Married life began exactly as I had imagined. As a newly married couple we always wanted to be together. We LOVED being intimate and found opportunities to enjoy each others’ company often. All of my fantasies were being fulfilled and with the love of my life. I was in heaven and all of those urges and desires were gone… or so I thought.
Approximately 3 months into my new life as a married man I discovered that once again I began having desires, urges, and aches. I was shocked at first. Why in the world would I be having these kind of feelings? I was married and I was satisfied sexually. I loved my wife and didn't have any thoughts or desires to be with or think about someone else. So why was I suddenly feeling the urge to look at porn again? I fought off the feelings for a few weeks more. But that all changed shortly after we made a purchase for our home.
We decided to buy a computer and with it, the Internet….
My wife worked the graveyard shift when we were first married so finding alone time wasn't hard. I began staying up late. I found myself sitting in the spare bedroom while she worked, looking at porn. I eventually got a job working a graveyard shift myself so that our schedules could match. Thus, my viewing habits had to change. I began going to bed after her so I could indulge when she was sleeping.
I realized that I was suddenly lying more...not major lies but little things to keep her from knowing what I was up to. “I couldn't sleep” or “I just remembered an email I should have responded too…” were my immediate excuses. They began to come out quickly and easily. I felt bad for my lies but felt that it was better than letting her now what I was really doing.
I was certain she wouldn't understand. I thought she might question why I would want to look at smut when she was right there and willing. The honest truth is. I wondered this too. I have a beautiful wife who is just as interested in being intimate as I am. Why didn't I just go and spend time with her when I had these urges? I never felt like we were lacking in that department and I thought she was beautiful and sexy… so why would I want to look at porn? I couldn't have her asking me those questions when I honestly didn't know the answers myself.
After about 6 months of marriage, she walked in on me in the middle of the night as I was feasting. I was embarrassed. I lied to her and told her that I had never done that before. I told her I had stumbled onto it and I let myself linger there and I felt awful. She believed my lies. I hated myself. Why did I have to indulge in this garbage? This became the first of a plethora of times during our 17 years of marriage that I committed to myself that it was over. Never again! I would pray with more intent. I would read my scriptures more diligently. I would serve with more faith. I would love her more deeply.
Let me digress for a moment to tell you about re-commitments. Re-commitments are worthless if done in secret. Our secrets are the devil’s playground. He lives there and plays there. Our private secret thoughts are where Satan does his work. First, he entices us to sin. Then he urges us to never divulge or give up that sin. My reasons to keep my lies hidden were many. Here are a few that I heard often.
2. She’ll never understand
3.What if you get released over this
4. You have been entrusted with this leadership position you will look like a fool when it is revealed that you have been unworthy this whole time.
5. You have let this go for so long now, it is too much to share,
6. You are beyond saving now… you may as well take this to your grave.
7. You will lose everything if you confess now... your wife, your children, your home, your business.
8. You are just an evil person. This is what you do. You lie and sin so why even bother.
And so many more. The problem is those sins that we never give up; they give Satan a place to live. They allow him to continue dwelling in hearts and minds. Our hidden secrets and sins are an invitation to him to stay. As long as we have unconfessed sins, he has something to hold onto and to control us with. So…. I say again… a re-commitment in secret is worthless. It lasts about as long as a new diet. By day 3… you’re already sneaking chocolate chips from the pantry and before you know it… you’re eating big macs for lunch again everyday.
My re-commitments happened often. At first they were the product of embarrassment and true desire. But over our years of marriage, though I truly wanted it to stop, I had tried and failed so many times that my disappointment in myself just became part of how I saw myself. My self image began to be that of a horrible person who looked at and did horrible things, with no will power and no self respect. I hated myself for what I was doing to myself and for what I was doing to my wife. And so it was this time. A few weeks after I had recommitted… I was again slipping... and so went the cycle.
With the memory of getting caught red handed burned into my mind, I had to be far more careful about when I would indulge. I continued my secret viewing for the next 2 years as we moved through 2 other apartments. The last of which we kept the computer in a third bedroom on the 2nd floor. It provided me a more private place to search and view. I became bold with this new found privacy and would often do my collecting when she was home or downstairs. I found ways to hide what I was doing under multiple windows. It was also in this apartment that I finally convinced her that we needed to get this new thing called HIGH SPEED INTERNET. She relented and we signed up. DSL was a gift to a porn addicted person. Suddenly, I was downloading so much faster and getting more and more content. The cycle always continued. No matter where we lived I would commit, fail, feast, hate myself, and commit again.
We moved from this apartment to a little larger house. With one small child and another on the way, the space was needed. My wife had quit her job to be a mother. Our small business was beginning to have success and it afforded us an opportunity to expand a bit. We again set up an office in the 3rd bedroom complete with computer, high speed Internet, and a locking door.
A new home meant a new ward and a new ward meant new callings, Up to this point we had been able to play the part of young married newly weds and were never asked to do too much. This move changed things. I was called as executive secretary to the bishopric. My wife was called into the Young Women's Presidency.
I loved my calling. Sitting in Bishopric meetings each week was exciting and spiritual. Serving the Bishop as his right hand man made me feel important and also made me want to do good personally. This move was a new start and another new commitment to abstinence and success. For a time, I was able to put it away. I felt strong and spiritual and I even felt I had gained some sense of control over it. But Satan does not let us sit still too long as before long, I again felt the urges. This time however I pushed back. I did not give in. I thought I had beat it once and for all. I began to believe that I was not addicted after all. Obviously I was not addicted… that would be embarrassing and shameful…and certainly not something an active member of the church and priesthood holder would do…. to be addicted to pornography? How low could one go? My pride began to creep up and so did my overconfidence. This false sense of security allowed me to let my guard down.
There was another issue as well. In order to truly conquer this, I needed to confess. As is now painfully obvious, this was something I could not do. This was my secret shame. I had it under control. There was no need to let anyone else know how dark and polluted my mind had become. I would simply continue to manage it myself. At some point when I knew it was completely under control...then I would tell the bishop, but not now! I didn’t want him thinking he made a wrong choice and I don't want to get released either. What would people say? Between my pride and my secrecy, it did not take long for the urges to again overwhelm me and before I knew it, I was back at it again.
My office was set up in a separate room where I hibernated most of the time. It was here that I first discovered the ability to download video files. I always believed that videos would be far better at feeding my appetite then simple pictures. Pictures had become stagnant and stale and didn't seem to be satisfying me any more. But recently my new desire had been to be able to download video files. And with high speed data flowing into my home, videos quickly became my drug of choice.
We lived in this home for 2 years. Our family grew again. We were now a family of 5. I was released as Exec. Secretary and called into the Young men's as an assistant Venture leader and then 6 months later as the Ward Young Men's President. I Loved serving the youth. I was YM pres. And My Wife was YW Pres. It was hard. Especially with 3 young children, but we loved the Lord and we loved serving. I had a testimony of the gospel and on many occasion taught and preached about the evils of pornography and of being pure. Of course during that whole time I secretly viewed pornography almost every day. When I wasn't working or serving in my church calling, I was spending time downloading and cataloging images and videos.
At the end of our 2 years in this rental home, we felt we were again out growing it. The business was doing well, so the decision was made to build our own house. The plans were designed and within 4 months time, we moved our small family out of the rental and into a home of our very own.
With this move we finally decided it was time to move our small business out of our home and into its own office space. So we rented a small place and set up a location where clients could meet me out of the home. The new space was great for business. It allowed us the comfort of having a home without strangers in it all the time and a place away from the playing and crying of children.
But it had its disadvantages too. Now I was alone all day long. I spent much of my time working… but when the work was done,I would begin searching the Internet and devouring porn. Being alone offered me so much opportunity. It was here that I discovered sites that could stream the videos directly to my computer. It was instant! It was here that I also found myself drifting into darker fetishes. It wasn’t for enjoyment but out of curiosity. For the most part, I never went to them again but I found that some had a draw and allowed me to look at harder and harder things until I had became completely numb to any of it. None if it offended me any more. It was all acceptable to my perverted and warped mind.
This was the first time that I truly realized that I had a serious problem. I absolutely hated myself. Why couldn't I stop? I hated viewing. I hated wanting it. I hated everything about it but it was all consuming and I had to have it. I would verbally yell at myself on several occasions. I was there alone after all. So It felt good to get it out of my system and simply scream out loud how much I hated myself. Hate or not.. the problem continued.
Then one day I got a call from the Stake executive secretary. I was asked to visit with a member of the Stake presidency following meetings that next Sunday. I agreed. I knew I was going to be asked to serve in a calling. Maybe I would be asked to serve on the stake activities committee or as a stake cub leader? I thought hard about how I would respond. I practiced in my mind how to answer worthiness questions without looking guilty. I was preparing myself to lie my way through the interview. But I also thought, “OK … this is a chance to refocus and to get clean. The interview is over a week away. If you stop all of your activities now, you should be able to answer his questions with a clean conscience.” (yep.. that is the rationality of an addict.) And so i did. I abstained that whole week prior to the interview.
Sunday came and following the meetings I found myself sitting with the counselor of the Stake Presidency laughing and casually talking like old friends. Then he began the interview. “Brother Arnold, as you may have guessed, I am here to extend a calling to you.” I nodded my head in understanding then he continued, “ Before I extend the calling however, as with all callings, it is important for me to have a worthiness interview with you. So, let me ask you very quickly...do you hold a current temple recommend?” I truthfully said, “Yes”. He went on, “Is there anything in your life right now that would make you unworthy of that recommend?” Well.. I had come prepared for that question hadn't I? After all, I was a week into sobriety. So no, there is nothing currently in my life that made me unworthy! That is exactly how I answered him. “No, nothing,” I rationalized.
“Wonderful” He said. “Brother Arnold, the Bishop has spent many hours in prayer and feels strongly that you should be called to serve as his 2nd Counselor. Would you be willing to accept this calling from the Lord?”
WHOA!!... I was not ready for that! I was supposed to serve with the scouts or as an assistant technology guy… something like that! A counselor to the bishop was never on my radar. How do I answer that? I knew I was absolutely not worthy to serve in that capacity. But, how do I get out of that now? Am I suppose to back pedal? Do I tell him I lied? He did say that the Bishop prayed about it. He did say he felt I was the one to be called. Maybe the Lord did want me to serve here? And of course, I who was so prideful that I dare not give up my deepest secrets felt honored and elevated that I would be asked to serve in such a notable position. So I did what I had planned to do all along… I accepted the call.
As you can imagine, this again became another re-commitment for me. I vowed to myself I would find the strength to never do it again. My prayers, my scriptures and my service were increased. And, I felt I was winning. For almost 6 months I conquered my addiction. I felt the pains and hunger but I refused to view it. However, even though I wasn’t actively viewing, the fantasies still found their way into my mind.
I heard someone explain it this way. Our mind is like a tree. We can’t control whether or not a bird decides to land in the tree…. but we can decide if we want to let it linger there. The problem with lingering is that then the bird gets comfortable, he eventually builds a nest and makes the tree its home.
My fantasies were the same or worse than they’d always been. I never ran them off completely and at some point they were just always there serving to weaken my resolve over and over until once more I was sucked back into the darkness and again partook in the madness of my addiction.
Oh, how I hated myself when I once again succumbed! . But the guilt was now familiar and in a sick way, I found comfort in my that old friend. The fulfillment of my favorite past time gave me a way to cover my hatred with what I thought was pleasure.
The desire to confess was always there. My understanding of the process was second nature to me, but I was a coward and I knew it. I would never face the consequences... not now… not yet… not while I was in leadership and doing such great things.
And I felt like I was doing great things. I worked hard in my calling. I loved the people I served. I wanted them to succeed and be blessed. I taught the saving principles of the gospel with ease and with a testimony of their truthfulness. I somehow felt that my dedicated service in the church might possibly make up for my dark and loathsome habits.
But I knew that wasn't the case. I knew full well that the only one who can make up the difference for my sins was the Savior. But hadn’t I turned them over to Him before?. Hadn't I plead with him hundreds of times to take this struggle and vice from me? Hadn't I begged him to lift this burden and help me to be clean? Of course I had! Then why was I still enslaved to the adversary? I asked myself these questions over and over through out my lifetime of secret addiction. But at the same time, I knew I was lying to myself. I knew I had never gone through the full process. I had never submitted myself to the bishop or even to my wife. I had already decided I never would.
I served as a counselor to the Bishop for 2 years. We now had 4 beautiful children. I was receiving all kinds of accolades. We were often referred to as the perfect Mormon Family. We appeared to have no struggles in our marriage and we seemed to live the gospel perfectly. Our 4 children were talented and sweet and wonderful. People would often joke with me that the Bishop’s time would be up soon and perhaps I should be feeling a little nervous. I always laughed it off. But, I loved the attention. I loved being made to feel that I had something to offer and was worthy to be looked up to. I even believed what they said about us. The perfect wife, the perfect kids. the perfect family, the perfect Priesthood holder except… I knew the truth! While my wife and kids were certainly worthy of those words, I did not deserve any of those comments. pats on the back or accolades. Through 9 years of marriage, I had lied and deceived my perfect wife and family every step of the way to keep them from the truth..
Our business was growing and we moved my office again. It was only a few months after this move that one evening while vising at my mothers home, I received a call from the stake president. I was a little shocked that he would call me personally.
“Brother Arnold”, he said. “I was hoping I could visit with you and your wife this evening. Could I stop by your home around 8 PM?”
I was in Shock. I immediately knew what this meant. This was his process. It was always an in home visit. For this kind of a calling, he always asked the Husband and wife to meet with him together. I knew what was coming. I became very nervous and said “Yes President, of course. We will see you at 7PM”.
I told my wife and while she was elated, I was filled with dread. With hearts racing, we sped home to prepare for his his arrival.