Integrity could rightly be labeled the “litmus test” of true recovery from pornography. Addicts are prone to define sobriety and recovery on their own terms, and when they do so, that is all that they will ever attain. Perhaps what James said about the tongue could be applied to the eyes, as well: “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). Technological advances simultaneously pose a great threat to sexual recovery and a wonderful opportunity to glorify the Lord with our bodies.
The difference is found in personal integrity.
Integrity Through (Real) Accountability
Accountability software entered early on in my struggle with pornography. One day, when I was in middle school, my parents randomly seized my iPod and installed Covenant Eyes. I hadn’t been caught—my brother had—but I got the same treatment. It wasn’t long before I glanced over my mother’s shoulder as she was entering the passcode that I learned how to skirt the software, as well as my parents’ oversight.
My nightly routine consisted of deleting the accountability app, entering the passcode I stole to open the App Store, downloading Google, watching porn, then restoring the phone to the way it was. This was integrity’s nemesis—deception—and it paved the way to a decade-long struggle with sexual addiction. A year later or so, my parents decided to delete the accountability software. Likely, they got sick of a monthly payment when they only saw innocent reports every day.
Accountability as a Tool
It was years later, in my junior year of high school, that I felt a call to pastoral ministry. Naturally, I realized that my pornography addiction had to go. Naively, I put it off until college, when I told myself I would simply stop. I began dating my future wife around this same time, and my academic advisor encouraged me to re-download Covenant Eyes and add a few trustworthy friends to receive the reports. Quickly, my pornography use waned away. But it was not long before I learned a valuable lesson in integrity—accountability software is a tool.
Tools are profoundly helpful; without them, the job cannot get done. But even Swiss army knives have their limitations. Utter dependence upon software without any true repentance and pursuit of holiness is not integrity; it’s self-deception. Accountability software is incredibly valuable. When used with trusted friends, it can hold one accountable and foster valuable friendships. When used with a spouse (in some cases), it can work toward building trust in the relationship. But when one mistakes the means for the end itself, they turn accountability software into the product rather than the tool.
When I viewed Covenant Eyes in this way, my recovery soared to great heights. It is not the ultimate goal or sign that I have “arrived.” In fact, accountability reports can be used as a means of deception. Porn users often struggle with guilt and shame, and having an innocent accountability report sent to a friend every day can be an attempt to cover that guilt with a blanket of false comfort. In reality, I found ways on my phone to view sites I wanted without Covenant Eyes flagging it. My gaming console has access to the internet without any accountability software available to stop me. A report does not say everything, nor does it intend to.
Accountability and Confession
Downloading Covenant Eyes is a great place to start. Simply cutting off avenues to lust, like one gouging out his sinning eye or dismembering his right hand (intentionally specific, I think) is a biblical command (Matthew 5:29-30). I have been sober for over two years from pornography use, by God’s grace, simply because I removed it through Covenant Eyes and realized that I did not need it to be satisfied. That does not mean all temptation was gone, however. There have been moments in that span when I clicked on a link and even opened a video before exiting out, sometimes with software catching it and sometimes without. Because of accountability software’s limitations, integrity must find its expression in confession.
Consider your house. If you value your house, you probably desire for it to be clean. In reality, though, messes form from time to time (or perpetually!). It often starts with just one object. On your way from the laundry room to the bedroom, one sock falls to the ground. You notice it but refrain from picking it up. Suddenly, one measly sock turns into a room full of misplaced items and a huge mess. Confession of sin is similar. I have found that the key to my recovery is keeping short accounts and picking up the sock as soon as I notice it fell. Waiting until the next day and hoping my spouse does not see my accountability report, or minimizing it when she does, runs against the grain of my recovery. Instead, telling her that I lingered over a picture on my laptop for too long—even if I took no action—will prevent a messy heart and a seared
Accountability and Freedom From Shame
The reality is that many who want to rid themselves of pornography are stuck in what I call the “guilt cycle,” like I was. They committed a lustful act and feel guilty, but because the guilt is so uncomfortable, they neglect confessing it to God and to their spouse. Amidst their discomfort, they turn to the one thing that helps them find temporary peace—their drug of choice, pornography. In the end, this cycle sears the conscience and leads to addiction or even worse. When Covenant Eyes is used as a tool for confession and integrity, recovery is a joyful journey of defining oneself in their true identity in Jesus rather than in guilt and shame.
Integrity Through Relationships
In addition to Covenant Eyes, I have found other tools to be helpful. First, I participate in a weekly recovery group (similar to Sexaholics Anonymous). This is a beautiful time of accountability and confession that creates friendships and forces me to think about the roots and fruits of my addiction. Second, I use “contracts” with my wife. My gaming console was a gift from my wife, but I quickly realized it was a source of temptation because of its access to the internet. Consequently, I made the “PlayStation Contract,” which outlines the things I may never use it for (internet access, streaming without supervision, etc.), and failure to uphold the contract results in my loss of the console. I have a similar contract for my phone, where I am not allowed to access the internet or streaming outside of the Covenant Eyes app. Again, these are tools. When tools get misused, it ends in injury. When they are used for their intended purpose and toward their intended goal, they bring peace and security in both heart and home.
My decade-long addiction to pornography has been abated through the use of helpful tools that the Lord has provided for my recovery. I have been porn-free for over two years now, and continue to work toward recovery in many other facets of sexual addiction. Victory is possible, and it comes when integrity of heart is prioritized.