As I started looking back on my grace-filled release from the bondage of porn, I tried to understand and explain to others my escape route. Many have asked me over the last two years what the “secret” is. After almost 40 years of being trapped, now being at the point of no longer fearing my next fall is truly amazing. But trying to identify what finally worked has been challenging.
During my social work days one bit of advice I would often give was, “take the next right step.” I would tell clients that they were only one step away from being on the right path. No matter how messed up their life was, and no matter what their last step was, I told them that if they did the next right thing they would be on the right path.
As I pondered this small bit of wisdom, I thought of this passage from Scripture: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). I noticed that the verse doesn’t read that “thy word” is a beacon that shines a mile down the road; it just illuminates the path for the next step. In other words, we need only to focus on the next step in front of us. We need to avoid looking back at previous steps but not look too far ahead either.
Admitting We Are Powerless
As I looked at my many failed attempts to release myself from porn addiction, and as I think about how many interventions my wife made to try and change my behavior, I couldn’t help but think about the Twelve Steps. Step One reads, “Admit that I am powerless and that my life had become unmanageable.”
I would admit that I was powerless and would then take the next right step: throw out my stash of porn, go to confession, and try my best to avoid falling. But I would always fall again. I believed there was no way out of this mess and that I was hopelessly flawed. I had failed so many times that there was no denying that I was powerless.
Step Two reads, “Came to believe in a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” If we look closely at both of these early steps, neither of them require us to do anything. It isn’t until Step Four that we are required to take action.
Yet our actions reveal our beliefs. If I am taking the next right step it is because I am successfully living the first, second, and third steps at that moment. When I decide to throw away my stash of porn or go to confession I am taking the next right step. However, without the grace available through the Holy Spirit, the best of our right steps will be short lived and destined for failure. Referring back to wisdom from Psalm 119, we must focus on God’s word and not our own steps.
Learning to Trust in Christ’s Mercy
It is only in looking back and pondering failure after failure that I have come to appreciate God’s releasing me from my porn addiction. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” If I was able to be successful on my own, I would be prone to pride. And I would miss growing in my relationship with a loving God. We were never meant to do the next right thing on our own. It is only through surrendering our lives and our wills to God that we find a way out of the desert of addiction.
The Divine Mercy image that St. Faustina was directed by Jesus to have created in 1931 has the inscription, “Jesus I trust in you.” When I completed my Consecration to Divine Mercy three years ago it had nothing to do with my desire to find a way out of porn addiction. I had already determined that there was no way out. I only prayed that this character defect would not cause my eternal damnation. However, God did save me from my addiction and this transformation has been nothing short of miraculous.
Approximately a year after my consecration I started to entertain the idea that porn no longer had a stronghold on me. Approximately two years ago I started talking openly about being free from porn. Many asked how I did it. Initially I would tell them to do the next right thing. I would talk about the daily disciplines that I have adopted. While all of these things are good and necessary, apart from the daily decision to trust in a loving God the success of these actions will be short lived.
If you’re taking many right next steps but still finding that you fall time and again, don’t lose heart. I believe when we come to the point of saying, “I can’t do it,” God smiles and says to Himself, “finally, he’s learning. Maybe he will let me take care of it this time!” God has promised that He will complete the good work He started in each of us. He does not disappoint when we allow Him to order our steps.
Jim Gorski is a 57-year-old father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 34 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 39 years. He remains a grateful child of the most high God and strives to trust in God’s loving mercy and His ability to provide for Jim’s every need.