Rebuild Your Marriage
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Porn and the Impostor: Darren’s Story

Last Updated: April 4, 2024

If you’re like me, you will never forget how old you were and where you were the first time you saw it. I was thirteen and goofing around with my next door neighbor in his basement. I don’t remember why we were in his dad’s office, but I will never forget what we found there. Meticulously stacked in one corner were his dad’s prize possessions: a collection of Playboys. The year was 1979, a very different time than now. There was no Internet, satellite TV, or pay-per-view. Things like this had to be sought out and found, and I had found the mother lode.

At thirteen, it’s the “funniest” thing you’ve ever seen. I don’t remember how long we looked through them or what we said, just that it was crazy exciting. As Brennan Manning so aptly puts it, “I could never have imagined that in those moments I was shooting myself in the head in a time warp, where it would take years for the bullet to find it’s mark.”

Porn: My Umbrella

This stack of images would be my trusted friend for years. I would find excuses to visit them when I could, even visiting them when the neighbors were not at home (take note: it’s always a good idea to lock the back door). I was forever careful to put them back in just the right order. Those pictures became an umbrella, my umbrella. A place I could run under when the pain of life rained down. I now had a surefire remedy for disappointment, rejection, failure, guilt, and any other byproduct of the human experience. I no longer had to feel bad and had the perfect champagne to celebrate when I felt good. Escape from the real world was now just steps away.

Did I mention that I was a believer? I had been so since I was around seven. Of course I knew what I was doing was wrong, and it made me feel shameful and guilty, but I tried not think about it too much. I had no idea how to make sense of how my old friend Jesus and my new “friends” could coexist, but I quickly came to believe that I could never live without either one. Before I knew it, my mind and emotions were being overrun by the images. I was becoming less and less willing to settle for any feeling other than excitement. Negative feelings like disappointment and sadness were becoming a thing of the past. And so I launched out into the world, fully prepared to do life terribly.

As time went by and technology made things more easily accessible, I went along for the ride, getting better and better at hiding who I really was. No one could see the real me and I became convinced they never would. Sadly, I was oblivious to the fact that no one was more deceived than me. I had no idea who I really was.

Time passed and the secret in me grew. Everyone saw the impostor I had carefully forged, but no one saw the far side of my moon. It’s detail and terrain were kept from prying eyes.

The Impostor Grows

In 1991, I met the most wonderful woman in the world. After two years of dating we married. I married the sweetest thing I have ever met. She wouldn’t find out for years what she was marrying.

On the surface we were best friends, the perfect match. Our closest family and friends would describe us as peanut butter and jelly, hand and glove, and so on. We were inseparable.

In 1996, I entered graduate school at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was prepared to finally answer my calling. Everyone who “knew me” was convinced I had found my place in this world, until…

It was 9:30 pm. I was 25 miles from my home in downtown Dallas at school. I was in soteriology class (the study of salvation) and out of the corner of my eye I saw someone standing in the doorway. It was my wife. Her beautiful Italian eyes glaring at me, her face the picture of anger and hurt. She motioned for me to come outside this very second. When I got outside, she was shaking uncontrollably. With her back to my school’s iconic statue of Jesus kneeling down washing Peter’s feet, she said through hurt, tear-filled eyes, “You got one chance to tell me the truth and you better not lie. What have you been looking at on your computer?”

Now I was trembling. The cat was coming out of the bag. Like any good Christian man, buried in a life filled with toxic shame, I did the only thing that made any sense: I lied. She was on fire, and I was just trying to put her out.

How I convinced her to come home and how we made it through the night and following days is beyond me. But over the next 10 years we would repeat this dance over and over, each time my wife slipping further into darkness and despair. Finally, almost 10 years later, the lights went out.

The Day She Left Me

It was the day after yet another dance. My wife was getting on a plane to travel for work. I can’t remember if we argued all the way to the airport or sat in silence. It all seemed the same. We pulled up to the curb, she got out, suitcases in hand, turned around and just stared at me. Finally, I turned her and through my porn-induced, medicated, disconnected fog I asked, “What do you want from me?” She started crying and said, “I just want you to get out of the car and stop me from leaving.” I just turned away and mumbled, “Whatever.”

I should have known what would happen next, but in my state of delusion I didn’t even notice that her suitcase was extra heavy that day. See, that plane wasn’t just carrying her to another business meeting, it was carrying her to a new life.

As the legendary Paul Harvey used to say, what happened over the months to come is “the rest of the story.” It is a story filled with pain, despair, anger, hopelessness, disorientation, tears, sleeplessness, grace, manna from heaven, and redemption. It’s His story, it’s my story, it’s our story. I’d love to tell it to you. E-mail me below to arrange a time. Until then, you can read my wife’s story in the latest Covenant Eyes e-book called Hope After Porn. Download your free copy now.


Darren Mabrey is currently serving as the Director of Ministry to Men at Frisco Bible Church in Frisco, Texas. In the past he as served as the Director of Marketing, Web and Donor Relations of Insight for Living, the radio ministry of Chuck Swindoll, and has worked with numerous churches, para-church ministries and non-profits helping them further their impact through clear communication and fundraising. Darren is the founder of Sit in the Chair. Contact Darren at info@darrenmabrey.com.

  1. As painful and gut-wrenching it is to read your story, it has been my privilege to get to know the real Darren…the man who has boldly and courageously journeyed through his past pain and brokenness and now fully knows himself. God has gifted you, brother, and I count it a privilege that our paths have crossed!

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