Can You Really Be Free From Porn?

Each year for the last 18 years, I find myself reflecting on a question I get asked often as a former sex addict and now sex addiction recovery mentor:

“Can you really be free from porn?”

It’s a valid question. After all, it seems that there are far more people these days who struggle with porn and habitual sexual sin than there are former addicts like me who are living in freedom. That should be no surprise to anyone given the sex-saturated culture we live in today, right?

So, what’s the answer? Is lasting freedom really possible, or is it just a pipe dream?

So, there are some things you need to know before starting out or continuing on your journey to freedom. To help illustrate these key points, I’d first like to share my story with you.

A False Sense of Freedom

For most of my life, I never thought of myself as a person living in bondage. From the time I was first exposed to porn at age 11, I spent more time pursuing porn and sex than I did avoiding it.

While it started off as a “shiny new object” that grabbed my attention, my relationship with pornography and all things sexual changed often over time. It reshaped my core beliefs and objectified my view of myself and others along the way.

As for my relationship with God, I decided not to involve Him in that part of my life. As far as I was concerned, I was already living in freedom–sexual freedom–and on my own terms.

Even as a husband and father living a double-life, I was convinced I was winning and didn’t need the services of a savior. After all, I reasoned, Jesus played His part in my life long ago, giving me eternal salvation when I trusted him with my life and invited Him into my heart.

Trouble in Paradise

The wheels started coming off of the cart for me in the early 90’s when the tech company I worked for introduced us to the internet. Not long after that, I discovered Internet Porn 1.0 and my carefully orchestrated life started to come undone.

This very adult version of a “shiny new object” was just too hard for me to resist. So, I didn’t. I surrendered my life to it and let it take me wherever the wind blew. Voyeurism. Exhibitionism. Group sex. Every category imaginable, and many I couldn’t even imagine, right there at my fingertips.

That’s when the real problems started to surface. Withdrawal and isolation from my family and friends. Declining performance at work. Obsessive, compulsive pursuit of all things sexual. Before I knew it, I lost my freedom and became an addict.

Pretty soon, just looking at porn didn’t do it for me like it once did. The edge was gone. I needed more. So, I started pursuing porn with skin on, and before I knew it, I got myself involved in an extramarital affair.

Hitting Rock Bottom

It wasn’t until two years after I lost my family and marriage of 15 years, most of my close friends, and even my job, that I finally hit rock bottom.

I felt hopeless and depressed and had been having suicidal thoughts when I took it one step further and started planning out the act that would end my pain forever, or so I thought.

As I started thinking about what to write on a suicide note to my boys, I collapsed in the middle of my apartment’s living room, overcome with grief and fear and shock and shame all at once.

That’s when I cried out “God, help me!” And much to my surprise, God answered me. Not in an audible voice per se, but with words He imprinted on my heart:

“Michael, I’m right here. I never left you. You left me.”

6 Steps I Took on the Way to Lasting Freedom

From that point forward, I started pursuing freedom from my unwanted sexual behaviors by surrendering my entire life to God. No more secrets, no more lies.

Some of the key steps I took at this point in my journey included:

  • Seeking help from a licensed Christian counselor who was trained as a sex addiction specialist and was also a recovering sex addict himself
  • Meeting weekly with a sexual addiction recovery group who used recovery curriculum
  • Attending a local church service every Sunday (I had stopped going years earlier)
  • Reading and studying the Bible regularly
  • Praying and pursuing a connection with God every day
  • Finally, I started using Covenant Eyes and recruited several people to be allies in my recovery

Ever since I started taking my recovery seriously (I spent two years “faking” my recovery and it cost me my marriage and family, and almost my life), my life and my relationships started to improve.

Over time, others close to me–including my ex-wife and two boys–began noticing and commenting on how much I’d changed for the better. Of course, I never took credit for that, and still don’t. The credit and all of the glory deservedly go to God.
He’s the one who led me to freedom, usually through the work of other leaders and mentors He brought into my life at different critical times. And He’s still at work sifting me and refining me into the likeness and character of Christ.

I married a wonderful woman named Christine. This December, we will be celebrating our 12th year of marriage. We serve together in BraveHearts, where I’m in my 18th year of full-time ministry leading people to freedom in Christ from habitual sexual sin. Together, we’re living a redemptive life and love teaching others how to use their redemption story for God’s glory.

7 Key Lessons I Learned on the Road from Recovery to Redemption

I’ve been on this journey from recovery to living a redemptive life for 22 years now. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about living in freedom and leading others:

  • Only the Truth (found in the person of Jesus Christ) can make you free.
  • Most people don’t want to face the truth about themselves. It requires courage and humility. For that reason, don’t be surprised when you face opposition from some friends and family.
  • You can’t lead others to freedom if you’re not free yourself. This is why former sex addicts and partners who’ve experienced significant recovery and healing make great mentors. It’s also why most peer-based accountability and support groups remain stuck.
  • Freedom is never free, doesn’t come easily, and requires hard work to maintain.
  • The journey to freedom requires motivation, endurance, and self-discipline. It also requires patience and commitment. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • The journey to freedom also requires resilience and a willingness to change and adjust course when necessary. The pathway is dynamic and can change at any time.
  • The journey to freedom is a team sport. It’s never wise to try to go it alone. At the very least, you will need an experienced guide to lead the way (mentor). Peer-level support helps, too.

About the author…Michael Leahy is the Executive Director of BraveHearts, a ministry providing mentoring-centric solutions for men who struggle with habitual sexual sin. He’s the author of five books, including Porn Nation: Conquering America’s #1 Addiction, and is considered a subject matter expert on sexual addiction and recovery. A father of two grown boys and a new grandfather, Michael and his wife, Christine, live in Gainesville, GA. This article was originally posted on CoventantEyes.

TheHopeLine's partner, XXXChurch, has an online community and resources to prevail over sex and porn addiction through awareness, prevention, and recovery.

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