I hate the word pornography. It’s vile. Everything associated with it is vile. Sometimes at work I hear my colleagues (who are predominantly male) joke around about “porn” or “porn stars,” quips which always draw knowing laughs…except from me. Laughing about pornography is like laughing about heroin. There’s nothing funny about something that enslaves people to sin and causes pain to them and their loved ones.
But I am here to tell you something wonderful today: you can overcome addiction to pornography. I can honestly tell you this because I have done so, and I was once as addicted as any man.
Before I share more with you, I should qualify what I just said by adding that I still face temptations to lust on a regular basis. It’s just that now I have the virtue to overcome the temptation and choose chastity over lust. But I am conscious of my own weakness and know that if I toy with temptation, it could overcome me again and cause me to fall to sin, so I am always vigilant. Some saints in the Church were given special graces by God to not even be tempted to lust–St. Joseph and St. Thomas come to mind–but most of us have not been given such extraordinary measures and must be prepared daily to face temptation.
There was no one day when I realized I had overcome habitual lust and sexual addiction. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, I kept fighting the battle, availing myself of everything I could to help me live chastely: I put pictures of Our Lady around my computer, went to daily Mass and adoration whenever I could, studied the Theology of the Body, did accountability groups with close friends of mine, wore the Cord of St. Joseph, prayed novenas to St. Maria Goretti and St. Therese, and went to Confession after I fell to temptation.
Some people say this or that measure “doesn’t work,” but different things work for different people. I say, take the shotgun approach: use everything you can and find what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something that could help.
One verse that gave me great encouragement during my struggle to overcome pornography addiction was 1 Cor. 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
How reassuring to know that, even when temptation felt beyond my power to overcome, God promises to give the grace to overcome it. I only have to accept that grace.
It took me years of praying, attending Mass, and receiving the sacraments to overcome my addiction. The fact is that lustful vice was deeply ingrained, an evil habit that had worn itself into my heart like a rut in the road. I had to work and pray hard on the opposite virtue of chastity to form a good habit in myself, one that would make it possible for me to avoid falling into the rut of vice again. Though it took a long time, that eventually happened, by the grace of God, and the feeling of being free from the slavery to sin was indescribable. No longer was I controlled by twisted desires, but instead I was under the aegis of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, of love, and of self-mastery.
For those of you who are still struggling with this sin, know that I sympathize. I know how hopeless it can feel, like you will never overcome it. But you can. Because God is faithful. The one critical component to victory is simply to not give up, no matter how many times you fall. Ask God for forgiveness, and try again. And again, and again, as long as it takes. Even when you “know” that you will fall again, get up and do your best, with His help. He knows us, knows our weakness, and also knows that through this fight, we will become the manly saints that He created us to be.
Please feel free to share anything that has helped you in growing in purity and avoiding lust.
Devin Rose inspires me with his courage to speak about this often taboo topic. He reminds me that one of the best ways of dealing with sin and temptation is to shine God’s healing light upon them. I am thankful that he agreed to contribute this guest post to Blessed Is The Kingdom. You can read more of his writing at his blog St. Joseph’s Vanguard. His recent book, If Protestantism Is True is available at amazon.com.