My name is Calum, and this is my story of overcoming pornography and lust.
A little less than nine years ago I was working on a slideshow for a project in choir. Innocently scrolling to find just the right photo for each part of the song, I stumbled across some images of very scantily clad women, which was something my 11-year-old eyes had never seen.
Brought up in a Christian home and even attending a Christian school through middle school, I knew in my heart what I saw that day was wrong because I knew I had to hide it from my parents. Despite knowing this, every time I did schoolwork from then on, I had an extra tab open that I would use to search for progressively less and less innocent images. In no time at all this was a daily habit, regardless of whether I had schoolwork or not. And already by 6th grade, I began living a double life.
As time went on, I continued my daily ritual. Just like with all drugs, I needed more of it, and since porn is an arousal addiction, different types of it and more extreme versions of it.
How Porn Affected My Life
My addiction got me into all sorts of trouble. With my parents, I was disciplined to no avail. Once I was grounded for an entire summer. With my siblings, I had multiple close calls where I almost crushed my relationship with them as they nearly walked in on my sin. With my friends, there were times when I chose numbing myself to a phone screen instead of spending time with them.
Some days I would be so late to work from staying up all night that I was nearly fired. My grades slipped at school, and I often chose pornography to cope with my stress rather than facing and accomplishing assignments.
With confidence and who I am as a person, I knew in my heart that I was compromising my own words and beliefs each time I went back to porn.
I subconsciously objectified women without even knowing it. I clung to the short romantic relationships I did have so violently that it pushed them away. Looking back I was merely substituting where I was getting my “hit” from, and if I couldn’t get my “hit” from her, then she was no interest to me. Physical beauty became the only measuring stick for attraction. My love was hardly love at all, it was lust.
Worst of all, porn affected my relationship with God. He never stopped loving me, but whenever I wanted to give in to temptation, I just stopped listening. When I needed Him most, I ignored Him.
My Journey Toward Freedom
Around junior year of high school, a little while after my second failed relationship, I realized the deep mess I was in. I began taking steps to implement accountability in my life with a buddy of mine. Unfortunately our efforts were half-hearted. We relied on our own strength, and our addicted brains wanted to stay addicted.
A year passed with small victories, but no lasting change. By senior year I made the decision I wanted to be baptized because I assumed that the act of baptism would magically cure me. Long story short, it didn’t.
The two years following have been a progressive victory over not just porn, but also lust, shame, guilt, unworthiness, secrecy, ego, hurt, condemnation, and loneliness. Reading many stories like this myself, I’ve become numb to that disgusting four letter word, “porn.” But all that other stuff reminds me of my brokenness and the much bigger problem at stake.
As Steven Furtick says, “I was so busy asking God to get me out that I missed the fact that God was trying to get in.” The harder I tried in my own strength, the more I condemned myself for my own failures.
So, I got to work. I made a list of standards I lived my life by, and I did push ups if I missed a standard. I journaled. I got Covenant Eyes. I invested in a recovery app. I went to anonymous meetings. I made phone calls. I made a YouTube channel documenting my journey. I did devotions. I told my parents, my friends, my mentors about my problem, and I tried so hard!
I built up one month and two month streaks and then would fail hard, spiraling into an abyss of pain and tears and hopelessness before finding new motivation. Since all that wasn’t working, I figured there must still be a missing piece.
Finally I realized, the one thing I was missing: a genuine relationship with God. And the one thing I wasn’t doing: surrender.
As counterintuitive as it sounded, surrendering this addiction to Him was the only way out, for He was the only one bigger than all my problems and addictions who could bring lasting change.
So, I bagged all the habits and just gave it to God. Once again, I failed.
First I had good deeds, then I had faith, but I never put them together and one without the other proved fruitless. “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:17)
Finally, we arrive in the present. I am far from perfect as I don’t believe anyone ever “arrives” on this half of eternity, but I am thousands of miles from where I started. My dark past doesn’t define me. I am more hopeful than I ever have been, and it’s all thanks to God.
Things That Helped Me Along the Way
Here’s some bullet-point wisdom that I hope can benefit others fighting their own battles:
- Surrender – You don’t have to be the strongest person in your life. God is your Heavenly Father who is infinitely bigger than anything you’re dealing with. Surrender your weakness to His strength.
- Focus – On where you’re going to not what you’re going through. There will be ups and downs. Stay close with God and your allies in recovery daily.
- Pray – Genuine prayer is a game changer. And you can take it or leave it, but I’ve quadrupled my prayer time and I feel like my personal growth has exploded.
- Self-Worth – ‘Your value does not increase or decrease based on what you or others might say or think about you. Your value comes from the ingredients God used to make and save you.’ (This is a daily reminder on my phone)
- Be Accountable – Accountability keeps you focused and reminds you that you aren’t alone on the journey to freedom from addiction. Get rid of the pride and take time for it.
- Community – Finding a community to talk about this with is huge (and I’m not talking about some subreddit). Some options I would recommend if you don’t know anyone personally who’s serious about this are:
- An anonymous meeting specifically for sex addictions.
- A mobile app community that is supportive and encouraging.
Boiled down to the basics, beating this addiction requires three fundamentals:
- Surrender – Admit you can’t handle it alone, give it to God
- Communication – With God and others. You aren’t alone.
- God – He doesn’t need any explanation. The more time you spend with Him, the more you want to sprint from pornography and lust to pursue the adventure he’s set before you.
Let’s Get Back to the Start
Nine years ago, the project I was working on when I first stumbled across this mess was a slideshow to go along with the song “Last Train Home” by FM Static. Nine years later I am stunned to realize how much the chorus speaks to this issue:
We’ve fallen apart
Somewhere back at the start
When we thought that we could fix each other
Let’s get back to the part
When things weren’t like they are
And we were laughing
On the last train home
I’ve given up trying to fix myself by myself because that’s the exact reason I failed. I’m getting back “to the part when things weren’t like they are,” and rejoicing in every moment along the way.
To everyone reading this, you are a child of God, endowed with the seeds of greatness, a walking miracle. And don’t forget: keep your foot on the gas pedal and give God the wheel!