An Open Email from a Recovering Sex Addict
During these past several weeks leading up to Idea Camp, I’ve had the privilege of connecting and conversing with some amazing individuals about their journey through sexual addiction, brokenness, and restoration. Their stories have deepened my understanding of God’s mercy and grace as well as our role as the Church.
I’d like to share with you one of these stories. It’s the story of my new friend Robert. With his permission, I’m sharing the following email he sent me this past weekend about his struggles with sexual addiction and his journey towards healing and restoration. (Note: Specific names and locations have been edited for this post.)
I grew up in a loving family. Really in two loving families. My parents divorced when I was around the age of 5 which is also around the time when I first saw pornography.
I was asleep on the couch and some adults were watching some soft core on TV. I woke up and saw it and was immediately drawn to it. I pretended to be asleep so that I wouldn’t get in trouble. From there sexuality seemed to weave its way more and more into my life. Around that same age if not younger I was pushed naked into a closet by some older kids where there was a girl around my age naked also. We just kind of stood there. As I neared the age of puberty my older brother and I found my dads stack of old porn magazines. I would regularly return to that stack in my dads night stand table to look through the faded pages, some from the 70’s.
At puberty I began regularly watching porn on cable and masturbating. As I said earlier, I grew up in two homes. The two homes were very different and sexual addiction soon became my one constant and my one escape from the emotionally painful reality that had become my childhood. Though my parents were loving and outwardly encouraging, I never really came to terms with the pain and difficulty that I was thrown into the middle of.
I lost my virginity at 14 and soon learned to find comfort and acceptance with girlfriends and sex. I had accepted the Lord at a young age, but my heart was still up for grabs and most often it went to the woman that could soothe it best. My freshman year of college at a secular University I realized that God had been trying to get my attention for far too long for me to keep ignoring Him.
I recommitted my life to God and within a year enrolled in a Bible College. During this time at Bible College I made many attempts to rid myself of “porn”. Having bonfires in the desert with friends where we would burn all of our porn and then recommit to never do it again. I must have recommitted 1000 times if I did it once. I always hoped the next big event would be the thing to help me break the hold it had on me (i.e., graduating from college, becoming a pastor, a senior pastor, getting married, having kids, the death of a loved one) but it never worked out that way. In college someone found the history of porn that I had looked at on the computer in the common area. No one confessed (I didn’t confess) so we all suffered consequences, including the President of the Bible College presenting us with a horribly awkward chapel service where he said out loud some of the words that were searched.
I knew that my last feeding frenzy had precipitated it, though I wasn’t the only one at fault. During college I saw a few counselors to no avail. I always minimized my action and tried to “break free” on my own. During college I definitely acted out less, but the beast just grew more hungry as I starved it from regular feeding. I graduate from college and moved home.
Almost immediately I was immersed in internet porn again but now more than ever. Of course I was ashamed that a Bible College graduate was struggling with this so much. I didn’t talk to anyone. I was soon hired at a local church as a college pastor/maintenance man. I had mentioned to one of my bosses that I had struggled with porn. He gave me a quick pep talk and that was it. The more time went by the more I pushed my secret sin down. People were looking to me now and calling me pastor. How could I possible come forward with this? I began dating a girl and soon we were engaged. I told her about my “struggle”, again always minimizing it, and it was the worst thing I could have possibly told her. We soon went and talked to my boss again. He asked me,”Do you ever need to look at porn again?” I said,”No”. So he said,”Good. Just don’t do it again.” That was the advice I got from my boss and pastor. “Just don’t do it again.” So I buried it more and got married.
Soon I began to go to adult bookstores and adult arcades to watch porn and have a bigger variety. Sometimes I would go home at lunch from the church and watch porn. Sometimes I would sneak away just before the sunday morning service to go to the adult arcade to “clear my head”. It was almost like I couldn’t think until I got my porn fix out of the way. Well before long I was offered a senior pastor position (now age 25) at a church. The day before I started as the senior pastor I hired my first prostitute. So now I was a senior pastor, married, working with my family and a full blown sex addict regularly using porn, visiting adult arcades and illegal brothels. There was no way for me to come out with my sin now without destroying everything. As you can imagine my marriage was not good. We were never really connecting and only growing apart. My sin was hardening my heart towards all other people. I judged the value of women by what they could offer me sexually, even if that was just an opportunity for me to check them out. Men were mostly viewed as competition.
I was isolated.
Our church soon was not able to afford the building that we were in. This was partly due to poor business decisions from the previous pastor, but also due to my inability to focus on anything other than my addiction. We ended up merging our church with another church so that we wouldn’t have to completely close down. I took the associate pastor position. Within six months I was suicidal, isolated and desperate. I came forward to my boss and told him about my addiction, confessed in front of the church and stepped down from ministry. It came out in layers over the next month as I told it to my pastor and my wife. I asked everyone for help, but no one knew what to do.
All anyone said was, “Call _______.” I called _____, read his book a few times and set up an appointment to go meet with him. Even though I was now living separated from my wife, she agreed to go and meet with _____. She and I sat with _____ and his wife and talked about what had been going on. I wasn’t ready to accept all of the advice that _____ had to offer so he said that he could not see me anymore. The truth is my heart was still too hard. I was still morally insane. I returned to home determined to not give up on my sexual struggle but also determined to give up on my marriage. We divorced a few months later.
I was now more isolated than ever.
Over the next few years I sought out several counselors, went through some sexual addiction recovery programs and began attending Sex Addicts Anonymous. I had some people that have been able to help me through the process. But in general the church was ignorant about what to do. We didn’t have a clue about how to deal with addicts of any kind. If prayer and fasting doesn’t fix it you must not be praying hard enough. At least that was the perspective. Freedom can only come through the involvement of the church, hard work, time, the rewiring of the mind and the grace of God. Pretty much everyone I know is aware that I am a recovering sex addict. I want people to know. I want people to be aware of the issue. I want them to hear me say, “I am Robert and I am a recovering sex addict.” I don’t believe the church needs more people to talk about what the Lord “brought them through.” The church needs more people to stand up and say, “This is what the Lord IS CURRENTLY bringing me through.” We need to embrace the fact that we are a church of people that “are being sanctified.” Until we are honest, we cannot be healthy. Until we help each other, we cannot be healthy. Until the church acts like the church, a place of healing for the lost and needy, we cannot be healthy.
I have to work daily at being sober. Which by the way is not a secular term. I do believe that we are admonished by Paul to be “sober minded” and also to “renew our minds”.
I recently remarried. My wife knows my struggle and is such an important part of my recovery encouraging me to do whatever I need to do. My family and friends are slowly learning how to help and what their role must be as the church. My father in law has given me an opportunity to work alongside of him in his ministry and under him for accountability. He receives my accountability report from covenanteyes.com and is full of truth and grace. A needed combo, truth and grace.
I hope that this helps in some way. Ill do whatever I can to help this cause and help the suffering find truth and grace.
I think we must fight ignorance in the masses/church regarding sexual addiction.
We must help the addict find recovery and help.
We must be honest with ourselves. Darkness (telling ourselves lies about where we are) only perpetuates more darkness. But if we shine the LIGHT (be honest with ourselves about how we are still being sanctified) only good can come out of that. God is faithful.
Charles thank you so much for pushing so hard to make a difference in this area. I am so disappointed that I can’t be there for this wonderful event. And especially in my home town.
Robert “Recovering Sex Addict”
Robert’s story reminds us of the reality that many are facing day-to-day. May our gathering next week in Las Vegas become a small step towards restoration. Thanks Robert for sharing your story and reminding us why we need to converse and provide tangible support.