“I hate myself! I just made a great confession and felt clean and blessed. So, why did I commit this sin yet again?”

I often had the above thought when I fell to sexual sin and before I took my recovery from pornography and masturbation seriously. Perhaps it’s a thought with which you’re also familiar as well?

If so, I want to encourage those of you with sexual addictions not to lose heart when you fall, try again, and then fall again. You might feel that it’s not possible to stop or, worse, that you have even become so discouraged that you’ve stopped attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation, believing that you will continue to fall indefinitely.

Brothers and sisters, trust in our Lord. God’s grace can indeed keep us from falling indefinitely! How, you ask? Let me offer some strategies for overcoming falling indefinitely to pornography and masturbation (I have my own story to prove these work!).

Pray Often and Look to the Saints for Encouragement

If you are feeling discouraged then you are in good company! The saints have also fought against discouragement, temptation, and even despair. Paul was certainly tempted to lose heart may times, yet he still wrote to fellow Christians: “We do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1,16).

By asking for saints to help us we can find inspiration and solace. For example, this quote on the importance of prayer is a personal favorite of mine from St. Ephrem of Syria: “Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” 

And by asking the saints for help, we can grow in virtue, which is necessary to overcome our sexual addictions. But no virtue can be productive unless it also faces its opposite—the evil of vice. Therefore, take courage! Courage is not courage until it has experienced fear and courage is not the absence of fear, but the transformation of fear. We must channel such emotions towards perseverance so that we do not give up in the midst of our individual suffering. Doing so is arguably worse than the struggle with impurity precisely because we are willingly rejecting the support of grace.

In the early months of recovery, I had a lot of anger. I did not like the idea of suffering. It was only later, after I spent several hours in adoration, recited countless rosaries, and had multiple conversations with my spiritual director that I realized happiness and sanctity are found in accepting the cross with Christ, bearing it with Christ, falling under it with Christ, and getting up under it again with Christ. And we can do this only by asking for help through prayer.

Therefore, we must recognize our helplessness and call out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” It took many months and many frustrations and relapses for me to realize I needed to become more humble, which I only did so through prayer. Prayer is so important that St. Alphonsus Ligori said: “Whoever prays is certainly saved. He who does not is certainly damned.” Wow, right?!

In other words, sheer willpower is not enough in our daily spiritual combat against lust, pornography, and masturbation. Furthermore, temptations take many forms, including discouragement, especially for us addicts. As such, we need spiritual weapons and spiritual armor to fight these temptations and, by God’s grace, overcome our sins. In other words, we need to pray—and pray often.

Ask for Our Blessed Mother’s Intercession

We must also call upon our Blessed Mother to aid us. My novena to Mary Undoer of Knots helped me stop my addiction. There is another devotion as well that calls on the Queen of Heaven as we struggle with sexual addictions. It is the practice of saying three Hail Marys each morning and evening. This simple yet powerful devotion was encouraged by many great saints, including St. Anthony of Padua, St. Leonard of Port-Maurice, and St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

This devotion has us ask Our Lady for the graces to live a holy life each and every day. It is an especially powerful weapon for combating sins of lust. Each Hail Mary is in honor of a Person of the Holy Trinity and asks for a specific grace. In fact, the Blessed Mother described the devotion to St. Mechtilde in clear terms:

By the first Hail Mary, you will ask me in virtue of the supreme power which God the Father has given me to strengthen you in all your combats and to defend you against the power of the malignant enemy. By the second Hail Mary, you will beseech me, through the admirable wisdom which I have received from my Son, to let the truth shine upon your soul and to banish from it the darkness of ignorance and error. By the third Hail Mary, you will ask me by the burning fire of love with which the Holy Spirit has inflamed me, to give you such ardent charity as will enable you to overcome the fear and struggle of death.

It is so important for us to make recourse to the most powerful saint in all of the Church as we fight against our struggle with pornography and masturbation, Our Blessed Mother Mary—Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Frequent the Sacrament of Confession

For many years I avoided confession because of my pride and ego. My pride told me not to tell a “man” who knew my name and could recognize my face my sins. My ego told me my sins were not “big” enough for confession and that going occasionally—meaning once a year—was enough. Plus, I thought, why go and confess the same sin over and over—especially when I knew I was just going to watch porn and masturbate again?

Fortunately, adoration and spiritual direction corrected many of these erroneous ideas. We have to understand that the priest at confession is not just a man. He is the intermediary between God and us. And his words of forgiveness have power. The practice of going to a priest is detailed in the Old Testament, specifically the Book of Leviticus (Lev 5: 1-4, vv. 16-18). In the New Testament, Jesus himself gave specific and direct authority to forgive sins in His name to his apostles (Jn 20: 22-23). God literally reaches out and touches us with his own hands and loves us with His own heart through the priest in the confessional. Why deny ourselves such a beautiful gift?

To obtain absolution for our sins is such a powerful grace! And yet, so many of us do not take advantage of this gift because we have grown discouraged. As addicts, we need this grace! I urge you brothers and sisters to go to confession and obtain absolution with a humble heart and genuine desire to seek freedom from your addiction.

I suggest going to adoration before to help the Lord give you a deep desire to refrain from sin as well as to conduct a good examination of conscience (it is important that we truly desire the Lord’s forgiveness and do not take it for granted by planning to sin again afterward). You can also use a modified version of the Ignatian Examen (reflective prayer using a set of introspective prompts) or follow the steps in the Laudate app to help prepare for a good confession.

As a former pornography and masturbation addict, now sober for several years, I truly believe that you will not fall to your addiction indefinitely if you keep praying, regularly attend confession, and genuinely seek God’s forgiveness and grace. As Catholics, let us share the confidence that Saint Padre Pio had in our loving God: “My past O Lord to your mercy; my present to your Love; my future to your providence.”

Dear sisters and brothers, do not lose heart or grow discouraged! Remain close to Christ and He will set you free through His infinite love and mercy!

 

Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic, former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner. Passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their life and relationships. Connect at aaronwaltercoaching.com.