“My wife and I have been married for thirty years, but we met just fourteen years ago.”
I was the oldest of four in a home of constant adrenaline and drama. My father was distant and busy and my mother secured her world with control, anger and distance. Feeling alone and isolated, I found solace and comfort in a personal world of sexual fantasy and masturbation. In a few years, my discovery of pornography brought my brokenness down to a whole new level. As I began to date in my teens, these dating relationships gave me the emotional and physical relationships that I thought I needed so desperately. But I still couldn’t find complete satisfaction or inner peace. It wasn’t until my girlfriend became pregnant that I felt a loss of control and brought my life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
As a new follower of Jesus, I continued to hold on to my favorite areas of repetitive sexual sin and was unwilling to let God have control. My immersion into the body of Christ began to soften my heart at times, but my continued foray into progressively darker pornography kept me in bondage from being able to consume His body in its totality. As Andrew explained, “We pervert desire when we exclude Jesus as our main Source and deny the truth that we His people can be good, nutritious gifts for each other.”
I was stuck in my sin, cloaked in guilt and shame, unable to experience the fullness of Christ. My walk with the Lord was shallow as I wasn’t able to enter in and allow Him to be my bread of life, or drink from His living waters. I thought marriage would help. Patty and I tied the knot in my later 20s, but still I experienced a void in my life as I brought all my sexual baggage into the marriage. For the first sixteen years of marriage I kept this sin a secret, all the while being unable to establish deep emotional intimacy with my bride. I was ashamed and lived in fear that Patty would reject me if she really knew the depths of my brokenness. I was trapped.
It wasn’t until I met with a small men’s accountability group from church, and confessed my repetitive sexual sin, that I allowed the light of Christ to begin to shine into the darkest parts of my soul. I said it. I had confessed. I actually verbalized what I had wanted to shout out for years. Confession broke the grip of fear and isolation. Becoming transparent within the safety of my band of brothers was the beginning of my healing path.
Simply put, confession liberated me. Andrew writes: “We must first own the addiction ourselves. Addicts often rationalize their imprison¬ment as a troublesome habit or personality flaw. Years of shame often result in a profound numbness to the degradation at hand. God in His mercy awakens the hardening heart.”
I became more aware of the triggers in my life. Events or circumstances would bring up painful memories and cause me to want to medicate or “numb” my inner pain. My reflexive response was to use my old sexual habits to cover up that pain. The men around me made themselves available. I would fall, they would pick me up, and I was encouraged.
My falls became less frequent as I leaned on the everlasting arms. His strength was available through the body of Christ and daily pursuit of the spiritual disciplines. The beauty of my vulnerability to sin made me increasingly dependent on Him. I desperately needed Jesus.
Recovery from addiction to pornography has been an arduous process; I now know that I was hooked on that release of dopamine that occurred each time I fantasized, masturbated or viewed porn. This had been my drug for many years. It was the Designer’s intent that we enjoy the release of that neurotransmitter. Dopamine allows us to experience joy and a deep feeling of satisfaction, warmth and well-being.
It was also the Creator’s design for us to experience this dopamine release as we fellowship within the body of Christ. It grows as we grow in trust and love with men and women who love Jesus as much as we do. This dopamine is released as we enjoy each other, worship together and pray for each other. I have learned to eat and drink deeply from Jesus’ body. Much is available for our nourishment. No longer do I want to stay isolated from my wife and brethren. I desperately need them as that most intimate connection to Him.
For the first sixteen years of our marriage, Patty, a saint of a woman, patiently waited. She couldn’t understand the distance between us or why we just couldn’t connect and be more emotionally intimate. She knew that something was wrong but couldn’t put her finger on it. So she continued to pray for us.
As I began processing through the Living Waters material, I would come home and weep before her as God began to peel the layers of my stony heart. We moved slowly as I began to reveal my wretched past, the pain I felt, and the anger and confusion I felt. We stumbled through the brokenness of my familial past, the mother and father wounds, and the vows of protection I had taken.
My biggest fear was rejection and abandonment from Patty if she ever found out about what had been going on inside me for all these years. If she ever really knew me, how could she ever love me? But the opposite took place as I poured out my soul to her. I became more transparent as I understood who I really was, made in the image of God. Instead of distancing herself from me, she drew me close. She embraced me instead of rejecting me.
These last fourteen years have been years of healing and restoration. Patty and I are closer to each other now than we have ever been before. Our dependence on Him, the body of Christ and each other has deepened with each passing year. I remain accountable to a handful of men, and I probably always will. I now understand the power of relationships within the body of Christ, and I intend to never isolate myself again.