I love the stories of a mogul who’s purchased a private island in a remote part of the ocean. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? I imagine the money and freedom to hop in a plane and spend a few days away from the busyness and pressures of “real life.” Sitting on white sandy beaches, sipping pina coladas, a server refilling my glass. It sounds amazing.
Pornography used to call me away just like that. Tugging at my shirt tails, enticing me to enjoy a great escape. After twenty years, I finally realized the private island addiction promises is really a mirage in the desert. There are no pina coladas, there is no rest, and there’s definitely no quiet moments with my wife. The only thing I find on the island of addiction are waves of shame, lapping against my heels.
In reality, addiction in any form always takes you somewhere you never intended to go. The secrecy pulls you away from safety, away from community, and away from true intimacy. If you’re anything like me, you may think, “just for a minute” or “this is the last time,” but the truth is the further you wade into the waters of addiction, the stronger the undertow pulls, sweeping your feet out from under you, dragging you down below the surface.
For the person who longs for freedom, the cycle of addiction is exhausting. We swim and kick, pushing against the waters that look so playful from the shore, but we wonder if we’re going to drown. Trying to live a pure life, wholeheartedly devoted to our spouse and our faith is like swimming against the tide of culture that believes pornography is “no big deal.” If it’s no big deal, why is it so hard to escape?
As a part of my recovery, I work hard to be free from the grip of addiction. Yet even after weeks or months of hard, hard work, in one moment of exhaustion I can still easily give up the fight and let the tide carry me back. It’s amazing to me how easy it is, still, to just give up. But each time I do that, I’m tossed and tumbled against sand that scrapes away scabs. Broken shells and broken promises cut deep, and the cycle continues another day.
Even when we break free, freedom feels so fragile. My addiction often speaks lies that sound like this, “You’re free. For now.” I’m not sure I have ever believed that I could truly be permanently free. Like the lifelong drunk, I somehow have bought into the lie that I will never be truly free. And listening to those lies fills me with shame and discouragement. The trick is recognizing that they are exactly that: lies.
The only way to work through my addiction to pornography is to walk away, fill my mind with good things, and embrace the intimacy of our God. Each time I intentionally choose intimacy with my wife over the perversion that pornography offers, God’s empowering grace washes away more of my shame. And when I mess up, being honest and accountable to someone I trust becomes a buoy. In the middle of a raging sea, real relationships – with God, with my wife, with my friends – save me.