From an interview with Tracy Jones* by Maria Gola

 I never thought someone like me could struggle with a porn addiction. Perhaps I led a sheltered childhood, but for me and many other children of my generation, avoiding porn was pretty easy. I didn’t have friends with stacks of pornographic magazines hidden under beds, my parents didn’t rent movies with sex scenes, and my access to the internet was slow and limited to some gaming, school research, and not much else. Without the ability to stream photos or videos at high speeds, I not only had no desire to view explicit material, I probably couldn’t even if I wanted to. Things have changed radically over the last few years. Rather than the blissful ignorance I enjoyed, families are now bombarded on a daily basis with images designed solely to tempt and to trap.   

I remember the first time I was confronted with explicit images on the internet. After the initial shock and disbelief at what I was seeing, I was overcome with curiosity. No one would know if I looked, what could be the harm? I had avoided pornographic material in my youth because I had no way to access it, or just didn’t realize that I could, but now that the access was not only there but thrust in my face, I let my curiosity get the best of me. In my opinion, this is the main problem with filtering programs. By blocking all unwanted material, we foster an attitude of “ignorance is bliss.” As much as we would like to believe that we can hide ourselves from the pitfalls of pornography, the truth is that it has saturated our society and is nearly impossible to avoid. Rather than pretending it isn’t there, we need to provide our families with the tools necessary to confidently handle themselves when confronted with harmful images.

If I had thought, even for a moment, that someone might see what I was looking at, the temptation to click that button would have been almost non-existent. Instead of being equipped with the necessary tools to recognize and choose to avoid pornography, I became caught up in the fascination of something new and dangerous. It started with random late nights after my college roommates had gone to bed. Something usually triggered it. A steamy scene in a movie sent me to retreat into my laptop. I was hesitant to go to straight to sites that I knew could be dangerous, but a carefully worded search could bring up enough images to do the trick. Every time, I felt terrible afterword. I swore I wouldn’t do it anymore, and had plenty of stretches of time where I didn’t seek it out, but I eventually fell back in. What made it worse, is that porn addiction was supposed to be a guy thing. I felt like no one else could understand what I was going through, because none of my girlfriends had this problem.

Though everyone’s experience is different, for me, porn was only accessed when I was alone. Because it’s such a solitary activity, it’s not hard to see that feelings of loneliness and alienation can begin to overwhelm the viewer in a short span of time. In order to protect themselves from discovery, the viewer may retreat from honest and trusting relationships. Because of the inevitable lies that come from hiding viewing habits, the burden of nurturing a porn addiction only increases these feelings of solitude The desire to dull the pain of suffering relationships can send the viewer even deeper into addiction.

While I was embarking on a steep path into what could have become a debilitating addiction, I was pulled back by my dear friend, Anna, who trusted me enough to confess her own struggle with pornography. She opened up to me about the guilt and secrecy she juggled to keep her habit from taking over her life, completely unaware that I had recently become acquainted with those same evenings of locked doors and wiped clean internet histories. What blew me away at the time was how relieved I felt to know that even though I, too, was struggling, Anna trusted me enough to talk with me about something that I’d rather take with me to the grave. Knowing that we were not alone in our struggles made the healing process all the more bearable. Her desire to want to change, changed something in me too. I wanted to help, not just for Anna’s sake, but for my own.

Trusting me with her secret was a good first step, but it was far from a long-term solution. We could try our best to be accountable to each other, but as humans, we stumbled. At the time, we believed that blocking dangerous sites would solve all our problems. It didn’t. Taking away access didn’t take away desires. As I mentioned before, my viewing habits often came after seeing something in a movie or tv show, something that wouldn’t be blocked by any filter. I could still do a clever search and get what I wanted.

I remembered that feeling that if someone knew what I was doing, I wouldn’t do it. What I needed was accountability. My friend and I were good at encouraging each other, but we weren’t always the best at truthfully reporting our progress. It was the same with a lot of other things in our lives at the time. I wasn’t always great about going to the gym, but If I went with a friend, I’d certainly get a good workout. What we needed was something that would provide us with both the transparency and teamwork to give ourselves control over our choices.

As time went on and life situations changed, Anna remained a close friend despite the fact that we didn’t see as much of each other as we once did. We checked in on each other from time to time, but it wasn’t the frequent contact I’d come to rely on in the past. Recently, I saw a post about Ever Accountable while scrolling through Twitter. I immediately forwarded the post to Anna, and she is jumping on board with me. I still wish I could switch off all temptation, but I know the reality of managing my temptations in a world that only wants to drag me down will only make me stronger. If I had to do it alone, I’m not sure I could handle it. But with a friend on my side, I think we’ll both be okay.

*Names have been changed