Moving in the Right Direction
I stumbled upon pornography and masturbation when I was just 12 years old. The attractiveness of it overwhelmed me, and although I knew it was wrong and tried to stop, I quickly became addicted.
When I was 17, I finally went to my bishop for help. I managed to clean up my life long enough to worthily serve an honorable, full-time mission. When I returned home, I met my wife and we were married in the temple. I thought my addiction was a thing of the past and that I was free from it. However, I started struggling with pornography again about three months into marriage after we had our first big fight. Even though my wife knew my history, I felt compelled to hide my struggles from her—I was terrified that she'd leave me.
Knowing that the habit I started up again was not right, I told my bishop of my struggles. He suggested I attend a 12-step recovery group to find help, but the thought of it sickened me. “Addict?” I thought. “I'm not addicted! This is just a bad habit I have.” However, I promised my bishop that if I messed up again, I would go.
About a year into my marriage, I began slipping deeper into my addiction. I started skipping my college classes, missing work, and using every opportunity I had to look at pornography. At one point, I spent about 8-10 hours per day for several days straight hooked on my addiction. I was totally out of control.
I finally told my wife about it over the phone and we got into a huge fight. The conversation culminated in her screaming to me that I was not the man she thought she married, and then she hung up. She didn't answer when I called back. I was sure our marriage was over. Even worse, my faith in God was only a shell of what it had been. I felt withdrawn, alone, and hopeless.
My binge and subsequent blow-up with my wife was finally enough to convince me that I needed to try attending a 12-step program. I started going to meetings at Sexaholics Anonymous and thought I could do one step per week and then be healed. My attitude was to just get it over with as soon as possible. After two years of attending meetings, putting powerful filters on everything I owned, and working slowly through the first three steps, I finally began to heal. I started to feel like I had some real faith in Christ again.
I still had slip-ups, but I would stay sober for a few months at a time in between relapses, and I could see the progress I was making. My wife was very supportive and our relationship improved remarkably. Around that time, my son was born and I felt full of hope for the future for the first time in years. A few weeks later, however, I was in a horrible accident that left me paralyzed from the neck down.
At first, I thought I was cured from my addiction because of the accident. If I couldn't feel anything below my neck, then how could I be tempted to look at pornography or masturbate? And for 18 months, I really did feel this freedom. But spinal cord injury brought with it a whole new set of emotional and relational triggers. Little by little, I slipped back into the addiction. I stopped attending recovery meetings and felt embarrassed to go back. But then my friends started coming to me with their own struggles looking for advice, so I gathered my courage and took them to the meetings. It was during this time that I learned I needed to make my recovery a social thing in order to be successful; my recovery was no longer necessary for my own salvation, but it would help others in their own recovery as well. The support system we found together was what kept us on the right road, and this is when true and lasting healing began. I found healing through Christ and brotherhood.
I worked through the program this time with more diligence, seeking the Spirit every day on a deeper, more personal level. I finally understood that it was not just my battle to fight, but that God would help me. The more I turned to Him, the more answers I received for how to overcome my temptations. And with every answer, I made sure to act immediately. Over time, I felt my agency return and my addictions begin to leave my heart.
I have now been sober for a year, but the exact time frame is not what matters. What matters is the quality of recovery. I have never felt more peace, freedom, or gratitude than I do now. My marriage is better than ever and my wife and I were recently blessed with our second child. I can't express in words the gratitude I feel for my Savior and His love for me. It has been a long, hard journey, and I still have a long way to go. But I am glad to be moving in the right direction and to have my Savior always beside me.