While Daniel was first exposed to porn in high school, when he would steal looks on his father’s computer from time to time when alone in the house, it wasn’t until college when his addiction to pornography and masturbation would fully emerge.
“All my friends were all as inundated as I was with sex and they readily supported the idea of casual sex for fun, whether through sharing stories of sexual exploits and encounters or pornography usage. I wanted to fit in, so I discarded my faith and put it on the backburner. I skipped Mass often and never mentioned I was Catholic. I doubted the existence of God,” Daniel shared.
That general attitude coupled with the stress and struggle of doing well in college caused Daniel to turn to masturbation and pornography.
“That’s when I found the rush of fake power that comes from viewing porn. The power it gave me was an on-demand escape from reality,” Daniel said. “A lot of my friends used drugs and alcohol, but I was fearful of becoming addicted to them. But no one told me porn was addictive also.”
Daniel continued in his addiction throughout and after college, rationalizing that it was fine because he was single and that he would stop once he got married. But nine months into his marriage and still struggling with porn, he started to realize he had been lying to himself. And when his wife Samantha found out it put an incredible strain on their relationship.
“Because of my addiction to porn and masturbation, she worried about me masturbating and/or looking at pornography when I was left alone or stressed out,” Daniel shared.
Daniel turned to God for help but he harbored frustration toward Him because of His seeming unwillingness to help him find freedom from this addiction.
“I was trying to build my faith but had a jaded and resentful view of God due to my struggles with addiction and his seeming unwillingness to help,” Daniel said. “This also strained my relationship with my wife further, since she wants me to set a good example for our future children as a strong spiritual figure.”
Daniel began working hard to maintain sobriety through a support group and other resources and had success when he reached 60 days of sobriety from pornography and masturbation. However, he relapsed, started again, but then relapsed again shortly afterward.
“When my wife asked me if I relapsed I denied it, and I immediately realized I had done a horrible thing. I confessed an hour later to her but the damage was done. I gave up my house key for three weeks and did not allow myself to be home unless my wife was already home,” Daniel said. “I had broken my bond of trust with my wife by lying to her. It took a lot of work, work that I continue to do, to regain her trust and to help repair much of the damage I had done to create a divide between us.”
He began redoubling his efforts with recovery: he joined a second addiction support group, began seeing a therapist, downloaded the app Covenant Eyes, and started listening to a couples addiction therapy called “The Betrayed, The Addicted, The Expert.” He also continued to be open with Samantha, who had experienced grace throughout this entire process in supporting her husband with his recovery.
“I was listening to a Catholic podcast discussing porn addiction,” Samantha said. “I had known Daniel struggled with masturbation but did not know that he had an issue with porn. I brought up the podcast to him to see what he thought, and it was the perfect opening for him to come clean to me. I reacted really well I think, partly because I still didn’t realize the gravity of the situation and partly because it was so much better for him to come clean to me than if I had discovered him hiding it from me. Part of me felt that now that we had named the problem, we could start to work on solving it.”
His wife Samantha is also the one who told Daniel about Catholic in Recovery.
“At that point, I really wanted to try a support group similar to a 12-step group because I heard they were good for keeping you accountable and are safe spaces to be vulnerable about your addiction without fear of rejection. I contacted Scott, the leader of the group, and the rest is history. I went to my first meeting and I have only missed a couple since then,” Daniel explained.
Daniel began to realize his desire for the false power of porn came from self-confidence issues he had due to struggling academically in college and a general doubt of his self-worth. He continued to work hard to develop healthy and proactive habits to channel these desires in good ways.
“I did not realize the extent that I had to change my life: my daily habits and activities, my daily routine, and how I reacted to stress and work. I had to change my brain, build up discipline, and become less compulsive. I had to learn to slow down my thinking, to become reflective and stoic, to pause, and instead of letting myself get swept away by emotion, to look around and poignantly ask myself how I got here and figure out what I could do to feel better.”
Daniel relies on God through the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist as well as several other tools (therapy, accountability partnerships, groups, etc.) to journey toward healing. He also relies on a Catholic in Recovery men’s group held weekly.
“Going to Catholic in Recovery has been a staple for my recovery regimen. It gives me exposure to a group of brothers who love and support me. I know they all care about me and are rooting for me because I feel the same way for them. Each guy has their own story and reflections to share, and I have learned so much just by listening,” Daniel said.
The grace and healing that he has personally experienced have also poured into his marriage.
“I have become much better at expressing myself and sharing my emotions with my wife. I can now be honest when I am struggling with chastity and can share with her,” Daniel shared.
Samantha notes the fruit of Daniel’s continued work toward healing from his addiction in their marriage as well.
“Since knowing about his addiction, there have been a lot more difficult moments, since addiction doesn’t just go away in a few months,” Samantha shared. “However, over time, as Daniel has grown in his recovery, there has been a noticeable positive effect on our relationship. It took time, but he is now able to listen to me sharing my pain and insecurities without retreating into shame and silence. He is also able to apologize for the ways he has hurt me. He has shown a whole new level of empathy that I never saw before, and he is taking responsibility for his actions. I can see him becoming a better man than the man I married, and I feel really blessed.”
Daniel has received much healing and grace, but he continues to work hard to maintain his recovery, acknowledging that there hasn’t been some magic bullet, but that it takes trust in God and a commitment to doing the work.
“When I first sought out recovery from porn and sex addiction, I thought I would be granted some miracle. That didn’t happen. There is a path, though. It is a hard, difficult path and I will be on it for the rest of my life, but I will grow accustomed to it over the years. God’s power lies in bringing forth good from what is bad. Through the path of recovery, I have regained my sense of worth and my self-esteem, both as a man and as a Christian.”