Today, I do not think of myself as prone to addictive behavior. However, there were times in my past where I became so dependent on things that they controlled and consumed my thoughts and actions.
Most of us have struggled, or perhaps still do, with something in our life. For me it was not drugs or alcohol. It wasn’t even food, though some could make a pretty convincing argument about my dependence on cheese.
For me my struggle was pornography.
My first memory of pornography was a magazine I found in the men’s bathroom at my dad’s work. I was nine. I stumbled upon it. However, later in life I would not stumble upon pornography. I would seek it out. In hindsight, I am unsure if it was the lust that prompted the search for porn or the porn that perpetuated the lust. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I became stuck. The addiction controlled me. It was the one area where I felt absolutely helpless.
In response to this helplessness, I exercised rigid control in other areas of my life. This rigidity was often ineffective, and much to the detriment of my closest relationships. At the time I had difficulty seeing the depth of control the addiction had over me. Looking back, I can see the insidiousness in the different ways it exerted control over me.
Early in my marriage to my ex-wife we introduced pornography into our relationship. I was already addicted. By my ex-wife allowing pornography into our marriage, I became more convinced it was normal and acceptable. I constantly assured myself that I was not addicted. I would convince myself that it was normal; that I was just filling a need. In John 12:35 Jesus says, “The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” Denial is darkness.
You cannot see what is real and normal in darkness.
Discovery terrified me. What if people found out? What would they think of me, and how would they judge me as a father? I was constantly worried that my secret would be found out. I lived with anxiety. Still, I could not stop myself. The Bible says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down.” I literally felt the weight of this anxiety. That is what addiction does, it weighs you down under the fear. You are controlled by a feeling of impossibility. You are unable to get up, or out from underneath, by your own strength.
I felt the most shame about my addiction in the moments after I switched off my computer. These feelings of shame would lead me to believe I was dirty and worthless. Shame convinced me that people would be horrified knowing the real Bruce, the man who could not control himself.
Addiction led to shame which led to fear. Addiction made me, as Jesus said, a slave. Addiction would use denial as a bandage to keep me from hemorrhaging. Addiction so perfected the balance of fear and denial, that I became convinced I was never good enough to do better, but I was never bad enough to have to stop.
Today I’m free from my porn addiction. I’m not sure that I buy into the “once an addict, always an addict” mindset as we are “made new in Jesus” and enjoy the “renewing of our mind.”
I do know that we’re also being made into the likeness of Christ. It is a process. I, like many, continue to struggle with things like lust. But above all, I know that while the struggle may continue, it will only be for a little while. Because we are promised it will not last forever.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 ~
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