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Story

Breaking Free
By Ian O'Meara - March 27, 2017

When I first noticed the character of Sean he was jumping onto a flaming oil platform that had exploded late one August morning. The sky was thick with black smoke and air was blistering with heat. But, didn’t stop Sean, he was running straight into the raging fire to help those trapped. Now, Sean wasn’t a fireman, but the driver of our patrol boat.

Some said that Sean was careless, but I say he was courageous. He radiated a courage that didn’t think when others were in trouble; it acted. He was the type of man that place the lives of others above his own. If people were in danger, he was there to help. However, Sean had a deep secret that courage bravery couldn’t fix. He struggled with pornography.

To give you some background, when Sean was seven, his Dad gave him a porn magazine to “make him a man.” This was his first experience seeing a woman naked. Initially, he thought it was great. I mean the man he trusted more than anyone in the world had given it to him, how could it be wrong? At the age of nine, his education continued, when his father encouraged him to watch pornographic movies. By this time, he had accepted porn as an ordinary part of life. However, everything changed the day his mother caught him watching it on his own. He told me, “she got real violent that day as she beat me with a belt and she yelled repeatedly ‘you're a perverted freak!’” After this he did not stop, but did it in secret, because he felt ashamed.

As Sean told his whole story, from the beginning, he felt the light of Christ shining on his dark secret. He remembers feeling like a weight was removed from his body as the grace of God surged through his soul. When he was done, he didn’t feel exposed, but joy. He knew he was finally free.

By the time Sean arrived in High School, his shame had begun to shape how he viewed himself. While in High School, his friends began to discover pornography and thought it was great, but instead of identifying with them, he kept to himself. The shame of his secret had begun to separate him from others as the words of his mother continually rang in his mind, “you’re a perverted freak!” He could not escape them. He explained to me that the only thing that brought him joy was porn, but it was also the thing that brought him shame. He was caught in a deadly cycle.

When he was 18, Sean joined the Navy. He wanted to escape his home life and he really wanted a fresh start. He thought of it as a way to find himself away from shameful past. Better yet, while in the Navy, he found Jesus.

Sean knew that Jesus was the answer to his problem as the pastor proclaimed from the stage that “Jesus sets the captives free” and “He washes away your sins!” Sean knew this was the answer to his problem; he just needed Jesus. That day, he went forward and accepted Jesus as his Lord. From the look on his face as he told me this, he really meant it.  He really did accept Jesus that day, but the porn did not stop. As a matter of fact, his shame increased.

Many times after accepting Jesus, Sean had tried to break free from pornography, but the urges always returned. At moments he would break from his secrecy by turning to Christian friends and the pastor of his small church. However, all he was told to do was “Just stop” or “Give it to God,” but it didn’t work.  Even once he was married he thought that sex would cure him, but it did not. The porn continued.

For years, Sean cried out to God to take away the urges and the pain. He begged on his knees for the suffering to stop, but it did not. After continued failures, the shame and the feelings of judgment surrounded him. He said, “it was like the pain of my failure was being compressed by the shame of my past and it only drove me deeper into porn.”

Now, Sean was no chump. As I mentioned earlier, he was courageous and bold. He did not give half-hearted attempts to quit, but full-fledged assaults. He tried books, on-line accountability, white-knuckling it and admitting his problem to church leaders, all of which lead to moderate success. He would go weeks, even months without using porn, but would always go back. After years of struggling, he gave up. He just let himself go. It would lead him to rock bottom.

Sean knew he was in an inescapable pit when his wife told him that she was done. If he did not get help, she out of there. Sean was devastated as the reality of his problem collided with the shame of his past. His wife said “she was done,” but all he heard was the voice of his mother saying, “you’re a perverted freak!”

Being truthful, Sean told me that part of him just wanted to let her go because he knew that he couldn’t stop after 20 years of trying. He had tried over and over again with little success. However, part of him loved his wife more than anything and couldn’t just give up without one more fight.

Sean began to search online for help. He ran across a Sexual Addiction Recovery Group for Christian men at the Rock Church but decided that wasn’t for him because he wasn’t an addict. However, God had other plans. The same group was brought to him by his wife a few weeks later, and it wasn’t with an option if he goes, but when. Sean was terrified. He thought to himself “why do I need to meet with a bunch of perverts?” Interestingly enough, I thought his use of the term “pervert” was not by mistake.

On his way there, Sean knew the group would be filled with the stereotype in his mind: older white guys wearing black trench coats with napkins hanging out of their pockets. In his mind, he knew he wasn’t one of them. As he walked to the room, he pleaded with himself to run, but he did not. He knew he shouldn’t be there, but he had promised his wife. He wasn’t shocked to find an older white guy sitting in the room, but was surprised that everyone looked so normal.

The group leader began with a prayer that focused on the grace of God. Then, he had everyone introduce themselves by telling their story. Sean knew this would prove that he wasn’t one of them. However, as they shared, every story sound just like Sean’s. He began to consider that he may be one of them. Then it was Sean’s turn. Sean said it was the most terrifying moment of his life. He felt like he was standing on top of a hundred-foot cliff before jumping onto the jagged rocks below. He knew he was about to be exposed.

As Sean told his whole story, from the beginning, he felt the light of Christ shining on his dark secret. He remembers feeling like a weight was removed from his body as the grace of God surged through his soul. When he was done, he didn’t feel exposed, but joy. He knew he was finally free.

You should understand, this was not a one and done moment, but a process of continued fellowship, accountability, and transparency with his brothers in Christ. Sean joined the Sexual Addiction group and spent the next five years growing and learning with others. He wasn’t a “perverted freak,” as his mother had told him, but a child of God, who had stuff to work on.