Open Letter from a Former Pornography Addict
By Geoff Steurer
In my work with individuals and couples affected by the plague of pornography, I sometimes come across people who feel a deep passion for helping others escape the chains of oppression that held them captive for so many years. It’s inspiring to see their enthusiasm and courage take form as they move forward to testify of the miraculous changes they’ve experienced in their own lives.
They offer hope to those who feel stuck in the dark. They challenge the self-sufficiency of those who feel they don’t need to submit themselves to Christ. Ultimately, they invite all of us to testify of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ in our own lives.
I’d like to introduce you to one of these individuals and let you hear his invitation of hope and change in his own words.
He invited me to lunch a few months ago, telling me he had something important to share with me. After we sat down to eat, he pushed a group of papers in my direction and asked me to read while I ate. This is what I read:
Living next door to a runner can be a serious health hazard. I hate running. I have always hated running. I don’t get it; it hurts. I don’t understand how or why people do it. If you watch people run you never see them with a smile on their face.
So I don’t know how my neighbor talked me into running a 5K race next month. We have already started training, we have gone running several times, and each time confirms how much I hate running.
I hurt while running, I hurt after running, and I can’t sleep well the entire night and I am sore for a day or two after. And yet, I keep going back. In fact, I think I might be excited about the race. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because I can see myself getting a little better each time. Maybe it’s because the exercise makes me feel better physically – I don’t know. Maybe I keep going back because it’s hard and I hate it and there’s something about overcoming oneself to do more than you think you can do.
Perhaps, however, this is just a symptom of some other changes that have been going on in my life over the past year or so.
About a year and a half ago my life was about the same it had been for the previous 34 years – not necessarily bad but not necessarily good either. I had my faults and vices; among others I justified watching “R”-rated movies and dabbled in pornography. During stressful times it was always worse. During one particularly stressful time in my life I decided I needed to talk to the bishop.
What followed were two of the most difficult and spiritually powerful weeks of my entire life. I had my heart ripped out of my chest when the bishop asked me for my temple recommend, and again when I was unable to set my son apart as a deacon. I shed many tears and spent a lot of time on my knees. I was humiliated and humbled and begged for forgiveness.
I know that after a long and painful process I received forgiveness for my sins. The joy I felt was only matched by the pain I had felt previously. As I took the sacrament again and renewed my covenants with my Heavenly Father, I felt clean and pure.
I don’t remember very well when I was baptized, but I imagine that this time it felt more real. I felt so clean that I never wanted to get dirty again. Of course I’m not perfect and I didn’t stay clean for long, but things that I used to love began to lose their taste for me.
“R”-rated movies were the first to go. Sometimes it was hard, but mostly I loved feeling clean and I was afraid of anything that made me feel dirty again. I gave up caffeine because I always had a headache and needed more caffeine to get rid of it. I was more and more sensitive to things that made me feel further from my Heavenly Father. I began to find joy in reading the scriptures. I actually liked going to the temple. All of the little things that I didn’t understand and couldn’t be bothered with began to enrich and bring joy into my life.
With running it’s easy to understand that if you work hard, you grow stronger and running gets easier. Why is it so hard for us to understand then that spiritual exercise can be the same way? By doing something – anything – spiritual, we grow spiritually stronger. Those things we are asked to do become easier and we have a greater desire to do more. The only difference is that with physical exercise you get blessings that are limited to your body; with spiritual exercise the blessings are limitless.
The Spirit can bring peace, love, understanding, happiness and joy. He can give you guidance and strength. For those that have the priesthood, spiritual exercises bring priesthood power.
The greatest blessing that has come into my life as a result of living the best way that I know how, is to have the right to call upon all the powers of heaven to bless my life and the lives of those around me, whenever and wherever those powers are needed.
I have enjoyed inspiration on exactly what to say, at exactly the right moment to appease a struggling teenager.
I have called upon God’s healing power to calm, heal, and strengthen a sick child.
I have received, countless times, the strength to continue, to be a good father, to be a good husband.
I have opened my mouth to give a fathers blessing to my sons and have heard the words of another Father flow through me, blessing both father and son, with words more beautiful and profound than I could ever think of.
I have felt at perfect peace during times that should have had me petrified with worry and doubt, and then had the solution to those problems sweetly whispered in my ears.
I have had my heaviest burdens made light and my most difficult task made easy.
That right, the right to call upon Him at any moment, is worth every menial task or momentary trial that is laid before me, for I know that He is there to make even those trials easier.
Much like physical exercise to the point of being “in shape” qualifies someone to call upon his body in any moment of need, so does being in shape spiritually qualify him to call on the Spirit in his hour of need.
Some of you may remember a few weeks ago when I was called up to speak [in sacrament meeting] without notice. I talked about feeling alone and abandoned by the Spirit even though I could not find any reason for being abandoned. I was frustrated and lost. I had even increased my spiritual exercise but still had not felt as close to my Heavenly Father as I had before.
The Bishop later asked me what I was going to do. Was I going to give up? Or would I push through?
I later found a passage that helped to explain the way I was feeling. This is from Men of Valor by Robert L. Millet.
“Elder Orson Pratt once commented that one of his greatest desires was to so live that he could be divinely directed in all the affairs of his life, such that ‘the path in which I should walk will be plain, the Spirit of god being as it were a lamp to my feet.’ He then went on to say: ‘Supposing a person were thus guided all the time, from waking in the morning until he retired to rest at night . and this should be the uninterrupted condition of an individual. I ask, where would be his trials? This would lead us to ask, Is it not absolutely necessary that God in some measure, withhold even from those who walk before him in purity and integrity, a portion of his Spirit, that they may prove to themselves, their families and neighbors, and to the heavens whether they are full of integrity even in times when they have not so much of the Spirit to guide and influence them? I think that this is really necessary, consequently I do not know that we have any reason to complain of the darkness which occasionally hovers over the mind.”
I have, since then, regained a portion of the Spirit that had so strongly accompanied me. It has even come and gone since then. But through it all, I continue to do and will continue to do each time I am left to myself and patiently and gratefully wait for the next time the Spirit of the Lord will abide with me.
Apparently, this was the text from a talk he delivered in sacrament meeting the previous week. He said that he felt prompted to risk embarrassment by sharing his story with his ward members. He worried that some would think he was confessing his sins across the pulpit. However, he felt assured that because he had already felt the cleansing and enabling power of the Atonement, his message would be one of hope and encouragement.
He told me that after he delivered his sacrament meeting address, dozens of ward members pulled him aside privately to sincerely thank him for his message of hope and healing. He was surprised by the response to his testimony.
He handed me this talk and asked what I thought could be done with his story. He said, “I’ve had this incredible experience of being transformed through the Atonement of Christ and I want to invite others to have the same hope.”
A few months after delivering this sacrament meeting talk, he told me that a family member called him to talk about his own struggle with pornography. Scott told me that his family member’s struggle destroyed him. He was shocked that this particular family member was struggling with an addiction to pornography. He told me:
If anybody ever had a chance of being free from this type of addiction, it was him. If he couldn’t resist than nobody can, if he fell, then everybody can fall. I was so angry at Satan. I was angry at myself for staying quiet. I asked myself, ‘How many others could have been helped by my story?’ I immediately went downstairs and wrote an email to my family and friends. Feeling slightly better, I vowed to talk openly with others as directed by the Spirit. I can’t stay quiet, I mean literally can’t. I feel a fire in me that cries out.
He sent me a copy of the email that resulted from his conversation with his beloved family member:
My name is Scott, and I’m addicted to pornography.
It’s been one year, seven months and 21 days since my last episode.
My battle with pornography raged on for the better part of my life, starting as early as I can remember. I truly believed that I would never rid myself of it. I harmed countless individuals through neglect, shame and embarrassment. My wife has suffered more than she should ever have had to suffer, and at the hands of the man she loved.
My recovery has been an amazing journey of light and promise, a spiritual journey I never would have thought possible. I have broken the bands of shame and left my burdens to the Lord who has joyfully accepted them.
Over the last year I have shared my story with a select few. The more times I tell the story the more I am liberated from it and the more I come to realize that many, many, many of my brothers struggle with the same shame.
It is time for the shame to end. Satan has unleashed his greatest weapon among men and is destroying entire harvests of Gods most valiant servants. I cannot in good conscience keep my problem to myself. I will shout it from the rooftops. I will open myself up to all of you, my most dear and precious family and friends.
I know there are many of you who are fighting the same fight. The only way to win that fight is to join together, brothers in Gods army. Release yourself from the shame that binds you to your addiction. Tell somebody, talk to a friend, your bishop, to a therapist, you can talk to me; anybody, just start talking, and you won’t believe how liberating it will be. Satan wants you to stay hidden, quiet, alone, and overwhelmed. Don’t listen to him. Find somebody and open up.
A few months ago my wife and I were asked to speak about the blessings that come to us when we live the lives the Lord has asked us to live. When I wrote it, I could not believe I was really considering delivering it. I openly spoke about my addiction to the entire congregation. Some were embarrassed for me, some were embarrassed for my wife, but most were deeply moved by my candor.
More important was how I felt after giving the talk. I was completely stripped of all shame, on my knees in humility, completely at the mercy of my brothers and sisters. But I had never felt so tall in my life; I have never felt so much power over my addiction. I knew that on my knees in humility, I stood with God and I could never stand taller!
I can stay quiet no longer. In tears, I beg all of you who struggle, and I believe this has touched all of our lives. Let us band together and stand against this terrible wave of filth.
I love you all more than I have ever, or could ever tell you. There is hope, there is love, there is forgiveness and there is a life free of pornography.
With all my heart,
P.S. please feel free to share this with anyone and everyone you think it could help.
When I read Scott’s story, I think of the great “repenters” in the scriptures and how they rejoiced in their salvation. I have no doubt that many of our greatest hymns, sermons, and scriptures came from men and women who have felt the redeeming transformation promised by Jesus Christ.
It’s inspiring to hear stories of redemption that are full of hope and light. To see someone standing at the tree of life inviting family and friends to press forward and partake of the fruit motivates me to be more vocal about being snatched from my own “awful, sinful, and polluted state” (Alma 26:17).
Regardless of our past or present struggles, if we have experienced the relief that comes from being rescued by Jesus Christ, we have something to share with others.
As Scott demonstrates, once we have tasted of that fruit, it’s difficult to be silent.