I’ve posed as someone who’s got it together for…a long time, ever since I started taking on a real role at HeartSupport.
I started to believe this lie: if I’m going to help others, I can’t let them know I struggle too.
But the truth is I’ve continued to struggle with an addiction to porn. Though I’ve put earnest effort towards freedom, I’ve spent the past few years fighting this alone. Here’s what it’s been like for a long time:
Struggle, relapse, feel terrible, confess to a friend or my wife, try really hard, sustain purity for a few days, struggle, cycle again.
And I’ve been embarrassed to share the reality of my struggle because I bought the lie that if I DO share that I struggle, I’ll prove that I’m a failure.
When I was growing up – maybe when I was like 4 or 5 – I remember my dad telling me, “You’ll never be the best…” His intention was to tell me to release the pressure of being perfect and keep improving but what I heard was, I’ll never make my dad proud. And I made an agreement in that moment to believe this lie that’s defined my life since:
I am always going to fail.
And while I desperately didn’t want to believe that, I felt like my dad’s judgment that I’d never be the best was more objective than my hope that I was enough to make him proud. So also in that moment, I made a promise to myself, since I didn’t want to believe that lie was true…
I vowed that I would prove him wrong.
HOW THAT AFFECTS ME TODAY…
When I uncovered those pieces of my story, a lot of the rest of it started to make sense. I realized that I tend to feel more tempted to relapse when I fear I’m about to fail. For example, towards the end of my day at work or towards bedtime, I have to come to grips with the fact that I’ve done all I could do that day. I can no longer hide in the potential of what I “COULD” do, fantasize about how I’m going to make these huge accomplishments and ultimately prove my worthiness. And as that fantasy starts to fade when I’m faced with the reality of all that I’ve done and not all that I could do, I start to feel anxious about ending my day. To me, it feels like if I end my day, I’m going to prove that I’m a failure. And to me, that feels like death – it feels like saying I’m worthless, and it feels like the same crippling disappointment I felt when I was a kid just wanting desperately for my dad to say, “I’m proud of you, son.”
When I’m anxious, I begin to speed up. I try to cram as much “accomplishment” and “productivity” in as possible in the last hours or moments of my day. It feels like if I DO MORE, I have more evidence to prove that I truly am worthy of love. So I try to do as much as possible, and I start to get unbalanced here.
Reality is, most days, things come in the way of me getting stuff done – life, kids, wife, house stuff, appointments, calls, emails, texts, whatever. Interruptions are a part of daily life, and that’s fine, EXCEPT when I’m clawing for my self-worth. I get ticked off when anything slows me down or keeps me from making progress towards that end. I have a short fuse, almost like I could get blown over at any minute, because I’m scrambling for the finish line.
As my anxiety and urgency and anger and fear and anticipation of pain and worthlessness spin and spiral, at some point, my hope dies. I get exhausted of trying to carry the weight because at the end of the day, I truly believe I am a failure (going back to that agreement I made in my backstory). So I’m faced with a decision:
–> continue to fight all of these heavy emotions, try to get stuff done to prove my worth against what feels like insurmountable evidence otherwise
–> or relapse…and dump it all and escape what feels like inevitable pain – even if it’s just for a moment
And right now, I’m stuck in a habit of choosing to escape into porn and masturbation.
What’s worse is I wake up the next day starting all over – feeling I have the chance to really prove myself and searching for quick wins and opportunities to show the world I am worthy of love – then at some point, I hit anxiety I won’t come through, and the whole thing spirals out of control again.
STEPPING OUT OF ISOLATION
Last year I was in such despair, struggling completely alone, and I cried out to God and asked Him for the thousandth time – Help me…
On a particular night in May, he spoke a word of hope into my soul…he gave me this picture of the Israelites as they’ve got their backs against the Red Sea – if you don’t know the story, the TLDR is that the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, Moses told them God was going to help them, they fled together while the Egyptians pursued them, and they ended up completely stuck with their backs against the Red Sea with no escape from their pursuers – and God told me in that moment, “I will lead you out,” and He gave me the picture of when he split the Red Sea for the Israelites, and when they felt there was no way, He made a way.
Over the course of the next year, I started going to a Bible Study at my church – the first time in almost four years – and got honest with a couple of guys. I told them where I was really at, the reality of my struggles, the honest-to-God truth of where I was at in life…I took off the mask and let them see me as I was – and man that was scary.
But they were encouraged by my struggles and my failures, and it stirred them both to take off their masks too, and we became best friends. Almost a year later exactly from when God promised He would lead me out, He led me to a group that was specifically focused on recovery from sexual addiction. My best friend and I attend that group every Monday, and I’m starting to see what’s really going on underneath the surface. I feel hope bubbling in my spirit and a belief rising in me that I can truly be free. I am engaging in a process that’s promising, and I feel God confirming it in my heart – He is going to lead me out.
But HERE, where I’m at in my journey is very much in the thick of it. I am not free. I do not have any sustained period of sobriety. I struggle to this day. And part of my healing process is realizing – this isn’t about porn. This is about these deep wounds I took as a young boy…the sustained feeling of worthlessness, the isolation from others out of fear of judgment and criticism, and the beliefs that I swallowed that I am a failure…it’s about my heart, not my habit.
OWNING MY FAILURES
And one of the things God’s revealing to me is that I’ve spent my entire life trying to be a man who never fails – because I imagined that never failing would give me life, it would prove my worth, it would be the safe place for my soul where I could finally believe I am loved. But He’s showing me that being a man who owns my failures is much more profound. Actually, until I own my failures, I’ll still be controlled by this fear that spirals me into my addiction. Because I’ll be afraid that if I were to truly share all of my shortcomings, I’ll never be loved.
So this post is part of my ongoing journey towards freedom – even though I’m supposed to be free so I can lead others into the freedom they hope for their own lives, I still struggle with my addiction to porn. It’s just where I’m at today. And I have hope that owning that is going to lead to my freedom, because if I own my failures enough, I will break the fear that’s been controlling my life…I will grab hold of a new belief – that owning my failures is a way to bring God’s wisdom and power into my life and into the lives of those around me…that instead of trying to be the hero of my story, I admit I am in need of rescuing…and I believe that God will come through. He’s going to split the sea for me, and one day soon, He’s going to lead me out.
In the meantime, I’m still struggling myself.