‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned; and I need help’
In the confessional, the familiar words ring out. The admissions of guilt are a plea for help, a cry for absolution and healing.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” the penitent starts. “I’m addicted to pornography. I’m consumed by lust.”
A priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans told the facilitator of the My House Men’s Group – a Catholic-based, confidential support group for men struggling with pornography and sexual addictions – that a large percentage of the confessions he hears from men involve their clandestine use of pornography.
“It is far and away the most frequently mentioned problem in men’s lives,” the My House Men’s Group leader said. “This is affecting lives. It affects marriages, wives, kids, everyone in the family. And, it’s not going away.”
The Archdiocese of New Orleans launched its local chapter of the My House group in 2010, a few months after Dan Spencer, who founded the national program in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, spoke at a Morning of Men’s Spirituality in New Orleans, calling the addiction to pornography in the United States is “a sexual Katrina.”
Local program five years old
In the last five years, men addicted to pornography have gathered each Wednesday night to participate in a Catholic, 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics or Gamblers Anonymous, tailored to pornography addiction. The program has three daily pillars: prayer, accountability with other men in the group and reading recovery material, especially the Theology of the Body and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The My House Men’s Group expanded recently to the northshore, making it easier for men who live north of Lake Pontchartrain to attend weekly meetings in a confidential setting.
The name “My House” is taken from Joshua 24:15 – “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The My House goal is that through “prayer, support and education,” men “who strive to live a life of integrity but may be struggling to break a cycle of temptation” will receive “hope, healing and encouragement.” The group provides a safe, confidential, small-group setting for the prayer, support and education.
Recent surveys have shown 72 percent of men visit pornography sites, and 1 in 10 men admit to Internet sexual addiction.
Personal stories abound
At 22, James (not his real name) is the youngest current member of the My House group. He had been going to confession regularly about his attraction to pornography until one day the priest handed him a My House business card.
“I’ve been doing porn since I was about 13,” James said. “I didn’t realize I had an actual problem until I started going to college and I was doing it every day. Once it got really bad, I began to neglect everything. I realized this was a problem. I told myself, ‘This is pathetic.’ I decided to go through an online program, and the one thing the program stressed was accountability. That’s when the priest told me about the group, and now I have accountability. That’s a big thing with addiction and recovery.”
The desire to marry and have a family in the future prompted James to take action.
“I thought, ‘I really don’t want my wife or kids to get caught up in this,’” James said. “I’m always planning to never have sin on my soul when I die.”
Posting a ‘sentry’ over eyes
Tom is 62 years old and has struggled with addictions to alcohol and drugs, but after going successfully to AA, he was able to look at other behaviors and recognized his deep problem with lust.
“I saw some other things I had left unaddressed,” Tom said. “I knew I had a problem in the area of lust – just the way women are scantily clad on TV. I was in denial. Once you wake up, you start to realize, you have a desire to make things right. You start to realize how beautiful a relationship is between a man and a woman. My relationship with my wife has flourished. I’ve gained a lot of trust.”
The program has very practical strategies for fighting the battle against pornography: installing porn-blocking software on personal computers and phones; eliminating cable TV movie channels; using the “three-second” rule to keep from staring at women; calling other group members in moments of temptation.
“We’ve learned how to post a sentry over our eyes,” Tom said. “One of the priests told us that if it goes in the eyes, it’s going to come out in the behavior. I have to watch what I look at. I believe 99.9 percent of our male population needs help with this. Even people who are faithful in their marriages have some purity problems, some chastity problems. I don’t know how anyone could escape from this unless they were locked up in a cave.”
Marty, 32, said he was a bit apprehensive to go to the first My House meeting, but “everyone was accepting, and everyone knew even better than I did what was going on inside of me. But they were patient and allowed me to share as much or as little as I wanted to, and they assured me of their friendship, because they had been where I stood and they struggled through and persevered.”
One of the common components of addiction to pornography, Marty said, is that “somewhere along the line you lacked in building friendship and community and you’ve isolated yourself.”
Marty suggests that any man who feels he may have a problem with pornography pray for guidance.
“It’s the devil that wants us to be alone, it’s the devil that says you can fix these things on your own,” Marty said. “I think the thing to harp on is that through these weaknesses, I have grown stronger. I’m a better man of love, and I can give of myself to the other.”
‘AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSEHOLD,
WE WILL SERVE THE LORD’ – Joshua 24:15
The My House Men’s Group is a Catholic-oriented, 12-step program for men struggling with an addiction to pornography.
➤ Pillar No. 1: Daily prayer
➤ Pillar No. 2: Daily accountability with men from the group
➤ Pillar No. 3: Daily reading of recovery material
WHY IS THE GROUP SMALL?
➤ Because the use of pornography is typically a shameful secret suppressed until a breaking point. Men are afraid to come forward despite the pain they are experiencing.
AND THE SECRET?
➤ It is the old cliche: The longer a person tries to hold on to the secret, the more it becomes a matter of not IF but WHEN he will be caught, and the consequences could be devastating.
WHY IS THIS SO?
➤ Because the behaviors associated with the use of pornography escalate – what satisfied before does not satisfy now – so men begin to make choices that they never in their lives would ever have thought possible.
NEED CONFIDENTIAL HELP?