So, Andy, welcome to the blog!
We hear that you actually volunteered to appear here on the blog. Is this true and what possessed you? Or are you actually handcuffed to the desk and on water rations until you finish this post? You can be honest with us. Really.
Yes, I volunteered. But being handcuffed to the desk might be worth considering now, to keep me from chickening out. And some might say I look like I've been on water rations but that's just my natural physique. :-)
So your wife claims that you were addicted to pornography for about six years. What do you think of that assessment?
I can't deny it. But I should probably say that my actual involvement with porn was off and on during that time due to the fact that for a couple of those years we didn't have the internet when we were living in the Solomon Islands.
Tell us how it all got started.
The first time I looked at porn was in 1996 when we came home on a one year furlough. Al Gore had just invented the internet, so before then I hadn't had the opportunity. At that point in time there wasn't much in the way of internet filters. If there had been one available, it would have meant having a conversation with Kay about what I had been looking at, and I knew that wouldn't go over well. So during that year on furlough I started getting into a bad habit of looking at porn. I just kept thinking that it would all be okay when we went back to the Solomons because I would be away from the internet.
What was it like for you at its worst?
I think it was probably in 2001 & 2002. Porn was always on my mind -- thinking about when my next opportunity to look at it would be. I would say I probably looked at it just about every day.
What happened between you and God while all this was going on?
I don't remember the year but I think it was in 2001. At that point I had been looking at porn off and on for a total of about 5 years (the off times were not because of any goodness on my part but because of lack of internet). I had asked God to help me overcome this addiction so many times by that point without success that I finally gave up on Him and just decided it wasn't worth trying to stop anymore.
So what's it like for you now, addiction-wise?
There were times in the past when Kay wanted me to promise that I wouldn't look at porn again but I never felt comfortable saying that. Overcoming this addiction has been a process -- there are times when I still mess up but those times are becoming fewer. Porn used to constantly be on my mind and it's just not like that anymore.
What do you think has made the difference for you?
1.Getting it out in the open. Being a missionary I felt like there was no one I could tell about my problem. I felt totally alone. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders when I was able to be honest about what was happening. Telling our children (at an appropriate age) is one of the hardest things I've ever done. As they have gotten older my boys have had the courage to talk about their own struggles and to help hold me accountable too. If I wasn't honest with them I can't expect them to be honest with me.
2. Using a good internet filter (www.covenanteyes.com). What I like about CovenantEyes is that 1) it will send a report to your accountability partners and 2) that your wife doesn't have the password so she doesn't have to feel like the officer in charge of the internet. The filter is on their server so there's no easy way to turn it off. If you uninstall it you have to get a code from their site that will trigger a comment on the report.
3. Kay wanted to find a deeper reason for why I was so attracted to pornography. I resisted that for a long time. I really felt like it was just normal lust coupled with some boredom and lack of internet control. I still believe that those three things play a major part but there was a point in 2004 where I had an epiphany. After Kay had her breakdown in 2003 we started to spend a lot more time together and finally started to be honest with each other. We became friends again (or maybe for the first time?) and during that process we talked about things we had never talked about before.
One night I started talking about how I felt about all the teasing I received as a kid. I was a skinny kid and always looked young for my age. Up until I was 16 when my voice finally changed people would mistake me for my mom when I answered the phone--that takes a toll on a guy's ego. I told Kay how even as a grown man I had always felt like a little kid on the inside. That sounds like a very simple statement but at the time it was like a light went on as the tears came out.
Did that make me susceptible to an addiction to porn? I don't know for sure. But I do know that being able to talk about this hurt helped free me from that little kid on the inside and it's been different ever since.
What advice would you give to men?
Get it out in the open. Talk to someone. If you don't, sooner or later it will end badly. Is it worth losing your marriage? Your relationship with your children? And your wife is going to need to know. It won't be fun, but it will be worth it in the end.
What do wives need to know?
Don't be naive.
- 67% of children admit to clearing their Internet history to hide their online activity
- 79% of accidental exposures to Internet porn among kids take place in the home
- 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in online porn
- 29% of working adults accessed explicit websites on work computers (source:Covenant Eyes)
a) Don't assume that pornography isn't a problem for your man just because he says it isn't. Maybe he's one of the lucky guys who isn't attracted to it but according to the statistics those guys are few and far between.
b) Get a filter! Like Covenant Eyes. I can't believe how many families don't use an internet filter. Would you give a stack of Playboy magazines to your son and say "Here son, put these by your bed, but don't look at them." I didn't think so.
There's a lot more that could be said but I'm going to leave it at that for now. If you have any specific questions for me don't hesitate to ask. After all, I'm chained to the desk so I'll be needing something to do.
OK, smart boy. By the way, what's the awesome music you're listening to while answering our questions?
A couple more excellent resources to check out:
Faithful and True is the ministry of Mark and Debbie Laaser. Lots of information, support, and resources.
Doing something as unfamiliar as getting help for yourself can be very difficult. It can be even more difficult if you don't have a companion to join you. I want to assure you that any movement by either spouse has the potential to begin shifting the dynamics in your family system. Your family is like a mobile: if you tug on any part of the mobile, all of the other parts will move as well. If you are feeling stuck or paralyzed by sexual betrayal, your choice to get help can also begin the healing process for those around you.~ Debbie Laaser, MA, LAMFT (Recovery Report newsletter, November 2012)
Dr. Patrick Carnes wrote one of the first books on sexual addiction, back in 1981. His website offers numerous assessments and other resources.
To read more of our story, start here.