Recovery · Testimonies

Thoughts from Being 10 Months Porn-Free

I didn’t plan on this today; I thought maybe I’d write something about how I was doing once I reached the one-year mark. But today is my ten-month mark of being pornography-free, and I have a lot of thoughts about it. I spent some time in my journal last night, wrestling. I would like to share that journal entry.

This month was probably the hardest temptation-wise out of all ten so far. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had to be extra proactive and cautious with myself lately. I fought for this month.

Here’s what gets me: in ten months of freedom, you’d think I would know what was working, would know why I’m doing well and what got me here. But I really don’t. And people ask me, and it feels weird to not have any answers.

I don’t want to invalidate my addiction story; I truly did do things I didn’t want to do, repeatedly/routinely, and I still face repercussions. It was real. But I also don’t want to tell people that grace, candor, and hard work will cure their addiction. I know it is not that simple. It’s just all I can pinpoint that has contributed to my own recovery. I really do not know how I got here.

Though I am so grateful for the way things have worked for me, I understand not everyone who does the same things I’m doing fares the way I somehow have. I don’t have the explanation for that. I fully believe God heals and restores all who come to Him, that He is strength in our weakness, that He shows absolutely no partiality. I trust His timing for everyone. I just don’t know why some of us find visible healing sooner than others, why the timing varies from person to person. Or why I get to be one of those who is seeing my healing already.

Not that I don’t still face temptation, as this month especially has proven (though I can’t exclude the other nine, either). I do face temptation, often. I don’t have it “easy.” But I know I have it easier than many. Maybe I caught my addiction in earlier stages than most who enter recovery.

tiny buds and bloomsI think that’s what I want to stress most: recovery doesn’t stop.

“Porn addict” is in no way part of my identity, and never was. But it’s something that has been/is part of my life. And recovering from being a porn addict and remaining in that recovery? It is an almost guaranteed lifelong process. This is something that will probably always be part of my life. I believe it gets better. But as long as I live in this skin, I have potential to act out of it and I have a lot of choices to make.

I truly do believe in full recovery. I am just not naïve enough to tell anyone, including myself, that there’s a point of arrival. God heals, and He also doesn’t take away our freedom of choice. It’s constant; it’s maintenance; it’s abiding. And I am also not so privileged as to believe people who do what I’ve been doing are guaranteed to see the same outcome I’m seeing. It is different for everyone. Honestly, I really wrestle with that sometimes. Timing is so beyond us, and I don’t understand it.

I think finding the balance of celebrating where I am while commiserating with those in an overwhelming place in the struggle is something I will have to work through for a while. Today, I don’t feel like celebrating, though I know it would be okay for me to. I know the highs and lows of this process, and I want to honor everyone in every stage of it. I am still learning how.

I’m so grateful for these ten months. I don’t take it for granted. I know it’s a gift I don’t deserve, one that puzzles me to be in possession of sometimes.

To my brothers and sisters who are in recovery– be it day one, month ten, or year five– you are in the midst of something holy. He is proud of you. He is working in you. He is there in the mess of the process with you, day by day. And if you have to start over again? Nothing about this changes. There is nothing you can do to change the love He has for every bit of you. Lean into that.


[This video on recovery/sobriety is so eloquent and echoes a lot of my feelings, and also carries some solid encouragement. I highly recommend it.]

Recovery · Testimonies

Turning My Darkness to Light

“Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”  -Philippians 1:14

DSC04846We don’t like to vocalize our struggles until we feel they can be wrapped up somehow. Until it becomes part of our past, we don’t tell more than a few people (if that) about our most broken parts.

What happens when the past doesn’t stay there?

What happens when the past used to be a long time ago, but this year we stumbled, and the past became February? And what happens when February turns into five days ago?

All week, I have known my recent stumble demanded a new response from me. I learned a lot last month about what it means to be real; I value no-exception honesty in people more and more every day, and have gained unspeakable comfort and strength from those who vocalize the raw, unfinished pieces of themselves. I cannot escape the knowledge that there is power in being wholly genuine in every context I find myself. Even Scripture has encouraged me to bare it all, has said, “When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

Our darkness becomes light when we shine light on it.

Light can only enter broken things, after all.

I can feel my heart pound wildly against my chest at the thought of the freedom I would be walking in if I just released everything… including the parts I don’t want you to see. But I’ve been afraid. People can generally accept someone’s messy past. But a messy present? One that may or may not go away soon… if ever? It scares us. Because it’s imperfect and we can’t fix it with our usual, one-size-fits-all answers.

I used to be afraid of the struggles of others. But when I stopped denying the existence of my own, when I couldn’t ignore them anymore, I found such comfort in the company of those who were openly imperfect. Even if they weren’t physically with me, I knew they were with me. I knew I wasn’t the only one dealing with garbage like mine.

It is time for me to be that company for others, too.

I have to bring my darkness out into the light. For me, but also for you. It might scare you once you see it; it might make you leave me, or attempt to fix me with no result. Those are deep fears I keep running into as I write this. But… what if it helps heal you instead? It might do that, too. It might embrace you, or spark some measure of hope in you. Because you might remember it when you think you have to hide your own struggles, when you think you have to deal with them by yourself. And it might lead you to accept the open arms of your Father more readily. I know this because others shining light on their garbage has done the same for me.

You are not the only one. You are not the only one who tries but doesn’t always succeed; who has been doing well but knows they could fall again; who still deals with things they hate, things they know should belong in the past. I’m here, too. I’m with you.

And here is what I have in my garbage right now: lust and pornography.

I accidentally found porn around three years ago. It horrified me, and I sobbed into my Father afterwards, repentant and deeply pained. It truly was an accident. But months later, in one weak moment… I remembered how easy it had been to find. So I found it again. On purpose this time. And it horrified me, and I repented in deep sincerity once again.

This cycle has repeated itself since. My Father has forgiven me and welcomed me immediately each time. He has never condemned me. Instead, He has comforted me, and let me weep inside Him as my shame and disgust overwhelmed me. He has promised to teach me to renew my mind, and has done so much in restoring me.

And I still struggle.

I deal with lust in some form on an almost daily basis, but it’s only been twice this year that I have given in to pornography: once in February and once last week. But twice still feels like so many, because I know there shouldn’t be any instances of this in my life anymore. Both times, I have written to a friend I go to for accountability, and lamented: “I thought it was gone. It had been so long, I thought I was finally rid of it. How did I get here again?”

I hate pornography. I hate the industry, I hate the effects it has on us psychologically and physically, I hate the perversion it displays of something that was made to be pure and dazzling. I hate it with the deepest passion. Yet I have consumed it twice this year. I consumed it last week, even with all I know. And I don’t know if this time was finally the last.

I believe there will be a last time. God has kept His promise to rework my evil intentions into good things for His glory, making me stronger with new revelations every time I have failed. I just don’t know when that last time will be. I hoped it would be February, and it wasn’t. Now I hope it will be last week. It could be. But I honestly don’t know. Not one piece of me wants pornography in my life, but what happened last week that somehow made me feel differently? I don’t understand it. I hate fearing the ticking of a time bomb inside me, never knowing when or if it could go off. Because I know I have control over my actions… yet I do what I hate.

This is where I am today. I’m emerging from grieving my sin. I’m wrestling with what it means to be a human being with flesh warring against my soul. And I’m exposing my darkness so it can become light. Altogether, I am learning how to live in freedom. Freedom from my struggles, but another kind of freedom, too– the freedom that comes from living fully in the truth, without hiding anything and without fearing what others might see in me.

My unsightly pieces are visible to you now. But I hope when you look at me, they aren’t what you see. Instead… I hope you see a companion. I hope you see there is so much more to me than my struggles, that my garbage is not who I am– and that the same is true for you.

We have let fear and shame keep us from our freedom and from each other for too long. It’s time we take back our ground. We have been given the gift of being able to bear each other’s burdens and walk toward healing together; I don’t want to forsake that anymore.

I am with you. I am with you.

And we are still fully loved, even as we are fully known.

We get to learn how to live in our freedom now. One stumble and one step at a time.

Soul Food

Soul Food {September 2015}

September was full of good things, in my life and in my art/media intake. I’m excited to share some of these gems with you!

Musicjonmcl

  • Daniela Andrade’s cover/mash-up of “Yellow Taxi/Back Home” by Joni Mitchell and Caribou. She just makes everything sound so lovely.
  • Tyler Ward’s cover of “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber. My slightly-guilty pleasure song, made beautiful.
  • Two Worlds, particularly their cover of “Not a Bad Thing.” I was slightly obsessed with them this month… and maybe had a liiiiittle crush on Nick Voelker.
  • Authentic Fiction. The artist-name of Jordan Watts, whom we lost two years ago. His music is such a gift to this world. I listen to it when I need to hear what he left for us to know. His BandPage plays in the background of my life often. Always missing you, Jordan. Thank you.
  • “Mockingbird” by Chase Coy. I woke up with it in my head on the first day of September, and it was so, so fitting. Changing seasons, trusting in the passing of time.
  • “Know That’s Right” by Andy Mineo. His new album just came out and I’M FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT, GUYS. My jaw dropped a few seconds into this song.
  • Pen Pals’ “Gold” ep. Oh… my soul felt a comforting embrace the first time I listened to this. Breathtaking. The more I listen, the more the lyrical depth touches me. Sample it and get it for yourself! My favorite from it might be “Away,” but the title track is incredible, too.
  • The Sleeping Beauty soundtrack. Because Tchaikovsky was a genius, and I’m a sucker for haunting choruses and nostalgia.
  • “The Dream Alive” by Vocal Few. I love everything they do. They inspire and encourage me, make me feel heard and like I have kindred.
  • Everything by Jon McLaughlin. I’ve admired him for years, and recently rediscovered some of my favorites of his. I also discovered more of his work for the first time. He is a gifted pianist and a thoughtful songwriter, and I’m thankful his music is part of my journey. “You Never Know” “I’ll Follow You” “If Only I” and “These Crazy Times” are my favorites from his “Promising Promises” album; and the entirety of his “Holding My Breath” album is incredible, but I’m obsessed with “Throw It on The Fire,” as well as “Hallelujah” “Oh Jesus” and “At Night.”

Movies/TV/YouTubetreasure planet

  • This vine by Thomas Sanders. Relatable. And this vine, also by Thomas Sanders, also relatable.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This film is a work of art. The animation, the music, the creativity… sigh. I love the experience of watching it.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2. Heart-wrenching and exciting all at once. This portrayal of Peter Parker makes him one of my favorite people, period. I admire him and am endeared by him. [A bit of slightly gross action.]
  • “Lead Us Through the Fight” by Alex Currie. A short documentary made by a young man who toured with Tenth Avenue North. Seeing a glimpse of tour life, and the thoughts and feelings that come with it, was enlightening.
  • “Why Not Choose Kindness” by Tessa Violet. I heard a friend say once, “When you say ‘I’m just being honest,’ are you being honest by sharing the truth, or are you only being honest by sharing how you feel about the situation?” Both can be important. The latter is almost never necessary. This video reminded me of that and touched me greatly.
  • The Cimorelli sisters having a blast with a Taylor Swift cover. Their cover is actually very pretty, but the reason I put this here? Their dancing and their behind-the-scenes bloopers had me crying I was laughing so much! Sister interactions are so fun for me to see.
  • “The Crossroads of Should and Must” with Elle Luna on Soul Pancake. This spoke to me so deeply. I’ve met that crossroads a few times, and I’m learning. I’m making my way through the levels she spoke of. And hearing this was a boost to keep doing it.
  • “Saturday Morning Car-Tunez, Season 3” by Andy Mineo. Seeing the process of creating an album and growing as a person at the same time was fascinating for me.
  • Cinderella. The live action version Disney released this year is beautiful, visually and thematically. I loved it and was deeply touched (as you can read about here!).
  • Treasure Planet. It’s always been one of my favorite movies. Jim’s growth is beautiful to watch happen, but I love him from the beginning. Plus John Rzeznik wrote two songs for it and they are perfect.
  • “Why Giving is Better than Porn,” a TEDx Talk by Dave Erasmus. I was thinking a lot about giving and how much it matters in love, how big a piece it is of love. I then found this whilst exploring Dave’s poetry. So many good points in it. Lust takes; love gives.

Books/Articles/Blogsreading 1000 gifts on beach

Responses

Dear . . . (A Letter)

I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. For so many things.

I am sorry that you don’t see the intense BEAUTY you possess. Not a beauty that makes people want you, but a beauty that makes people VALUE you. Because you have immeasurable value.

I am sorry that you have not been respected by anyone in many years. That people see you simply to look at you, for their own pleasure, instead of actually SEEING you, as a human being with a beating heart, or seeking YOUR pleasure.

I am sorry that the only thing that ever gets you any attention leaves you with nothing. I am sorry that you are being robbed of things that should never be taken from you or the ones you love. I am sorry that it seems as if there is no other way, no way out. I am sorry that things are so dim that you don’t even see value in what is being stolen from you anymore.

I am sorry that everyone insists what they do to you is acceptable. I am sorry that whoever lied to you was such a filthy liar that you eventually believed them. I am sorry that you still believe them.

But listen to me now:

THIS IS NOT WHO YOU ARE.

You have a name, and I know it. You have a heart, and I make it beat. You have value, and I am the one who made it so that no one can take it away. Your value is found in me.

My name is Jesus.

I am the one who gave you your beauty. I am the one who doesn’t believe the lies they have told you. I am the one who wants to rescue you from this place.

I am your husband.

I will never treat you as anything less than you are, and I believe that you are worth more than any amount of riches. I love you with a love that led me to a cruel death to save you. You are the reason I am still alive. I love you. THAT is love.

I am love.

And I want you to have me.

I am sorry. I am sorry that you are numb. I am sorry that even though you hear these words you do not feel them to be true.

But they are true.

I love you.

And I will never stop.

I see into your heart, the only thing still hidden from the world. I understand why you keep it stone.

But I make stony hearts bleed.

You will know me someday. You will know the truth one day. And I will keep loving you, even before you do.

I love you.

You will be safe.

[This was written the day I accidentally found pornography. I don’t know how much of it was written by me because it turned into His voice, but it’s written to anyone who has been the subject of porn in any form. As a personal note from me, I want to tell you that I am so infinitely sorry I saw you; even if I didn’t see you specifically, I saw someone, and they didn’t belong to me, just like so many have seen you without any right. I cried for you yesterday, sobbed, because I just can’t believe what people steal from you. I pray for your wholeness. You are a human being, with a face and a name, and THAT’S what I want to see. THAT is you. I am truly sorry.]