I have led groups for male sex addicts for 6 years now after a 34 year struggle myself with porn, masturbation, and especially fantasy and lust. In these groups I have heard hundreds of guy’s stories about how they entered into and became addicted to sexual misbehavior of all kinds. Many stories have elements of childhood sexual abuse, early exposure to inappropriate sexual material or conduct, or other kinds of emotional and relational brokenness that then led to using fantasy and sexuality as an escape. Sometimes I would wish my story was like theirs. At least then I could have something or someone to blame my behavior on beside myself.
Growing up on a ranch in the mountains of Colorado, I did not have people around me to corrupt me. There was no hanging out with school friends after school. I rode the bus home and did my chores and made up my own world. This gave me a lot of practice in the art of fantasy. Fantasy encompassed all aspects of my social life. I was in control in that world, unlike the real world, so it was a safe and gratifying place to live. There were real friends but the interactions with them were few and of short duration.
My parents gave me a good education and good discipline. However, they were totally unaware of what was going on in my mind, my fantasy world. After all, they are not mind readers. They were unable to shape that aspect of my life because I was unwilling to share any of that with any other person.
At the age of 12 I decided that what I had been taught about God and Jesus was true, that Jesus did die on the Cross to pay for my sins and make it possible for me to have an eternal relationship with the Creator God. I surrendered the entirety of my life to God for His purposes. It was also at the age of 12 that I discovered masturbation by myself and the connection between fantasy and my own physical being. This thing was magical, like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was both shameful, I hid my behavior, and it was exhilarating. It created such a conflict between what I believed and understood to be good and right and how I acted that I was torn in two. Mind you, I never talked about this, no one talked to me about this, My sense of right and wrong about fantasy and masturbation only came from what I read in the Bible and my own conscience.
So, for 34 years I lived this secret divided life. Yes, I went to college, got married, had kids, had jobs, led Sunday Schools, and did everything that on the outside looked whole, complete, and right. My wife was a gift from God, not to stop my acting out but she was the first person I was truly able to begin to open up with about this dividedness and what was causing it.
I begged God for deliverance but the only change was an increasing boldness and depravity that I could see was leading me down a road of loss, loss of my wife, my family, my job, and probably my freedom or my life.
Finally, I got to the place where the conflict within me was unacceptable any longer. I was not in a particularly bad place in terms of the amount of acting out at that time, it was just affecting my overall purpose in life in a way that I couldn’t stand. So, I came clean, publicly, in my church, as an elder in the church. Yes, things exploded, in a good way. Because I was honest and authentic, it opened the door for men and women in our church to be honest about all kinds of things that were not right in their lives. I found freedom and am seeing it spill over in my wife, my kids, my friends, my church, and my community.
I’m telling you this so that you know who I am when I talk to you about fantasy and lust. I am experienced. I have been to hell and back. Let me tell you, you don’t want to go down that road. And, if you are already headed down that road, you can turn around and come back to life. There is a song we sing occasionally that has a chorus that says, “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive, etc” over and over. I used to cringe because I couldn’t sing that with conviction and authenticity. I didn’t feel alive.
Now to the topic at hand, fantasy and building an appetite for lust. James 1:14-15 says:14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
We all have God given sexual desire. It is a gift He has given us to bring us joy and enhance intimacy in the right circumstances. Like all the gifts God has given us, He has given us free will regarding the use of this gift and like every other good gift we have found a way to misappropriate it and turn it into something selfish rather than selfless. I am to use this gift to bring the maximum amount of intimacy and joy to my wife. This is unselfish use of the gift. I am giving to and loving on another. However, if I use the gift to bring the maximum amount of pleasure to myself without regard to another then I am being selfish and being a consumer, a user.
Fantasy is a way to be totally selfish without having to physically and relationally engage another person, at least to begin with. This suited me because I found relationship a difficult and messy business that took too much work. However, fantasy needs fuel. The mind needs building blocks to create a fantasy. For sexual fantasy this is pictures, images. Before viewing porn, I could only imagine what a naked woman looked like based on what a clothed woman looked like. So I built fantasies with what I had, Sears catalog underwear and swimsuit pages. This was okay for a while but fantasy is not real and is unsatisfying because there is no love and no intimacy, which is what we crave without admitting it or even knowing it sometimes. To build the next layer of fantasy that would give the boost my body and mind needed I had to have more detail. When mere naked pictures would not suffice, there had to be moving and interacting pictures, voices, greater levels of graphic interactions, etc. Every boundary I set had to be crossed to feed this fantasy life and keep it satisfying on some level.
Some of us may be more resistant to crossing lines than others. Some of us may have more accountability or less opportunity to cross lines. All of us cross lines. Every line crossed involves greater risk and more compromise of our inner moral compass.
If our own insanity were not enough, we have a spiritual enemy who hates God and knows we are precious to God. He manipulates and strategically moves against us to guide us toward the most shameful and illegal things he can get us to bite on. The purpose of this is to keep our mouths shut and keep us hiding in the dark until he can destroy us with our own choices. Depression and suicidal thoughts were common to me. I know many guys, religious guys, good guys, married guys with families, who were lured into child porn and lost everything.
Fantasy is a killer dog that grows bigger every time you feed it. It is very demanding and when you feed it, it tries to kill you. You don’t know anything to do except to feed it and hope that someday it will be satisfied and, what, die? That will never happen. We must starve the dog to death. If you just try to stop viewing porn or going to the clubs or having those anonymous hookups without finding the real answer to the cry of your heart, you will just find yourself empty and alone and like a dog, returning to your vomit or like a pig, returning to the mud.
We must learn and admit that what we really need is love and intimacy that is real. We must find this love and intimacy first in our Creator who designed us with this need and then in varying degrees with real people whom we are designed to love and care for and who are designed to love and care for us.
Exploring this blog and looking for help on the internet is a good start but you really need to find real men that you can be honest with and be supported and encouraged by as you support and encourage them. You can do this.