Ok, so here is a little bit about me. This is my story.
I am an LDS Christian. I was raised in a good home. My parents taught us the scriptures, taught us to love our siblings, our neighbor and to be decent people who contributed to society. We went to church weekly and had family home evening every week. I don’t drink, never have, no drugs, no partying. I was an involved kid in sports and student government. From the outside, I looked like the ideal Mormon kid. My family looked like the ideal Mormon family.
To a large extent, we were. There was just a couple of little problems. The first problem (and this isn’t to blame my parents, they taught us well and did the best they knew how, after all how many parents really know what they are doing???) was that my parents were so terribly closed when talking about things sexually oriented. It was not a safe environment to get questions answered or one that would openly educate. Like I said, I don’t blame them, especially since they themselves came from closed systems where these things weren’t discussed. So where were we educated? Everywhere, but where it should have been coming from.
Second major problem was I was exposed to pornography when I was 9 years old. Some neighborhood kids found some clippings from a magazine in a dumpster behind some warehouses near my home. They showed them to me. I had never seen anything like it and had no idea what I was feeling, why I liked it or why I felt uneasy and guilty. I didn’t tell my parents. I couldn’t possibly come forward with something as shameful as this! So it became my first of many, many secrets.
Frequent masturbation set in around the age of 12. Exposure to more pornography happened intermittently in locker rooms, busses and mostly sleepovers where late night HBO was available with no parents awake to chaperone. In high school, the internet came online and into our home, now I had access at my finger tips.
The addiction took hold of me at a very young age. My guilt and duplicity ruled my life. I would try so hard to be who I thought I should be, who I wanted to be, who deep down I knew I was. I would have stretches of sobriety and then fall, beat myself up for failing and try again. Some times I would give up for a few months and indulge before attempting to regroup again. This went on for years.
I was duplicit in some of my relationships as well. The girls I would actually date I would treat with respect and never try to cross any lines, but if I was anonymous in a group or on an out of town school trip, I would find a random girl that was willing to go a little farther than I would ever go if they actually knew me. I could return home with my good guy persona still in tact.
I tried really hard to make sure I was “ready” to go on a mission. I had a testimony, had read the Book of Mormon probably 8 or so times before going and had read through the Bible a few times as well. I didn’t realize that missionaries aren’t free from temptation while they are out there. I struggled some with masturbation on the mission. My first mission president wasn’t very helpful when I told him about my struggle. I felt very shamed by him. I felt like I must be the only missionary out there that had the problem. My second mission president was great! He talked openly about it. He knew full well the struggle us young men were going through and he followed up with me regularly. I knew I wasn’t alone in the struggle or in the effort to overcome it. He was the first adult and church leader that I ever had do something like this for me.
After I got home, I felt so relieved, so free. I felt like I could actually overcome the addiction. But within a few weeks I was back looking at it. Heart beating, hands shaking, like a drug addict is depicted in the movies. I felt so defeated.
It was a yo-yo battle again for a number of years after that. I went to an LDS college where you must obey the honor code or you will be expelled, which includes no porn, masturbation or sexual involvement. I would try really hard and it would work for a few months and then BAM, there I was again viewing porn and masturbating. I kept telling myself I would beat it on my own (person reading…sound familiar?) My problems started escalating, they ALWAYS do…ALWAYS. Internet speeds had picked up drastically while I was gone on a mission and with those speeds came video, HD video.
Soon I was acting out with a number of girls. I never had sex, but still not healthy and not moral. It was usually when I was anonymous again. It was easy to go a state away to visit friends and hook up with a girl at BYU. I wasn’t known there and the girls back at BYU-Idaho would never know that I was fooling around down there. I could be the good Mormon kid up where I was actually living, and the rebel when I visited Provo. I “dated” a few girls down in Provo that were no good for me. Girls that also had obvious duplicity problems and compulsive sexual issues themselves. It was a very unhealthy time for me and the addiction escalated a great deal during that time as well.
I met my wife when I was in this full-blown addict mode. I really liked her. I could see us being together and it actually scared me. I told her that I “used to” have a pornography problem before my mission. She talked to her parents about it and they told her if my problem was really in the past that she shouldn’t hold back from our relationship. I started trying to pull my act back together for a few months. Scared of the possible commitment, I ended up breaking up with her and going into a self destruct spiral. Almost like, if I screwed up bad enough I wouldn’t have to make the choice, my circumstances would make it for me. A month later I pulled myself together and asked her to take me back. We were engaged shortly after.
I told my bishop “most” of the truth about the porn and involvement with other girls, to which came the threat of possible expulsion from school. Note taken, “Don’t tell him anything else or I’ll get expelled!”
I was trying to get myself together so I could go to the temple. Away for the summer on an internship I fell again. To porn, masturbation and even a strip club. I told the bishop in that town that I slipped with porn, rationalizing that a strip club was the same difference…not true.
We got married a few months later. I tried really hard to stay away from it for the first few months of marriage. But 4 months or so in, the behavior returned. I masturbated regularly and could have sex now, which some naively think will tame the addiction, not so, not even close! Over the next few years, the porn continued and things continued to escalate in secret. Pornography, web chat, phone sex, sext messaging random girls and old friends, strippers, and paid escorts all became part of the equation. I had my own discombobulated lines I wouldn’t cross. I would not allow any of the girls in person to touch me and I wouldn’t touch them. I justified it all as “the same as porn”.
My wife never caught me. I came forward with it myself. One day I knew I had enough. And I realized that if I keep this a secret it wouldn’t be long before this escalated into something far more terrible and much more irreversible that anything I had done up to that point. I knew I needed to tell her…everything. I knew I needed to tell my Bishop, not part of the truth, not some of the story, all of it. I knew if he was to really understand me and my situation he needed to know the beginning to the end. I knew I needed to heal and recover for me, no matter the consequence, even if my wife left me and took our beautiful kids with her.
I found a little website called ldsar.org. That site became my knew little secret website. Instead of looking at porn, I would go there and read some of the peoples stories. I started posting a little and getting answers from people that could relate. During that time I clocked in 2 months with only 2 slips followed by 3 months of complete sobriety, all the while compiling the essay on my life and the history of my addiction.
The day came and went and talked to my bishop. I had him read it…all of it. It was not a short appointment! The next day, after months of preparation and a lifetime of secrets, I finally manned up and told my wife. I had her read all of it. That was the absolute worst day of my life! I imagine, it was the worst in hers too. Her world was shattered. I knew what I was, I knew about my double life, she did not!
Thank God and bless my wonderful little wife, she decided to stay by me. We have been working through our recoveries together. We have both been in counseling for some time now and are getting close to the end of a Lifestar program, that has been excellent by the way. Over the last couple of years, we have had some very dark, very terrible days. We have spent entire nights sobbing uncontrollably. I had nights so emotionally overwhelming that I could actually empathize with someone contemplating suicide, a feeling I could not relate to before this experience. It has, without a doubt, been the most difficult experience of my life. There have been weeks where I have cried out in the anguish of my soul, “This is Hell! Right here, right now, this is what Hell feels like!”
But there has also been hope. There has been real, true, genuine joy (to be honest, I don’t know if I ever knew what that really felt like before this either.) We have had bright days full of hope, happiness, passion and real connection. We have laughed together, shared beautiful moments together and have connected in ways I never knew possible. In these moments I have breathed precious sighs of relief in which my heart has exclaimed, “This is Heaven! Right here, right now, this is what Heaven feels like!”
To those reading, you too can experience the sweet peace of Heaven. Please, join me. Come partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. Jesus Christ will bind up your wounds, he will give you rest, he will make you whole again!