Faith and Family: Protecting from porn — Former Alabama minister shares about his recovery from porn addictioncomment (0)
May 29, 2014
By Greg Oliver
"It’s over.” As I sat at my desk at the church, with my whole world spinning in my head, that was my conclusion. After 20-plus years of hiding, praying for deliverance, trying and failing again and again, my sin and addiction had finally caught up to me.
Before I ever entered ministry I already had a problem, though no one would know it because of the mask I wore. I grew up in a strong, Bible-teaching church, went to Bible college, married a missionary kid and went into full-time ministry. I had served at two different churches as well as on staff at the college I attended. I was worship pastor of a large church in Birmingham where I had served for more than 10 years. No one had a clue about the duplicity, the dishonesty — the battle going on inside me.
Without realizing it, I had learned to avoid the normal stresses and fears of life by running to pornography to make the pain go away. What started as seemingly “normal” behavior as a teenager — occasional pornography and self-gratification — turned into my go-to behavior anytime I felt anything negative. What I once considered normal behavior became a compulsion.
As a Christian, I knew what I was doing was wrong but I felt powerless to change. In hindsight, I can see that rather than allowing God to meet me in the painful, uncomfortable places of life, I was trying to avoid them at all costs.
The more I tried to manage my sin on my own, the more I failed. Every time I failed I felt further away from God, believing that His approval of me depended on how well I was performing and how obedient I was. My shame and despair drove me further from God and deeper into the addictive behavior.
The intensity of my sin grew to dangerous proportions. I crossed lines I never thought I would and eventually my adultery went beyond “in my mind” and I was physically unfaithful to my wife. Over the next few years the cheating became more frequent, and all the while I was on stage week after week living a double life and hating myself for my dishonesty and hypocrisy.
Something had to give and eventually the truth was exposed — I was exposed. Sitting at my desk thinking, “It’s over,” I had no idea what was ahead but I feared the worst.
I knew for sure that I was going to lose my job, but I also feared losing my family, my friends and my reputation. I believed my life was over. Some of what I feared would take place did happen. I lost my job and some friends chose not to walk with us through the experience. But much of what I had feared for years didn’t happen. In fact, some of what happened next even surprised me.
People approached me who had been through similar experiences. As they told me their stories I was floored to learn that others had struggled with the same things. I was not alone. I wasn’t uniquely defective. The ability to share my story with someone and to have them respond in love, grace and acceptance was surprising, liberating and above all hopeful. I didn’t know what was ahead but I did know that life wasn’t over. God had not rejected me.
Help from friends
My friends in the community of gospel-centered recovery also helped me see that God had not been angry with me while I was struggling. The distance I felt between myself and God was of my own making.
People in my community of recovery helped me to see that God was like the father in Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother. The son was the one who had walked away and the father was the one who initiated restoration, rejoicing when the prodigal returned home.
For the past five years my wife, Stacey, and I have been walking in community with other men, women and couples who have shared the same struggles we have. God has poured into our lives through others and has allowed us to do the same.
Being part of a community that is centered around grace and the gospel changes everything. We meet in weekly groups designed to offer hope and support for people who are at any stage of recovery. We remind one another of the gospel, focusing on God’s heart more than on behavior, because we believe according to Romans 2 that it is God’s kindness — demonstrated in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross — that will lead a person to repentance.
If you struggle, there is hope. You are not alone. There is risk in admitting a compulsive, addictive sin struggle. No one can promise that there will not be consequences. However, I can say with absolute certainty that the freedom that comes from putting the struggle into the light far outweighs the risks.
Living in isolation breeds fear, shame and death. We were created to live transparently in community with other believers, and I have found hope and life in living this way.
Editor’s Note — Greg Oliver lives in Hoover with his wife, Stacey. They have three children — in college, high school and middle school. They are members of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, where they lead a small group and where Greg serves on the worship team. They are active in Route 1520, a ministry that supports men and women affected by pornography and sexual addiction. For more information on Route1520, visit www.route1520.com.
Apps & software
• Join One Million Men app (with daily Scripture delivery that helps you stay porn free and take captive your thoughts for Christ)
• K9 Web Protection (free Internet filter and parental control software)
• Covenant Eyes
• Safe Eyes
Books dealing with pornography
National Woman’s Missionary Union has united with Join One Million Men to help fight pornography addiction. Books available from WMU’s publishing arm New Hope Publishers are:
• Our Hardcore Battle Plan: 1 Million Women Praying — a 32- page prayer booklet for women
• “Our Hardcore Battle Plan: Joining in the War Against Pornography” — a book for men
• “Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War Against Pornography” — a book for wives
• Our Hardcore Battle Plan DVD — a small group resource and planning guide for churches