This story/article was written by Aaron, a long time member of our network. In the article, he describes his story and mentions our site. This article will be read by tens of thousands of people hopefully! (Add your comments at the bottom and let everyone know how our network has helped you!)
Aaron's original story appeared on our website over here. (Scroll down to the part called "Update 1" - from when he hit 90 days, which is particularly inspiring)
(In the Aish article, direct references to "Torah" that appeared in the original story were left out, since Aish wanted the article to "talk to" even the non-affiliated).
I first encountered pornography in the back of a convenience store when I was 11 years old. Separated from the rest of the store was an "Adults Only" section with no one in it. I could browse with ease. At first the pictures were simply interesting. I'd never seen anything like it. I remember asking my younger sister, in all innocence, "Are those pictures real?" We both laughed...but for me it wasn't funny. I'd think about them. I'd look for every opportunity to slip in and browse for more material to fuel my imagination. I began to fantasize.
The store made the adult section smaller and eventually it disappeared. But the seeds had been planted.
I went to away to a boarding school for high school and devoted myself to studying. I had always been a good student and quickly rose to the top 10% of the class. Then in 11th grade, I discovered masturbation and my inner world began to take shape. I began writing stories to fuel my fantasies. One night, desperate to get to the "next level" and buy a magazine, I borrowed a friend's bike and rode to a convenience store that sold pornography. But I was only 17, just a few months shy of the "legal" age and came back empty handed.
My birthday soon arrived and I got to the next level. After a while, this too became old and unexciting, so I overcame my natural shame and reticence and entered a full fledged adult bookstore for the first time. I began stocking up on back issues of magazines that were sold at deep discounts. I didn't need much money to pursue my guilty pleasures. Porn provided a way to escape the pain I was experiencing in day-to-day life, and it made me feel good, at least temporarily.
I did feel guilty about what I was doing, but the message from popular culture was that this is not only common, it is to be expected. It's a normal part of becoming an adult. It's just a temporary stage; once you get married you'll have an outlet, you'll grow up and move on.
Indeed, life moved on. I continued my education after high school, spent some time in Israel and earned a bachelors degree. I got married and began raising a family. I worked pretty hard; life was good, but my double life did not magically merge into one wholesome existence. I had a deep, dark secret. At this point, it felt dirty no matter what the world said. Although I confided in my wife while we were dating, I'd told her that I no longer indulged and considered it behind me. So she knew nothing of the ongoing nature of the problem. In fact, I did manage to stay "clean" for the first few years of marriage, but the emergence of the internet and the ease of access soon became too hard to ignore and I fell back into my old habits.
I quickly got hooked again and couldn't quit. It didn't take long for my addiction to escalate. Although I did not "graduate" to more extreme types of activities, the frequency and degree of temptation increased. Sights that would not even register with someone who never viewed pornography became triggers and demanded release.
Eventually I began to feel numb and desensitized, which lead to feelings of desperation to feel the same arousal again. Like any drug, you need to constantly increase the dose and lower the bar to get that fix. Each time you act out, the so-called pleasure diminishes and the pain grows, along with the need. Over time, you become extremely sensitive to the slightest hint of your "drug" while at the same time the dose needed to satisfy the urge grows, leading to an ever widening chasm that cannot possibly be filled, and eventually to constant pain and near obsession.
The obsession created a chasm between my inside and outside personas. Outside, I was a successful family man living in a nice Jewish community and happily married. Inside, it was all about lust, focusing on the next "fix." I began to identify less with my peers since I didn't really inhabit the same universe as them. I wasn't getting as much satisfaction from my job or other pursuits. Lust was the primary thing making me feel alive. Thus the chasm affected not only my ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, it spilled over into other areas of life as well.
I knew I couldn't reconcile this with my chosen lifestyle. It didn't feel normal, no matter what the message on the billboard would have me believe. I tried to stop but eventually fell again. I was at an impasse -- determined to quit but unable to do so.
The guilt and self-loathing were becoming overwhelming. You watch all your dreams and aspirations crumble by your own hand. Long before you self-destruct on the outside, you've died on the inside.