As I began my quest to extricate myself from the addiction to pornography and habitual masturbation, my first focused attempt probably started in 2007 through an online educational program. For that program, I was set up with a coach to read my answers to the curriculum questions and share relevant aspects of his own journey based on those answers. The coach offered a superficial, safe, encouraging, and feel-good encounter. And the program helped me to realize that I wasn’t alone in my sexual struggles.
However, both the coach and the program really didn’t have any lasting effects.
The counselor that my wife and I saw for a time tried to walk the line between supporting my wife’s pain and normalizing my pornography addiction. Since she and my wife knew that my infidelity never crossed the line from pornography to real women (e.g. strip clubs, prostitutes, etc.) the counselor and my wife questioned whether my pornography use was a serious betrayal of my marital union. While the therapist might have had good intentions, this didn’t help me overcome what I knew was a serious struggle.
So, even though some considered that my behavior “wasn’t that bad,” I knew that I couldn’t stop. I had concluded that I was hopelessly flawed. I feared that if people knew the truth about me, that I repeatedly fantasized about women and masturbated multiple times a day, they would be repulsed by me.
True accountability didn’t start for me until after I was lifted out of the cesspool of pornography and masturbation addiction through the grace I received during my Consecration to Divine Mercy about seven years ago. Around that time, through a parish program called Christ Renews His Parish, another man shared his struggles with pornography with me. We became accountability partners about five years ago.
The value of having someone who knows everything about me is that I know I am loved no matter what. We can both ask each other openly: “How is it going on the sexual purity front?” This is not a question most people feel comfortable asking, even to their closest friends.
Since I have opened up about my struggle with pornography and masturbation over the last few years and have shared my story with many, I experience far less shame, discomfort, or secrecy talking about it.
Still, the beauty of finding and maintaining an accountability partner is that I have someone in my life who has walked with me for the last five years. He knows the areas that still challenge me. He sees things I don’t readily see and feels obligated to share his observations about them with me. He asks me how communication with my wife is going. He has helped me realize that I can’t share my sexual history without sharing her sexual history, too, and that my public speaking has an impact on my wife and kids. As a result, he has helped me work on not inadvertently hurting them as I help others struggling with an addiction to pornography and masturbation through my speaking and other work.
To be totally vulnerable and totally secure with another person is a beautiful thing. Our Lord wants desperately to convince us that He loves us right where we are in our pain, struggle, and mess. He does not wait until we get our act together to love us. He wants us to realize that we have the formula backward. He loves us first and wants to pour out His grace upon us to help us grow in holiness.
Having an accountability partner who can model this type of unconditional love to us can help us accept the truth about God’s love more easily. An accountability partner can encourage, exhort, and help us draw closer to the bosom of Jesus.
I can count on my accountability partner to not only help me navigate life but also remind me that I’m loved in my messiness. Instead of navigating the world in fear and hiding myself because I am naked—like Adam did in the garden after he sinned—my accountability partner helps me say, “I know that I am loved as I am, so I am confident. And I want to share what God has done and is doing for me.”
We are partners—there are times he helps me and times I help him. My accountability partner is an absolute blessing. So, as you look for a good accountability partner, pray for someone who can be a loving companion on your recovery journey. To find someone like that is an incredible gift indeed.
Jim Gorski is a father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 36 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 41 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.