To understand my story, I need to start from the beginning.
I was ten years old when I stumbled upon my first ‘adult magazine’. An innocent trip to the grocery store would, in fact, be the beginning of something far greater than my ten year old little mind could comprehend. Something far more darker, too. I would try to sneak away to the magazine aisle during every trip to the store. FHM, Maxim, and then, the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I would try and stuff them into my shirt so I could sneak them into the bathroom where I could peruse uninterrupted. It was a simpler time then. Computers had barely gotten off the ground and cell phones had yet to contain the power they do now. I remember masturbating to these images before my body had developed enough to even produce ejaculate. I was too young to really comprehend what my actions were doing, not just to my mind and body, but to my spirit. Don’t get me wrong; my parents were loving parents. We were just on the outskirts of middle-class to really make ends meet and I truly believe the stress of trying to keep a roof over our heads was driving my parents to argue, and maybe my little brain didn’t know how to deal with that kind of stress. But I felt safe whenever I looked at those images; I felt like I was in control.
It didn’t take long before my new hobby developed into a bit of an obsession. I can’t think of how many times I would hop onto a computer and type in “bra” or “model” in the hopes of seeing something lewd or inappropriate. Computers really weren’t as advanced as they are today, so the chances of me seeing anything of interest were still relatively low. My parents had the foresight to place restrictions on what I could search, but a young boy’s brain is not so easily kept at bay. I soon found ways to see what I wanted, albeit in a much more revealing way. There were a handful of times when they caught me; sometimes the dial-up would lag or I couldn’t delete the history in time to evade being caught. Maybe my parent’s didn’t know how to discipline or maybe they didn’t know how to approach that kind of topic. I would get spanked and have to write sentences, which would work in the short term. But bad habits die hard, and I was nowhere close to being free of this poison.
I soon got a cellphone capable of being connected to the Internet and that is when the clutches of this dark hobby really started to sink in. At any time I wanted, and usually whenever I wanted, I could go on my phone and watch porn. To my credit, most of the times I watched it were in the security of my room or bathroom. It wasn’t a monthly thing, or even a weekly thing. This became a daily ritual that I would partake in for the next twenty years of my life. Anytime I would find myself in a stressful situation, be it homework, or my job, or relationships, I would turn to porn for that comfort. For that control. To feel safe again. And no one, not my family or friends knew about it.
I had plenty of relationships, too. I had read about how porn damages your sex life and your intimacy with other people and I never thought I had that problem. I had no problems talking to women and developing lasting friendships, and the more serious relationships I had did not seem to be affected by the fact that when we had arguments, I would turn to porn. And they never knew, either. I was constantly living a lie to just about every women I met that I wanted to pursue. And it was shameful to me, you know? I didn’t think anyone would love me if they knew I watched porn, so I buried it along with my shame as deep as I could hide it.
There was a decent period of time where I stopped dating. I figured I needed to grow up and figure my life out. Women came and went, but nothing stayed. Nothing worked. Because even in the hiatus of a romantic life, my porn addiction stayed and, if anything, grew stronger. I didn’t need to try and go out there for someone. I had whoever I wanted to see on standby. I spent the next seven to eight years just cruising through my life, unmotivated and apathetic to the fact that I was poisoning myself beyond any semblance of the man I used to recognize. I was severely depressed, constantly anxious, always trying to find the next video that would respark that initial feeling. In that sense, it was virtually identical to any kind of drug that alters your state of mind. I was always chasing that high and living in a perpetual state of crashing and climbing, all of which was battering my spirit.
Until I met her.
It sounds cheesy, I know. But the moment I met her, I just knew that this woman was different. A godsend, actually. We grew to be close friends, and we would always talk about God; her, a stalwart believer and I, the doubting Thomas. There were many a lunch break were we would go back and forth about God, discussing whatever came to our minds, but it always ended the same way; her right and I, wrong. It was this sometimes not-so-gentle nudging that pushed me towards a pair of individuals that would finally open my eyes to the light of Jesus Christ. I met these two online, surprisingly enough. They were friends of my sister and at first meet, we had little in common outside of inappropriate curse words and video games. Over time, we started to bond, and I felt, day after day, an increasing desire to open up to them about my problem. I called them up one cool, September afternoon and broke the news. That for the last 20 years, I had been abusing pornography as a means of coping with my problems and that I wanted to change. For her. For myself. For God. I was greeted with a level of understanding that I did not think even existed, much less one that I deserved. And I was shocked to discover that millions of men just like me (49% in fact, according to recent study), and even women, suffer from pornography addiction. But I wasn’t on board with God yet. I wanted to find a scientific way to beat this, a way that I could do on my own with no help from anyone. So they advised me as best they could, but deep down something still was not right.
I struggled. I would go a few days, without looking or even wanting to look, before I would come crashing down and retreat back to porn. I discovered two apps that allowed me to censor what I can see on my phone and my computer, and that let keep track of the days where I succeed and the days I don’t. But it was always the same. Succeed for a few days, maybe a week at most, before failing. Over. And over. And over. I hit a breaking point in December of 2020. I was so overcome with shame and grief and I did not know who to turn to. I did the only thing that I thought would help me an for the first time in a very, very long time I prayed. And I cried. I cried harder than I think I have ever cried. I said “God, I cannot do this. I cannot do this alone. I do not know you and I have spent all of my life trying to do this alone and I cannot. I need your help, God. More than anything I have ever wanted in my pathetic life do I want to be free of this poison I have been inflicting on myself for the last 20 some odd years. She deserves better than that; a man strong in you and in spirit and one that is not tied down in this way. I deserve a life free of that dark, looming caress, ready to swallow me when this world gets too hard. I cannot live this way any more God. Please, God. If you are out there, please save me.” And I felt a peace unlike I had ever known before. A solemn silence came over me and I felt a comfort wash over me in a way that I still cannot describe. I told my two friends of this and they were overjoyed. That I had humbled myself before God and admitted my sin to Him and asked if I had accepted Jesus into my life, and I said that I have. I believe that Jesus Christ came to Earth, and died on the cross for my sins. Not for pride. Not for honor. But out of love for the 10 year old boy that didn’t know the evil he was accepting into his life. For the boy that didn’t even know Him.
I took communion that Sunday and for the first time in what felt like forever, I felt good about myself. That I was with people that loved me for me, regardless of my sins. That their children wanted me to be in Heaven with them. Me, a poor sinner that a few months ago wouldn’t have given God the time of day, now in a house so blessed by God.
I still have relapses. They have been fewer and far between, but I am trying to outthink 20 some odd years of habitual thinking. But I know that through the grace of God, I am saved, and even though I will fail, God is there for me.
This was the hardest thing I have ever had to write. As of writing this, only four people that I trust beyond measure know. What I felt after consideration and prayer was that I wanted to tell my story in the hopes that I can help someone out there that is suffering just as I was. That you are not defined by your failures, by your addictions, by your worries and doubts. That you are not any less deserving of God’s love and grace because you have sinned. That, in spite of all of the horrible things that we can do to each other and to ourselves, God loves us and wants us to be saved. That is why He sent his only Son to us. Because only the Son of God could wipe away our debts and break the circle. I firmly believe in my heart that pornography is a spiritual cancer. It festers in your heart and weakens your mind. So I ask any and all who read this to be honest with yourself. That if you are trying to break free of pornography, you are not alone. And most importantly, you have always been, and always will be, loved. I ask you to not keep your heart in the shadows. I ask you to let the light of God into your heart for He, and only He, will truly set you free. But you need to let it go. I did. Can you?
-Harrison M. Dalrymple 01/23/2021