This is my confession… I have an addiction. I have a vice. An unhealthy stress reliever. A habit that I fight against almost daily.
It’s not cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Those things have never crossed my lips. The desire to imbibe, puff, drag, or pop has never been an issue. I’ve never been driven by a desire to smoke a cigarette when I’m stressed, or to pop a pill to escape. I’ve never been tempted to “drink away my problems” or “take a toke” to numb the pain. My addiction has never had to do with substance use or abuse of any kind.
And yet, it’s as addictive and destructive as any chemical. It holds onto the soul as strongly as any nicotine, narcotic, or alcohol induced stronghold. It’s like a razor sharp claw on the hands of a monster that has a grip so tight you fight to keep it from ripping your insides out.
My addiction is pornography. Not the visual kind that is driven by images, video, and peep shows. Erotica. Words that paint pictures in the mind and are much harder to forget than pictures on a page.
It began when I was young… very young.
I saw an image in the paper when I was 6 or 7 years old and I read the words around it. It was a comic and wasn’t overtly sexual, but alluded to this. It stuck with me. I can still see that one “frame” of the comic in my head, 30 some years later. Something about the words surrounding that image got into my soul that day.
I can tell you every single time that I was exposed to pornography growing up. Never in our home. Our parents protected us from these things well by – correctly – guarding what we watched, listened to, and read as children. Our home was safe from these types of influences. I was exposed to pornography and erotica outside the home.
At friends’ homes where they would sneak magazines to shock everyone at slumber parties, and we’d all sit around and comment about how “gross” the images and words that were being read were. Yet we were fascinated and wanted to see – or hear – more.
At an uncle’s. He had magazines, novels, movies, and more around his home every time that we would visit. When we got old enough to recognize what it was he would hide the magazines when our family visited, but we knew where he often hid them. I would hide myself in the bathroom and read the stories that people wrote in to Hustler, Playboy, and Penthouse. Then I would return the magazine exactly where I found it so no-one would know. I had “stomach troubles” a lot when we went to my uncle’s home. But no-one was the wiser.
I was young. So very young. Yet so very fascinated.
And as I grew older I would just want to go down to Alleghany Bookstore and buy a $4 book, take it home, and hide in my room reading at night. But afterwards there was always the guilt. The guilt because I had, in the moment, enjoyed reading those words and had created those images in my head. The shame because I had given in, again, to something that momentarily relieved my stress, or insecurity, or anger – but that I knew was wrong. Such an incredible sense of shame.
So I’d hide the book where no-one else could find it. Then later, though I knew I’d feel so dirty afterwards, I’d pull it out when I needed a “fix” – going through the same cycle of indulgence, relief, guilt/shame, then hiding all over again. Eventually the guilt and shame would overwhelm me and I’d throw the book in the trash, or tear it up for kindling in the fireplace, angry at myself – and telling myself it would never happen again…. …until the next time that things got stressful, or emotional, or lonely.
This addiction has continued into adulthood. It has hounded me like a vicious dog through marriage, children, life, and even ministry.
When the chaos of life swirls around me like a tempest I have to fight the urge to just go hide in my room and read some smut to escape. So I find something else to do. I make lists of things that need to be done. Furiously clean something. Play mindless games on the internet. Read something else. Get my husband to go to bed early with me. (I know, TMI ).
Have I mastered this addiction so that I never have the urge? Absolutely not. It’s an addiction that I do – like any recovering addict – have to fight daily.
Yet I am determined that it will not be master over me. It will not break me, but I will break free of it’s stronghold.
This is my confession… I have an addiction… but I will not serve 2 masters. And as long as I have breath left in me, though it may call to my very soul in times of trouble, the voice of My Father is louder – more powerful – and THAT is the voice I am purposed to heed.