The End of Innocence
© 2006 Teresa Cook
Published in Focus on the Family Oct 2006
As far as anyone could see, our eighteen-year-old son Brandon, active in church and missions, personified the ideal young Christian living out his walk with the Lord. But Brandon concealed a secret that not even his father and I guessed.
Shortly after beginning his first semester at college, our son approached us one morning. "I have something I need to confess to you," he said with a quivering voice.
As we sat waiting for Brandon to gather the courage to speak, we wondered what he could tell us that proved so difficult to say. Finally the dam broke, and a flood of pain poured from our child's heart with one simple sentence.
"I'm addicted to pornography!"
Never would we have imagined that Brandon was sneaking out of his room in the middle of the night for over a year, watching the pornographic cable channel he had accidentally stumbled upon. Never would we have envisioned the filth that was coming into our home on a station to which we did not subscribe, a station that the cable company was supposed to have blocked.
"I tried over and over to stop, but couldn't," Brandon sobbed, as we hugged him. "I think I need help!"
But where do you turn for something like this, something no one even talks about?
Pornography addiction is the silent epidemic of our nation, a plague spreading at unprecedented proportions. Sex is the number one topic searched on the Internet,1 and seventy-two million Internet users visit pornographic web sites per year.2 With the figures growing daily, pornography now poses the single greatest threat to the American family.
Despite statistics, our church body is often lulled into believing we are safe, that our husbands, fathers, sons, pastors, church leaders are somehow coated with 'spiritual Teflon' against the effects of pornography. Numerous surveys show otherwise—rates of pornography addiction are as high within the Christian community as in the secular world.3
After Brandon's confession, Steve and I took a crash course in Pornography 101 and learned some chilling facts. Viewing pornography can actually become a powerful, mood-altering addiction, causing endorphins many times stronger than morphine to be released into the body. The addict literally gets "high" on his own brain chemicals.4
We also found that the images become burned into the addict's brain, just as one would burn pictures onto a CD, a CD that can begin playing at any moment. The younger a person is when he sees pornography, and the longer he is exposed to it, the more imbedded it becomes. The most frightening aspect of pornography addiction is the potential for progression to more deviant levels of behavior.
However, we now know that God blessed us beyond measure by Brandon's coming to us when he did. Statistics show that, although the average boy sees pornography by the age of eleven, pornography addicts rarely seek help before the age of thirty-five!5 At least we had a head start in helping our son find freedom from the sin to which he was enslaved.
With the help of supportive family organizations, we located a Christian counselor skilled in treating sexual addictions. Since accountability is one of the strongest deterrents to relapse, the counselor advised Brandon to begin attending a support group for pornography addicts, a program he will probably have to continue for the rest of his life.
We also instituted a protection plan at home that addressed physical, mental, spiritual and social aspects of the addiction, modeling behaviors Brandon would need to implement for himself once he was on his own. Even so, we have walked a long and difficult road, sometimes taking one step forward and two steps back.
A new direction
Brandon learned about sin firsthand, and it has caused him much pain. From that pain, however, has been born a new direction for his life. Today, Brandon attends graduate school majoring in the treatment of sexual addictions. One day, his experiences may help him reach others with the message of God's redemptive love. Accomplishing immeasurably more than we could ever have asked or imagined, God will take the most devastating experience in our son's life and use it to free captives from the trap of pornography.