‘You’re a liar!’ I heard this everyday, especially loud on Sunday mornings. I’m a pastor and I was an addict to porn, sex, dopamine, whatever you want to call it. What I hid from my wife and church was killing us, I knew it, but could not find a way out. Porn addiction does not effect a singular entity, it stunts all areas of life especially the relational and emotional viability of that person, his family, friends and people closest to him/her.
‘You’re a liar!’ Everyday I would do my ‘job’, to the best of my ability, but I knew deception had taken over. As a ‘Pastor’ you’re a con artist if you’re not being honest. It wasn’t a flat out ‘I’m going to keep this a secret because I don’t want to get caught, and I like what I’m doing’ type of deception, it was a type of deception smothered in guilt, and shame giving it the feel of being in a cell with no way out. A moral paradox, a pretending pastor, living as a counterfeit Christian, and forged faith… well, that’s what I felt at least. I didn’t understand how wounded and broken I was and that the God I was serving actually loves me and has forgiven me and wants the best for me.
My shame levels were at a menacing peak, towering over me hourly. I had devastated my wife over and over. I wanted to do what was right. To live without secrets, so I did what I thought was moral and correct, to tell my wife every time I had betrayed her through my acting out… well almost every time. I couldn’t bear to hurt her with all the secrets I’d been hiding.
So, with my shame levels at this menacing peak, and feeling lower than the lowest level of emotional health, I called my supervisor my spiritual overseer; and I braced myself for what I thought would be some sort of tongue lashing or conviction beating. What I got was, ‘we’re here for you’. Grace. Acceptance. Hope. And from that phone call I began the long road of recovery and healing.
I learned a lot, and I am continuing to grow a lot, and I hope I don’t stop. I learned that not only am I not a failure, but that I am delighted in, by God and by people around me. I have learned that while I must take responsibility for my actions, those actions and/or reactions are a result of a deeply rooted programing in my life from the time I was a child. My addiction was fed by the implications of my childhood.
I have learned that I can reprogram my mind so that I can live a restorative life instead of living in a habitually destructive one. I have pursued freedom, and I have found it! I have joy and I have hope for my family and the church I lead!
My addiction told me I was a failure and had no hope, that I was a liar and a crook. But through disclosure and the right kind of help, I see now that I am condemned to victory and I am here for a grand purpose! In my addiction I was distancing myself from my family; I was highly critical of my wife and emotionally distant from my boys. In recovery, I learned to see my wife… I mean really see her, her pain, her joy, her dreams… her eyes, her smile.
I learned that in order to have total freedom, you have to surrender it. I needed to draw boundaries in all areas of life in order to have complete liberty. I learned that in order to receive healing from the darkest secrets I held, I had to expose my wounds and weaknesses, showing all where I had been and now where I am headed.
My church knows our story now and now my wife and I are leading several groups of couples through a very similar restorative process that we received. We offer the same hope, grace, truth and direction offered to us. Lives are being changed and marriages are being saved! Freedom!
We have new life in our family, there is hope and trust and joy.
We laugh more these days, we dream more, we have dance parties on Saturday mornings and fight to have date nights.