Good Kids Get Hooked on Porn Too: Pastor Noah’s Story (Part 1)

I’m 37. This is relevant because you can tell a lot about someone’s sexual purity story by how old they were in the mid-’90s, also known as when the internet became as common in households as the telephone or television.

For me, this was 7th grade.

I’m a bit biased because of my own story and experience, but I can’t think of a worse combination than the onset of puberty and first-time access to the vast unknown of the World Wide Web.

Puberty for me was the typical unknown. Unknown who I could talk to about my new sexual development and desires. Unknown if it was okay to talk to anybody about it. Unknown what was a sin and what was just a natural process of my body.

For the first time, I was attracted to the department store ads in the Sunday newspaper. I would sneak these into my room and masturbate. I wasn’t sure if this was a sin or not, so I made sure not to talk to anyone about it.

Shortly after this habit began, the big, grey, boxy PC entered our living room, making its residence on a small corner desk. External speakers, giant CD tower, enormous cube of a monitor, and dot matrix printer. Those who lived in this era of computers know exactly what I’m talking about. This was all capped off by the new and exciting (and excruciatingly slow) dial-up internet.

But this internet was fast enough to start me down my path toward pornography. I wonder how many other guys who are in their 30’s and 40’s today still associate the bizarre, whiny, robotic sound of dial-up with the anticipatory rush of knowing that porn was just a few minutes away.

I never intended this to be my path.

My parents didn’t either. You see, puberty wasn’t the only unknown at the time. The internet itself was unknown. I don’t think anyone at the time, least of all churches or my parents, knew what dangers lurked on the internet. Or how a good kid who genuinely loved Jesus would fall into its trap.

There was very little being said about internet filters or accountability software when the internet first hit the scene. I think my parents thought a good kid like me was just as prone to robbing a bank as he would be to look at nude women and sex scenes on the internet.

They were wrong.

I was wrong, too. I remember being home alone with the internet for the first time. My parents and brothers had all gone somewhere and I decided to go exploring. While I was still wondering if masturbating over lingerie ads was a sin, I knew that looking at naked women was a sin, and I determined I would never do that.

I decided I’d only look at pictures of women in underwear and bathing suits (thus, avoiding sin…possibly). After all, women wore bathing suits to the beach every day! I quickly found the Sports Illustrated swimsuit website supplying me with a bounty of seductive photos of women in swimsuits that left very little to the imagination. These early drugs were more than enough to get me higher than any department store ad ever had.

As many now know, the human brain responds to pornography the same way it does to narcotics. Initially, a certain amount of a drug will get you high, but eventually your brain adapts to that level of stimulus and needs more to get the same high feeling. And then it needs more. And more. This is why drug abusers end up having to use more and more drugs to feel satisfied, spiraling themselves into addiction and overdose. The same thing happened to me.

Soon the swimsuit photos weren’t cutting it. I had made a commitment to never “cross the line” (that I had artificially created), but my addiction was already fully entrenched by that point. A middle schooler’s decision to not look at nude women doesn’t stand much of a fighting chance to an already addicted brain that knows it now has an all-you-can-eat buffet in front of it. The progression to nude photos and porn sites quickly fell into place.

I wasn’t proud of my addiction.

This addiction raged on during my high school years. What’s important to understand is that I genuinely loved Jesus during this time. I was on my youth group’s student leadership team. I was planning to become a youth pastor. I even preached or led Bible studies on a regular basis at our youth group events. I was not the two-faced church kid who put on a good front in front of his youth pastor, but was sleeping around with girls and telling dirty jokes with his non-Christian friends.

I remember a Playboy magazine being passed around on the football bus in 7th grade. In high school, one of the seniors was showing off a Polaroid photo he got from the local strip club, now that he had turned 18. He was the envy of almost every guy in the room.

This approach to porn was nowhere on my radar and it was easy to not participate in those moments. Porn was very private for me. Deep down, I didn’t even want to look at porn. I was not proud of it. I thought every day that I could conquer it, only to find later in the day that it conquered me yet again. Let’s just say Romans 7 became a very relatable passage of Scripture for me during this time!

I made commitment after commitment to God that I would stop. I put up Bible verses on little cards around my room and memorized them. I would mark X’s on my calendar on the days that I fell to porn, thinking this would motivate me to stop. None of it worked.

I even got caught by my parents once when they discovered the history on the family computer’s internet browser. I was devastated and was actually glad I got caught. I was in huge trouble too!

I remember making it seven days with no X’s on my calendar after this, only to then figure out you could delete the internet history after a browsing session, with none the wiser. Needless to say, the sobriety streak of seven days ended in a hurry.

Good kids get hooked on porn too.

I went to church three times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday evening youth group, and Wednesday night youth group. I went to every youth event. I went to every summer camp and winter retreat. Every missions trip. Not once was porn ever talked about. Not once.

To be fair, my church and youth pastor were probably in the same boat as my parents. The internet was so new. I think my church and youth pastor didn’t realize how good kids like me would get hooked on porn, even though we didn’t want to be. They didn’t realize the super-powered magnet of internet pornography was light years stronger than the option of purchasing hard copies of porn from adult book stores and shady convenience stores.

When I was growing up, I think the Church was authentically naïve. While there are definitely more churches talking about porn today, as a whole the Church is still overwhelmingly silent in comparison to porn usage among churchgoers.

The game has changed from pre-teens in 7th grade being given dial-up internet to young kids today being given smartphones and literally raising themselves on pornography, whether they are looking for it or not. Pornography is sexually abusing the malleable brains of billions of children and teens around the world, as our society gives a collective sigh and moves on. This is the price for technological advancement that so many have come to accept or somehow turn a blind eye to.

Rather than swim upstream, we’ve just given up, buried our heads in the sand, and figured our kids (and society) can let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas. What baffles me is how parents still have the mindset my parents had in the mid-’90s, thinking their kids won’t get hooked on porn, when many of these parents are hooked on it themselves!

This is one of the main reasons I’m so passionate about talking about porn in the Church today and imploring every church to do the same. Talk about it directly and talk about it often. It’s one of the top things that your parishioners of all ages are dealing with; don’t let Satan win by covering it up in silence. I’ve written a book on overcoming pornography and sexual sin and would be happy to help you talk about these subjects in your church.

Finding freedom takes time (and God).

If my church and youth group had been talking about porn, I know I would have reached out for help. I wanted help, I just had no idea who I could talk to or how. My addiction, and the many scars it has left, could have ended long before it progressed to where it did.

I attended a Christian college. It was here that I finally heard pornography addressed as a topic and was in a community where there were safe people I could confess my secret to. I talked to two Resident Assistants in my dorm, which became the first of many conversations with other men about my temptations, and theirs, in my journey toward freedom. I eventually started participating in, and then leading, sexual purity small groups that met in the dorm, solidifying and accelerating the sobriety I was experiencing from porn. In a nutshell, authentic community and vulnerability were what freed me from porn for the first time.

I was no ladies’ man in college or high school, that’s for sure. There was a young woman on campus who was very attractive that I had taken notice of. I was not experienced in pursuing women and thus clammed up every time she was around, afraid to say a word! A beautiful irony in my story is that the same week I gave up pornography is the same week I met (e.g. actually talked to) this young woman who would become my wife a few years later.

I wish I could say we lived happily ever after and I stayed free from porn forever, but that wasn’t the case, which I will talk about in Part 2 of this series (coming soon!). With that said, I don’t want to make light of the massive victory over the addiction of pornography that I experienced over the next four to five years. To break free of a six-year addiction is no small matter. I thought my freedom would last and that marriage would make things even easier.

Satan had other plans.

But thankfully, so did God.

Continue reading Part 2 of Noah’s story…