in everyday freedom-living. When I feel the slightest of temptation start to fill my thoughts, I get it out in the open. I expose my secrets with a brother or my wife, leaving no place for sin to grow. You see, secrets don’t really protect us. They are actually very dangerous. I recommend keeping as few of them as possible. Especially when it comes to a harmful habit, total honesty and transparency with “the right people” is one of the best ways to attack old patterns. You’ve taken the first step in seeking guidance and let it be just that, the FIRST step of many. Please don’t feel that you have to completely alter all of your old ways overnight. That is often illogical. Real growth happens with small changes over time. That is how real, lasting growth occurs, one step at a time.
You know everything you heard about what it means to be man? Forget all of it (well, maybe at least most of it). It’s untrue that a real man is always tough and doesn't shed tears. It is untrue that being a “real”man means not expressing sorrow or fear. In fact, being vulnerable enough to share your fears and express your deepest emotions are where you’ll find more growth and strength. That’s what it has done for me. The more i’ve learned to be brutally honest with people who encourage my growth, the more i’ve progressed on my journey. My cravings for porn have gradually decreased over time.
Questions I often failed to ask myself each time I would binge on porn was “what am I really looking for?” or “what do i really need in this moment?” Asking these honest questions has now become a wholesome habit whenever I feel any sort of lustful feelings. When I ask myself these questions I soon find that what I’m really craving is affirmation, quality time with a friend or loved one, or quality time in connection with God. Remember, any temptation to do what’s wrong is often an indicator that your soul is craving something good, something that you won’t regret. For me it’s usually some form of intimacy (with God, spouse, friends, etc). It took a lot of practice, but I’m now able to pin down my real needs in the moment and pursue healthy habits instead of using porn.
I remember sitting in the church pews over the years wishing someone would approach the issue and tell me some practical steps to living in freedom but, no one ever did. That made me feel very alone when that was so far from the truth - you are not alone in this fight at all! I want you to know there are friends out there and there are mentors. And I’m praying God will guide you to them. Whether they be groups, individuals, a quality therapist, or ministry (such as Celebrate Recovery), you’re going to absolutely need the RIGHT people you can feel safe being vulnerable with to help guide you to freedom. Take it from a guy who tried to secretly beat lust for over 15 years, the battle against lust is not won in isolation and the “confess your sins one to another that you may be healed” verse still rings incredibly true.
Oh, and make sure you pick up my friend Forest Benedict’s book “Life After Lust.” It is literally the best book I’ve read on the topic of sexual addiction. He even outlines a weekly step-by-step plan to learn to live free from the grip of sexual addiction. XXXChurch.com also has online groups for guys that are definitely worthing trying out.
Keep in touch with me man. And don’t ever feel like you can’t talk to me about what you’re feeling. Here for you as always and fighting the good fight with you!
Dear struggling friend,