Interview With PASTOR X
The Cost of A Pornography Addiction: My Marriage and My Ministry
August 28, 2001
JONATHAN: You were a youth pastor in charge of hundreds of students
in a large, successful church. You had to step down from your ministry. Why?
Basically, I had a continuing struggle with pornography. It had gotten to a
point to where it was so bad that it was affecting my marriage and my ministry.
My problem came out in marriage counseling. Church leadership got involved and a
decision had to be made. Some people would say that maybe I should have just
taken six months away from ministry or some other time line, and sometimes
that's an option. I eventually felt that stepping down definitely was best.
While it was a mutual decision, in all honesty the leadership of the church
would have told me to step down, and they would have been right. And
unfortunately, things with my wife have not worked out. To many ups and downs
and a lot of pain. I wish things were different, but I understand.
JONATHAN: Okay. Let's take a step back. When did this
problem with pornography start?
Let me say from the outset that this is somewhat of a condensed version of my
but here we go. I began looking at pornography when I was in jr.
high. I had a job where I had full access to pornography.
JONATHAN: Were you a believer then?
I attended church, but I hadn't made a
decision to commit my life to Christ.
JONATHAN: So where did it go from there.
Through my high school years it was just
magazines. This continued through college.
JONATHAN: So when did you make a decision for
My sophomore year of
JONATHAN: Did that change
anything? Did you realize that this was a struggle you had- that you needed to
let go of?
I definitely did. I
definitely knew that. I actually had about a year that, possibly because of the
newness of my faith, and because of the excitement of my relationship with
Christ, struggles like that really weren't a huge problem. Although I never
really addressed the issues. I think they just took a side play in my enthusiasm
and my walk with Christ.
I think that this is an illusion that a lot of
addicts believe. But just because you hit a point where things are exciting and
new, it doesn't mean that you have dealt- or have let Christ deal with- the core
issues of your addiction. And when the pressures, stresses, or struggles of life
come up, then the potential for that to be there is going to be back again
unless you have a strategy to deal with it- and I never really did that.
This also happened when I got married. Almost all sex addicts
falsely believe that somehow when they get married their struggles will be
over. It just doesn't work that way. Plus the damage from the addiction makes
a healthy sexual relationship difficult.
So basically through my years
in my walk with Christ and in my ministry it was an on and off struggle. It
might have been 6 months or a year, but then it would be back in some form for
weeks or months. I never really had the courage or the thought that I really
needed to make my struggle public so it was very much a secret struggle. Which
is, I think, exactly where Satan wants it to be. As long as it's a secret, I can
be struggling with it, but I don't have the support system or accountability to
deal with it and it just gets worse and remains un-dealt with.
JONATHAN: So you never even told a best friend about
JONATHAN: During all these years of successful youth
ministry, weren't you plagued by guilt?
Absolutely. One of the interesting aspects of any activity or
substance that becomes an addiction is that your moral conviction about the
activity is seemingly over-ridden by your need for what the addiction gives
you. I knew the right thing to do.. but I felt powerless to do it. In fact,
Step in the 12 Steps of Recovery is to admit that, on our own, we
are truely powerless over our addiction. That's very humbling.
JONATHAN: Wasn't it hard to give a talk on character or
Absolutely. The dangerous
thing was that it was always a secret. Even before I was a Christian in the
church I grew up in, I knew how wrong it was so I never wanted to tell anyone.
After I became a Christian it pretty much stayed that way. So, yes there was
always the guilt. And even in ministry when people were appreciative and
thanking me for doing a good job there was always that feeling like "yeah, you
like me because of what you see on the outside, but if you only knew what I
struggled with, you wouldn't like me." So in that sense I was robbing myself of
a lot of joy that I think that Christ wanted me to experience.
that a big part of Satan's lie is "the secret". I think that if I would have
initially trusted somebody and told them of my struggle so I could deal with it
I probably wouldn't have had to leave ministry. But I never did.
JONATHAN: How did it finally come to the surface? You
said it came in counseling. How did the cat come out of the bag? Did you get
My wife did catch me on
the internet, and more than once. I tried to lie and cover it up but it did no
good. Eventually a good Christian counselor told me that if I was to ever beat
this addiction I had to get it all out in the open.
JONATHAN: You really didn't want to deal with
No, it's an embarrassing
addiction. Years before I also had a struggle with alcohol and still call myself
an alcoholic. I haven't had a drop in over 9 years. That addiction was easier
for me to deal with than this pornography addiction. When my wife caught me with
the pornography it was much more difficult to deal with. There was so much more
shame, guilt and embarrassment around it. It also had such deep emotional roots
in me. (There are some great Christian books and resources in the websites I
mention at the end of this interview which explain the emotion, spiritual, and
physiological aspects of addiction. It's important information if you need help
or want to help someone else.)
Initially I engaged in a program of
recovery to start dealing with it. I don't think I was ready for the degree of
recovery I would need. There were a lot of ups and downs. Now I attend three
meetings a week. So even though I started to deal with it - I kept struggling
with it. I totally underestimated the depth that I would need to go.
Unfortunately it not only cost me my ministry but my marriage as
JONATHAN: Since this is such an
embarrassing problem. What piece of advice could you give to someone who has
this problem, but, like you, doesn't want to tell anyone about it because of the
embarrassment and the consequences they'll face?
If it's an ongoing struggle- then they know
that- because it's a pattern in their life. If it did start in their adolescents
and did take root in their formative years of their sexuality then it may be a
deep part of their sexual identity. They have to look at their history and say
"boy that is a big part of me." If they have an increasing sense of
powerlessness- if they feel powerless to do anything about it- almost like a
feeling of "I'm imprisoned by this thing" then chances are that it's going to
take some big steps to deal with it.
This starts with getting connected
with some brothers in Christ who you can tell the problem to. Then getting
involved in some good Christian 12 step recovery programs- or even secular ones
if no Christian ones are available. I attended a secular group for a long time.
Half my group were Christians, as it turned out.
JONATHAN: I don't mean to be skeptical, but this
doesn't sound very appealing! If I had this problem, why on earth would I want
to take these "big steps?"
That's what I asked myself for years. You have to realize that the recovery is
much more than just falling down and getting back up. It's a process. There is
an increasing sense of victory in the area and an increasing freedom from the
shame because now when you're struggling you're struggling in an open atmosphere
with people who understand and support and help you through it. It suddenly
takes on a new light AND because it's in the light, you feel like you can
experience Christ's forgiveness from it because there's an openness to it. In
James it says to confess our sins openly to one another to experience God's
JONATHAN: You were scared of
coming out for years. Now that you've come out- are you glad?
Absolutely. Every day I waited cost me. I
might have not lost my marriage and my ministry if I had sooner. Besides, it's
not like it's going to stay a secret forever. God is faithful to sanctify and
discipline us. I've never met someone in one of my groups who regretted having
to get it out. You really can't deal with it until you get it out.
JONATHAN: So how can someone "get it out."
There are some great avenues to get it in the
open. First is by talking to a trusted Christian counselor or
JONATHAN: What if I don't trust
There are people around
who are willing to support you. That's why many recovery groups are
"anonymous". They are safe places where you can begin to face a part of
yourself you've been running from.
There are some great web sites that
deal with this exact thing. A few are:
(great links to other
and Dr. Doug Weiss has a website called
JONATHAN: Wow, good domain name.
Yeah. So many good places to getting good
information so they can get it public.
JONATHAN: Everything seems to point to telling someone-
to dealing with it right away.
Most churches would easilygive a staff person 3 to 6 months off to deal with
this area that they need to deal with. Then they could get connected with a good
Christian counselor who can walk them through some of the steps and evaluate if
they need to step out of ministry. And the issue of "will their marriage last?"
I'd say one of the biggest factors for my leaving ministry indefinitely was
where my marriage was at. That's been the hardest ... losing my marriage. I
understand where my wife is at - the pain and embarrassment. I do pray for
reconciliation, but have surrendered the future to God and focus on my
JONATHAN: How far did your addiction go?
My sexual addiction did not take me to an affair or
prostitutes - although often it does with sexual addictions. Although there is a
progression to most addictions, it's really not about the degree of what you do,
but your inability or powerlessness to handle this destructive, sinful pattern
in your life. Regardless, for me personally the last 20 years of my life it's
been mostly magazines, internet and some phone sex calls.
JONATHAN: What about movies and cable TV?
I had rented a adult videos several times- but
for me it never went to a place where it wasn't secretive - I couldn't let
others know or risk anything public.
JONATHAN: Wouldn't want to get caught in a video
Exactly. There were times
in my life where I even made it several months without looking at any
pornography, but with the internet now it's so easy. It's so anonymous.
Now I don't even have the internet at home. At work now I have a
history saver and my boss, who is a Christian, can go into my internet history
and see everything that's gone into my computer - then he can erase the history,
but I can't. I'm really grateful that I have a boss that does that. I feel for
guy whose bosses don't care- that must be hard.
JONATHAN: You've set up a lot of safeguards
Part of your recovery
is surrendering to the fact that this is an area of your life that your are
powerless. And in my surrendering of being powerless, I surrender to doing
whatever it takes. For example I don't have very limited cable TV at home. I
set up these safeguards because, the longer I have been in recovery the easier
it gets and I don't want to open myself up to a temptation or vulnerable areas.
So a lot of these decisions are being made for me by the safeguards we've set
JONATHAN: Safeguards are a good thing.
In my accountability group we ask each other tough questions, including "have
you looked at any pornographic material in this last week?" I personally have
set up some safeguards for myself. Anyone with any movie channels knows that
HBO, HO-TIME and SKIN-A-MAX turn to garbage after 11:00 at night- I don't even
have those channels in my house. And when I'm speaking out of town by myself and
staying at hotels, my buddy calls me and checks on me. It's lame that
pornography is two clicks away on most remotes.
Not only that but the hotels make a point at telling you that the
title of the pay-per-view movie you rent won't show up on your bill. At home I
have very limited cable- the basic-basic, which doesn't even go up to those high
channels. Because some of us get, what we call in recovery, "the wavy channels"
where it's scrambles but you can still see images- I can't even get
Accountability groups are good. However, I've been in
accountability groups where I lied my head off. So much of my struggle has been
not just with pornography, but being 100% honest with where I am at. Part of my
recovery is doing deep emotional work of realizing that I don't have to be
perfect to be God's child but I do need to be honest about where I'm at and
where I'm struggling- for me that's what I needed. There's a lie out there that
says that says that anyone less than perfect can't be used by God in ministry,
and it creates a fear of sharing these struggles. There are certainly times
where the depth and seriousness of our struggles and sin requires a season out
In my situation I had to share my struggle with about 100
leaders and lay-leaders in my church men and women - that was hard. I always
had the fear that "if I share this secret ... my life is over." It's not
over. I am facing the consequences of my sin and the pain I've caused, but for
the first time in my life I'm feeling forgiven, I'm experiencing God's grace
because I'm not hiding something anymore.
JONATHAN: Wow. That's a motivation to let it out and
deal with it.
One last question. You said this started when you were a
teenager. If you talked to teens today, what would you say to them so that maybe
they could avoid this kind of hurt in their lives.
You just need to realize that you are being
110 percent lied to by our culture. The stuff on MTV or the media is such a lie-
and the decisions you make in this area will stay with you throughout your adult
lives. The decisions you make now might come back to haunt your life &
marriage 10 years later.
If they share with their youth leader or
friends in their youth group, chances are, there are others struggling with the
same thing. The fact is that it's an emotional, spiritual escape. Whether
alcoholism, drugs or pornography, Satan always has these shortcuts that we can
run to. These shortcuts are fun and easy and many of them feel good temporarily.
Boy- I would do just about anything to relive my adolescent years so someone
could share this with me someone then.
JONATHAN: Wow- wouldn't it be great if you had dealt
with it then.
I'd probably still
be married and have my job today. That's not to say God doesn't still have
great plans for all of our lives, there is always hope and
IF YOU ARE READING THIS ARTICLE AND YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH
PORNOGRAPHY, PLEASE, TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT, OR, CHECK OUT SOME OF THE
FOLLOWING WEB SITES FOR MORE HELP:
Jonathan R. McKee