Derek's Recovery Story

Where My Addiction Started

I can’t remember the first time I masturbated. It was just something I always did. I believe the first memory I have of masturbating was when I was 5 or so. There were a couple pornographic images that were just around when I was growing up; I never gave much thought to them. I remember being exposed to more graphic porn when I was around 12. I didn’t start actively seeking out porn until I was 13 or 14, around the time my family got our first computer.

The Battle

For me my addiction was always associated with being bored. I would get bored, start watching TV or playing video games, get bored of that, then start dabbling in things I shouldn’t have. I don’t remember the first time I realized that masturbating was wrong. By the time I was a teenager I definitely knew it was wrong and was trying to stop. I always knew porn was wrong and that was relatively easy for me to stop. Masturbating, however, was extremely difficult to stop and I often times wondered if I could stop or if God really even wanted me to stop because it was so difficult.

The battle for me consisted of sheer grit and determination. My strategy was to simply increase my will-power enough to fight temptation the next time it came around (I highly recommend not battling addiction this way). I really didn’t have access to alternative ways of battling addiction, like establishing healthy habits, reaching out for help, or different ways to handle emotional setbacks. I would only talk to church leaders about it after I had gone a while with being clean. I hardly ever had the courage to talk to them while I was struggling.

Throughout my teenage years I would go for long periods of being clean. I believe the longest time period was about a year. I loved being clean and no part of me wanted to slip back into addiction but inevitably I would eventually get super bored, super tempted, and fall again. I just figured I was horny, I didn’t see the link between my unhealthy life style and my actions.

The Victory

I had always wanted to serve a mission. While I was on vacation I talked to someone who told me about how they left to serve a mission, weren’t worthy, came back, repented and left again. I decided that didn’t sound like a good idea. So I got real. I decided no more rationalizing. I was going to get worthy.

My church leaders established that I had to be clean for one year before I could serve a mission. Some people view this as harsh, a little over the top and even somewhat unrealistic. For me the goal of being clean for a year set the expectation that winning was not only possible but it was expected. It was the first time I felt like someone really believed and knew that I could win (because I certainly didn’t believe I could). I will forever be grateful to my church leaders for establishing that expectation. If they would have been more “lenient”, I’m not sure I would have won. I will also be forever grateful to one church leader in particular. He had a young family, and I’m sure plenty of other things on his plate, but he was always there for me, spent a lot of time with me, and helped me much more than he knows.

With the goal of one year of sobriety in mind I found the increased amount of will-power I needed. I eventually left, served my mission, and have been clean ever since! As of right now I have been clean for a little over seven years!

Lessons I Learned

I believe my path to recovery was different than most men in that I didn’t really realize what was contributing to my addiction until years after I was clean. I believe it was only the grace of Jesus Christ that kept me clean until I realized the contributing factors to my addiction. On my mission I was busy doing missionary work, I can only remember one time of being super tempted. When I got home I immediately went to college and also had a hefty workload so I didn’t really have time for my addiction. I can only remember one time during a break between semesters where I was super tempted and could have gone either way. So essentially for years I was “too busy” for my addiction (again I wouldn’t suggest this path for anybody).

I started to notice that the times I was most tempted was right before I went to bed and when I woke up. So gradually over time I established the habit of going to the gym right when I woke up (like out the door in less than ten minutes). This does a few things for me: 1- it helps me be less tempted 2- it helps me wake up (I’m supper groggy in the mornings and life seems hard until I start working out) & 3- it just helps me feel better about life. Then I study the scriptures and go to work. I also read, usually something spiritual, as I fall asleep. This helps stave away temptation. I know I’ve been healed and am not just running away from being bored. I’ve had significant health challenges that have required me to rest a lot. Yet even with that much downtime, I have not fallen.

When I was battling addiction I didn’t understand the link between my daily habits and my addiction, I thought I just had to try harder. Church leaders tried to help by giving me a schedule, and I would have won a lot quicker if I would have listened, but I just didn’t have the faith to believe that it would really help. It wasn’t until years of sobriety that I could see the link between my daily habits, my lifestyle, and my addiction.  

My path to recovery consisted of countless times of being clean and then falling into temptation again. This was super discouraging. I wondered if God even wanted me to win. I know that God wants you to win and He wants to help. He has His arms outstretched to us continually, and He will help us fix what is wrong in our life and become 100% clean and at peace.