The following comes from a brother in the ward who has struggled with a pornography addiction. He recounts his story and how it has damaged his relationship with his spouse. He also offers some advice to those who are struggling as he is. I appreciate his willingness to share his experiences for the benefit of other ward members.
Though he does not reveal his name you should know that the challenge of pornography addiction is not uncommon and his feelings are very much in line with what other men have shared with me. I appreciate his desire to share his story in hopes of preventing another man from making the choices he has made.
Shortly you will read about a longing to go back and make different choices. You will read about the regret of missed opportunities. Finally you will read about a man whose heart is broken as he comes to grips with the damage he has caused to his marriage. I know, because I am working with this couple, that they are well on their way to restoring hope and healing the damage that has been caused. I have full confidence that their marriage will last, it will grow, and they will do great things in the community, the church, and with their children. I hope you find this account uplifting, encouraging and if you too struggle with an addiction as proof that you can overcome too.
"I never meant for life to be this way. If I would have known to what extent pornography would destroy my life, I like to believe that I would have ran as far and as fast away from it as possible. But I didn’t, and now what my life could have been is gone.
When I first saw a pornographic image I was about nine or ten years old. I was at a friend’s house who was a few years older than me and we use to spend a lot of time together. One day he told me that the wanted to show me something on the internet he found. It was pornography. At first I was disgusted, I knew instantly that there was something wrong about what I was seeing but for some reason, despite all inclinations otherwise, I kept looking. That first time I felt a sense of euphoria that I had never felt before, it was as if something had taken control of my brain and made me feel like I was on a cloud. I was hooked, but I didn’t know it. I started seeking it out at home when my parents and siblings weren’t home. I remember running home from school in order to get there before everyone else arrived and then indulging in whatever pornography I could find with a click of a mouse. This went on everyday for years. I can scarcely remember a day in my youth that I did not view pornography. I was very careful about covering my tracks, I came to understand all of the intricacies of a search engine, search history’s, cookies, temporary internet files even router configurations. I knew exactly how to make it so that if anyone ever logged in to the computer, they would never have any idea that I was viewing pornography. I remember one time when I must have visited a site that installed a virus on our home computer. My Mom logged in one day only to find some pornographic pop-ups all over the screen. She was horrified and quite shaken, I still remember to this day her tears as she described to me how awful it was to have seen those images. My Mom hesitantly asked me if I had seen any of that. I passionately responded that I had never ever seen pornography, that it was one of my friends who must have used me to view pornography on our computer. I told my Mom that I would find out who it was and have him confess so that it could all get cleared up. I framed one of my friends because I couldn’t face telling my Mom it was me. I was never allowed to see that friend ever again, I don’t think to this day he understands why our friendship fell apart. After that incidence I was a lot more careful, I think I even considered stopping to look at pornography because I saw how much it hurt my Mom. It didn’t matter though, I was hooked, it was the only thing that got me through hard teenage years and I couldn’t stop.
When I was 14 years old my addictive behavior was still rampant. My parents never suspected anything, I was a straight A student, was always on the honor roll, was in the school band, was playing club soccer and basketball but more than anything, I was spent hours upon hours playing video games. My parents were somewhat grateful, they would always say that they would rather have me at home playing video games then out with my friends drinking and doing drugs. I rationalized that my pornography addiction was much better than my friends that were drinking and doing drugs, at least, I would say to myself, at least I’m not hurting anyone else. How wrong and foolish I was to think that I was only hurting myself. That same year I found myself getting in to a new video game called World of Warcraft. The premise of this game is to have players build up a virtual character in a virtual world. This game for me as a chubby, nerdy teenage boy was like a whole new drug to sink my time into. I began to play this game for easily over 8 hours a day, sometimes even up to 12. My pornography addiction began to become more and more intense. My days would consist of playing World of Warcraft and at any time that I found myself frustrated I would turn to pornography for instant relief. I found myself losing interest in school, sports and especially the church. Yet I paid careful attention to keeping up my appearances. Leaders at church thought that I was a shining example to the rest of the young men, I was known for being the kid who would deliver “powerful” talks and was near perfect. I was the success story of the ward: the part member family kid who was living the Gospel the way it should always be lived. But more than all, I was a great liar. I knew exactly what to say and how to say it, I almost had a sick sense of pleasure in being able to persuade people to think like I did, or at least to think that I had it all together. As I think about that young man I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach. Truly, I was past feeling, I was so very lost.
I was 17 when my addiction took a turn for the worse when my Dad insisted that I have a computer in my room. I was elated at the prospect because that meant that I could distance myself away from everyone around me even more. It meant that I wouldn’t have to look over my shoulder when I was destroying my mind with porn. It also meant that I could play my video games as much as I wanted. I was a senior in high school by that time. I had long shaggy curls, acne, would always overeat and therefore was significantly overweight and wore the same baggy shorts or jeans with a t-shirt almost every day. I was always at odds with all of my family, I never had anything nice to say. I was angry almost all the time, any little thing could set me off. I would have screaming matches with my Mom and Dad quite often. One time it even came to blows with my Dad. I would swat my sisters if they ever bothered me. I hated the world around me and I think more than anything I had a profound hate… for me. Senior year I had a crush on a girl who didn’t love me back. I saw that she liked guys who drank and smoked and partied on the weekends. One night at one of my friends houses I saw that his parents had alcohol in the pantry. I was depressed that this girl had seemingly denied my existence. Because of this and my lack of self-esteem, I began to drink. It opened up a whole new world of “adventures” for me, all my friends were drinking and I found myself accepted by a new group of friends that I felt truly understood who I was. I never drank for the sake of drinking, I drank to get drunk… completely drunk. The drinking then led to drugs, specifically marijuana. More often then not they were used in conjuction. I remember spending these days in a substance filled daze. My parents, the entire time, had no idea what was going on. Just like pornography, I was very very good at covering my tracks. During these times I decided that I would apply to BYU because it seemed like the easiest school to get into. I lied my way through all of the worthiness interviews and cheated my way through seminary. I had elected to do “home-study” and all I did was do passable work for a teacher who was more bent on getting me to BYU then trying to be strict with me on seminary. I failed to become an Eagle Scout because I lost all interest for scouting, this has been one of my greatest regrets and failures.
The day I got into BYU I was elated, at the same time I was informed that once I was accepted to BYU, as long as I passed my required classes in high school, nothing would alter my acceptance. I took this bit of information as a free pass to literally do nothing in school. I took the easiest classes, and spent only the time that was necessary to pass with a C-. All I lived for was World of Warcraft, drinking, drugs and my full blown pornography addiction. During these times it was not uncommon to be indulging in pornography at least 3 to 5 times a day. My activity in the church during those days was the bare minimum. I never attended activities and did the very least that I could all the while maintaining appearances for the rich and well connected families in my ward. In my mind, life was good.
One night, as my friend dropped me off after a heavy day of partying, I felt a crippling sense of hopelessness. It was about 6 months after I had started this new party life of mine that this happened. I remember, in my drunk and drugged daze, making my way to our local park and breaking down crying on a hillside. I lied there on the grass looking up at the stars and wondering what had become of my life, wondering what I stood for, wondering if God even knew what I was doing. I thought of all the times I told myself that I would never drink, I would never do drugs. I remember trying to pray but nothing came out. I remember falling asleep and forgetting all about it.
In this new life I also committed some terrible sexual sins. It seemed to be part of the process. I found myself to be attractive to some girls at these parties that I went to. I took advantage of these situations and did things all in the name of “fun.” I never had feelings for any of these girls, it was carnal, and we both knew it. There were no expectations, no relationships, there was no caring, no love. Pornography had in large part dictated my carnal desires for these girls. It brought me to do things that were abominable. Yet for some reason, despite all of this I remained a virgin. Or at least, I remained what would be considered a virgin to the world. I was by no means pure in the sight of God.
I remember having my last drink of alcohol, my last cigarette and my last joint before going off to BYU. I remember laughing with my friends saying that maybe this was a good thing, that I needed to be a sober Mormon for a bit that maybe that would straighten me out. For some reason the thought of being sober comforted me, but it was quickly replaced my a hopelessness that that could never be.
When I arrived at BYU I saw thousands of young men and woman who looked healthy and happy. They looked so clean and pure at first I didn’t know quite what to make of it. There I was, an overweight addict stepping in to an environment full of confident young people that seemed to have their heads on straight. I remember that my first reaction to this new environment was that of anger, I dismissed all of these people as being “orthodox crazy Mormons,” I immediately labeled them as judgmental and self-righteous. I took care to stay away from as many people as I could and there in my dorm room when my roommate was out, I would continue to indulge in pornography. I tried to seek out the same crowds that I had known back in my senior year of high school. I found very little people like that. I was already depressed but I found myself sinking in even more acute depression.
Then life took an interesting turn, I was called as Elder’s Quorum President of my ward. Of course, I had lied my way through all of the interviews when I arrived to BYU but I had made sure to infer that I was not fit for any calling or position. I was called as EQP and an overwhelming sense of guilt crept up in me. I was not about to blow my cover so I went through the motions of doing everything I could to keep up appearances. Nonetheless, I hated the fact that I was given this responsibility, I tried to pray about things but it seemed that nothing ever worked. I felt that I was even more lost than I could possible imagine. One night I was at a dance party with a crowd that was a bit rougher than the average BYU student. I remember telling some people all about the things I’d done in an attempt to be accepted and viewed as cool guy. Then, my first counselor in my Elder’s Quorum Presidency, who I had chosen most likely because I could relate to him, called me out in front of everyone at the party. He called me a hypocrite for being the EQP and then telling the world about my riotous life. He called me a liar. I was furious when he said that, we were on the verge of fighting and then something deep inside me told me to walk away, not only to walk away but to run away. That’s what I did. I ran, then got tired and walked. It started to rain and I was freezing. Yet, my walk back was a turning point for me. As I walked back alone in the dark freezing rain my hopelessness and depression seemed to well up inside me and burst. I was tired of living my life of lies, I was tired of drinking, smoking and pornography, I was tired of lying to my friends and family, I was tired of hating myself and I was tired of not knowing who God was. I was crushed, I was broken. I rushed back to my dorm room and grabbed my Book of Mormon and ran to the BYU bell tower. There I read and prayed with what seemed to be all my heart. I read and prayed and asked God to stop the rain. I asked God to show me a sign that he was there. The rain didn’t stop.
For the next month I read the Book of Mormon and prayed with a new determination that I didn’t even know existed. I cried a lot, I seemed broken. In my mind, I wondered if God could ever forgive such a rotten case such as me. I didn’t have much hope that he could, but I was bent on trying.
One night, alone in my dorm room I had read the Book of Mormon and was getting on my knees to pray. That night, something felt different. I felt truly sorry for all the things that I had done. My heart was utterly shattered, and I turned to God for answers. The experience that I had is too sacred to share on paper. It is the moment that has defined my life. It is the turning point of my life. I received the most powerful witness of my life that God was indeed there for me, I felt that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God, I felt that the Book of Mormon was true, and more than anything… I felt forgiven.
At that time I had no desire to ever commit sin again. I rejoiced in God, I rejoiced in the scriptures. It seemed that for the first time in my life I was truly reading the word of God. I applied it to my life. I had never been happier in my entire life. My prayers were real, I felt God near. Pornography was disgusting to me and I stayed away from it completely. Yet, I felt a constant need to talk to my Bishop but I never did. Only two or three months after this life changing experience I felt back into pornography. I had never been so devastated in my life because for the first time I knew with perfect clarity that what I had done was devastatingly wrong. I had disappointed God, and the hurt that this caused was so great. I fell back into the all consuming cycle of pornography. I rationalize that God would forgive me again. I rationalized that no one had to know. And that is how I left on my mission.
I was at the MTC for only one month and the guilt of everything I had done consumed me. I spoke to my priesthood leaders at the MTC and was sent home. I had done what was right, I confessed my sins. Now was my time to forsake them. Though this experience was the most difficult in my entire life I look back and see that I grew more from this than anything else. I wanted to make things right and I did everything I possibly could to make it right. I worked hard. I prayed hard. And I went back out.
My mission was without question the most incredible two years of my life. I was free from sin, completely devoted to the Lord’s work and more than anything, I was truly happy. I love my mission. I love all the people I served. I felt clean and worthy for the first time in my life, I felt guided by the Spirit. I felt whole.
When I returned from my mission I was committed to living the truths that I had come to know so profoundly. I was only back for maybe a month and I viewed pornography. Again, I felt back into a vicious cycle. When I returned to BYU, a fresh return missionary with a pornography addiction, I don’t think I had ever felt so depressed in my life. I hated myself and what I was doing more than ever, but this time around I decided to do something about it right away. I spoke to priesthood leaders and I did all that I could to curb this addiction. I saw progress but it didn’t last for long. I dated but I never had any hope in ever marrying anyone, what kind of girl would ever want to marry a porn addict like me?
A year passed by and I met a girl that I fell madly in love with. The feeling was mutual and we began to date quite steadily. Because of my pornography addiction I pushed her into doing things that were not meant to be expressed before marriage. I feel responsible for some terrible sins that I caused us to commit. My pornography addiction continued but she thought it was in the past. I told her that it was my present and it devastated her more than anything I had ever said or done. I told her it would never happen again. It did. It devastated her even further. Because of a variety of bad reasons we decided not to confess our sexual transgression and instead got married in the temple unworthily. What was supposed to be a happy occasion was one of great remorse and guilt for us.
Just a few months after we were married I fell back into pornography. My wife turns to hurting herself to numb the pain she is feeling. She doesn’t trust me, she is afraid of me constantly, she cries herself to sleep often. She thinks she is ugly and dismisses anything I say to tell her that she’s beautiful. If you knew her you would know that’s so far from the truth, she is the most gorgeous girl in the world. But because of my pornography addiction, she feels ugly and worthless.
We now have confessed our sins and are working with a bishop to get salvage what’s left of our marriage and our lives. Pornography has almost ruined our marriage and our lives. Despite all this I know to my very core that pornography will no longer be a part of our lives. I know this because the Lord lives and His Atonement is real. I know this because I love my wife too much to see her go. I know this because I am doing everything possible to not put myself in a situation to be tempted and succumb to those temptations. Everything changes here and now. No more will pornography destroy the beauties of life around me. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has overcome all of this, I either tap into this great power or watch everything I love crumble around me. The choice is ours to make and no the way isn’t easy but it was never meant to be easy. I know God’s love can overcome this, I know that one day my wife will trust me again. I know that we can be happy together one day.
It was never meant to be this way, but there is always a better brighter way. I am choosing that way, and with God’s help, and sweet forgiveness that way will be here to stay. I will never have to write another chapter about pornography again. The chapters of our lives will be filled with happiness, it will be filled with everything that God has intended for us.
Learn from my experience. Please do something about your pornography problem right now. Don’t let it come to this. The Lord will bless you in your trials, let him lift you up."