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Escape from Hell

I discovered porn at the age of 10, when my friend Josh’s uncle bought him an iPod Touch for a Birthday present. I wish he had bought Josh a bicycle. Or a fish tank.

I had an impressive music collection at home, and Josh asked me to load some songs onto his new iPod. Inquisitive adolescent that I was, I quickly realized that the device had Internet connectivity, and I wasted no time in punching in words I knew little about, just enough to be curious about what they were.

What I discovered shocked me — and made me crave more.

After that first foray into the online netherworld, I made it my business to get my hands on Josh’s iPod as often as I could. “Hey, Josh, I have a new album for you,” I’d say. Josh would happily relinquish his device for the night so that I could load the latest music onto it, while loading my formerly innocent young mind with unimaginable filth.

From Josh’s iPod I quickly moved to my home computer. My parents had a password on this computer, which I didn’t know, but I could easily get my mother to enter the password, by telling her that I needed to type up a project for school, or that I wanted to play a game on the computer. She never suspected that I was using the Internet, much less that I was going to inappropriate sites. Even had she bothered checking the computer’s Internet history — which I doubt she ever did — she wouldn’t have known I was online, because I always made sure to erase the browser’s history before finishing my “project” or “game.”

I matured at a young age, and along with my physical development, my interest in explicit material morphed from curiosity to compulsion. At that point, my porn use became an addiction. I really wanted to stop — I hated what I was doing, with every fiber of my being— but I couldn’t. On the outside, I was studying well and succeeding in school. On the inside, though, my life was a rollercoaster.

My 12th-grade teacher was amazing. He made an effort to connect with each of his students and help them work through whatever personal issues they were facing. After talking to me a few times, he realized that I was having communication issues with my parents — I was locking myself in my room frequently, and isolating myself emotionally from my family. Whenever possible, I would go to friends’ houses, even eating meals away from home as often as I could.

Years of keeping secrets from my parents had driven a wedge between me and them

Years of keeping secrets from my parents had driven a wedge between me and them, and they had no idea why I had become so withdrawn. In response to my antisocial behavior, my father would get angry with me, and my mother would become sad and helpless, but they couldn’t get through to me. How could they, if they had no idea what a tortured existence I was living?

My teacher suggested that I speak to a therapist about my relationship with my parents. I didn’t tell the therapist anything about my porn problem; I was too ashamed. Instead, we talked about healthy communication, and the emotional transition from child to adult.

A year later, as I was starting college, I had enough. “God,” I cried, “this has to stop! I can’t take it anymore!”

It was the darkest point in my life. I knew I had to get help. Thankfully, at this point I had a line available to me. The next day, I went back to the therapist and blurted out, “I’m struggling with porn issues.”

“Okay,” he said calmly. “I can refer you to a 12-step group for that.” And he introduced me to the 12-step program in my hometown for porn addicts.

I walked into my first meeting with reprehension, but was instantly taken in by the warmth I felt there. In addition, I met people who had been through worse situations than me and that helped me in two ways: (1) I felt more grateful for what I did have and (2) I saw that, “hey, if these guys can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it too”.

With this new combination in place — 12-step group, therapist, and a sponsor I found in the group — I finally had a program that could help me. The porn problem was totally out of my control at that point — it was an addiction that I was powerless over. Only after I accepted that I had no control over the problem could I begin to be free from it.

I really feel I have a plan that is working, and for the first time in my life I am experiencing a real inner peace.

The 12-step group helped me learn tools to overcome the obsession. Finally, I had group support and was learning tools to live and think differently. The program also helped me to become more understanding of my parents. I learned to focus on all the good they had done for me over the years: paying my tuition, providing me with ample food and clothing, and, above all, showering me with love.

It’s been a year since my first 12-step program meeting, and although I still have slips from time to time, I feel that the obsession has significantly weakened its grip on me. I really feel I have a plan that is working, and for the first time in my life I am experiencing a real inner peace.

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