I will never forget the story of Michael Guglielmucci who claimed he had cancer to mask a pornography addiction.
When I first discovered that he was faking cancer, I was angry. My mother was dying of cancer at the time and I didn’t understand how anyone could make a mockery of the disease she had by writing a song about God being our healer while pretending to be sick, having thousands of people donate money to his cancer treatments and publically pray for his healing, while my mother shrivelled up and died.
But see, I was angry because of my own circumstances and struggles. It was a reflection of me, not of him. I wanted to be gracious. I really didn’t want to judge him because I strongly desire to be as non-judgmental as I can be.
When I found out the backstory about Michael’s being addicted to pornography, suffering from so much guilt and shame … I realised he was just like me. He was beating himself up for his sexuality and perceived sexual failings. He wanted healing from his addiction so desperately that he deferred all of his pent up emotions onto a different disease: one that he could talk about within the church without being judged. In fact, he rallied their support. They were praying for his physical healing from a disease, while he asked God to make those prayers count toward healing from his addiction, healing from shame and condemnation, healing from lies and facades.
“It is with much pain and sadness that I make this statement today. For over 16 years I have struggled with an addition to adult pornography. As a result of this secret life of sin my body would often breakdown. I’d report the cause of my symptoms simply as illnesses and I’ve thrown my life into a ministry for many years trying to compensate for my sin.
I believe that I do love Jesus and I know that he loves me and it is this love along with the prayers of people around the world that bring me to this place of confession. Two years ago, I reported that I was suffering from cancer, the truth is that although I was ill I did not have cancer but was again using the misdiagnosis to hide the lie that I was living. I know in my heart that it is the truth alone that will set me free and this is the reason for my confession.”
Unfortunately, hiding our addictions only makes them worse. Secrets have a hidden power that honesty takes away. Most of us have experienced the relief of finally telling the truth about something we feared we would be judged or punished for. Even when we experience negative consequences, the weight of the secret still seems to lift to a degree.
If you have a secret pornography addiction, the first thing I recommend you do is tell someone about it–preferably someone who is not going to tell you that you have to stop, but who will accept and love you where you are at. This is what enables us to change, if we desire to change. When we are supported by people who understand, who admit to their own perceived imperfections, then we feel free. We know that everything is okay whether we change or even if we don’t. Then if we want to change, we are actually far more likely to do so!
As with every other topic, I’m not here to tell you that pornography addiction is wrong or right. But if you feel wrong about it, if you feel trapped in a secret, a lie or a façade, then you need freedom from the lie that you are trapped. God has already set you free. He has already said that no matter what you do, you are completely forgiven. What you do with that freedom, is your choice.
Now, if you desire to change, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself what payoff/s you are getting from watching pornography. Porn isn’t reality, it is a fantasy. It can certainly offer ideas that may alter our own reality, but trying to reduplicate what we’ve seen isn’t always realistic. Are you watching it because you don’t feel you are having enough sex–or not any sex? Are you honest about this with your partner, or if you do not have a partner, can you be honest about this with someone else?
As I said in an earlier blog post, you may also want to ask yourself if you can bring your body to orgasm without porn. Are you in touch with your physical sensations, with your emotions, with your soul? Or are you relying on fantasy to get you off, instead of turning inward to the sexuality God created you with?
If you have a partner who uses pornography, I really want to encourage you not to think of porn as a reflection on you. It is not a reflection on your body–that your boobs are too small, that your butt is too big, that you don’t have any abs or a six pack, that you aren’t as loud as they are, they you don’t like the positions they are using, that you aren’t flexible enough or young enough or whatever else. Even if your partner tells you that you are lacking these things, it doesn’t mean you have to believe him/her, nor do you have to change for him/her.
I hope that you have a partner who validates you the way you are. I hope you can have conversations about how you can make your own personal sex-life more satisfying for the both of you, by talking about what you like and don’t like etc. Porn may come up in the conversation–perhaps a position will be suggested. But there will likely be a rude awakening for the person who expects to mould their partner into a porn-star.
In all honesty, I have seen a small amount of pornography. I found it sexually arousing, but emotionally disturbing. I think that is because I have heard that a lot of women involved in the creation of pornographic videos have been and/or are being sexually abused and exploited. So I feel sorry for them, and I don’t feel comfortable watching porn.
But it is of utmost importance to me that people know they are loved and accepted while watching pornography. I experience a twinge of guilt or embarrassment when I watch porn, almost similar to the embarrassment of walking in on my parents doing it when I was a kid. But I don’t believe guilt comes from God and I don’t feel guilty before God, because I know he loves me unconditionally, at all times.
Whatever you choose to do, be it with or without pornography, I hope you believe that too.