Friends, after writing several articles for Catholic in Recovery, I decided to write an article on three books and a podcast that I have found useful during my recovery from pornography and masturbation. These books may help you as you overcome your addiction or, at the very least, provide additional support in your reboot or recovery process as well.
The Porn Myth by Matt Fradd
I personally found within this book’s pages a fantastic overview of both the scientific and psychological aspects of pornography addiction. Those of us who struggle with pornography have heard and perhaps even agreed with the belief that porn is harmless or worse—that it’s actually beneficial!
Fradd includes the experiences of porn performers and users and the expertise of neurologists, sociologists, and psychologists to demonstrate that pornography is destructive. In this way, he is able to use scientific research to debunk numerous and prevailing “myths” or arguments in favor of pornography. Numerous studies are cited on every page proving that porn is destructive to people, relationships, and society. In fact, the end of the book includes 50 pages of appendixes citing additional research!
This book was a game-changer for me early in my reboot. As Fradd stated in an interview for the Catholic Reporter, “this book rests on one fundamental presupposition: if you want something to flourish, you need to use it in accordance with its nature…Don’t plant tomatoes in a dark closet and water them with soda and expect to have vibrant tomato plants. To do so would be to act contrary to the nature of tomatoes. Similarly, don’t rip sex out of its obvious relational context, turn it into a commodity, and then expect individuals, families and society to flourish.”
Ultimately, this book can help you be certain that pornography use—despite what the culture may claim—is deeply destructive to your health, relationships, and life.
Confessions by St. Augustine
The next book that I decided to tackle after a year in recovery was the intimidating Confessions by St. Augustine. What attracted me to this book was St. Augustine’s writing from the heart.
The word “confession” is used in multiple senses, all of which operate throughout the work. Confession can mean the admission of one’s sins, which Augustine does with gusto, confessing not only his ambition and lust but also his intellectual pride, misplaced faith in Manichaeism, and misunderstanding of Christianity.
Confession also means a statement of belief, and this is certainly reflected in St. Augustine’s detailed account of his arrival at his Christian belief and knowledge of God.
Finally, confession in the context of this book can also be seen as a form of praise. In Confessions, St. Augustine constantly gives praise to the God who mercifully directed his path and brought him out of misery and error. In essence, Confessions is one long prayer.
Structurally, Confessions falls into three segments: Books 1 through 9 recounts St. Augustine’s life and spiritual journey, Book 10 discusses the nature of memory and examines his own temptations, and Books 11 through 13 are an extended exegesis of the first chapter of Genesis.
The differences between these three parts have raised many questions about the unity of the work. St. Augustine himself commented in his Retractiones that the first ten books were about himself and the other three were about Scripture.
Do not be confused or concerned by the nature of the language that St. Augustine uses in his descriptions of his sexual challenges, though. At the beginning of Book 2, he is rather direct about how his sexual struggles served as an accurate barometer of his spiritual journey. In fact, he directly outlines the connection between the experiential problem of evil as exemplified by his sexual wanderings and his movement away from the only concept of God given to him by St. Monica, his devoutly Catholic mother.
He writes, “I propose now to set down my past wickedness and the carnal corruptions of my soul…I collect my self [sic] out of that broken state in which my very being was torn asunder because I was turned away from Thee, the One, and wasted myself upon the many. Arrived now at adolescence I burned for all the satisfactions of hell, and I sank to the animal in a succession of dark lusts [silvescere ausus sum variis et umbrosis amoribus]: my beauty consumed away, and I stank in thine eyes, yet was pleasing in my own and anxious to please the eyes of men” (Book 2.1.1).
St. Augustine reinforces the connection between his sexual immorality and spiritual distance from God more explicitly by adding:
“I departed further from You, and You left me to myself: and I was tossed about and wasted and poured out and boiling over in my fornications.”
When I read these words the first time it was rather like cold water over my head, a shock! St. Augustine’s classic book can not only help us understand the darkness of sins and addictions related to sexual immorality but offer us an incredible example of a man who overcame them with God’s grace to become one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church.
My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith by Clarence Enzler
The third book I will share is a largely unknown one modeled on the 15th-century classic The Imitation of Christ—and I know it will help you hear the voice of Christ.
In this powerful book, Christ addresses the reader personally as “my other self,” urging us to embody his love and compassion for others. Through a creative dialogue between Jesus and the reader, Clarence Enzler leads us through the journey of the Christian life, beginning with the call to live in friendship with Christ and fulfill His desires for us.
Enzler examines elements of the Christian life: detachment, virtue, prayer, the Eucharist, and the avoidance of sin. Finally, he explores the goal of the journey—a life of union with Christ as His disciple and supreme joy with him in eternity. Each chapter includes short, eloquent meditations on Scripture and beautiful prayers, making My Other Self ideal as a daily devotional and source of prayer.
Consider Before Consuming Podcast
Lastly, for those of you who might prefer listening to reading and/or enjoy podcasts, I recommend Consider Before Consuming, which is connected to the secular movement Fight the New Drug (FTND), a non-religious and non-profit organization with a mission of raising awareness of the harmful effects of pornography and its links to sexual exploitation using science, research, and personal stories.
Every other week on the podcast the harmful effects of pornography are considered exclusively through the lens of science, research, and personal stories. Each episode invites listeners to consider the negative consequences of pornography as well as the benefits of a life free of porn and its influence. Recent episodes have featured guests sharing their personal stories, such as former MLB player Adam Laroche, journalist Nicholas Kristoff, Hollywood actor Terry Crews, social media influencer Shanelle Connell, sex trafficking survivor Elizabeth Frazier, and survivor Harmony (Dust) Grillo.
Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic and former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising, is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner and is passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. You can connect with him at calendly.com/aaronwaltercoachingsessions.