This first hand story is shared with permission from Mike who is in recovery from an addiction to pornography. Thank you Mike for sharing this with all of us!
The real lead in, is that I was deep in thought that day. And I acted out in the middle of the day. I sat in my chair, then on the corner of my bed. I was texting my best friend, Charlotte, who was back home in Maryland across the country. A few weeks earlier I had confessed to her that I was addicted to pornography, and had been for 10 years. She began a 24 hour fast at Four a.m. the very hour I confessed.
So then, there I was texting her two weeks after that, and I was telling her how bad it was and how there were no guarantees that I would be able to ever stop. I was telling her about how many times I’d tried and failed in the past. I was hopeless, and I was expressing it to her. And then she sent a message back. She said, “well, we all know Mike does whatever he wants anyway.” Now, I want to take a moment and pause; you see, without context you may not be privy to the effect this quote had on me.
In effect, she was calling me out. She was calling my bluff, my lies, and my deception, as though to say:
Well, something happened to me in that moment. A light had pierced through the darkness of my mind. Something inside me began weighing it all out, “Is Charlotte right?” I wondered. At the end of the day, I’m still the guy in control of my day to day behavior, no one was holding a gun to my head and forcing me to look at pornography, though any amount of pain from any other human being was a great reason to retreat to my filth where I could self medicate.
But Charlotte was right after all, I was full of excuses as to why I was justified staying right where I was, thick in spider’s lair caught in the webs. If I really wanted to recover, I wouldn’t hold anything back, and I’d go for it with everything I had. And that meant going back to the ARP meetings, and meeting with bishops, breaking through that isolation I’d imposed on myself and telling people I had a problem that I couldn’t solve myself.
After receiving her final text, I sat down on the corner of my bed and envisioned both the road I had traveled and the road I had yet to travel. I had been willing to indulge in pornography without even a fight these days, because the cost of what it would take to recover, in my addled mind’s weak estimation of things, was not worth recovery itself. So I sat there, and did some more ‘estimating’. I thought about where I’d be in the next five to ten years. And it was not pretty. It involved sexual misconduct, or even rape or jail time.
I knew my lust had grown more and more insatiable. It was always getting worse, never better, that much was plain to me. Like a diver with a depth gauge and weights tied around his ankles, I believe God makes sure you’re fully aware of how deep you’re going. I was the eyewitness who had been present for it all. I had seen the homicidal addiction make entry into my life and eat my soul, tearing off bigger and bigger chunks as it devoured, and I was just watching.
After a while, my psyche had to come up with a new story, because day by day the truth only further implicated me as the actual culprit. Who just sits and watches as their soul is murdered? Before long, that ‘witness’ becomes an accomplice. This self‐deception and denial kept me afloat for a long time, and I was happy to turn a blind eye and believe my own lies… “I know it’s wrong, but I’m in school, work is hard, I just need to relax and fall asleep.
I’ve tried programs, I’ve tried quitting and I’ve heard about people quitting pornography, but I just don’t think I’m that type of person, I don’t think I’m meant to recover. So long as I’m not hurting anyone, I don’t see that this is that wrong anymore.” Happy I was, until someone called me out. And I was very lucky it was a loving friend, instead of a judge, or a court ordered therapist in a jail cell somewhere…
So I was still there sitting on the corner of my bed, staring at the floor in silence, with virtually nothing happening around me, no roommates home or even a mouse to disturb. I remained in deep thought in that moment. Any story worth telling has a climactic moment where the protagonist makes a heroic move and turns the tables in the central conflict. Would you not agree?
Think of when Luke Skywalker ignites his light saber and finally chooses to fight Lord Vader at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’, or when Samwise Gamgee shoulders Frodo Baggins and proceeds to carry him up Mount Doom, or when George McFly rolls his hand to a fist and finally fights back against Biff. These are stories of people who resolve to do what’s right, and then act.
This was that moment for me. I saw two options before me, on the one hand I could say, “You know what, that’s a nice thought, but it’s too difficult to get out of this mess, it’s easier to just let the river take me, and you know, it’s really not so bad. There’s some perks every now and again.” Or I could choose to say, “No. This isn’t ‘okay’. This isn’t what I want. This is not what I want for my future. I want a family one day, I want true happiness, I don’t want to feel this ugly turmoil that I have to medicate out of my life, I want to be FREE!
I want to smell the clean free air! I want to walk and not be hindered by this disgusting cancerous tumor that I’ve allowed to grow and fester in the back of my skull! I’MI DONE WITH THIS!” And that’s exactly what I did.
I stood up from off the corner of my bed, and I crane kicked my computer into the wall. I then reclaimed it from the wall and slammed it onto the ground before me as hard as I could. This made a loud crashing sound.
Then I lifted my knee high and crushed my heel down on the sidelying computer, bending its transparent style case into the motherboard. I proceeded to just stomp my heel into the computer almost violently until things stopped bending.
Now, if you’re a little bit disbelieving of the story right now, I understand. At the time this occurred, I was disbelieving as well. I kept walking in and out of my room to get a fresh look at the mangled computer chassis on the ground with broken plastic fragments strewn about it, like a murder scene. My adrenaline was pumping, it was an intense moment, but I couldn’t hold back the feeling that angels were rejoicing in the Heaven’s right above me; looking down and cheering, not too different from watching a family member compete at a state championship game.
When I resolved to quit (…again) I determined to throw everything I had at it. I smashed my computer, rather violently I might add, and that was very therapeutic and it felt wonderful.
I was renewed in my vigor. An initial lead to work with, I didn’t want it to die. So within the next 12 hours I turned my cell phone into my parents who then lived a few blocks away. I was phone less, and computer‐less within nightfall, and I immediately began changing my environment. I woke up the following morning and went to the Church Distribution Center where I began searching for the ‘ARP’ manual which I was familiar enough with that I knew it probably had the information I was seeking.
As I stopped in front of the shelves upholding many copies of the ARP manual, I quickly noticed an outlying non uniform piece of literature. It was a misplaced copy of “Gospel Fundamentals”. It had been misplaced there no doubt by an indecisive customer. I picked it up and suddenly a line from my Patriarchal blessing came through loud and clear, “Cultivate your testimony with a sincere knowledge and appreciation of the principles of the Gospel…” I immediately knew I should buy that book, along with a copy of the ARP manual. I opened the very first page of ‘Gospel Fundamentals’,
Those lines rang through like no other sentence I can think of to date. It hit me exactly like the Big Book talks about, like the warm ray of sunshine beaming on you for the first time after standing so long in the cold icy shadow of a mountain. I knew immediately that this book taught principles that were true, and that I could actually be happy, and free. This is what my heart desired, and it was like a punch to the face, it jolted me and I began to cry standing there in the Distribution Center in Orem, Utah.
Well it didn’t stop there, I made a few more rounds in the store. I enjoy stationary stores and the like, something about supplies being available whenever you need them‐ I love it. I found some books which were a collection of common art you see all over the church buildings and they had it in a convenient full color spiral bound notebook thing called ‘Gospel Art’, so I bought that too. In my addled mind I thought, “Maybe I can wash out the bad things I’ve seen with these… ‘uplifting’ type pictures….”
I climbed into my truck. I couldn’t wait to open up my new books. I continued on my way to work, and somewhere in transit I came across a second line within the first chapter titled “There Is a God”, The language in this book is written in ‘primary’ simplicity, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Lines like,
I mean, how excellent is that! I couldn’t stop crying, and the spirit wouldn’t calm down, it just kept testifying of every word I was reading. So I continued:
The truth was getting overwhelming. I had to stop reading after that first chapter, and just decompress, and ponder. I kept replaying those lines in my mind, which I now hold sacred. Have you ever looked up at the stars, or overlooked the vast expanse that is our earth, and wondered, how did this all come to be? Just like the Christians say, “God is Good.” And He is.
I was going through my life, and doing every little thing I thought could lead me to any amount of success in staving off my addiction. ‘White knuckling’ was completely an option. I had tried it before, and it had won me a few weeks or days at different points in my life. So that was on the table. I began running in the mornings before work, and during my runs I would listen to the Book of Mormon. I made it through the BOM in a matter of weeks.
And that was encouraging, so I picked up the actual copy of the book and decided to read it. I started with chapter One. How wonderful that book is when you really begin to grasp it for the first time. All the stories I’d heard while growing up, all the characters and people and conclusions people draw from that sacred text. Now I was reading it for the first time, with real spiritual eyes. And I loved it. It made so much sense to me. I still read it today, every day.
I went to my first meeting of ARP. I say my ‘first’ meeting, but it was my first meeting of actual real and willing recovery. I had been to the meetings before, and had left feeling nervous, scared, and unwilling to admit that I was part of them, part of that group. I had still been in denial that I had a problem that merited that kind of a solution, until my awakening began.
My recovery was a lot like a domino effect, one small flick, and the Lord had everything aligned beforehand. I had been toying around with each domino individually. I had watched each piece of the set fail individually, and I had thought, “this doesn’t work, nothing works!” But when I threw everything I had at the problem, I didn’t fully realize it, but somewhere in the middle of all that ‘stuff’, there was the subtle and firm hand of God I was grabbing ahold of, which proved to be everything necessary to solve the problem.
I began feeling the spirit in my life on a regular basis. I still felt tempted at times, and I learned from the program people staving off temptations and cravings with service. They’d go and volunteer somewhere. So I did that too. I went down to Deseret Industries and helped a worker there to organize the Men’s shoe racks. And you know what, it worked!
I continued to wake each morning and to run and listen to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the Book of Mormon on tape. And I would come back and I would read the Book of Mormon, and the Gospel fundamentals, and I got a sponsor, eventually. And he taught me about the big book and about ‘Clean Hands, Pure Heart’ and I learned about humility. I learned about pride.
My recovery became a sequence of successes all stemming from a “flicker of will” as the manual says. A flicker of will, saying, “I don’t want this, Lord, please help me get rid of it. I’ll do anything you ask me to.” I still struggle today with being completely willing to follow God no matter what He asks me to do. I’m still shy, I still want to isolate and self‐medicate, and follow the natural man at times.
But I see so much clearer now than I used to. I have so much support now in this wonderful program, whereas before in my years of isolation I never had. I know now that as long as I stay on this path, no temptation can take me but such as is common to man, and every temptation which unavoidably comes, I can turn directly over to the Lord and allow Him to fight my battles for me, as long as I stay daily in fit spiritual condition.
Give yourself to The Captain of Your Soul and receive the blessings that are constantly being offered to you, and see the tender mercies He places in your life each and every day.
-From A loving brother