Part 1 | Part 2
Last night I turned back to my unwanted sexual behaviors – again. As bad as it sounds, my routine afterwards had become almost automatic. Immediately after, I’d clear my history and delete any traces of content I had watched, take a shower, and then stand in prayer. The anguish would hit me then, and I would resolve to not go back to pornography while in that state. However, for some reason, a few days later I’d find myself falling back into these unwanted behaviors.
Late last night though, in the midst of accessing pornography on my sister’s computer, I was only half awake. I followed the motions, but couldn’t remember if I had really deleted everything. Did I check the downloads folder? If I didn’t, my sister would open her video player and see the last video that had been played. Then I’d be caught with nowhere to run. “What ifs” preoccupied my mind and made me noticeably anxious around my sister for days. Did she know, or was she just ignoring it? Was she waiting for the right time to confront me in private or would she do it publicly? The following scenario played out in my head: she’d call me into her room with a stern voice and have a browser page open on her computer with the recent internet history. “What is this?”she’d demand, “Did you really search for these kinds of things?” I’d rack my brain for excuses, sweat dripping down my forehead, unable to look her in the eye while standing in front of her completely ashamed.
Why we never reach out
Throughout my history of struggles with unwanted sexual behaviors, my number one fear was being exposed. Many of us know that pornography is wrong, but can’t seem to stop. Thus, we put a tremendous amount of effort into maintaining the private nature of our habits because of the fear of someone else finding out. So much effort in fact, that when it finally gets so bad that we realize we need to do something about our private habits, the last thing we think about is revealing them to others.
Different thoughts cross our minds and prevent us from telling anyone. We think, “I’m the only one dealing with stuff like this, no one on the outside is going to be able to relate, so why ask them for help?” Or “If people find out, the worst thing that can happen is I’ll be ostracized from my community. At best, they won’t look at me the same way ever again. I don’t win either way.” We even rationalize not reaching out with evidence from the religion and say to ourselves “It’s better if I don’t tell anyone – Islam teaches us to not expose our private sins.”
This was my way of thinking for years concerning discussing my problem with my sister. Years of hiding had molded my outlook, but after I finally broke isolation and told her what I was dealing with, I realized I had been missing out on something amazing for long time.
Why we should reach out
When we rationalize those thoughts that keep us from telling someone trustworthy about our problem with unwanted sexual behaviors, it’s because the pain of what may happen seems so great. But because we have never had an outsider’s perspective on our own situation, we are completely oblivious to the damage we do to ourselves every day we continue to act out. Staying in isolation allows us to continue our habits without any accountability, and we delude ourselves into thinking that we are in control of the situation. In the end, not reaching out does more harm to us than good.
Reaching out to a trusted friend, family member or mental health professional can be the difference in your recovery. The experience of revealing my situation to my sister was emotional and scary, but throughout the entire process, to my surprise, there was support and empathy in her eyes. She couldn’t relate to my struggles with pornography, but she could relate to feeling helpless against something so imposing and seemingly unconquerable. What followed from her was support and a genuine interest in what I was going through, which I saw in the questions she asked me and the research she did on her own. My struggle became hers, so when I would act out to unwanted sexual behaviors frequently, she was there to be stern and remind me why I was fighting. When I’d gain insights into myself from coaching, like realizing there were habits outside of pornography that were making it difficult to stop acting out, I knew I had someone to share those victories with.
A new outlook on life
Breaking isolation is a major step in breaking free from unwanted behaviors, but the lessons extend to every aspect of life. This is because after taking the step, you realize it’s less about revealing a big secret and more about letting in people who can help you. As users of pornography, we’ve spent a long time distancing ourselves from others because we feel if we let people get close, they’d be disappointed by who we really are. The best way to fight this mentality is to let people in and create lasting relationships built on trust. When we confide in people, we can learn to be vulnerable for the sake of improvement, and the burden of success in recovery is no longer squarely on our shoulders.This leads to our acceptance with who we really are, faults and all.
Since breaking isolation with my sister, our relationship has never been stronger. Her knowing of my weaknesses has made her more willing to disclose her own and has given our bond an authenticity that wasn’t present before. After years of trying to appear perfect to everyone around me, for the first time, I’ve accepted my weaknesses. By sharing them with someone else, I’ve learned that it’s possible to be imperfect but still loved and accepted. This realization has been a source of relief in my life, and the result has been more fulfilling experiences and a completely new outlook.
In part two, we’ll cover things to consider when breaking isolation, how to choose who to reach out to, and how to leverage the experience with the rest of your recovery. Stay tuned!