I love hearing from readers who are in the trenches successfully overcoming lust. Here is Matthew’s story:
I grew up in a typical American Evangelical family. Flawed but good parents, church on Sundays and youth group on Wednesdays. During my childhood and adolescence, I was warned of the dangers and evils of pornography. I hardly knew what it was, but I knew that it destroyed marriages, so I tried to stay away from it.
Then, on a lazy, boring day at home during the summer of my seventh grade, I discovered masturbation by accident. It felt great! I vaguely sensed I was opening the door of my heart to something evil, but the high was such a nice feeling. After a while, I discovered that looking through my mom’s women’s magazines while I masturbated made the high much stronger. Suddenly, using porn made sense.
I was off to the races through junior high and high school. During that time, I tried to get help. I had a small group leader tell me God wanted me to be a warrior against my sexual acting out. My pastor told me that my life would be ruined if I didn’t kick my habit before I got married. All of these reasons made sense. However, no matter how many reasons I had to stop—no matter how much shame I accumulated—I couldn’t stop. I was addicted and I knew it.
Fast forward a few years. I moved to New York City for college, and lost the little accountability I had in high school. I got plugged into church and went every week during my four years, but every Sunday I would need to repent of the way I lived. By my sophomore year, I had ventured deep into pornography, and no matter how much of my soul the addiction took, it always wanted more. I found myself immersed in darker and darker material—too evil for me to share here.
My addiction grew. I needed to give in to my sin at least twice each day to get through it and to find sleep.
After graduating from college, a friend told me he had “gone a month.” I knew what that meant and I was floored! I asked him how he did it, and he told me he was part of a twelve step program called Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). I went to a meeting one week after graduating college and it proved to be the turning point.
I learned that my problem was a corrupted will. No matter what I believed intellectually, it would never save me unless I began to turn my will over to God in all areas. It taught me that lust is the root issue and that I had been unwilling to turn my life and will over to the care of God.
I attended regular meetings, and started working the 12 steps, which are a simple process whereby we a) realize our own powerlessness over our addiction, b) turn our will over to God, c) confess our story to God and another person, d) begin changing our corrupted attitudes and behaviors, e) right our wrongs, and f) carry our message to other suffering sexaholics.
The program has been difficult. It has asked more from me than I ever thought I had, but God has provided more than I ever imagined. As I have been gaining victory over lust, I have been free from masturbation for almost eleven months, and counting.
I agree with what Jim has written about the futility of twelve step or counseling programs that focus on sexual sobriety/behavior without also striving for progressive victory over lust. These dual goals are foundational in SA and go hand in hand.
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It is possible to overcome lust.
Will you pray with me for Matthew and others who are determined to deny lust in their lives? Read more from Matthew in this email exchange.