No longer addicted to pornography
For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a desire to be married—to be a good husband and a good father. I even remember putting “a girlfriend” on a few Christmas lists when I was in grade school. But despite this desire, I was met with a lot of rejection from girls my age. While I attended Christian Science Sunday School consistently every week growing up, I never really made it my own until many years later. I always instinctively knew that everything about the teachings was true on some level, but I thought perhaps it had become outdated, it didn’t apply to me, and that maybe it was better suited for “old people”—who comprised the bulk of our branch church.
At school, I saw many of my peers easily fall in and out of relationships with girls, and as I began to compare myself with these peers, I also began to covet them. I thought, “Those girls notice all those other guys, but why don’t they notice me?” I heard stories about some other kids having sex and wondered what it was those other guys had that made girls want to do that for them. I attributed my apparent lack of success to there being something fundamentally wrong with me, and consequently my self-esteem was very, very low. Around the same time, when I was about twelve years old, many of my friends and I were first introduced to Internet pornography, and that soon became a personal escape from the preteen and teenage angst of social drama. Since I’ve always had a strong aptitude for technology, it was never a real challenge to be able to obtain porn without needing a credit card, nor was it a challenge to keep it hidden from my parents and others.
Over the years, I watched thousands and thousands of pornographic videos. What started out as a natural curiosity in girls quickly devolved into a very cynical, insecure, and insatiable attitude. The pornography offered a five-minute sense of pleasurable, powerful “release,” but afterwards it would always drag me down so much lower—to feeling miserable, depressed, empty, and unworthy. For years I thought of myself as someone who would probably always struggle with this addiction. In fact I just assumed that most normal men looked at porn regularly but just never really talked about it. I feared being judged and ridiculed, and I developed somewhat of a hypersensitivity to any sort of criticism or rejection, because my sense of identity was so caught up in the physical.
Even in this state of mind, and despite all my insecurities and feelings of unworthiness, I still saw flickers of hope with relationships. I started dating a girl right out of high school who I absolutely adored. The love I felt for her was almost addictive, and in retrospect it was not the healthiest form of love, but very codependent. We dated for over four years, and even got engaged to be married and started planning our wedding. But over time things went sour and she broke off the engagement. Losing that relationship made me feel like a complete failure. I sunk into a deeper depression than ever before, and indulged in pornography even more heavily as an escape. I even had increasingly frequent thoughts of suicide. This went on for a few years, with short periods of time when I felt a sense of peace or joy, but I continued indulging in watching porn.
The sharp pain I felt became so bad that I felt I had no choice but to call someone for help.
And then something interesting happened. I found myself in a new relationship with a woman who was just as interested in pornography as I was. This relationship also became very codependent and addictive—much more so than the previous one had been. And while it seemed, on the surface, to be a perfect match—to be dating a woman I could be open with about pornography—it ended up being quite a curse. Ironically, even though we watched porn together and had almost constant lustful conversations, we never actually slept together. She told me that she wanted to save sex for marriage, and I really respected that. However, a couple of months later, she ended up sleeping with another man, and when I found out about it, I fell apart. There I was again, feeling like a frightened twelve-year-old wondering why all the girls were always more interested in everyone else but me. This experience was so jarring that I realized without any shadow of a doubt that I needed a lifestyle change. It was now crystal clear in my thought that the lustful thinking and pornography addiction had to stop. I had tried to stop before, and sometimes I would—through my own willpower—be able to stay the addiction for a month or maybe two. But I realized that I had to dig much deeper into Christian Science. I knew innately that it would be the only thing that could possibly offer any sort of salvation from the emotional turmoil.
On page six of the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed.” She also writes, on page 240 , “Remember that mankind must sooner or later, either by suffering or by Science, be convinced of the error that is to be overcome.” The pain and emotional agony that I experienced over the years as a result of this addiction is difficult to put into words. For a better understanding, I would refer any student of Christian Science to Mrs. Eddy’s description of the “baptism of repentance” on page 203 of Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896. What stood out to me was a passage that typified what I was going through: “Tears flood the eyes, agony struggles, pride rebels, and a mortal seems a monster, a dark, impenetrable cloud of error; and falling on the bended knee of prayer, humble before God, he cries, ‘Save, or I perish’ ” (pp. 203–204 ).
Gratefully, the sharp pain I felt eventually became so bad that, despite my intense fear of having this addiction exposed and being judged for it, I felt I had no choice but to call someone for help. I actually called a number of Christian Science practitioners, and unfortunately ended up dismissing a few of them when I did feel judged. Eventually, though, I came across an article in the Sentinel where a man discussed his own struggle with sensuality, and I knew immediately that he would be someone safe to confide in free of judgment. I am so grateful for this practitioner’s patient, loving, and effective treatments.
This was not an instantaneous healing—not an overnight transformation—but I can see how divine Love was patiently shepherding me to the “still waters” of spiritual peace. There were many times as I was resisting this that I seemed to “relapse” and fall back into old habits, and each time was quickly accompanied with a sharp sense of pain and guilt—for which I am now grateful. Many times the idea of giving up lust seemed daunting and utterly impossible, as it seemed like it was an indispensable part of human nature. But despite my own incredible doubts that I could be healed of this, I was.
A line from one of Mrs. Eddy’s poems is: “Who doth His will—His likeness still— / Is satisfied” (Poems, p. 79 ). I learned that it is not enough to simply focus on stopping bad behavior. The reason I acted out that bad behavior was to fill a hole in my life, so instead of only focusing on stopping what I thought was filling it, I had to actually fill it with something substantial. For me, this meant focusing my time and thinking on doing God’s will, which naturally brings a wonderful sense of satisfaction.
Gradually I found increasing ways to spend my time and thought more productively. I took Christian Science Primary class instruction, joined my local branch church, and found other ways to volunteer my time in the service of God. At one point I was even invited to share my thoughts with a group of men who were seeking a spiritual perspective on the subject of pornography. The sense of satisfaction and purpose I got from this opportunity was so much more exhilarating than any five-minute counterfeit sense of love and satisfaction had ever been.
It has now been a couple of years since I have had any desire whatsoever to look at pornography. What once seemed like a permanent part of me is gone. I am so grateful to Christian Science for this character transformation, and for the continued transformations and opportunities it has opened up in my life.
As for relationships, I can’t say that I’ve reached the finish line yet, as I am still praying that an opportunity for marriage and family might open up. I think I’ve probably read each and every article on spirituality.com pertaining to relationships, loneliness, and love about five times over, and thankfully have found a great sense of comfort from the insights shared. I can also note marked improvement in my relationships with my friends and family. Even though I don’t have a romantic relationship at the moment, I am still so grateful for so many opportunities to serve God and feel Her tender embrace and patient support. These opportunities have been more invigorating and satisfying than pornography ever offered.