I will never forget September 6, 1972. My parents divorced in 1969 and three years later, on my twelfth birthday, my mother, sister and I moved into a duplex in Madison, Wisconsin. I was about to enter the most difficult period of my life—middle school—where I was beaten up by bullies and teased relentlessly by girls for two solid years.
That day in September, I went to a nearby wooded area to hang out after school with a neighbor boy who was several years older than me. He showed me my first Playboy1 magazine. It was an exhilarating experience that was half naughty, half intriguing. The images are seared into my memory. From that day on, I was obsessed with the female form. I would clip images from catalogs, magazines, and Sunday newspaper ads. On garbage day, I would bike around the neighborhood looking for discarded men’s magazines. Soon, I amassed a sizable collection.
One day, my mother caught me trying to sneak a magazine out the door. Later, after discovering the publication hiding under my mattress, she told me looking at those magazines was “normal.” She said she was relieved I wasn’t hiding something addictive, like drugs. If she only knew!
The summer before I started high school, I joined my father and step family on vacation. During that trip, my dad and I had “the talk.” A well-meaning man, he explained the birds and the bees—oblivious to the fact that I could have taught a three-credit college course with all the knowledge I had amassed on the subject of sex!
What embarrassed me then, and amazes me now, is that my father described how to achieve sexual self-gratification. He assured me that it was “normal.” For him, perhaps it was. My grandfather had pictures of nude and scantily clad women hanging in his woodshop. Other people told me it was normal, too. But, the sins of the father had been passed down from generation to generation to generation.
Even during Boy Scout camping trips, few, if any, of the leaders objected to us boys viewing porn in our tents. Why not? It was “normal” for boys our age. The first week of September 1976, I cashed my first paycheck from my first job and marched into a bookstore to buy a hardcover photo collection of softcore nude adolescents taken by a German photographer. That Christmas, I received a Playboy calendar from a fun-loving uncle. Everyone thought it was cute, but it reaffirmed my belief that pornography and lust was normal, safe, and acceptable.
Shortly before I got married, I was fed up enough to toss out most of the collection I had amassed, although I would still seek out Sunday ads and new catalogs. Once I got married, my obsession seemed to subside for a while. Then my wife took a job seventy miles away and we’d see each other only on weekends. That left me lonely for most of the month, and my eyes started to wander again. Within a few years, the addiction was back in full force. I began accumulating men’s magazines again—lots and lots of them—to the point the hobby controlled my life.
Several years later, my wife went looking for a credit card bill when she discovered I had purchased hundreds of dollars of merchandise that month from adult bookstores. Soon, she discovered my hidden secret—a trove of 1,400 pornographic magazines. She insisted that I get rid of them all, which I was happy to do once I discovered the Internet and the buffet of lust available online at little or no cost. Besides, electronic images were much easier to hide.
By April 1995, I was at the end of my strength and consumed by anger, bitterness, and selfishness. I became a Christian and turned my life over to God expecting that he had the power to immediately put an end to my self-destructive behavior. I still struggled. When I was baptized in the spring of 1996, I prayed God would deliver me from pornography. It didn’t happen.
On December 31, 1996, I vowed to give up pornography and deleted all my files, except for a few disks. My commitment lasted 22 days. What a surprise. I had not fully let go of the problem. On December 31, 1999, I pledged to never look at pornography in the new century. That commitment lasted less than a week. On my 40th birthday, I promised God that I was now an adult and that I had “spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, carousing, and detestable idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:3) It lasted forty-eight hours.
My life was spinning out of control. I would often stay up until two, three, or four in the morning surfing the Internet looking for porn, only to get up at 6:30 a.m. to start a new day. I was exhausted all the time, but all I could think about was getting back to the habit. From my twelfth birthday into my early fifties, I had conservatively averaged at least three hours a day looking for porn and cataloging images. I had spent at least 46,000 hours in bondage—more than 1,915 days—or five years and three months of my life in non-stop pursuit of saltwater that left me thirsting for more.
At the peak of my problem, I had more than four million images and 25,000 videos stored on various devices. If I took time to view one image every five seconds, it would have required 231 days without a break—from New Year’s Day to my birthday in August—to finish the task.
I was married to a wonderful woman for one day over twenty-six years until she finally had enough. I don’t blame her. Men addicted to pornography are among the most angry, bitter, self-centered beings on earth. She deserves a Purple Heart for wounds I inflicted on her.
With the marriage dissolved and my daughters launching their own lives, I was fully alone for the first time in my life. That’s when a brother in Christ led me through a bondage-breaking process, and a ray of light pierced my darkness. But, I kept allowing myself to be drawn back to the sin I despised. I begged God to remove the thorn from my side. I would read book after book looking for the “miracle cure”—the key to unlock the gate to my self-created prison. Christian authors made it sound so easy: “Just get rid of all images and you’ll be free!” What bunk.
If I got rid of my computer, I’d turn to magazines. If I got rid of magazines, I’d turn to catalogs. If I got rid of catalogs, I’d turn to television. If I got rid of television, I’d turn to DVDs. If I got rid of DVDs, I’d turn to books. If I got rid of books, I’d write my own stories. And if I taped my hands together, my fertile imagination would still run amok.
It was obvious that my problem was a heart issue. Yet, it wasn’t until another Christian friend recommended the teachings of Pastor Gary Keesee at Faith Life Church that the pathway to true freedom emerged. Through him, I discovered true, biblical faith to demolish the stronghold and move the pornography mountain out of my life. I learned the right things to meditate upon: Bible verses that built my faith, gave me hope, courage and power to finally face my Goliath.
Eventually, I became strong enough to simply walk away and not look back. It was not easy to do on my own. That’s what prompted me to write this book—to rescue kids before they venture down the slippery slope of lust and pornography, and to help adults escape a prison of their own making. I’ve discovered there is nothing normal about pornography except that it will always, without fail, lead to spiritual darkness and hopelessness.
One day, not too long ago, I saw a greeting card at a gift shop somewhere. It had a picture of a very young girl and boy wearing only underpants, and she was holding hers open so he could peek inside. The caption below read, “With this, I will control your life.” It was meant to be a funny joke. But, for millions of men, there has never been a more truthful statement.