My Husband is a Porn Addict in Recovery” is what my wife had titled her recent article on Aish.com.

I knew that she'd write about my addiction sooner or later. She sensed a great need to reach out to others who were also suffering alone with no support. She wanted to recognize the pain, the challenge, and the ultimate hope in our journey.

But I struggled with the title of her article. Being labeled a porn addict doesn’t speak to the hard work and commitment I have poured into recovery over the past 14 years. This is my attempt to share my side of the story, with a focus on the freedom and hope found through the recovery process.

How it Began

I grew up in a strict home and went to a Jewish school where some of the teachers were emotionally abusive. Suffering from undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), I seldom followed instruction and failed dismally at school. I remember the principal becoming immensely frustrated at how often I was being sent to his office. In an effort to escape the emotional pain and pressure, I would spend hours riding my bike, reading comic books and ultimately getting lost in my own world of imagination.

As I grew older, it became more of a challenge to meet the demands of school and home life. There was great pain in the shame of failure and knowing I was falling short of expectations, so I searched for more effective ways to cope. Curiosity led me to viewing pornography and seeking relief through self-gratification. These became coping mechanisms which enabled me to deal with life, fears, and uncomfortable situations. Although the ability to fantasize provided a relief of sorts, it always left me with a sense of emptiness and deep sadness.

As my habitual behaviors developed into a full addiction, I did my best to keep it all a secret behind locked doors.

The fact that I graduated high school was miraculous. I'm pretty sure that the principal allowed me to graduate only because he didn’t want to me around any longer. Like many Jewish students my age, I went to Israel to continue my education. My father pulled some strings to get me into a good solid yeshiva where I grew tremendously in knowledge and in faith. Yet even though I thrived in many ways, my dark secret followed me. I had no one that I trusted enough to talk openly with, and slowly the obsession grew. My habitual behaviors developed into a full addiction. I did my best to keep it all a secret behind locked doors.

My friends began dating, getting engaged, and getting married. In my desperation, I wondered if perhaps I found the right person to marry things would change and my obsession would disappear. I thought, if I could just find someone who was happy and attractive, all of my issues would be solved. Surely then I could be honest and transparent, and this horrible drive, this terrible obsession toward lust would vanish.

In God’s kindness, I was blessed by finding a beautiful girl. I was thankful that she saw so much good in me and loved me dearly. Our wedding was filled with happiness and celebration. We enjoyed traveling together and we settled in a small warm apartment in Jerusalem. How I wish I could tell you that our love conquered all challenges and that my issue disappeared as I had hoped. But in truth, my addiction got worse. The one person whom I thought I would be totally open with became another person I needed to hide from.

Secrets Exposed

It’s hard to keep secrets when living so closely with someone. Sooner or later she would find out – yet somehow, I never thought it would actually happen. We had been visiting some friends in the U.S., and one night I stayed late at the office to finish up some work. I found myself alone, late at night, with an unlimited amount of unfiltered internet. Within a short time, my browser went from one porn site to the next, looking for the next fix. I searched for more and more extreme behavior to stimulate my mind. I even watched shockingly abusive acts, in the crazy desperate hope that something would finally fill the void inside and make me feel free.

Suddenly my computer shut off. It was 3:00 AM and the laptop battery had drained. The charger was at home where we were staying, so I had no choice but to go home to bed.

My wife plugged in the computer and switched it on. She began screaming uncontrollably, as if someone had been murdered.

The next morning, my wife plugged in the computer and switched it on. She saw the absolute worst of what I had been viewing the night before. She began screaming uncontrollably, as if someone had been murdered. I was half asleep and in absolute denial, but the evidence was there for all to see.

Although my wife was ready to leave me then and there, a close friend and Rabbi encouraged her to give our marriage a chance. Still, her pain and anger and her threat to leave with our two children scared me. I knew that I either needed to stop this ridiculous behavior or…be much more careful! Looking back, it is unbelievable how sick I was to have such a thought go through my mind. The roots of my addiction had grown deep and I didn’t consider my future or my marriage. It just wanted my own fulfillment, here and now!

Along with this cunning, baffling, and powerful obsession came the unbearable pain of watching my life burn away with emptiness. With every look, with every action toward lust, I felt as if more of my soul was being extinguished. I started to crave freedom from the shackles of this disease. The overwhelming burden weighed so heavily on me that I eventually got to the place where I was willing to go to any lengths to be free from the bondage of this obsession. I wanted to live a life where there were no more secrets and no more lies.

So I attempted to gain control through internet filters, accountability partners, even surrendering my computer. But without constant therapy, the powerful urges would quickly resurface again and overpower me. The fleeting desire for change and reliance on my own willpower was a losing battle.

The rabbi encouraged me to reach out to Sexaholics Anonymous for support.

After a particularly frustrating day, I met with a rabbi and I told him everything. I was blessed to find confidence in this wise and educated Rabbi who said to me, “You’ve got an addiction.” What a relief I felt inside, that my issue had a name! My obsession was identified and called out, and not only that – there were others who had struggled before me and created a program for recovery. The rabbi explained the 12-step program and encouraged me to reach out to Sexaholics Anonymous for support.

Recovery

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) is a group of men and women who share their experiences, strength, and hope in their progress toward victory over lust. SA follows the same successful 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It took time but I finally sent an email to the local SA chapter, telling of my challenges and begging for someone to please help. An SA representative called me back. After listening to my struggle, he shared his story and how he had achieved over four years of sobriety by taking it one day at a time. He encouraged me to attend an SA meeting held in a local church that very evening.

When I got to the church where the meeting was being held, it took guts for me to walk through the door. I had never walked into a church before, and I was fearful that someone might recognize me. But my desperation gave me the boldness I needed to walk in. Since then, I have walked into church buildings thousands of times to attend SA or AA meetings.

That first night I was welcomed and got to share a little of my story. Several guys offered me their phone numbers and one even invited me for a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks. He shared with me his journey, his challenges, and his recovery. I couldn’t believe how similar our obsessions were, and I couldn’t believe that he had recently celebrated three years of sobriety. Three years without acting out? I could barely go three days! He encouraged me that if I wanted the same success, I should attend meetings regularly, find myself a sponsor, and begin working the 12 steps.

What I have learned about addiction is that some of us have abused our power of choice to such a degree that we are no longer able to make a balanced decision. We have surrendered our humanness toward our ego. The average addict is self-centered, self-seeking, and filled with self-pity. Despite the addict’s desperate attempts to control his life and the lives of others, it clearly does not work. The 12-step program reveals the carnage of our own efforts and encourages us to recognize that surrendering to a Higher Power could restore us to sanity.

We are then tasked to take a fearless moral inventory and account for every wrong action, making amends wherever possible. The program is not focused on recovery from lust as much as it is on living each day with a spiritual mindset.

After a number of close calls with losing my sobriety, I finally got myself a sponsor and began working the steps. The program empowers us to rewrite the story of our lives. We learn to let go of making decisions for ourselves, and instead make decisions based on what our Higher Power would have us do. We begin to face our fears and embrace them knowing that God has our back. My sponsor has been patient, kind and loving toward me. He not only helped me to overcome my obsession with lust, but also enabled me to forge a deeper connection to God.

Growth Today

Through the help of an amazing therapist our marriage is at a place where both my wife and I feel comfortable sharing our deepest emotional challenges. We speak about the years of dishonesty with pain and regret, and yet we also recognize the efforts I have made toward recovery.

I am committed to seeking spiritual progress, not perfection.

Do I walk a perfect program? Perhaps not, but I am committed to seeking spiritual progress, not perfection. Following the guidance of my sponsor, regularly attending meetings, and working the program one day at a time, I have been gifted with 990 days since my last slip. Prior to that I had reached five years of sobriety. The program works!

After my first relapse, I met with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski obm, the great psychologist, who shared an allegory with me about a man walking to the post office on a very icy day. If he were to slip on the ice and fall when he was only halfway there, he would not just turn around and go back home. Rather, he would get up and proceed, perhaps with greater caution. Just because I relapsed after two years of sobriety doesn’t mean that I should give up my efforts.

So yes, I am that porn addict, but my identity is not found in my disease. I am a hard-working father and a loving husband. I am grateful that each one of my children feels close to me as does my wife. I listen closely to guidance from my Higher Power, my sponsor, and my wife. I have great friends, some who know about my program and others who do not. But I am blessed to live my life with integrity, honesty, and transparency. It brings freedom to no longer have to keep track of my lies. Instead, I choose to tell the truth and deal with the repercussions of my actions.

I find joy in living life to its fullest, so I have redirected my focus to enjoy life in a kosher way. I exercise regularly and allow myself time aside for fun activities and adventures, as I believe these are important aspects of recovery. My work gives me the opportunity to connect with others, which also brings value and purpose. The humbling process of recovery has enabled me to provide deep emotional support, especially those going through difficult times.

When a seed is planted, it first needs to rot and break apart in the darkness of the ground in order to develop roots, and only then can it begin to grow and ultimately bear fruit. I view my life in a similar way: I needed to first be broken down in the darkness in order to achieve the beauty of growth the way God intended.

If you or someone you love is suffering from porn addiction, reach out to Guard Your Eyes, Sexaholics Anonymous or S-Anon 12-Step Program for help.