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Highlights

  • Craig interviews Joseph, a young Christian who is an ex-porn addict
  • Joseph’s porn use started around age 12 and escalated during early teens
  • Sex is often not a topic of conversation in the homes of young porn users
  • Joseph found help and is creating a great life and helping others

Interview with a Young Christian Ex-Porn Addict

This is a special post because I interview Joseph.
Joseph, welcome.
Joseph: Thank you. Yeah. Happy to be here and happy to talk about everything that I have learned by going on this journey and the ways it’s impacted my life.
Craig: You know, one of the things, Joseph, that makes this so hard for so many people is that they feel alone and by having someone on . . . What motivated you to kind of put yourself out there like this?
Joseph: Honestly, the fact that I felt so alone for so long, I guess. I remember the first time I used porn. That was my big thing, porn and masturbation. The first time I ever used it, thinking that this was something that I couldn’t tell anyone because it was so bad that I wouldn’t be able to relate that it would somehow destroy the way people thought about me. So, from the get go, the next ten years, I felt like I struggled with aloneness. For me, now that I’ve got some progress in it, I want other people to know that they aren’t the only one in this fight and the way out of this isn’t by hiding it and acting like it’s not there. But by really addressing it and bringing it into the light.
Craig: Now, how old are you?
Joseph: 23.
Craig: So, you’ve never known a life without hardcore, graphic, video pornography.
Joseph: Yeah. I remember the first time I saw video porn. I was maybe age 13-12.
Craig: Wow. Can you imagine there was a point in time where people used to read magazines and get off on pictures?
Joseph: Yeah. It’s definitely a different kind of animal we’re dealing with.
Craig: Let’s talk about that, man. So, eventually this hobby that brought you shame – but also a lot of pleasure as a child – started to have a negative impact. Tell us, what was the impact that your pornography had on you?
Joseph: I think almost right away I started to have a difficult relationship with my mom. It started when I was about 11, really ramped up, like I said, when I was 12 or 13, when I started watching videos and looking back, mom didn’t really understand why suddenly things were so tough with her little boy and why we couldn’t really relate. My views on women just internally had changed and I just had this hidden thing that caused me to be angry with her and not be able to speak kindly to her. That was honestly something that only in the past year or so has improved, going through the recovery program. Right away that was the biggest thing, that it almost alienated me totally from my mom for almost a decade.
Craig: Wow. What was sex like in the home, growing up, Joseph?
Joseph: I’d say it wasn’t talked about much and when it was brought up it was “make sure I avoid this.” This is great for when you’re in marriage but don’t get involved now. I had some pretty decent parents but I think they definitely could have done a better job of constructing like a positive narrative of sex rather than just a more suppression narrative. I don’t even remember my parents having a sexuality discussion with me until I was already involved in porn. So, by then it was a little late and I was, I think, a bit jaded.
Craig: What advice do you have for [those reading this], because you’re close to it? I mean, I can’t think of someone better to advise these parents. What would you have liked to hear from your parents that would have helped you navigate this challenging part of your development, your sexual health?
Joseph: I am not going to act like I’ve totally figured it out but I’ve been reflecting on that very thing quite a bit, especially because I’m 23 and I’m thinking about, hey, I want to be a dad one day and what am I going to say to my kids, right? That’s the huge question. So, I think something what would have helped me a lot is just instead of looking at sex like this thing that needs to be avoided for the majority of my life, to have this positive world view of sexuality where it’s something great, but something that’s great in the right context. For me, I’m a Christian, so it fits into my world view context where sexuality is a gift and it’s something that we can use to bond with one another, something that we’re almost designed for and we can express incredible love through it. So, when you really focus on that, great things about it and kind of show how it’s actually a beautiful thing and something to be treasured, something that’s sacred, that changes the dynamic from instead of it being, oh, I need to avoid this thing, it’s no, I get to prepare for this thing.
I think even understanding if my parents had been more open. “We have sex. It’s part of our life. It’s a great part of our life.” Because you almost tend to see the world around you in sexual and non-sexual terms when you’re a kid. Especially if you’re using porn, you think porn is sexual but my parents aren’t sexual, my community, my church isn’t sexual. Like, it’s not talked about and so you can kind of get this weird dichotomy in your mind of life with sex and life without sex. And then understanding that actually most people are engaged in it and there are healthy ways to go about it and unhealthy ways to go about.
Craig: You talked about pornography impacting the way you saw women, your relationship with your mother, but tell me more about how pornography impacted you, not just sexual development but your spiritual development, your psychological development, the development of you as a human.
Joseph: I’ll say it this way, when you live life with a certain set of views but then in part of your life you do something that contradicts those views and contradicts your worldview, that kind of opposition in your own heart and your own soul just breeds this lack of confidence and breeds this kind of like inward destructive behavior where it’s like I’m living in conflict all the time and I’m doing this one thing I don’t want to do and I shouldn’t be doing but then I go to church. I go to these things that matter a lot to me and they say you don’t live that way and you kind of go back and forth and it just destroys you.
You can’t live like that because you’re always doubting yourself, you’re always living in this sense of shame and failure and fear and so when you live with that you don’t have confidence. I used to struggle just having good conversations with people because if they would attack me or say something confrontational I didn’t have that confidence to back up on. So, yeah, it just can hurt you in a lot of ways.
I was pretty smart and I love to learn, so I did well in school. I think in some ways it was easy for me to slide by but especially when I hit college and when I got in certain scenarios where I had a lot of stress, man I just destroyed myself because I still wanted to succeed in school and stuff but then I was staying up late using porn and then I was late to things all the time. I couldn’t keep my life in order because I was always struggling with this duality in myself.
So, it can just totally take over your life. It’s not something you can just kind of compartmentalize and say, well, there’s my porn habit. I do that, but then I’m a good person outside of that. That kind of dual thinking in your mind, your body – you can’t sustain it.
Craig: You finally came to a place in your life, Joseph, where you said enough is enough. I can’t live this dual life anymore. You started to get some help. What did you do that finally empowered you to create healthy sexuality in your life and to get kind of where you’re at today? What worked for you?
Joseph: Initially I tried kind of like the common paths of, hey, I’ll read a book on this, I’ll watch some YouTube videos, tell someone who I care about and trust and see if they can help me. Especially, one of the good things about the Christian community is they are willing to at least say porn is wrong even if they’re not always great with dealing with it.
So, I would try doing different things where I’d try to get these accountability groups and stuff like that. I just found it wasn’t working at all. The only times I would really get periods of time without using was because I had no access. I’d have to take every electronic out of my life almost and as soon as I got back, boom, I’m back on and using at some point.
So, eventually I decided to do The Mindful Habit Program with Adrian, one of the other coaches and for me that program has just been huge because it wasn’t about avoiding. It wasn’t about seeing how little exposure I could get to porn or taking away the chances for me to masturbate or things like that, although that is part of it, but the main part of it is creating that life that you want and aggressively pursuing healthy sexuality, progressively pursuing balance and good things in life, and I think you have to have both of those things.
I think you also have to have someone with you who’s gone through it, to walk you out. Because I know for me I’d go to different people and be like, “Hey, I’m struggling with this,” and they didn’t know what to do because either they hadn’t gone through it or frankly, now, they were probably using too, a lot of them.
So, you need to have someone there who’s been through it and can be real with you. I’m not going to say I’m perfect now but where I’m at now compared to where I used to be is miles apart because of this program, because of habits I developed.
I’m at the place too where it’s like, even if I was to use porn tomorrow and have a relapse, that wouldn’t keep me down because I know the habits I can put in place. I know how to address this. I know how to look inside myself and say, “Hey, what’s going on that I’m seeking out porn? Why am I doing these things?”
So, it made a big difference.
Craig: One of the biggest challenges that my Christian men face is they’ve got this punishment mentality where they fall down, they slip and then there’s this kind of belief system that gets ingrained in them that they’ve got to punish themselves. How did you reconcile that, wait a minute, this slip doesn’t have to define me, this doesn’t have to send me back. Tell me about how that impacted your growth and development, changing that belief system.
Joseph: Initially when I did the program with Adrian, that was the attitude he took, “Hey, you messed up. Fine. Move on.” I was at the place when I entered this program, where I was like, I’m going to try anything that he tells me to do because I just want to see some change. So, when he said that I kind of tried.
I think, as Christians, we don’t have to ever let go of our beliefs but there’s this place where you can bracket them out and say, “Okay. I’m just going to listen to him and kind of block out what my preconceptions are, block out my preconceived notions and just go with what he tells me to do.”
Initially I was just like, you know, I’m going to be teachable. If Adrian tells me to not worry about it I’m not going to worry about it. At first I was okay with it because I just made that choice.
Using the power of choice, I’m just going to block this out, but eventually, like you said, I did struggle with that, so I went to the Bible and I said, “Hey, let’s read it. Let’s read this book with this in mind,” and man, this is one chapter in Romans 8 that says, “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The whole chapter is about man, if you mess up God forgives you for that. That’s like the base of our religion.
So, really, we’ve got to get rid of all this cultural shame that we’ve developed in the church. Obviously, you’re not good enough. That’s the whole message of the gospel. So, for Christians out there who struggle with this I think they really need to take a hard look at some of the tenants of their faith and see what that has to say.
Craig: I’m so glad that there are Christian men like you out there because there needs to be a shift because what they’re doing isn’t working. Not talking about it isn’t working. Pretending it’s not a problem isn’t working. What are you doing to kind of spread the word? You mentioned accountability groups. I mean, how are you, what else are you doing to share your struggle besides taking this brave step and putting your face out there?
Joseph: One thing long term, I’d like to just keep practicing, keep working on the things I’ve learned and keep kind of creating the ideal life that I want to create and become the person I want to be rather than just using porn and stuff. That’s the main thing is going in that direction,
Long-term I would love to at least be helping coach guys at my church and help them go through the process like I went through because I know what a big difference it makes and after looking for answers for so long and now feeling like I’ve found something that works, I just want to share that.
But, even right now I actually started kind of like this mini accountability work and we are trying to make it as little shame-based as possible, make it action-based. Each week what we do is when we meet we talk about where you’re at, you talk about your struggles that last week. Cool. Hey, here’s what you can do differently. Let’s forget about that. Move on. Let’s really just try to encourage each other to address things in practical ways rather than getting all bogged down in past mistakes. That’s been pretty cool. We’re just in the beginning stages of it.
Craig: Very cool. . . When you back that into all the things that you need to do to maintain not just sobriety but sexual health and a great life, it’s all wrapped up into one, isn’t it?
Joseph: Yeah. You can’t compartmentalize. If you have one part of your life that is just bad it’s going to weigh everything down, but if you say, “Hey, I’m going to make this life as awesome as possible and do everything I want, do everything I’m called to do,” for those Christians who like to use those types of terms, and really just pursue that, that makes a huge difference and you start to focus on your goal rather than these things messing you up.
That’s another biblical idea too. I think it’s in Colossians it says, “Set your eyes on things that are above, not on things that are below,” like put away sexuality. Don’t worry about those things. Just, like, put your eyes on the goal.
Craig: Any parting thought for young guys who are struggling. What’s the message? What do you want to get out there, Joseph? What do you want to say to the young men who are struggling right now with this dual part of themselves?
Joseph: I’d just say, it’s going to sound like the most counterintuitive thing in the world, but, and only if you can trust them, tell your parents and try to get some support. They care about you the most and if they’re not a good source, find someone who is. Maybe it’s a youth pastor or maybe it’s someone. The first thing you’ve got to do is get out of the dark and start letting people knowing what you’re doing when they’re not around.

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