GUEST POST: ‘Try Harder’ Never Worked

Note from Josh: While I’m ending the year finishing projects, starting new ones and trying to take a little down time, one of my favorite porn addiction bloggers, Hugh Houston, has agreed to share some of his late-2020 entries here. I’ll be sharing several over the next few days. You can follow Hugh’s blog HERE and pick up a copy of his terrific book, Jesus is Better than Porn through Amazon.

By Hugh Houston

How could I live with myself and continue to do something which deep down I knew was wrong for over 30 years of my life?  One answer is that I minimized my sins.  I told myself it really wasn’t so bad.  After all I am a man and all men find women to be attractive.  God made women’s bodies attractive, so what could be wrong with appreciating beauty?

While this may seem hard to believe I also had convinced myself that I was trying to quit looking at porn, in fact I was going to quit soon.  I went to spiritual retreats where I rededicated my life to the Lord.  I prayed to the Lord to free me from this sin.  And I was certain that this time I would try harder than all the other times and this time really would be the last time I would ever look at porn.

Most of you reading this probably have experienced the same thing.  The “try harder next time” strategy never worked.  It never worked for 30 years.  How did I ever think that I could continue to use the same strategy and achieve new, better, lasting results?

Edward T. Welch, the author of Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (p. 35), wrote:

“Addiction is bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God.”

I was the definition of a hypocrite.  I professed that I wanted to live for God and proclaimed that I believed in pure living and respecting women.  I had never made a pass at another woman or kissed another woman, so I did not see myself as a hypocrite.  In my confused, muddled thinking, I had compartmentalized my sin. I did not realize that pornography was like radiation, contaminating every corner of my life.

After I confessed my sin to my wife, I asked myself: “How could I have done something so unthinkable, to inflict such tremendous pain upon the love of my life, the person to whom I promised to be faithful and true?”  But that’s just it. I didn’t think.  In my own head, I pretended that this was my private problem and I was dealing with it the best I could. At the same time, I was trying to convince myself that it didn’t touch the other parts of my life.

What kind of man was I?  While I would never have admitted it, my actions showed that I was: uncaring, unfeeling, blind, stupid, ignorant, malicious, selfish, perverted, obsessed, afraid, proud, alone, self-deluded, lost . . .

Addicts are masters at compartmentalization.  The dictionary says “compartmentalization is a subconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.”

In my mind, I was a good, godly man, a good father, and a caring, faithful husband—I just had this problem in one area of my life. I had erected a wall of lies around this behavior.  This allowed me to lust after women in my mind and yet hold on to the belief that I was one of the “good guys” because I had not reached out to another woman on a physical level.

My infatuation with porn caused me to close my eyes to the true nature of my actions and the consequences of my sins.  By “putting my sin in a box” I deceived myself into thinking that what I did in private, behind closed doors, had no effect on my relationships with other people.  Yes, I had a problem, but I was working on it and I was going to fix it.

In my self-imposed blindness, I thought my struggles with pornography were not really affecting my life as a whole.

My wife saw right through all of this.   She did not have any problem seeing the truth. My entanglement with pornography permeated everything, and she saw how my whole life had been contaminated.  In her mind, our entire 31-year marriage had been one big lie.  I was a fake; I had been living a lie.

I was leading a double life.  Sometimes I think I was not much different from a serial killer whose family and neighbors are all in shock when they finally learn what he did in secret.

In my double life, it seemed as if there was the real me that loved my wife and my family and the church, but another me who was controlled by my desires.  It took me far too long to discover how to manage these emotions and these feelings, in order to not be the victim, destined to do what I don’t want to do, but I know I’m going to do because I’ve done it so many times before.  Rather than try harder next time I needed to cry out for help and come up with a new battle plan with strategies that really work.

I desperately needed to listen to the voice of truth.  I longed for a compass to point me in the right direction and help me find my way home.  I ached for someone to offer me hope that I could be a better person and live a new life.

This voice is the Good Shepherd who said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10-11). Jesus also said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). I’m so glad that the Lord does not view me through the lens of all my failures and my worst mistakes. His voice is the one that tells me my life can be different. He sees a new and improved me. His spirit is at work within me and will carry out His plan of redemption today and tomorrow. This is the voice I choose to follow.

Lead Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash


Twitter: @paddictrecovery
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2 thoughts on “GUEST POST: ‘Try Harder’ Never Worked

  1. Excellent testimony. I can relate to his “double-mindedness.” So glad I have brothers in Christ at Celebrate Recovery who I can open up to weekly about my lingering desires caused by a lifetime of viewing porn. It helps immensely.

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