I was the first child of 2 people who should never have gotten married. Unfortunately, it would take them 8 years and 3 more children to figure that out. Needless to say, my childhood was less than ideal. My dad was verbally abusive to my mother, my mother was selfish and lazy. Not exactly the kind of environment where kids tend to thrive. But, my parents dysfunctional marriage would end up being just one element that would contribute to years of isolation, confusion, anger, addiction, and destructive tendencies. This is the story of how God brought me out of a lifestyle that would have likely resulted in my eventual death and redeemed it and brought something good out of it.
My dad joined the Air Force shortly after I was born. As a result, we ended up in the first of many military towns we would live in. We lived in a stereotypical 80’s southern neighborhood. Simple one story houses with chain link fences. Nothing fancy, but it wasn’t the ghetto. We at least felt safe for the most part. I would come to learn fairly quickly though that danger can come in lots of different forms.
At the age of 5, there was a boy in our neighborhood that I was friends with. I don’t remember if he was exactly the same age as me but I know we were close in age. We’ll call him Bill. Bill and I played together as children do; playing pretend and just being boys. What no one knew was that Bill’s parents liked to watch porn and apparently had no problem with allowing Bill to watch as well. As most anyone knows, allowing a child to view sexually explicit material can be both confusing and damaging to the child’s development. Their minds are unable to properly process what they are seeing and so will look for avenues to try to express their overwhelming emotions and thoughts. So, Bill decided that he would use me to try out the things he had seen. As a 5-year-old boy who had no clue what sex was and hadn’t even been taught the proper terminology for my genitals, I went along as a “willing” participant as we tried out various things. This behavior went on for a while. (I’m not sure how long-the passage of time is not something that registers with a 5-year-old so much) Despite the fact that the things we were doing felt good, I somehow innately knew that they weren’t OK and instinctively kept them hidden. Well, as it turns out, 5-year-olds aren’t that great at keeping anything hidden for very long and eventually, we got caught by some other kids in the neighborhood who, of course, told our parents. My dad was furious. He questioned me and, of course, I denied I had done anything. He knew I was lying though and I got a spanking. Unfortunately, my dad was young, immature, and had been raised in a strict Independent Baptist family. He had no clue how to address what had happened and so he just disciplined me the only way he knew how and I guess he thought that would be sufficient. No one ever talked to me about it or explained anything to me about why the things we did weren’t OK. So, the only lesson I learned was “don’t get caught.”
Fast forward 3 years: We now live in the north after a 1 year stint in another Southern town, I’m in the 3rd grade, and my parents’ marriage has reached the breaking point. My dad moves out, my parents get divorced, my dad gets remarried to the woman he was cheating on my mom with, and moves out of the country leaving my mom to take care of 4 children all by herself. My interest in sexual things has never gone away and I’ve developed the beginnings of an obsession with men and the male body. This is only compounded by the fact that I am now dealing with feelings of abandonment and resentment toward my father for leaving. My mom, bless her, is not a good single parent. She tried, but she does not manage money well and severely lacks discernment. It was during this time that my first exposure to pornography occurred. My mom had rented out a room to a guy in an effort to have enough to pay the rent. This man apparently liked to enjoy the occasional pornographic movie and had left one of them in the living room where my siblings and I discovered it. Being curious and having no clue what the movie was, we put it in the VCR and hit play. And that’s how I witnessed oral sex for the first time. None of us really understood what we were seeing at first, but when we realized what it was we turned it off really quick. The crazy thing is that the image I saw on that screen has stuck with me my whole life. It was literally seared into my brain. Anyone who tells you that porn isn’t harmful or damaging is either lying or has been deceived themselves. If an image I saw once over 30 years ago can still be vividly recalled, there’s no denying that porn has an impact on our minds.
After this initial year of living with my mom began the years of house hopping for me and my siblings. Stability was in no way a part of my experience growing up. From the time I was born until I graduated high school, I moved 12 times and went to 10 different schools. As a person who was a natural introvert this was hell. I struggled with bullying and feeling ostracized my entire childhood and even when I did finally have some good consistent friends in my last 3 years of high school, I always still felt like an outsider. I know now that this was largely due to the struggles I was dealing with in my own heart and mind that left me feeling isolated and like no one could ever truly know the real me or they would surely run away screaming.
My high school years were when, thanks to the internet, I discovered porn for the first time since hitting puberty. The obsession with men that began in my childhood, of course, led me to seek out gay porn and I was quickly hooked. My porn addiction eventually led to experimentation with a friend and once I had experienced a consensual homosexual encounter, I was like a heroin addict looking for their next hit. I had progressed from porn addict to sex addict and didn’t even realize it.
A quick note here: even though I struggled with sexual attraction toward men, I was always attracted to women romantically and physically as well. I dated girls, made out with girls, and really liked girls. My attraction to men was always this dark little secret that I hid from everyone and there was never any desire to have a relationship with a guy or anything like that. Men were purely sex objects for me.
Now, one might assume that because of everything I dealt with that I was not raised in church, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. My parents were both raised in Christian homes, though I recognize now that it was more of a performative form of Christianity than one based on a real loving relationship with Jesus. Because they were both raised this way, of course we went to church. Not only did we go to church, but my dad was usually the music minister at whatever church we happened to be attending at the time. So, I was brought up in the Christian tradition, but due to the inconsistencies in my parents’ lives and everything that I was dealing with from a very young age I struggled with my faith and with feeling like I could ever be accepted by God. By the time I graduated high school I had “gotten saved” and been baptized 4 times. I just couldn’t get past the inconsistencies in my own life compared to what I thought I was supposed to be as Christian. I thought that if I struggled with sin then I must not actually be saved and so I was constantly doubting and questioning my own salvation. Of course, 90’s purity culture and irresponsible teen evangelists didn’t help my confusion at all. Let’s just say that by the time I graduated high school, I was a conflicted confused mess.
Over the next couple of years I would attend college, drop out, join the military, get kicked out, start dating my future wife, get engaged, and, at the age, of 20 get married. Through all of this, I continued to go through phases of fighting against and giving in to my addiction. I was fully on the addiction roller coaster and nobody knew it but me. I had no business getting married, but I naively thought, as many guys do, that if I got married that would somehow curb my out-of-control sexual appetite. Wrong! I continued to consume porn whenever I had the opportunity and I hadn’t even been married 6 months when I cheated on my wife for the first time.
She was pregnant with our first child at the time and morning sickness was more like morning, noon, and night sickness which meant we weren’t having a lot of sex because she felt horrible all the time. So, what does an addict do when he can’t get ahold of his usual dealer? Look for a different one. This was my first experience with hooking up with a random person. Until that fateful night, it had always been with people I knew. Well, the addict in me was immediately hooked on the adrenaline rush of hooking up with strangers. Over the next 10 years I had sexual encounters with more men than I can remember. I know the number has to be over 100. I don’t say that to brag. This is not something I am proud of. I share that simply to show the depths of depravity that I sank to. I became an expert at lying and essentially, I was living a double life. My wife discovered fairly early on that there were problems and that I had an attraction to men, but it wasn’t until I came clean several years later that she realized the extent of my problem.
Fast forward 9 years. We have 2 kids in elementary school. My wife is on staff at our church and I am actively involved in the church despite my ongoing addiction. I get involved with another married man at the church and through a series of events, my double life gets exposed. I am kicked out of the church, my wife loses her job, and my entire life is turned upside down. We lost most of our friends. We lost our primary income. We lost our church. And it was ALL MY FAULT. I finally hit rock bottom. This was one of 2 times in my life that I seriously considered suicide.
Thankfully, despite the many ways that our church mishandled this situation, one good thing they did was to get me into contact with a good licensed Christian therapist. I will forever be in debt to that man. He saw through all my bs, refused to let me make excuses, and forced me to really get to the root of all my issues.
He helped me see that the main reason all my efforts to fix myself over the years had failed were because I was trying to slap a Band-Aid of behavior modification over a festering infected wound that consisted of trauma and feelings of abandonment from my childhood. I had been using sex as self-medication to deal with the fact that I never really connected with my dad as a kid, I had been traumatized by my exposure to graphically sexual things at a very young age, and I just wanted to feel wanted. It was through therapy that I learned to truly accept for the first time that God loved me. I learned to say “(My name) plus nothing is who God loves.” Let me tell you, the first time I said that sentence out loud it was like a damn broke inside me and all the feelings of not being able to measure up, of never being good enough, of always being alone and isolated came pouring out and I sobbed like a baby. God loves me. Period. And there’s nothing I can do to make him love me more or less.
This was an absolute turning point in my life. For the first time I felt like victory over my addiction was actually possible. I got involved in an accountability/recovery group for men who struggle with sexual sin and eventually led a group of my own. I surrendered my life completely to God and got baptized again as a symbol of my commitment (5th times a charm, right?).
My wife and I were able to work together to not just stay married, but to actually experience true intimacy for the first time ever. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows to get there. There were some hard conversations along the way and my wife has wounds from the first part of our marriage that continue to have impacts on things to this day. She’s had to get counseling for herself as well. I haven’t been perfect. Like any recovering addict, I’ve struggled at times and I haven’t always gotten it right, but when I choose to surrender and rely on God, I experience true victory and freedom on a daily basis, and the best part is that not only has God rescued me from the pit, he has redeemed the time I spent there. He has allowed me to use my story to encourage others in their own struggles.
A verse that has come to mean a lot to my wife and I as we have traveled this road is Joel 2:25a “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” God truly is able to restore and redeem the broken wasted years if you will just turn to him, trust him, and allow him to bring healing to the wounds you’ve endured in the wilderness. He’s waiting, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, to restore you to your place as his child. My wife and I have now been married for 21 years and are looking forward to as many more as God will give us.
Let me encourage you, if you are struggling with addiction of any kind, that there are so many resources available and people who are willing to come alongside you and encourage you if you will just open up to someone. Sin thrives in darkness. Our enemy loves to keep us isolated and in fear of being discovered because as long as he can keep you that way, he can control you. Step into the light, come clean, get help, and find the healing your soul longs for. If anyone reading this is struggling with sexual sin and needs someone to talk to, you can contact the moderator of Christians Who Curse Sometimes and have him pass your info on to me. I would be happy to talk to you and be an encouraging voice on your journey to healing.
A guy that has struggled with same sex attraction for as long as he can remember, but has learned to trust God with the everyday battle for his mind, heart, emotions, and relationships. He is married to his best friend and biggest support and thanks God for her forgiveness, endurance, and determination every day.