Editors’ note: This is one of two articles by a husband and wife about the topics of pornography and sexual addiction. Their aim is to encourage a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity.
My unfortunate journey with pornography started at age nine when a neighbour kid showed me a magazine. I remember thinking that the images were weird and funny. I didn’t really think much more about it, but it planted a seed of curiosity, especially because nobody around me ever talked about sexuality.
Eventually my parents gave me “the talk.” I remember they told me that I would be in big trouble if they caught me looking at bad pictures! I know they had the best intentions, but rather than giving me the desire to come forward, their words made me feel like I should hide the pornography I had already viewed and hide whatever I would view in the future. I was scared of disappointing my parents. Thus, I began a double life that would last almost twenty years.
I knew pornography was wrong. The cycle of trying to stop and falling again equated to an extreme feeling of self-loathing that lasted for my entire youth. On one hand, I was trying to become a good person by going to church and seminary. From the outside I looked like the perfect kid, but that was only part of my life. The other part was full of lies, deceit, and shame.
As a result, there were many parts of my childhood I was not able to enjoy, such as going to the temple and passing the sacrament. I felt unworthy, but I did them anyway because I was too scared to come forward. These actions only perpetuated and amplified my feelings of shame, self-loathing, and guilt.
Repentance and Regression
Eventually, when my 18th birthday arrived, I could no longer live with my sins. I decided to talk to my bishop. I remember being so surprised by how nice he was. He didn’t shame or rebuke me, only expressing that he loved me. Because of this encounter, I gained enough courage to finally share with my parents. It was the best feeling I had felt in my life. I instantly thought, “Why did I wait so long to do this?”
My mission was able to offer some respite and abstinence. Once I returned home, however, I felt extreme temptation coming back. Because of the lack of supervision and the easy access to technology, I quickly fell into my old ways.
I had always thought that once you served a mission you were set. What went wrong? I had a testimony. Turns out, addiction and testimony are not connected as much as I thought they were. In the subsequent years, I would have periods of abstinence, but I continued to slip back into the same habits.
One of the many lies Satan whispered to me was that I was not hurting anyone else. Looking back now, I am able to see that the devil was guiding me into an addictive darkness. As Nephi taught, the devil “leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22).
Temple Marriage Versus Pornography
After my mission, I was able to find a wonderful woman and take her to the temple worthily. While dating I had told her that I had struggled with pornography. She knew it wasn’t uncommon, and with a confirmation of the Spirit, we focused our sights on the future.
I thought once we were married that I would pass the “finish line” of pornography: it would no longer be an influence in my life. After about six months of marriage, though, I realized that pornography was no closer related to sex than it was related to testimony.
My addictive activities were now so much worse. I was not only doing something hurtful to myself but also breaking my wife’s heart. I remember being so angry with myself as we had just covenanted to love and protect each other forever.
During the following years of our marriage, I thought that my only solution was to read my scriptures and pray more. This led to a repetitive cycle: I would confess, try harder, and do better until I would slip into the habit again and hide it until the pain became worse than the pain of coming forward. Finally, I felt like I had hit rock bottom.
My bishops had previously suggested The 12 Steps Addiction Recovery Program, but it was never labeled as a necessary part of the repentance process. How could I ever sit in a circle with a bunch of addicts? That wasn’t part of my life until I was willing to try anything.
My support group meetings have become one of the holiest places on the earth for me. The people in that circle are some of the most amazing and spiritual people I have ever had the honour of knowing—they have become my closest friends.
During my attendance at support meetings, I have learned the difference between confession, repentance, and recovery. Earlier in my marriage, when I would relapse, I would be terribly insensitive to my wife’s feelings when she would try to share with me how it made her feel and how it hurt her. My initial reaction was to throw my own guilt at her by saying things like: “How do you think that makes me feel when you bring this up?” “I repented; can’t we get over this?” I would make myself the victim.
My support group helped me see this manipulation for what it was. I realized that if my wife was patient enough to stay with me, I needed to be patient and try to help her through the pain that I had caused her!
I have learned that recovery is more of a journey than a destination; there will be many late nights with hard conversations, and there will be many sacrifices. But I am no longer alone. Along with my support group, I have invited my wife to walk this journey of repentance with me.
As a parent I have learned to put words like pornography, sex, and addiction as common words in our family’s vocabulary. The more I have talked about sexuality from a loving perspective, the easier it has been for my loved ones to come forward and also receive help. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of His children and that He is yearning to help us. I testify that Jesus Christ is our “advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:1).