Mega-Post: Struggling With Porn (Again)



Three anonymous questions:

– What do I do, if as a Christian, I am addicted to pornography and I can’t seem to get out of it?

– I’ve been struggling with pornography a lot and I keep failing Him by giving in. I don’t know what to do anymore. I need help, please. It’s ruining my relationship with Him. I know I can’t serve Him with all this continuous sinning and the guilt that comes from it. I do pray for His forgiveness but I’m constantly failing. I was clean for a few months, but this week, I went back to my old ways. I don’t want this old life anymore. Please pray for me.

– Hey Pastor JS Park! I’ve been addicted to pornography for many years now and have tried to quit countless times. Sometimes for weeks and even months but I feel like I keep going back. God showed me this weekend that He’s taken the shame away and I want to run back to him and honor Him so one of the first steps was listening to your first week podcast. Could you please pray for me?

 

Dear friends: you’re awesome for your courage to share this with me.  You don’t know how much I appreciate and respect each of you for this.

I feel I’ve written so much on porn addiction that I’m afraid of repeating myself, so I’ll try my best to summarize a few big ideas. Please allow me the grace to also plug my podcast, which has a series called “Cutting It Off: Your First Week Off Porn.”  So far, there are four parts, including a 7 Day Fast Challenge, Specific Steps To Quit, and Your Brain On Porn. They’re free to download and only about 8 to 20 minutes each.

I am no expert on the matter, but by the grace of God I was able to overcome a fifteen year addiction.  Here’s hoping that some of my story will help yours.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

 

1) You can’t just quit porn. 

I have said this roughly a million times.  The key to quitting anything is not about the quitting.  It’s about moving forward towards better.  You might have heard me say: The Christian life is not about running from sin, but running towards Him.  It’s not a propositional set of rules, but a relational thriving dynamic with God.

 

2) You have to want this for yourself as much as God wants it for you.

In every AA meeting, they tell you that the successful recovering alcoholics are the ones who really want it for themselves.  Those in AA who are forced to go or tag-along don’t really make it.  It’s not their fault: it just means that until we are serious about our recovery, then serious recovery ain’t happening.  You have to be willing to say goodbye to porn forever, and it will hurt.

 

3) Your first week off porn will be crazy difficult.

Since porn is now known to destroy your brain as much as heroin, (and worse, expect your private parts to stop working), you’ll experience all kinds of classic withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.  Just be prepared.  When I quit, my first month was full of sweating, shaking, foggy thinking, relapses, and fixation.  It can take up to 60-90 days for your brain to recalibrate and your grey matter to get healed up.

 

4) It will be a lifelong battle.

Former alcoholics don’t walk into bars, former heroin addicts don’t call their drug dealers, and former cheating businessmen don’t hire cute secretaries for their office.  You can be clean for a long time and suddenly relapse.  The feelings come back.  Memories linger for a long time.  It’s okay: there’s nothing wrong with you that isn’t wrong with everyone else.  What’s important is how you react.  Stay vigilant.  Call a friend.  Run out the house.  Go to Starbucks.  Go fishing.  Whether in minutes or days, the urge will pass.

 

5) Keep it honest.

Often the first step (and entire journey) of quitting porn is to tell a friend and keep an open line.  Preferably it’s with someone who does not have a porn problem or has overcome one.  I know that’s hard to find: but even if it’s an eighty year old elder in your church, you need a mature person to confess to openly.  If you want to hear about the first time I confessed to a friend, it’s on my podcast here.  It was messy, full of slobbery tears and rejoicing.

 

6) Even if you’re triggered, you can still choose your way out.

I know we’re told to avoid “triggers,” but even when your entire body is screaming at you to use porn, you can still say NO.  God always gives you a choice.

Let’s be aware of this: that our culture is not comfortable saying “no” to ourselves.  If we want Taco Bell at two in the morning, by golly, we will get some without a second thought.  We live in an impulsive era with very little discipline, so of course we think that if we’re halfway there, we might as well go all in. 

Please don’t fall for that.  At any moment, you can close your laptop, pull up your pants, and choose something else.

When you open up your browser and start hunting for the perfect video — it’s not too late to stop.  Even though I have not masturbated to porn for nearly two years, there were times when I started looking again.  Maybe it began with a picture of a celebrity or two, and then I approached more lurid stuff.  But every single time, I was able to stop myself and walk away. 

I felt guilty, sure, but I also realized this was a victory.  It’s a long way from where I was.  If you can stop in the middle of a downward spiral — which you can — then you have won.  God is not (ever) disappointed and He celebrates these small steps forward.  So long as you stumble towards Him, however imperfectly, you’re doing just fine.


7) The moment after you fail, just keep going.

I want to be careful how I say this.  On one hand, God totally has grace for you when you mess it up.  He loves you no matter what.  He wants you to cast off guilt and shame, because it doesn’t work and it’s not who you are and it’s what Jesus came to die for.

On the other hand: God does want you to recover.  He wants you not only to experience the cover of grace, but also His grace-empowered Spirit for a fruitful, passionate, purposeful, mission-driven life. 

I believe God will restore you every time you fail for the rest of your life, so when you relapse and go down a porn-binge, God is still going to love you afterward. But my question is: Do you really want to keep living this way? 

I’m not asking this to guilt-trip you.  I’m only saying: once the old self is dead, I don’t think it’s worth it to go back there anymore.  I don’t think Lazarus missed his tomb and climbed into his coffin sometimes.  I don’t think the healed blind man Bartimaeus wore a blindfold to reminisce on his days tripping over things. 

You will be forgiven by God every single time, but God wants you to experience the fully forgiven life too. 

 

So if you break a “clean streak,” don’t wallow in self-pity.  When you mess it up, it’s okay.  But what’s even better is getting to the place where going back is no longer an option, and you’re so in love with God that turning around is unthinkable.  I believe we can get there.  I believe our God is that powerful.  I believe we are not merely works in progress, but we are empowered by It Is Finished.  

Maybe this is all corny poetic talk to you.  But really, I’m excited for your journey, because you’re going to be flat-out knocked out by what’s ahead.  When I finally quit porn and shook off the withdrawal: I couldn’t believe the freedom I experienced in Christ.  I kept thinking, Why didn’t I just do this sooner? 

To be able to walk into church without this burden on my chest was too good to give up.  To finally be free of my old self and to enter the new self was so dang liberating.  I hope you take hold of this.  I pray you’ll discover that this is what you really want.  Not just to quit, but to truly be free.

I love you and I’m praying for you, dear friends.

— J.S.

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