Today I celebrate 13 years free from pornography addiction. It is been a amazing journey and I am so grateful for it. For this reason, I am excited to share two gifts for those seeking long-term recovery.
First, my story. My Path Out of Porn Addiction: A Therapist’s Journey is the first chapter of my new book Life After Lust. May my story give you a renewed vision for recovery as you pursue your path from pain to purpose.
Second, I have temporarily dropped the cost of my Kindle book. If you are inspired by my story, I invite you to grab your copy of this inspirational and practical book, endorsed by many leaders in the sex addiction recovery field.
Here’s my story…
Chapter 1: My Path Our of Porn Addiction: A Therapist’s Journey*
Essential Mindset #1: Recovery from sexual addiction is difficult, possible, and worth the effort.
Essential Mindset #2: Past pain that made me vulnerable to addiction must be addressed for healing to occur.
I came into the world surrounded by love. Kind to animals and humans alike, I was a caring, imaginative, and gentle child.
Living with my loving parents and sister, none could’ve predicted the pain that was to come. Much of my oncoming anguish would arrive through interactions with my alcoholic, bipolar father. At times he was creative, affectionate, and fun. Other times he inflicted psychological and religious abuse. There were seasons of both attention and absence. I felt abandoned.
Through the years, our relationship was turbulent. I longed for my father and fought for his attention. Looking back, I see he never gave me what he had never received — a secure, connected, and healthy relationship. I was primed to seek comfort outside of connection. I was a victim who was vulnerable to the allurement of addiction.
Sexual curiosity came at a young age, as did sexual self-soothing. Then, at age 12, an unexpected exposure to pornography at a friend’s house changed the course of my young life. The image I viewed that night is forever burned in my brain.
I was a shy yet ambitious adolescent, excelling in school, service, and scouting. My newfound interest in pornography first developed into a habit, growing gradually into a self-destructive force that bound me with secrecy and shame. I mastered sneakiness. Like any addict, I was skilled at finding my drug and covering my tracks. Some of my sexual excursions were at the expense of others. Those memories are laden with lasting shame.
In my late teen years, my addiction escalated, paralleling increased internal pain. I didn’t know it then but those were traumatizing times for me. After acquiring an undeserved inheritance from his deceased parents, my dad’s deepest downfall began. He was hostile, manipulative, and suicidal. Eventually he lost it all and I sought to save him from the horrors of homelessness.
At times my dad would just disappear. I found myself overcome with fear, scouring the streets until I found him dazed with drunkenness. Our deepest connections came on those long drives to Detox. I believed he would die if I didn’t save him. In the end, I never did. He was devoured by the dangers of the streets; a victim of violence, he would never be the same.
The advent of the internet opened Pandora’s Box for all porn addicts. I was no exception. I shared my struggles with my closest friends yet could not shake my shameful double life. When I finally told my mom about a dominating addiction that required professional treatment, she was shocked. I was 24 years old.
March 16, 2004 was the night of my last hurrah, my final fling with pornography and masturbation. The next day, I drove out of town for four days of intensive sexual addiction treatment at an Every Man’s Battle workshop. While I attended, I sought spiritual strength. I read John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart, cementing my fighting commitment. When I left, I was equipped with tools and a tenacious attitude. I took responsibility for my healing. I steadfastly applied what I learned. I trained my eyes to evade lust. I began using boundaries to minimize triggers. Faithfully attending my recovery group, I learned the art of accountability calls.
I started practicing healthy habits and attending personal therapy. My therapist focused on my father-related pain more than my porn use. Confused at the time, I later realized why I needed this. Together, we courageously walked into my wounds. Deep healing required attending to the driving force of my addiction, the hurts in my heart. Without going back, I could not go forward.
Though it was one of the toughest tasks of my life, I took the risk of trusting God and others. This marked a new path in my recovery journey.
Opportunities to help others opened up. Deciding to make a career and calling out of sexual addiction work, I moved to Fresno, California, where I earned my Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. My senior paper was entitled Protecting Children from the Path of Pornography. After graduation, I became certified as a Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider (SATP) and went on to work with a local LifeSTAR outpatient treatment program. Once licensed, I became the program’s Clinical Director.
There I have the opportunity to help sexual addicts, their partners, and young people as they recover from sexual addiction and its detrimental effects. I now train therapists to do sexual addiction treatment through the SATP program from which I graduated. I aim to be a voice for those silently struggling, yet too ashamed to speak up. Sometimes this means talking to parents about the threats of the internet and teaching teens about the pains of porn addiction. I have grown through these experiences and I am grateful. This is all part of my purposeful path.
In recovery, I realize that the love I sought through lust was always around me. I enjoy deepening connections with God, family, and friends. I have a caring and beautiful bride of 11 years. I get to re-define the meaning of fatherhood, giving to my boys that which I never received. I’m growing to trust a Divine Daddy so different from my own. I’m increasing in affection for my pained self inside. The long line of generational addiction in my family of origin can end with me. Learning to love and be loved is the challenge of my lifetime.
My story has come full circle. I have not indulged in pornography or masturbation in over 12 years, since that fateful March evening. More importantly, I have experienced deeper healing. While this may sound like a flawless recovery, I assure you it is far from that. I have fought and failed in many ways. I still wrestle with resentment. When feeling weakened, visual lust remains my Achilles heel. Still, I do not excuse myself from this fervent fight.
Sometimes I seek out “lesser evils,” soothing myself with sugar, drowning myself in distraction, working harder to win a sense of worth, and seeking attention over connection. I am aware of the ways I am vulnerable to addiction. I remain an adult child of an alcoholic, with wounds that demand both my time and attention. To maintain momentum, I must work my recovery. I continue to pursue healing for past pain, a shame-based identity, and a victim mentality. I remain accountable to many. I contend to care for myself. I, like all humans, am a person in progress. As it was in the beginning, so it remains; recovery is a one-day-at-a-time process.
Stepping into the Stigma
Sexual addicts are socially stigmatized. It seems that “those people” are labeled as lower down the ladder than other types of addicts. This judgment of how we’ve coped with our pain only shames us into silence and deeper isolation.
For this generation to stand a chance, we must begin bold conversations about this uncomfortable topic. I hope someday the stigma is silenced and that hooked and hurting individuals from all walks of life will feel safe enough to come forward, giving their wounds the attention that’s warranted.
Leading with vulnerability, I willingly, publicly, step into the stigma. My desire is that those who read this will experience boosted belief in the hope of healing.
Reaching For You
I was once addicted to pornography. It does not define me but it does remind me. When I look at my life, my family, my friends, and my work, I’m amazed at where recovery has led me. The gifts are worth the grief. This has been the most difficult yet most rewarding path of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
With the help of others, I have climbed up the steep path and out of the valley. I will continue extending my hand down to anyone brave enough to grab hold of it. I will continue using my life lessons, the science I’ve studied, and the strategies that have strengthened others to help anyone ready to rise up.
Will you have the boldness to believe in the hope of recovery?
Will you reach out and take this recovering rebel’s hand?
When you do, your life will never be the same. Nobody can predict what adventures lie ahead for you. I can only imagine the depth of meaning and connection waiting on your personal horizon. Such is the steep path out of sexual addiction:
I can attest with certainty that the view from the top is astounding, satisfying beyond words, and worth every grueling step.
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–Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley. If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!
*Benedict, F. (2015). My path out of porn addiction: a therapist’s journey. Retrieved from https://lifestarcentralvalley.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/my-path-out-of-porn-addiction-a-therapists-journey/
*Benedict, F. (2015). My path out of porn addiction: a therapist’s journey. Retrieved from http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article20947515.html