I wasn’t supposed to be there.
I knew I should leave. If the growing sickness in the pit of my stomach wasn’t an obvious enough indication of the danger I was facing, then I suppose my brain never had a chance as it begged me to stop, to turn around, to run the other way.
Not only did I not turn around, but I moved closer to the danger. I drew the danger closer to me. They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but there is very little reason to hold a poisonous snake by the tail. I wasn’t just holding the snake by the tail, I was putting it in my lap, expecting it not to bite.
I had been warned.
I didn’t listen.
I felt terrible the next day, but I still didn’t realize just how badly I had been bitten. The venom from that first bite would run through my veins for the next 15 years.
It wasn’t just that first bite though, I was hooked. I would go back regularly, asking the snake to bite me again. Sometimes I would find enough will power to avoid the snake for a few days, a week, perhaps a month or two, but I would always come slithering back to be bit again.
It didn’t take me long to I realize just how much trouble I was in. Unable or perhaps unwilling to stop, I cried out to God to free me from the addictive sting of the snake’s venom. Each time I returned to the snake, it bit more deeply, it’s dripping fangs driving hole after hole into my heart. My blood mingled with the venom, mixing until I could no longer tell what thoughts were mine, and what thoughts were from the snake. It poisoned my life, it was killing me. I was helpless as part after part of my life was destroyed, broken, killed.
I wasn’t the only one being poisoned though. The poison spread through me into my relationships. It started hurting the people I cared about. Most of the people in those relationships never knew exactly what was happening to them when we were together, but each of them felt the bite of the snake in one way or another. While the poison was slowly killing me, it damaged and killed so many of my relationships.
My cries to God continued, but seemed unheard. I would occasionally find the strength to fight, standing firmly for a time, but I was always driven back to the snake, and the ever-deepening wound in my heart would be torn open again. I sought help in trusted friends, but found that they had been bitten too, and the blind were unable to lead the blind out of the dark hole we shared.
For 15 years, I drank deeply of the poison set before me, all while it slowly killed me.
For 15 years, a pornography addiction held my life in its unrelenting grip.
Pornography and its effects ruined my relationship with a wonderful woman who loved me, faults and all. As the poison of pornography worked in me, it drove me to seek comfort and pleasure in places where it could not be found. I sought things that were not mine to seek, and while the snake never bit her directly, it began to control her life through contact with me. She sought to help me, but the snake turned her good intentions into more poison, using it to trap me more deeply. Now the snake didn’t have to bite me each day, but instead it would give me a respite for weeks at a time. It would turn the relationship against me, drawing us both down. The snake had learned to use her to steal what I hoped was freedom from the poison, driving me to hate her. When she left, the snake would bite again.
I couldn’t find my way out of this addiction, out of the lustful thoughts and deeds I was trapped in. I was without hope, and so desperately alone. I was dying.
I tried talking to trusted friends, I tried reading self-help books. I tried confession after confession of my sin to God. I regularly attended church, I served regularly at church. Nothing would work for very long. I started to believe that I would never be free from the snake again. I eventually gave up on trying to stop, and instead focused on not letting the habit grow into something I would be even more ashamed of. I resigned myself to the fate of having to hide true parts of myself from everyone I would ever know. I could never tell them who I was when I was alone.
Statistically I was not alone. Studies seem to suggest that nearly 70% of men (and 30% of women) use the internet to find pornography on a regular basis. I’ve heard that statistic many times, but I have never felt more alone than when I was addicted. I would gladly have forgotten my shame, and never brought this to light, but I know that in writing this, it will find someone who is in this struggle right now. Loneliness was the reason I came to the snake in the first place. Loneliness is the reason I asked the snake to bite me. I didn’t want to be lonely anymore.
One day a little more than a year ago, God brought a simple article across my computer screen. It didn’t offer me any help, or any life-altering strategies to break the addiction. It wasn’t a Christian article written by a modern theologian. The article simply told me what pornography was costing me.
It linked pornography use with social anxiety. It cited a study that had been completed recently, and showed correlations between pornography use and feeling alone. It showed me what each bite of the snake was costing me. It explained why I had to work myself up to a point of being physically sick in order to attend my student’s graduation parties. It showed me why I missed a very close friend’s wedding for no good reason.
I saw the true cost.
I deserved the death that was knocking at my door. I deserved the death that had killed so many relationships, hopes, dreams.
“He shall crush thy head and thou shalt bite his heel.”
As Christ hung on the cross, his heel bitten, the snake’s head was crushed. That day my Savior crushed the head of the snake that had been poisoning me. I deserved death, I was a thief who had stolen so much from those I knew, and those who never knew I was stealing from them. Jesus looked over, dying on the cross, and welcomed me into his healing. The perfection He had earned, was extended to me, undeserving as I was.
I wasn’t just extended grace, but I am finding restoration, resurrection. Those parts of me that have been so long broken have begun to be healed, hopes that were dead are springing back to life. God has brought new relationships into my life that are healthy and growing. The consequences of the snake’s venom do still play out in my daily life, but I can feel the poison weakening each day. Each day brings a little more freedom. Each day brings a little more healing.
There are so many things I don’t yet understand about what happened that day, or all of the painful days leading up to it, but I am happy to tell you that the snake has not bitten me for more than a year.
There is hope, and you are not alone. Praise be to God who has set this captive free, and has begun the miraculous work of healing my deeply wounded heart.