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Break Porn Addiction: 5 Lessons I Learned Along the Way

Last Updated: February 21, 2014

Guest Author

Want to write for the Covenant Eyes blog? Share the story of your journey to freedom from pornography. Let us know how you overcame porn or how Covenant Eyes has made a difference in your life or the lives of those you love.

by James Tarring Cordrey

Years ago my wife surprised me with a direct question about my use of pornography. What followed that question is known in our marriage as “The Confession.” The brutal truth of my long addiction came to light and a long, painful journey of healing began.

As God has brought healing into my life, there are five key lessons I have learned, and each one has been crucial to my freedom.

Break Porn Addiction - 5 Lessons I Learned Along the Way

Lesson 1: I Had Been Lied To…

My culture, influenced by pornography, had told me all sorts of lies about how normal it was to indulge sexual lust. Even though I was a Christian who knew wasn’t supposed to lust, I still allowed myself to be persuaded that my urges were a sign of being a healthy man who had a normal sex drive. Sure, I wasn’t supposed to look at porn, or masturbate to sexual fantasies, but the pull of pornography was so powerful there was simply no way to resist it.

But it wasn’t just secular culture that had lied to me. Christian culture had as well. During those moments when I felt convicted about my sin, other Christians counseled me by saying that the best I could hope for would be a life in which I managed to keep it from getting out of control. There was no discussion of actual freedom.

At one point in college I confided in a leader of my campus ministry that one of my goals for the school year was to experience victory over lust and masturbation. His response was: “It’ll never happen.” I realize now that I made a horrible agreement with that lie back in college and I lived under it for a long, long time.

Lesson 2: Real Change Is Really Possible…

Shortly after The Confession, I realized that my theology had been warped. I had come to believe that God actually didn’t transform people. I used to read verses that spoke of new life and new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4 and Revelation 21:5), and I never thought that what God was talking about was actual change.

The Christians I knew never really talked about transformation, and when we encountered these verses in Scripture, they were usually explained away using some sort of language of religiosity, so that I never saw what was plain: God changes people. The pattern throughout Scripture is one in which people leave behind their former way of life and cling to the hope and promise of being made new and clean in Christ. I had missed that somehow. I had missed the fact that the “newness” being spoken of was actually accessible to me.

Lesson 3: …But You Will Have To Fight For It…

Anything worth having is worth fighting for. This is certainly true of freedom. Moreover, God identifies Himself as a warrior in Exodus 15:3, and since I bear His image, that means I am a warrior as well. I had been taught all my life that I should be the world’s nicest guy, and that meant I had no idea how to fight for something that was important.

At my first counseling appointment after The Confession, the counselor asked me straight up: “How bad do you want to be free?” He challenged me to adopt the attitude that I would do whatever it took to be rid of porn and win back the trust of my wife. The counselor was calling me out; attempting to awaken the warrior within me. It worked.

Lesson 4: You Must Engage In Spiritual Warfare…

There is a reason Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the armor of God. There is a reason why Peter advises us to be alert that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour in 1 Peter 5. We have a real enemy and he hates us intensely because we are the image of God.

Fortunately, we have a conquering God. Nevertheless, in our daily experience we still face the temptations presented to us by our Enemy who is constantly lying to us about where life is to be found. In the days, months and years that followed The Confession, I have learned how to pray against the work of the Evil One and break the strongholds I have allowed him to build in my life, focusing on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. It has been crucial.

Lesson 5: It Really Is A Matter Of Life And Death…

On the night of The Confession, God made it clear for the first time that my involvement with porn was actually killing me and my marriage. The rage, disgust, anguish, despair and intense pain I saw my wife experience as I told her about my addiction was a visual representation of the Scriptural reality that sin brings death. Getting free, God told me, was a matter of life and death. It clicked for me that night. I started reflecting on all the ways I had brought death into my life or my marriage by indulging in pornography. I saw how my attitude, my selfishness, my treatment of others and the ways I had failed to be an authentic man had all been shaped by looking at pornography. And I realized that if continued with pornography there was a very good chance that I would end up in a situation where I would be in physical danger as I looked for riskier forms of indulgence.

But the journey away from porn has been life-giving every step of the way. I am truly alive now because of the freedom God brings. I recognize that every temptation to lust or look at porn is an issue of life and death and I am called to be a warrior in the image of my God, fighting for purity and freedom.

Photo credit: bigpresh

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James Tarring Cordrey is a leader of worship at Blue Route Vineyard in Pennsylvania. He is an author and communicator bringing healing to men’s hearts which have been ravaged by pornography. Listen to the interview with James and his wife Carolyn on Covenant Eyes Radio.

  • Comments on: Break Porn Addiction: 5 Lessons I Learned Along the Way
    1. Regina Whitt on

      I have pointed a young man in our youth group to your website. He is thankful for it. I am thankful that I have found your group at the time that he needed it. I have a question for you. I help in youth and I know that you are working with youth as well. We currently have a couple over our youth group that does not stress the importance of how you carry yourself or modesty. I have a problem with this and my son can not even look at the “youth pastor’s” wife when she is speaking. She dresses immodest and doesn’t even mind turning around and shaking her bottom in front of the youth. How do I speak to this woman about what she is doing. She likes attention, but I think that it is creating unhealthy thoughts in our young men. She can get attention in a better way. I know that this is a hard question, but with no other adults helping in the room I can not speak to someone at my church.

      Thank you and God bless,
      Gina

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Gina,

        That’s a great question. If it were me having the conversation, I would start out by simply striking up a conversation about the subject of modest with her. Find our where she’s coming from. “I was reading in 2 Timothy 2 about what Paul says about the importance of modesty, and it really struck me how much this young generation needs to hear this message. What do you think about the importance of modesty?” Then ask her specifics. What do you think modesty is all about? What would you consider immodest? Is modesty important today? Why is it important? Should a woman do what she can to guard the eyes of men?

        This may get the ball rolling. This might give you more insight into her heart and may provide a bridge to a more personal conversation.

        I would also recommend you read some of our posts on modesty and learn a little more about the subject from a biblical and cultural perspective.
        1. “One Man’s Take on Modesty” (a biblical understanding of the subject)
        2. You might like our guests posts by Rachel Lee Carter, a Christian who works in the modeling industry: “A Model Uncovers the Truth about Modesty,” and “5 Ways to Transform an Immodest Wardrobe.”
        3. “What do Christian guys think about modesty?” (a survey among young men about modesty)
        4. “Straight Talk on Bikinis” (by Alyssa Shull)
        5. “Teaching Girls About the ‘Heart’ of Modesty” (podcast series)
        6. “Dressing with Dignity” (by Leslie Ludy)

        Hope this gives you a place to start, Gina.

    2. Alex Warner on

      Am not a young man, am a familyman, am 63, but have erectile dysfunction and desire to overcome this sinful habit. Am not computer-literate, can only send or open any email with the help of my youngest Son. I desire to overcome the guilt this type of addiction brings–suffer from depression, anxiety, isolation, myriad phobias, disorientation–with the grace of GOD–want my marriage to be happy and re-built.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Have you reached out for help for this problem? Who have you been able to speak to about it?

    3. Clovis on

      I’m a young 23 yea old me,I have been suffering from pprn addiction for 11years now,since 2004,my life revolves around porn,I have made countless attempt to quit but realize it just keeps getting worst,I used to be one of smartest kid in my class but as soon as I became addicted I couldn’t even pass a simple alphabet exam,my entire brain has been destroyed by pornography..I am a Christian who grew up in a Christian family but I never told anyone about this,I’m just so scared,I feel like I can never be delivered or free,I really need help and prayers…Thank you.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for stopping by, Clovis. I know what it feels like to be enslaved to porn, and it can feel like a nightmare.

        The first step is talking to someone. Do you have anyone in your life you can speak to about this heart-to-heart?

    4. james on

      I am a preacher, I still struggle with porn. I need help. I have been praying about it.and I feel guilty everytime I fall into it again and again. What do I do.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello James – thank you for taking a small, but necessary step. You’ve known for a long time that you cannot simultaneously lead your flock into the light if you are living in darkness. There is hope! Here’s an e-book we wrote for pastors and others in ministry who struggle: https://www.covenanteyes.com/pastorhelp/ breaking free will require accountability of some kind. It’s hard to find that person when you’re in a ministry role (I know because I’ve been there), but don’t give up! If I can help further, please let me know.

        Peace, Chris
        Covenant Eyes

    5. David on

      Hi, I am a boy and I am 15 years old. I discovered pornography when I was very young (about 10) by mistake, I wanted to know what the word ‘sex’ meant and googled it into my computer and that led to me seeing some things that i shouldn’t have. My curiosity progressed from there and starting searching up more and more things. My dad discovered what I had been looking at through my search history one day and installed a safe search browser so I couldn’t access anything bad. My curiosity still got the better of me though and I would always find another way to see bad things. I also discovered the pleasure in masturbation way before discovering porn maybe when I was 7. All the up until about 13 I would look at YouTube videos every night and search away what I was curious about. As I’m sure you know, YouTube does not hide much in terms of sexual content. When I turned 13 I found out about pornography sites and up until then I had never seen anything quite as dirty and immoral as what I saw on the sites. It became a daily process. All the time I would be looking at things I shouldn’t. Then one day, I experienced God’s amazing love through a church conference and gave my life to Jesus. I was so happy and immediately stopped looking at porn. After about a month I sank back to the addiction and it enveloped my life once again. I was too ashamed and in dispair to turn back to God. After another 5 months I gave my life to God again and took it more seriously and got baptized. All was going well for about another month until I thought about the things I had seen and wanted to go back just for a taster. From there I have been battling the sin and going with out it for a few weeks then going back and repeating the process for too long. My dad is a pastor and he has no idea about what I have been through. I cannot tell him, it’s too hard. Please, tell me what I’m supposed to do. I have been praying and reading the bible every single day. The despair is too much to bear and I want to bring an end to it. I homeschool and don’t have many friends as I live in China as a missionary.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey David.

        First of all, I think you are incredibly brave for seeking help here. I’m so glad you did!

        And your bravery in doing such a hard thing here tells me that you can do the next hard thing. I think you already know what that is, right? You need to talk to your dad. You need his help and support, and I would encourage you to approach him that way: “Dad, I really need your help. I’ve been trying to deal with a difficult situation on my own for 5 years now. I’ve prayed, I’ve read my Bible, I’ve tried everything I know to do, and I need more help.” Ask him if he is willing to help you. If he says yes, then tell him what’s been going on.

        Here’s the thing, David. My husband and I were missionaries for many years. And while we were missionaries, my husband had a porn habit. Here’s an article he wrote about that, at A Life Overseas.

        In fact, many many many men who are missionaries and pastors have problems with porn. Why? Because they’re human, porn is out there, and there’s this huge shame factor when you’re a missionary or in ministry to admit that you’re doing something like this. Problem is, shame never heals anything, as you know! Shame and hiding only makes the problem worse.

        The only thing that heals us is Love, and the only way toward Love is honesty and vulnerability–telling the truth about ourselves and letting God’s Love be enough. God’s Love already IS enough (I think that’s what “It is finished” really means); accepting that it’s enough, even for the very hardest things, is our part.

        So, you asked what you’re supposed to do. And I think it’s talking to your dad. Asking for help. Getting the internet blocked and filtered so you can recover safely. Most of all, receiving the Love that is already enough for everything.

        Peace to you, Kay

    6. James on

      At nearly 52; have learn to hate myself as I have no wife or girlfriend, and continue to lose in this spiritual warfare. My flesh keeps telling me how unfair God is to leave me alone as I struggle were even angels fail.

      I know God is good; but just confuse as too why I must walk alone and be defeated time after time by my porn addiction.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, James – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling mightily. What tactics have your tried in your battle against the flesh? Have you read this post, by chance?

        Best, Chris

    7. Michael need help with porn and on

      Need help with porn and dating sites that show nude pics and videos , need Jesus.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Michael – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. What have you tried? Unless you’re all in, you’ll keep on stumbling. Like literally smashing the devices that give you the access you can’t handle, going to counseling to talk about why you can’t stop, and coming completely clean with another human being. This blog post explains further.

        Regards, Chris

    8. michael williams on

      Also addicted to porn, need help look at nude women , on dating site elite, looking at nude pics in my inbox and videos ,

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Michael – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. What have you tried? Unless you’re all in, you’ll keep on stumbling. Like literally smashing the devices that give you the access you can’t handle, going to counseling to talk about why you can’t stop, and coming completely clean with another human being. This blog post explains further.

        Regards, Chris

    9. Eric on

      Need help with porn

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Eric – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. What have you tried? Unless you’re all in, you’ll keep on stumbling. Like literally smashing the devices that give you the access you can’t handle, going to counseling to talk about why you can’t stop, and coming completely clean with another human being. This blog post explains further.

        Regards, Chris

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