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Breaking the chains of addiction to porn

Aaron Reinicke was one of 10 children raised in a Christian home. He knew right from wrong, yet by the time he reached legal age, his life had become quite careless. The mess began when he stumbled upon some pornography. He was 11 years old.

“That’s the age that most kids in America are first exposed to pornography and start their struggle with it,” Reinicke said. “The neurochemical rush that washed over me hooked me as if it were a drug. I was an insecure adolescent who desperately wanted someone to validate me. It seemed like the Playboy centerfold wanted me and even longed for me.

“Despite feeling ashamed I was instantly captivated. Game Over. My insecurity also found comfort in smoking pot and drinking heavily in high school. While these compulsive behaviors deadened the emptiness inside me, they left me alone and unfulfilled.”

Never more so than at age 18, when he got into a drunken brawl while attending a party.

“My drug buddies stood by stoned and afraid or unconcerned while I got jumped on and beat up by four or five other guys. That night lying in bed I prayed, ‘Jesus, if you’re real show yourself to me.’”

The next day—after having shunned earlier attempts by family and friends to have him turn to the God of his childhood—Reinicke finally acquiesced, allowing a family friend to pray over him.

“What a time of ministry it was,” he said. “God showed me hurts and resentments in my life and most of all God showed me His love and healing presence. He knew everything about me, and in my brokenness He loved me just the way I was. I met God and He changed my life.”

He dove into the Bible, learning all he could about God. He began telling everyone he knew about Jesus.

“I went back to stores where I’d shoplifted and returned the money,” Reinicke said. “Some of the managers wanted to know why I was doing this and I was able to share Christ with them.”

Porn use rampant among Christians

“I never smoked pot or got drunk again. I was active in church and evangelism and cross-cultural missions outreaches. But the pornography came and went over the years.”

Reinicke was not alone. Research indicates that up to 50 percent of Christian men are involved in pornography. A recent study released by Barna Group, shows that church leaders, including pastors, are not immune to the secretive sin.

The Porn Phenomenon study, released in mid-January, found that a staggering 64 percent of youth pastors and 57 percent of pastors admit to a current or past struggle with porn. Taking a closer look at the here and now, 21 percent of youth pastors and 14 percent of pastors admit to a current struggle with pornography. In all, about 12 percent of youth pastors and 5 percent of pastors admit they are addicted to porn.

The study was commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, a Cru ministry based in Plano, Texas.

“It is vital to raise awareness about the threat of Internet pornography,” Josh McDowell said. “Pornography violates all relational values between the individual and self, the individual and society, the unity of our families and our moral fabric and fiber as a nation. When we objectify and demean life by removing the sanctity of the human person, our future is at risk.”

In light of the study, McDowell and his ministry are hosting a Set Free Global Summit to address some of the issues raised in the study. The conference will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina April 4 to 7 and will include some of the nation’s preeminent Christian experts on the issue of pornography in the church. At the summit, researchers will unveil a study presenting detailed porn stats by denomination.

Researchers surveyed 3,000 people in four online studies, including in-depth surveys among the general population, American teenagers, Christian pastors and the Christian church.

Starting younger

Sadly, researchers said the study discovered younger and younger exposure to pornography, increased desensitization and an escalating usage of pornography, particularly among teens and young adults. For instance, nearly half of young people actively seek out porn weekly or more often.

“Most disappointing is that teens and young adults age 13 through 25 years are unconcerned about porn usage and don’t consider it morally wrong,” said Reinicke, a marriage and family therapist. “It is so widely accepted as mainstream that people are blind to the damage it does in forming healthy sexual intimacy.”

The counselor also pointed out that the Barna study revealed that 80 percent of pastors currently using pornography felt shame about their habit, while more than half said they live in constant fear that their porn use will be discovered. The use of porn by women is also on the rise.

“This fear and shame is keeping them trapped just as surely as the porn is,” Reinicke, who co-founded Reinicke Counseling Associates, with his wife, Melinda. The couple operates three offices in the county.

“James 5:16 says ‘If we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we will be healed.’ So the very thing the struggler needs to do is the very thing he or she fears. The good news is that confidential help is available and every day men and women are finding release from shame, fear and sexual obsession. They are finding a sense of integrity, power and restored intimacy in their lives.”

Power of redemption

One of Reinicke’s counseling specialties is treatment of pornography addiction, where he allows his clients to benefit from his own deeply personal journey,

“At times of stress, pornography seemed impossible to resist,” he said. “I felt like such a failure and hypocrite. Each time I messed up I cried out to God in shame and repentance and thought, ‘I will never do this again.’ But then there would be another time of weakness. I was part of the 30 to 50 percent of Christian men ensnared by pornography. I was too ashamed to tell anyone.”

It was a secret he carried with him into his marriage.

“When I met and married Melinda she didn’t know I had a struggle with pornography,” Reinicke said. “No one knew—and that was the primary reason that pornography still had a hold on me. I went to graduate school and became a marriage and family therapist. Some years into our marriage I finally confessed my humiliating secret sin to Melinda.

“She was safe to open up to. She clung to God’s presence through it. She shared her hurt and sadness and disappointment and frustration but she didn’t hate me. She told me that she decided to fight beside me against the enemy of our souls instead of seeing me as the enemy. Encouraged by her grace, I shared my shameful struggle with men who could also pray for me like Melinda was.”

Over time, God began to show Reinicke deep wounds that were tied to his addiction.

“I had more victory and fewer slips,” he said. “I thought I would always have to fight lust and limp through life with my thorn in the flesh. But God had something better in store.

“I have experienced the transforming power of Christ to change not only my behavior but also my deepest longings. The allurement and struggle with porn is no longer enticing. The pleasure center of my brain now enjoys the healthy, simple pleasures of life and doesn’t crave the empty high. I have to resist temptation from time to time like we all do but I’m not struggling with the intense cravings I once did. I am dealing with my emotions and life’s challenges head on and finding strength in my relationships including God, like never before. I am enjoying a life filled with serenity, purpose and fulfillment. I have more fun now than I ever did when porn was in my life.”

Learn more at www.rcacounseling.com. To read the Barna study, visit www.barna.org.

So what are the biggest myths surrounding porn addiction? Aaron Reinicke, a licensed marriage and family therapist who once struggled with his own porn addiction, said there are numerous harmful myths surrounding the issue. Not only are they not true, but they also serve to keep some addicts in bondage.

Myth: I can’t get addicted to porn because it’s not a substance.

Truth: The area activated in the brain when watching porn is the same area that lights up with crack cocaine use.

Myth: I wouldn’t have a porn problem if my wife had sex with me more often.

Truth: Doesn’t matter how much sex an addict has, it will never feel like enough.

Myth: As a single guy all my porn problems will go away when I get married.

Truth: The porn will rob you of enjoying great sex with your wife. Many men find they can no longer be aroused sexually by a real woman. It’s called porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Read about it at www.rcacounseling.com/porn-induced-erectile-dysfunction.

Myth: Only men, not women get addicted to porn.

Truth: Pornographers are aggressively marketing to women now by including more romance and emotional elements into porn to hook them.   It’s working. The number of female addicts is increasing.

• Related story: Porn addiction, what can the church do?

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