Celebrating Recovery

My name is Kendall. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I struggle with pornography. I witnessed my first pornographic image around the age of seven. I can remember it pretty clearly. I went into the living room and pressed eject on my parents’ Betamax VCR (of course, this was ages before DVD or Netflix). When the VCR opened, a tape came out that I didn’t recognize. Being a normal, curious seven year old, I pushed the tape back in and pressed play. The image I saw seared itself into my memory and exposed me to something that would haunt me into adulthood.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I’d say the lack of technological advances kept my issue at bay for a long time.  Because there was no Internet, seeing naked women on a screen was pretty difficult. As a child, the only options I had for nudity came by way of sneaking through VHS tapes to find movies with love scenes, staying up as late as I could to watch late night Cinemax (when it came free as a promotional), or catching the squiggly lines on the pay-per-view channels. Sometimes my cousin and I would try to sneak and find his older brother’s dirty magazines. But during the early years, I understood pornography was wrong because my parents would cover my eyes when nudity or objectionable material would come on television.

Around the age of nine, my mother became a Christian. It was around ages nine and ten that I began to hear Bible verses like: If one looks lustfully on a woman he has committed adultery in his heart or if your eye offends you pluck it out. It is better to have one eye than to have two in hell. I know that is paraphrased, but needless to say, I began to get the picture: not only do my parents forbid me to look at naked women, but God hates it as well. Beyond that, I could possibly go to Hell for it! So, of course no child is ever going then tell others, “Hey I’ve been looking at naked ladies and I need help.” So, moving into junior high and high school I tried my best, on my own, to stay free of sexual sin. I was semi-successful. I didn’t have sex until my senior year in high school and pornography was limited to the occasional rated R teen movie. Of course in the 90s everyone had tells of sneaking into the dirty section of the video store, and there was one time my best friend managed to get a hold of some porn (which seemed to make my curiosities normal). I considered those early years were somewhat tamed.

So, when did it really hit the fan for me? August of 1999. I remember because this was my freshman year in college. The Internet was still pretty new, and the ability to see free porn on a computer was mind blowing to hormone-raging young adults. It was like every guy in my dorm had stories of how they went into the computer lab and found countless porn sites. I was far away from the Lord during this time and was sexually active, not to mention my then girlfriend and I would even watch porn together. Things began to change when I met some students who loved Jesus. We became friends and eventually started a Bible study. I grew in my love for the Lord, and I had a lot of accountability. During this time, my then girlfriend and I called it quits, and I committed myself again to abstinence. Abstaining from sex turned out to be somewhat easy to get over, but abstaining from porn was a much harder task.

Eventually, I transferred to the University of West Georgia where I met my beautiful wife. My wife and I got married in college as we were head over heels in love (not to mention we were struggling with sexual purity), and I thought once I got married all my sexual struggles would be over. I quickly found that my sexual struggles would actually jump into overdrive. I realized very quickly that the fantasy of marriage is exactly that: a fantasy. I discovered how selfish I was and how selfish I “thought” my wife was. I also began to realize that marriage exposes you in ways I could not imagine. My wife and I soon began to experience financial trouble that marriage counseling didn’t prepare us for. Not only that, we realized there were things about each other we didn’t really like. With all of the perceived pressures, let downs, failures and rejections overwhelming me, the one safe haven I began to lean on was pornography.

Pornography provided an escape sexually for me.  It also helped me get my mind off of the world around me. My wife and I even argued less about sex, and I didn’t let personality flaws, rejection, and failure bother me as much. But this feeling of euphoria only lasted for a few months. Soon, I realized I wasn’t as affectionate towards my wife, and I had less patience for her. I felt like a horrible Christian and began to realize that this habit was growing into a big problem. But there is no way I could tell her what I was doing. So, I hid my addiction and only talked to a few trusted friends about it.

About two years heavy into my addiction, the light was shined on my secret. My wife found out, and I was forced to come clean. That was one of the lowest times in my life.  Yet, while I was remorseful, I was still hooked. I had to find a new way to deal with my issues. Needless to say, I had a hard time coping without it. After being caught, going to counseling, and being caught again I realized I needed accountability. Yet, how could I tell people I have struggled severely with pornography and sexual sin? Confessing this sin to people would change peoples perception of me. So, again, I would tell only certain people.  And I would have long periods of success, but they would end in failure.

Finally, after being forced by my wife to come clean a final time, I was left broken, defeated and depleted. I actually had to face the fact that I had a real problem. So, I called a mutual friend and asked him about this recovery group. The recovery group was called Celebrate Recovery. The first day I went, I was terrified and broken. I felt as if I had failed so horribly that it landed me in a room sitting next to drug addicts and alcoholics to get help.  What God showed me through Celebrate Recovery (CR) was that I needed to come out of denial and accept that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Of course, this was a crazy revelation to me considering I’d been a Christian for years. Yet, God used CR to show me what repentance really is. My human effort was worthless in God’s eyes.

God showed me that true repentance is surrendering to him and realizing that I am powerless in my own strength to overcome this addiction. My addiction produced shame, which caused me to isolate from anyone I felt would reject me. But I learned that there is no possible way to abide in Christ and be who God wants me to be in isolation. CR created a safe environment for me to confess failures and victories and modeled an example of community that helped me welcome people into my struggle, so that I didn’t have to endure the struggle on my own. It also gave me a clearer picture of God’s love for me and how he designed the body of Christ to operate as it relates to community.  As a result, I am currently experiencing joy like never before in my walk with Christ and in my marriage.

Victory (taken from participant guide 3 CR)

  • Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects: “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” (Matt 5:6)
  • We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of Character: “Humble yourselves before the lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10)
  • We humbly ask him to remove all our shortcomings: “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1John 1:9)